Heaven Hill celebrated the grand opening of the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience in Bardstown, Kentucky last month. This $19 million expansion and renovation of the Bourbon Heritage Center transformed it into a state-of-the-art visitor center.
Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear presided over the ribbon cutting to commemorate the occasion. Gov. Beshear also presented Heaven Hill and Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory with a proclamation to name June 14 as “National Bourbon Day” in Kentucky, which was especially fitting given Heaven Hill’s leading role in the industry and in preserving and promoting the historic standards of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.
Those of us who were already into bourbon in 2004 will remember that the Bourbon Heritage Center was the first of its kind. It was a nod to the small (but growing) population of bourbon enthusiasts and it was the first visitor center to celebrate bourbon’s rich history. The breakneck speed of the bourbon boom and spike in bourbon tourism demanded more, and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience delivers a truly memorable experience.
The new Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience triples the previous footprint with more than 30,000 square feet. The aspect that I’m most interested in is the “You Do Bourbon” experience. In addition to a guided tasting, guests experience a sensory/quality lab complete with microscopes, proof gauging, and nosing station, and guests can bottle their favorite bourbon with a personalized label.
The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience also includes a Distillery Theater, interactive exhibits featuring Elijah Craig, John E. Fitzgerald and Larceny, and Bottled-in-Bond, all topped off with the new Five Brothers Bar & Kitchen and soon-to-open restaurant. Check the link here to plan your visit this summer!
Some of the best single barrels that I’ve had during private barrel selections have been “low” proof. I know that high-tier hazmat scorchers get most of the attention, but sub-120 proof barrels are rare—at least for distillate that enter the barrel at the maximum 125 proof—and those are the barrels get my attention. Now we have the lowest ever Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof and I feel like I’m with my people.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B521 Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Age: 12 years
ABV: 59.1% (118.2 proof)
Dark amber brown.
Fragrant aromas lead with brown sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup, rounded out with subtle tobacco and nuttiness.
Creamy butterscotch with baking spices that evolves to more brown sugar, cocoa, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. There’s plenty of complexity for contemplation.
Long and fully warming without heat—a steady warmth that lingers with fading flavors that start sweet and then dries with the fade.
Between my second and third tastings, I watched another review that complained about a “burnt” flavor. I try really hard to not read or watch any reviews until I post my own, and this is why. I was fixated during my third tasting searching for that claimed burnt flavor and probably enjoyed the experience less. But I’m happy to report that there wasn’t anything like that in the flavors. This is just all around a remarkable bourbon.
If anyone needs convincing that low barrel proofs should be as sought after as high barrel proofs, this Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will do it. I asked Heaven Hill whether the lowest proof ever was intentional. I thought that it would make sense to show the range. But Heaven Hill responded that it was just a result of the proof being the right taste profile. And right it is; this is another great success for Elijah Craig.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
provided a bottle for this review,
without any strings attached.
Kentucky’s newest distillery is owned by descendants of one of the oldest distilling families. J.W. “Wally” Dant III, along with his cousins Lynne Dant and Charles Dant, have now opened Log Still Distillery in Gethsemane, Kentucky. While the grounds are still under construction, the visitor center and stillhouse are up and running, with tastings available of its Monk’s Road lineup of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a dry gin, and a barrel-finished gin. The campus will include a network of wooded walking trails, a fully functional private train depot connected to the Kentucky Railway Museum, a 12-acre lake for fishing, three unique lodging options, an outdoor amphitheater, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a wedding and events venue.
I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where Wally explained how the name Log Still Distillery is meant to evoke the tradition of his great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Washington Dant, and Dant’s practice of using a hollowed-out poplar log to distill his first batch of whiskey in 1836.
Set in picturesque southern Nelson County, Log Still Distillery will employ 126 people once it is fully operational. In the meantime, the first release of Monk’s Road—honoring the historic Cold Spring Distillery—is a 100 proof, six-year age-stated Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, with a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. This is obviously a sourced bourbon. Log Still confirmed for me that while the source is confidential, it’s “from an established distillery in Bardstown.” I know one that it’s not, and there’s a highly likely candidate for who it is, but for now all we can do is speculate. And while I speculate about the source, I’ll enjoy following the progress at Log Still Distillery.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association Passport program for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® just got a MAJOR upgrade. A new Field Guide is packed full of valuable information about Kentucky’s treasured bourbon distilleries, travel distances from convenient home bases, and it will take you on a memorable adventure through Kentuck’s beautiful countryside.
This new Field Guide does a better job at helping you navigate Kentucky’s distilleries than pricey travel books. And now, Passport stamps unlock bottles and other incredible rewards!
Find the Field Guide and more information here: https://www.kybourbontrailshop.com/kbt-official-field-guide-kbt1114.html.
Sometimes you have to try bourbon side by side with another whiskey that is totally different. Usually, a wheated bourbon and bourbon with rye as a secondary grain isn’t truly different enough. In most cases, not even a bourbon versus a 51% rye whiskey will do the trick. But a wheated bourbon compared with a 95% rye barrel finished in ex-ruby port casks from Portugal, which then aged rum before being shipped to Four Gate? That promises to be the sort of distinctive differences that I want.
Old Fitzgerald Spring 2021 Bottled in Bond Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Age: 8 years
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Amber with slight red.
Classic wheater in many ways, with sweet caramel, subtle honeysuckle, and spring grass. But another nice layer of cinnamon and dark, dried fruit, too.
Caramel dominates, with a buttery mouthfeel, light fruit sweetness, and slight earthiness at the end. Extremely solid and nothing unexpected. On the first pour it almost seemed too much of exactly what I expected, but on the second and third evenings, I enjoyed it more and more. This is an extremely refined and balanced bourbon with complexity that builds.
Medium/long with a really enjoyable fade.
Four Gate Ruby Rye Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Four Gate Ruby Rye Springs
Distillery: Undisclosed, but distilled in Indiana, so … MGP
Age: 7 years
ABV: 56.7% (113.4 proof)
Intense rye with dried dark fruit around the corners, along with brown sugar, baking spice, and lemon zest.
Intense rye again. Tasting it alongside a wheated bourbon really amps up the rye spice. It’s also a lot sweeter than the nose predicted, like a juicy, syrupy, sweetness, then shifting to slightly herbal with black pepper and oak, but all along a brown sugar backbone.
The finish is crisp. Berry sweetness fades first as rye and black pepper surge.
Many people focus too much on age when selecting bourbon, while others more in the know realize that bourbon is dynamic enough to have sweet spots at different ranges without being wed to a certain age target. Old Fitzgerald has proven that with bourbon as old as 16 years old and now as young as 8 years old. And this Spring 2021 edition absolutely shines.
Four Gate’s Batch 7—which I really liked—is the base Rye for Ruby Rye Springs. When I reviewed Batch 7, I found it mouthwatering, and now with the finishing influence of port and rum, it’s even more so. As with other Four Gate batches, this is extremely limited at 1,444 bottles if you’re in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, or Georgia, or Seelbach’s if you’re almost anywhere else.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me samples for this review,
without any strings attached.