Heaven Hill Distillery Tasting Notes

Posted: November 21, 2012 in American Whiskies, Bourbon

Cabin Still Bourbon 40%

Distilled at the Heaven Hill Distillery – 36 months old

Tasted: April 2012

A slightly sickly sweet nose of banana and corn fritters. Lazy and fat. Very youthful and straightforward with hints of maple syrup.

The palate opens with some burnt caramel and fat corn. It’s a good ole boys whiskey! – Simple, fat and flabby. The alcohol is quite intrusive and the finish, if it really has a finish is very bitter!

Corner Creek Reserve (Bardstown) 44%

Distilled at Heaven Hill for the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Ltd

Tasted: Oct 2009

The nose opens with pure vanilla ice cream and a heavy parma violet note. It gets horrifyingly sweet with a pink(?) candy floss and icing sugar character. The palate is quiet oily and similar to the nose. The bottle should have a pink bow around it as it is soooo girly! There are some pleasant grains on the middle but there is no way they can balance out the confected character. Far too sweet for me. Although in its defence it isn’t sickly.

Elijah Craig 12 year old 47%       

Tasted: Feb 2006

Superb nose, rich and seamless with lavender, violets and rich vanillery rye. Super soft and smooth. Lovely complexity with an earthy note. As promised on the nose it is soft, lush and super-smooth in the mouth. Incredibly complex. It starts with the gentle, soft vanilla and rye, then it really kicks in on the middle with spiced vanilla fruits and that lovely rye crispness. Power, balance and complexity. Very long with violets and all sorts of floral notes on the finish. Awesome.

Elijah Craig 12 year old 47%

Re-Tasted: Dec 2012

A lovely intensity of pure, nutty marzipan aromas with a huge, sweet corn hit and a lightly toasted edge. There’s enough violet tinged rye to balance and given some time in the glass that rye begins to dominate. Lightly earthy and quite polished.

The palate is lighter than the nose suggests opening with some lightly toasted caramel and corn. Starting to get fuller now that the oak kicks in and the rye promptly appears to level out the sweet corn. Medium length with some soft, earthy spices, demerara sugar and a touch of decaying rose petal marc/ violets in the finish. Still quite classy and excellent value for money.

Elijah Craig 12 year old 47%

Re-Tasted: Oct 2014

A big, bold, smoky nose with molasses, toffee and pungent grainy spices. There’s some almost wheaty moments along with treacle and creamy oak. It would appear to have become darker and spicer since the last time I nosed it.

A classic vanilla oak and corn lead off on the palate, promptly followed by the lightly herbal rye. Wow! Those bitter spices come racing through along with a touch of treacle, coffee and toffee. The sugars just about balance the big spices. Great finish!

Elijah Craig 18 year old Single Barrel 45%

Barrel No: 3051/ Dist: Jan 1992 Btl: 2010/ Tasted: Apr 2011

A distinctively powerful Bardstown nose, yet it displays a serious degree of elegance. Corn fat and robust, the oak powers in leaving a honeyed wake. Full and creamy with stewed apple, liquorice, toffee and violets. The spicy rye nips gently beneath. With time hints of coffee and linseed oil become apparent.

The palate is again a harmonious blend of power and elegance. Fat corn, oak and gentle rye flavours meld together beautifully. Quite oily, with mouth coating honey and a slight cotton candy note. One can sense the rye building on the tongue and it duly arrives with a gorgeous spiciness leading to a slightly bitter finish, which the vanillins try there best to soften. Seriously good!

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 23 year old 45%

Tasted: Oct 2014

Nose: Opens with rich, dense, toffee’d oak and no shortage of spicy rye battling against the aforementioned sweet oak. A touch of lazy corn, treacle and dusty spice comes through with time.

Palate: Gentle fat corn and soft, toasted-toffee’d oak to begin with, followed by a bullet of bitter, spicy rye. Yes, siree Bob! That rye definitely dominates along with some tongue tingling spice!

Finish: Long with the rye becoming more herbal and the toasted caramel/ toffee note becomes a little burnt. But, damn, those spices bitter!

Conclusion: Well this doesn’t lack personality! Maybe it bitters a little too much, but then I’d rather have a spice wedgie than a limp handshake!

Echo Spring 40%

4 year old Bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery

Tasted: Sept 2012

Aromas of sweet, milky coffee with plenty of sweet, toffee’d popcorn and a touch of burnt caramel.

The palate is soft and watery with an abundance of youthful spirit and burnt caramel. Some dilute corn, earth and spice appears on the middle but there is no real finish to speak of and it just dies with a slightly sweet aftertaste. One to drown in coke I guess.

Evan Williams Extra Aged 43%

Tasted: Jan 2015

A relatively youthful nose with plenty of sweet corn and oak along with hints of sweet rye, sweet violets and earth.

