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Style Check: Heaven Hill’s Collectible 18-12 months-Previous Bourbon Wears Its Previous Age Effectively

Style Check: Heaven Hill’s Collectible 18-12 months-Previous Bourbon Wears Its Previous Age Effectively

We recently covered the release of the new Heaven Hill Heritage Collection, an 18-year-old Kentucky bourbon that is the third in this series of highly collectible bottles. I finally got to sample the whiskey and am happy to report the results in the form of mixed metaphors: This bourbon teeters on the brink of being too old, but pulls back at the last minute and sticks the landing.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection differs from the distillery’s Parker’s Heritage Collection in a few key ways. The latter, named after the late master distiller Parker Beam, has been around since 2007, and last year’s cask-strength rye whiskey marked the 17th release in the series. Heaven Hill’s stocks of bourbon, rye, malt, and wheat whiskey are all found here with varying ages, proofs, and types of maturation. That last step plays a big part in differentiating these whiskeys—some were aged in heavily charred barrels, some were finished in casks like orange curacao and cognac, and others were released at more than two decades old. The point is to highlight the skill and expertise Beam brought to Heaven Hill by showcasing the depth of the distillery’s stock.

The Heaven Hill Heritage Collection, however, is an annual release that highlights one of the distillery’s six mashbills (previous releases were a 20-year-old corn whiskey and a 17-year-old bourbon). While this new edition is just one year older than the other bourbon in the series, it is arguably better. Now, as most whiskey fans know, age doesn’t equal quality. That is particularly true when it comes to Kentucky bourbon because the climate there means that a whiskey approaching two decades old has a really good chance of not being very good. Unlike scotch, that amount of time in a barrel can lead to a bitter, tannic, overly oaky bourbon that you might convince yourself is good (no disrespect, Pappy 23 fans), but is actually not so enjoyable to drink. Of course, taste is entirely subjective, but let the experts chime in—Wild Turkey’s esteemed master distiller Jimmy Russell thinks the sweet spot is around 8 years old, while the legendary Jim Beam master distiller Booker Noe liked his whiskey aged between 6 and 8 years.

All that being said, this ended up being a pretty fantastic ultra-aged bourbon. As I mentioned at the start, it comes alarmingly close to hitting that wall of tannic oak, which can kind of taste like sucking whiskey out of wet wood (at least, that’s how I imagine it). But that dance with the barrel devil works here, as the palate is filled out and softened with notes of root beer, Cherry Coke, grape Jolly Rancher (weird nostalgic soda/candy theme happening here), charred oak, banana pudding (making a surprise appearance), vanilla custard, milk chocolate, and just a hint of smoke. At 120 proof, there’s some heat on this bourbon, but not necessarily enough that you would want to add water, although that’s entirely up to you.

Here’s the rub—and there’s often a rub with a release like this. The list price is $300, but that’s a joke. If you happen to come across a bottle, it’s going to be much more than that. The first two Heritage Collection whiskeys can be found online from secondary retailers for more than thousand bucks at the moment, which is getting into Pappy territory. Whether or not this whiskey is worth its hefty price tag is a question that only you can answer, but I can say that this 18-year-old bourbon wears its old age very well.

Score: 96

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

Source: Robb Report

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