“Perseverance is a hallmark of Heaven Hill’s history, and a value resonating across the industry this year. Our steadfast commitment to quality and an enduring legacy continues to guide Heaven Hill’s path forward. We look forward to Lifting America’s Spirit for the next 85 years, as we have since 1935.”
JIM'S DESERT ISLAND WHISKEYS
Heaven Hill 85th Anniversary Single Barrel BourbonBOTTLE DETAILS
- DISTILLER: Heaven Hill Distillery
- MASH BILL: 78% Corn | 10% Rye | 12% Malted Barley
- AGE: 13 Years
- YEAR: 2020
- PROOF: 107 Proof (53.5% ABV)
- MSRP: $299.99
- WHERE TO BUY: Available in December at the Bourbon Heritage Center and select Kentucky retailers.
NOSE: Caramel | Corn | Spiced Cherries | Toasted Oak
TASTE: Rye Spice | Oak | Faint Sweet Honey | Green Apple
FINISH: Medium with lingering sweetness and some grain
SHARE WITH: While young, this is a blend to share with your “drink curious” not too judgy friends.
WORTH THE PRICE: I found Ingram an interesting expression. I am generally a Midwest Grain Products fan, and I like to support craft distillers/blenders with innovative ideas. With all that being said, at over $70 for a less than 4-year-old, sourced, blended whiskey, this would be a tough sell for me.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: This whiskey is not a bust. It has interest and depth that you wouldn’t expect by its age. The blending is done well and with the innovative take on aging, I will give it a BAR rating. Try it first, if you can, before you buy. In the fifty dollar range, I would be tempted to go bottle.
OVERALL: O. H. Ingram River Aged Straight Whiskey, I found interesting whiskey. Aged in a floating “rickhouse” at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, in Ballard County, Kentucky. The theory being the gentle rocking of the barrels enhances the aging process. This process has its roots in the river transport of barreled distillate from Bourbon County delivered to New Orleans, with the transformed taste that apocryphally led to our native spirit. Does it make a difference? I have no idea, but there are a lot of people putting barrels on ocean voyages, riverboats, playing music to them, and even aging in cranberry bogs.
I have an issue with brands using invented or unrelated stories to support the “marketing” of their spirits. I don’t see that as an issue with O.H. Ingram. They have family history tied to the river and actually age on floating barges. They don’t hide the source, age, or mash bills of their product. Starting from typically quality rye and bourbon distillate from MGP in Indiana, aging for over three years and blended well, has produced a straight whiskey. It has a surprising depth for a young age. I found it drinkable neat, better with ice, but not particularly suitable for cocktails. My only issue with this product is the price, which is high for what it is. Understanding that the cost of sourcing and barreling probably drives this cost. If you find it in a bar, or you have the resource and drinking curiosity, I would not dissuade you from giving this one a try.
NOSE: Nutella | Crushed Pecans | Banana Pudding | Frosted Flakes Cereal
TASTE: Cocoa Nibs | Black Raspberry | Dark Caramel | Oak
FINISH: Medium length, warm, slightly drying and with a bonus wisp of smoke
SHARE WITH: Lovers of sturdy, well-aged whiskeys.
WORTH THE PRICE: Compared to its similarly aged Heaven Hill siblings (see below), probably not at $299.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bar
OVERALL: Straight out of the bottle this bourbon’s inviting nose led me to jump in and taste, which was a small mistake. It was surprisingly oaky and tannic, especially for a 13-year-old. So, I poured a little more and abandoned it for about 20 minutes to let it open up, and it did. The oak returned, but cloaked in brown sugar, and the tannin nearly disappeared save for the finish—and not much of it there either. It’s a delightful whiskey all around; a fine example of what the team at this venerable distillery has learned over 85 years.
I—like others, I’m sure—wondered how it compares to Henry McKenna, that legendary Bottled-In-Bond just three years the 85th’s junior, so I cracked one: barrel 7133, filled on 5/29/2009. Since each is a product of the same mash bill, the similarities are easily found in side-by-side sips. The differences aren’t nuanced much either: the 85th is better composed, has rounder edges, a bit more complexity and that slightly smoky coda. The McKenna finishes with a bolt of spice and some subtle fruit notes hidden in the 85th’s complexity. But since I know you’re going where I am … even at $70 a bottle—a common retail price for McKenna—it costs $229 less than the 85th. But the 85th, I must add, is a premium bourbon offered in a shelf-stud of a collector’s case.
But for even more scrutiny, I offer up the William Heavenhill Bottled-In-Bond 13-year-old. Priced at $179.99 at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, Ky., it’s also not an impulse buy. But were I to choose my favorite bourbons of 2020, this one could well be my top pick. To my palate, it’s flawless—the bourbonest bourbon I’ve had in a very long time. Nose, taste, mouthfeel and finish score 10's at every mark, and it’s $120 less than the 85th.
What does this cross-comparison prove? That Heaven Hill makes terrific bourbon at any price. Cheers to its first 85 years, and cheers again in hopes of another 85 years of great work.
LATEST LIMITED-EDITION RELEASE IS A 13-YEAR-OLD SINGLE BARREL COMMEMORATING 85 YEARS OF LIFTING AMERICA’S SPIRIT
As part of our 85th Anniversary celebration, Heaven Hill is Distillery proud to announce the release of Heaven Hill 85th Anniversary 13-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This single barrel limited-edition release celebrates the 85 years of family-owned, distilling tradition.
“Perseverance is a hallmark of Heaven Hill’s history, and a value resonating across the industry this year,” said President Max L. Shapira. “Our steadfast commitment to quality and an enduring legacy continues to guide Heaven Hill’s path forward. We look forward to Lifting America’s Spirit for the next 85 years, as we have since 1935.”
The Heaven Hill 85th Anniversary edition is comprised of one barrel filled on Dec. 13, 2006 and dumped on Dec. 13, 2019, honoring the anniversary date Heaven Hill first filled a barrel with Kentucky Bourbon in 1935. The 13-year-old Kentucky Bourbon, another key callback to the anniversary date, was aged on the second floor of Rickhouse G on Heaven Hill’s main Bardstown campus. The anniversary bottle is cut to 107 proof, Heaven Hill’s original barrel entry proof circa 1935, and non-chill filtered.
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This ultra-premium Bourbon will be released in an elegant, tall 750ml bottle placed in a custom wooden box bearing two H’s on each side signifying the Heaven Hill name. The bottle is secured in the box with a magnetic closure and sits in a blue satin-lined base.
The distiller’s notes label features hand-written bottle numbers, tasting notes, and D.S.P.-KY-1, denoting the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery. The one-time release of Heaven Hill 85th Anniversary 13-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey will be available in December at the Bourbon Heritage Center and select Kentucky retailers.
Steve Coomes is editor of BourbonBanter.com. A Louisville restaurant industry veteran turned award-winning food writer, he has edited and written for dozens of national trade and consumer publications including Pizza Today, Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living over his 31-year journalism career. As a spirits writer, Steve's work can be found in Bourbon Plus, Bourbon Review, Bourbon & Banter, WhiskeyWash.com and other publications. In 2014, he authored the book, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and has authored other titles as a private ghostwriter.
Read Steve's full profile.