Heaven Hill Bourbon Tastings
Declared “America’s Native Spirit” by a 1964 act of Congress, Bourbon has always been the heart and soul of Heaven Hill Distilleries. Heaven Hill was originally established as a Bourbon distiller in 1934, and today the world’s second largest holding of aging Kentucky Bourbon sleeps peacefully in our 42 open rick warehouses situated throughout Nelson County, the heart of “Bourbon Country.”
By law, Bourbon must be made up of at least 51% corn and be aged a minimum of two years in a new charred white oak barrel, standards that were pioneered by early Bourbon makers such as Evan Williams and Rev. Elijah Craig.
Today, our brands named after these early Kentucky whiskey-makers exceed these standards, offering unique attributes of age, proof and heritage in an astonishing range of traditional, small batch, single barrel, rye-based and wheated Bourbons. And all are produced under the watchful eyes of father and son Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam, the sixth and seventh generations of a famed Bourbon-making family.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon
This bourbon comes from Heaven Hill Distillery. Its brother bourbons are Elijah Craig, Evan Williams and Heaven Hill. The distillery states that this is a bourbon that “…this is extra-aged and bottled in bond as a Single Barrel Bourbon. Henry McKenna Single Barrel is aged 10 years before each “honey barrel” is dumped and bottled as is. At 10 years and 100 proof, it meets the exacting US government standards for a true bottled in bond Bourbon”. I believe all of it except the bottled “as is” statement. There are only a few bourbons currently being produced that are at or under 100 Proof without being cut and filtered. They come from a much different bourbon maker. Nevertheless I do enjoy Heaven Hills bourbon expressions and I hope to enjoy this one as well.
To the bourbon:
100 Proof Single Barrel
Age: 10 years
Bottled in Bond “Aged 10 years”
Barrel No. 645
Barreled On 11/8/2000
The bottle is very dressed up. Green is the staple color which dresses it and a copper stamped tag hangs from its side. The tag reads “Bottled in Bond”. There is also a leaflet on the front of the bottle which has some history and information; which is entitled, “The Connoisseurs Edition”. I do not recommend opening it or removing it if you would like to keep the presentation of the bottle intact. It is glued together and presents some difficulty removing/opening it. Side note: The bottle is very dressed up but, it has a screw topper. One would think that the bottle would have a nice cork topper but, it does not. I guess the distillery decided to spend the money on the outside presentation of the bottle.
The color has a deep and rich amber tone to it.
The first nose right out of the bottle is of sweet corn. Zero nose of the Proof within.
Nose in a glass:
The proof shows itself in the glass a bit more. Notes of corn, spice, caramel and ripe peaches present themselves.
The taste and palate presence is much different from the nose. A rich peppery spice and rye notes envelop the mouth and tongue. Nutty, oak and char notes come out in the end. The flavor is much different from other bourbons. Not much vanilla or caramel is presented in this 10 year. The palate intensity and presence is nice but, the flavor is quite different. There are definite notes of peach in the middle to end of the profile which create a bit of unwanted pungency. The intensity is medium and could be enjoyed neat or with a bit of ice or water (may be preferred for first time bourbon drinkers).
This bourbon will grow on you, if you let it; and each barrel may be a bit different. The first time that I tasted this bourbon was not the most pleasurable experience. I could not get over the bit of unwanted pungency. After a few sips (or glasses) it can grow on you and you may even come to enjoy it. This may end up starting a controversy among enthusiast but, so be it. I feel some may like it and others may not. Another bourbon similar (only in the sense of having a different taste and palate presence) is Johnny Drum Private Stock – to be reviewed at a later date.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel may not be an everyday drinker for me but, it is certainly much better than many other whiskeys. It does have a bit more flavor and complexity than its brother bourbons but, it may not stack up against them. On a Side Note: I am also a little bummed about the screw topper on this bottle. Most of the time, a screw topper does not concern me. If the bourbon is phenomenal then I do not care that it has a screw topper (which does happen more often than not). But, sometimes if the bourbon is a bit under par for quality, flavor or bottle presentation then a lowly screw topper becomes problematic.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon 10 Year has a peppery nose with a touch of spice and citrus that leads to a palate of oak and vanilla with rounded notes of rye and malt. Best enjoyed over ice or with just a touch of water to get the rye aromatics lifted over the glass’ rim
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Bourbon
Evan Williams has a very long and proud tradition for bourbon making. This Small Batch represents a multitude of that long heritage. The Evan Williams distillery was established in 1783 and is now the Heaven Hill distillery. This particular Evan Williams expression is a Sour Mash No. 10 Brand Bourbon whiskey. It is ten (10) years old and is one of the lowest priced 10 year old bourbons that you will be able to find on the market today. Yet, just because it is priced economically does not mean that it taste that way.