The palate is soft and quite sweet – sweet oak and sweet corn. Hints of citrus and lightly spiced rye come through. Good length with the rye adding a touch of earthy bitterness which offsets the sweetness. It’s a pleasant quaffing bourbon. I think if it had been bottled at a lower abv it would have been too sweet. However the citrus and alcohol just about balances it.

Evan Williams ‘1783’ 43%

Tasted: Dec 2012

Nose: Quite light aromas of herbal spirit show prominently as the oak takes a back seat. Very lightly spiced with a sweet, confected corn note. With time the oak becomes rather milky and a touch of bung cloth emerges.

Palate: Again quite light and a touch watery. Some pleasant coffee appear but the oak is quite tired and not particularly well integrated. Bitter too.

Finish: A very bitter, thin finish. Finally some spicy rye appears.

Conclusion:  Ok nose, which is more spirit dominated but the palate is dull and lifeless. Feels so old it’s creaking. Distinctly unimpressed!

Evan Williams 1994 Single Barrel 43.3%

Tasted: Oct 2005

Clean, intense, youthful, more whisky like aromas with oak, creamy fruit, citrus, toast and an underlying light cereal/rye. Dry, light-medium bodied, crisp cereal, oak, violets and rye grain. Lovely and delicate, very long with a complex finish, again the rye has a softer bite on the finish.

Evan Williams 2000 (9 year old) 43.3%

Cask 377

Elegant and delicate (in relative terms) aromas opening with the fat corn, violets and earthy notes followed by the creamy/ vanilla oak. The rye notes nibble and hints of patchouli, orange marmalade, cedar and sandalwood can be detected. Lovely maturity to the aromas and over time the oak turns slightly sawdusty.

The palate is soft, delicate and violety. The deep corn leads off with the rye spices lurking in the background along with the oak. The oak builds toward the middle and then suddenly the spices surge, literally vaporising the oak! This leaves the palate inundated with hints of treacle, black liquorice, toffee and a touch of charred wood. In combination with the alcohol the finish is exceedingly dry, yet departs with a slight herbal/ menthol/ rose petal/ Turkish delight-ish finish. Stunning stuff.

Evan Williams 2001 (9 year old) 43.3%

Barrel 802/ Dist: Oct 2001 Btl: Apr 2011/ Tasted: Feb 2012

The nose is full on creamy toffee. The oak surges onward with a wave of spice followed by some high toned rye in its wake giving the nose a touch of austerity. Mind, however hard it tries to balance out the toffee’d oak and corn it is on a hiding to nothing I fear! Nestled in amongst this is a slightly manurey note but that cream toffee character is ever present and unfortunately it lacks the crisp focus of the 2000 vintage.

The palate opens with some soft and fluffy corn, and again plenty of cream toffee. Bitter oak and rye does come through on the middle, making for a rather abrupt, austere and woody conclusion. In saying that it has a lovely spiciness though as well as hints of violets, earth and spicy marc-like notes in the after taste. Unfortunately this bottling is nowhere near as complex and interesting as the 2000 vintage.

Evan Williams 2002 (9 year old) 43.3%

Barrel Number 2/ Dist: Mar 2002 Btl: Nov 2011/ Tasted: July 2012

The nose opens with some soft, toffee’d corn with just a suggestion of burnt caramel. This is followed by some seriously pungent, almost peaty, rye, which has a delightful spiciness. The oak is isn’t too overpowering, adding just the right amount of soft vanillins along with a touch of violet and earth. Very polished and a lot better balanced than the 2001.

The palate opens like the nose with the toffee’d corn. Plenty of punchy vanillins and sweet oak follow along with a slight violety note. The rye gently rumbles adding a crisp, spicy bit to the middle. A lot less austere and woody than the 2001 but still finishing with the rye in the ascendancy. Hints of parma violets, soft wood tannins, cinnamon, light nutmeg and a touch of rose petal/ lychee marc notes round it out rather pleasantly. Welcome back!

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2003 (9 year old) 43.3%

Tasted: Dec 2012

Nose: Opens with dark, chocolatey rye with a touch of treacle, corn and burnt wood. It has an almost peaty dénouement but the floral notes arrive along with hints of vanilla, tangerine, old spices, liquorice and violets. Stunning depth and maturity with some late developing sugars.

Palate: Soft and just a tad watery, but showing some pleasant light pepper and crisp rye notes along with treacle and subtle oak.

Finish: Lovely length with marzipan, dusty spices and a crisp rye bite to finish.

Conclusion: Superb nose and finish, the palate lets it down somewhat.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 (9 year old) 43.3%

Barrel No: 841

Dist: Aug 2004 Btl: June 2014

Very sweet and quite grapey to begin with on the nose. That grapiness has an almost perfumed muscat like character. The dry corn attempts to assert itself and a touch of herbal rye comes through with some liquorice, but its that winey/ grapey note that is the focal point. With time a touch of prune and light honey appears.

The palate is soft and juicy. Corn led, but like the nose the corn is quite dry and not fat. A touch of menthol and camphor laced rye comes through along with a light winey note. A real, sharp citric intensity follows and the finish show plenty of dry rye and a little toasted toffee, which makes for a bit of an austere finish.

Evan Williams 2004 (10 year old) 43.3%

Barrel No:870/ Dist: Mar 2004 Btl Jun 2014/ Tasted: May 2015

Big, juicy aromas of stewed plumy fruit, pecan, roast peanut and slightly burnt toffee. Fairly heavy on the corn aromas but a little herbal rye adds a degree of freshness. Almost salty with a late orange conserve note and a touch of mocha.

Soft and full, opening with toffee coated popcorn. The herbal and spicy rye cuts through it like a knife bringing treacle, molasses and dark spices. Beautifully intense with some sweet vanilla, slightly singed toffee and salted peanuts. Long and darkly spiced with a lightly bitter, chocolaty tannin finish.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 (10 year old) 43.3%

Barrel No 1292/ Dist: Jan 2004 Btl: Jun 2014/ Tasted: Nov 2016

The nose is quite dry with dusty, tobacco spice and dry oak, which is quite unlike Evan Williams. However there is some balancing sweet corn, toffee and spicy rye along with a touch of coffee and an almost whisky-like maltiness.

Again the oak is very forward on the palate, but the tannins are softer and coffee’d in character. Sweet corn and spicy rye sit beneath the oak and it does become drier on the middle as the tobacco, dusty spice and grippy tannins come through. Long and continuing grippy with a mouth-watering dark chocolaty spice and marzipan finish.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2008 (8 year old) 43.3%

Barrel No 37/ Dist: Apr 2008 Btl: Apr 2016/ Tasted: Nov 2017

The aromas are quite oily and corn heavy with sweet orange and creamy oak. The rye content is very subtle and consequently the fat corn notes are dominant. Hints of roasted coffee and sweet cinnamon follow.

The palate is not surprisingly quite corny and a little bit simple. Hints of creamy oak and subtle rye spice come through. Quite youthful with the herbal rye and mouth-watering citrus only really coming through on the finish. It’s pleasant enough but lacks the rye intensity of some bottlings.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2009 (7 year old) 43.3%

Cask 921/ Dist: Aug 2009 Btl: Aug 2017/ Tasted: Dec 2017

Spicy, earthy and rye heavy. A distinct improvement on the 2008. Hints of toasted caramel oak and sweet corn balance along with a lovely subtle citrus and mocha note. With time a touch of honey and herbal rye.

The palate opens with the sweet corn and citrus with the herbal and spicy rye arriving at speed. Hints of toffee, treacle and bitter oak appear on the middle. Lovely balance and just like Evan Williams should be. Long, earthy and toasty with a bitter spice finish.

Fighting Cock 6 year old 51.5%

Tasted: Nov 2016

Aromas of sweet corn, banana fritters, sweet, herbal rye and chunky coffee’d oak. A little foursquare with hints of tobacco but it has a pleasant edginess which sort of balances the sweetness. However the oak develops a heavy, toasted caramel character.

The palate opens with a touch of burnt caramel corn and maple syrup. Relatively simple with a touch of fairly herbal and astringent rye. Quite a bitter, tannic finish with lingering burn caramel. Given the nose I was expecting the palate to at least show some balancing sweetness, but alas not.

J W Dant Special Reserve 40%

By Heaven Hill

Tasted: Oct 2012

The palate opens with plenty of sweet corn with a slight cereally character. It’s all very pleasant with just enough rye and wheat notes along with hints of green fruit. All quite subtle and it does take some time to unwind but the aromas are quite appealing. Eventually some lazy toffee, vanilla and citrus arrive.

The palate is a touch on the watery side with some fat, oily corn, but my god one is assaulted by a forest load of bitter oak. The fruit shows a distinct oxidised/ Armagnac-like character but there is also some slightly youthful cereal, caramel and toasted spice. I’m guessing that this is a vatting of extremely old (and slightly knackered?) and extremely young spirit because it is just so unbalanced. As this retails for around £20, it seems with regards to Bourbon you really get what you pay for.

Larceny No Age Statement, Heaven Hill 46%

Tasted: Dec 2012

Nose: Very deep and treacly aromas. Very malty with an almost sherry cask richness. Light corn oil with a touch of pepper and violets. Lovely, unassuming but dense oak.

Palate: Soft and deep with again a sherry cask-esque richness. Full but straightforward with plenty of lightly oiled corn.