To the bourbon:
86 Proof Small Batch
Age: 10 years
Sour Mash Small Batch
No. 10 Brand
The presentation of this bottle on your shelf will be very nice even though it has a screw cap. It is black and is not as noticeable as other caps. The label is crystal clear so that you can see the splendor within.
The color has a deep coppery hue to it with a very slight hit on rubicund tones.
The first nose right out of the bottle is one of light corn.
Nose in a glass:
This bourbon has the distinctive nose that of many other Evan Williams bourbons. Light char and oakyness appears on the front while fresh bread and caramel rounds things off.
Very easy to enjoy! This is a very nicely balanced Small Batch. Some earthy coco, leather and apple undertones come out at the end. There is almost zero plate intensity. Just a twinge of pepperiness that presents itself on the roof of your mouth. Very easy drinking yet, it still has just enough flavor to last from sip to sip. Char, burnt sugar beans and very mild oakyness is one of the finial flavors that present itself. This is one bourbon that I do not recommend putting water in. Some bourbons respond well to water (mainly peppery, dryer and higher rye content mash bills) by opening up the nose or flavors within. This is not one of them. It is great neat or from the freezer, if you like it cold (which I do). Although, it is OK to add ONE (1) ice cube. This won’t add much water and will slightly chill your expression.
This is another bourbon that is Very, Very smooth from front to back. This is an 86 proof that has enough age that could be in the 90’s somewhere (wishful thinking). This bourbon is the same stuff that the Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbons are drawn from yet, these barrels were joined to make this Small Batch. Small Batches are supposed to round the palate flavors and intensity and Mr. Williams got this one dead-on. For the age and the price, you cannot beat this No. 10 Small Batch Bourbon.
Evan Williams 1783 No. 10 is a straight forward bourbon that shows a bit of chocolate and dark spice on the nose that leads to a spicy, nutty finish. This bourbon is made up of a very limited number of barrels that are specially chosen and mingled together, making this genuinely classics-smooth, rich and bourbon that is worthy of its name.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 1999
The date is 9-15-2011 and this bottle was found at a local spirit distributor just a day ago. I have been in search of an older vintage for some time. I have not tasted the 1988-98 single barrels but, I have heard that they are very good. I also have heard that the newest vintages (2000, 2001) just don’t stack up to the earlier years. I have yet to try the 2000 and 2001 vintages but, they will be in a later tastings. The reason I really wanted this one is that it was the earliest vintage I could find and the fact that is was in the 1990’s is even better.
To the bourbon:
86.6 Proof Single Barrel
Aged about 9.5 years
Barreled on – 3-22-99
Barrel No. – 35
Bottled on – 12-9-08
The first thing I noticed is that the label is still the older one. The newest labels are not quite the same.
The next was the incredible color of it. It was a bold-dark amber for the age of the bourbon, clear of any particulate. My mouth waters for a bourbon that looks like this, especially from the age.
A quick sweet corn and rye flower blossoms right out of the bottle.
Nose in a glass:
Again, sweet corn but, with a honey or light molasses and hint of nutmeg nose. Very inviting rye notes!
First small pop in mouth with a quick they rush of honey cinnamon sweetness with a small finish of oat. There is lingering caramel note on the palette.
This is not the most complex bourbon you going to find on the market. Yet, is a very nice one for the price. Something needs to be said for a bourbon that does not attack your mouth and throat. It can be asey for a bourbon to overwhelem you but, Evan williams has prefected the art of Bourbon making. This 1999 single barrel gives you just enough to keep going back for more.
This bourbon is best with a spot of water or a single ice cube. This very small amount of water chills the initial pop and blooms the flower peddles within. This is a great relaxing sipping bourbon that is meant to be shared (with your taste buds). For the price of this single barrel I would and the fact that I may have opened the last bottle in the city, it was a great find and I would rank it high on the list of single barrels for the price.
One word: mouthwatering. From the nose to the mouth, the rye is really nice here, finely tuned and layered with corn-oil-oak. The palate repeats what is first presented on the nose – in short, it tastes like it smells. It’s fairly rich in body, which suggests a sort of “hidden” or apparent sweetness; yet the finish is full of drying rye spice.