Finish: A lovely, soft and juicy finish with hints of peppery, rose petal marc along with a distinct crystallised note. Lightly bitter but balanced by the sugars.

Conclusion: Quite thick and dense. Pleasantly balanced if a bit simple. Very back end loaded.

Old Fitzgerald Original Sour Mash 43%

Wheated Bourbon

Tasted: Jan 2012

A very sweet, cotton candy nose with plenty of ‘fluffy’ wheat. That sweetness seriously overwhelms the oak which tries its hardest to creep in as does some crisp rye notes.

The palate is soft and fluffy with no shortage of toasted caramel and brown sugar. Relatively straightforward with a slight earthiness. The alcohol and the rye does bite back on the middle attempting to keep the sugars in check and the oak adds a smidge of bitterness to the finish. Pleasant as long as you have a sweet tooth!

Old Fitzgerald 1849 45%

Tasted: April 2012

A pleasant nose displaying some fat corn but a smidge of crisp rye balances. The oak is quite bulky and give the aromas a sense of solidity.

The palate opens with a lot of burnt toffee, bitter chocolate and coffee. The rye makes it fell quite hard and austere as the fat corn only really makes headway towards the end, but by that time the wood has bittered it into oblivion. Pass!

Old Fitzgerald 12 year old 45%

Tasted: April 2012

The nose is quite whiskey like and a bit on the high toned side. Very crisp with plenty of herbal rye along with a touch of liquorice, high roasted coffee and spice. The corn is definitely held in check by the rye. Quite complex with some fleshy pumpkin and a slight malt vinegar note. The oak is remarkably well behaved and supports well.

Taught and lean on the palate. Again plenty of rye with some herbal citrus and more rye! Clean and granity with hints of damp soil and intense, slightly bitter wood. Still quite austere as the corn fails to make any impression on the rye and the oak. Very drying finish with hints of violets and plenty of cocoa and coffee. Great nose but not enough gutsy corn to balance the palate.

Parkers Heritage Collection 10 year old Cognac Finish 50%

Heaven Hill Distillery

Tasted: Sept 2012

A very corn fat nose with corn, corn and yet more corn! Yes there are some hints of dried fruit and earth but add in the overwhelming amount of marzipan oak and the Cognac finish doesn’t stand a hope!

The palate opens quite sweet and watery slightly spicy with some muted corn, which is surprising and lots of bitter oak. It’s very disjointed and if I had been tasting this blind I would have sworn that the spirit was only about 3 years old as it displays a great deal of violety, rose petal marc-like characteristics and certainly hasn’t integrated with oak at all.. I would assume this has spent around 6 months ‘finishing’ as I certainly didn’t really detect much in the way of Cognac notes.

Parkers Heritage Collection, Original Batch 63.7%

Tasted: Jan 2015

Nose: Intense and alcoholic and woody with gritty oak, cinnamon and nutmeg., followed by oily corn, dark spicy rye, herbal rye, wheat, marzipan, liquorice, treacle, dark chocolate and earth. With time the oak becomes more toasty in character. Water gives it a lovely bitter/ sweet balance.

Palate: Tight, alcoholic and woody with orange accented molasses, treacle, herbal rye, bitter chocolate spices and a touch of marzipan and oily corn, but it’s very tannic and the spicy rye hammers through! Water emphasises the corn giving the palate a softer, slightly sweeter feel an balance.

Finish: Both mouth and eye watering! Very herbal with a marc-like note suggesting youth. Intense is not the word!

Conclusion: Some may argue it scores highly because of its abv, but alcohol without complexity and character is just alcohol and this has all three in abundance.

Parkers Heritage Collection 10th Edition 24 year old Bourbon 50%

Heaven Hills says the 2016 edition, the tenth in the series, features two separate versions of the Bottled-in-Bond product and is expected to be the oldest Bottled-in-Bond in the world. It was produced in Fall 1990 and Spring 1991 at Heaven Hill’s distillery in Bardstown, KY, (D.S.P. KY-31), which was later destroyed in 1996 by fire along with seven rickhouses and over 90,000 barrels. The liquid is bottled by season in order to retain its Bottled-in-Bond designation.

Tasted: Oct 2016

Nose: A big hit of peppery and spicy rye to begin. Vibrant and tight with subtle oak and hints of corn. Develops notes of sour cherries, burnished wood, leather and marzipan.

Palate: Lighter and a little less butch with dark rye spice, pepper and a touch of corn oil. Quite tannic with the alcohol emphasising the dryness, but late treacle, hickory and coffee notes balance.

Finish: Seriously spicy with hints of sweet rose petal marc, mentholated herbs and lingering oak.

Conclusion: Now that’s how I like my Bourbon – Hard and spicy with no fat and flabby corn!


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