For the curious whiskey enthusiast... We're bringing out the big guns today. I did a blind tasting of this live on Instagram with @amongstthefernsco and it was a blast. We very clearly identified this as the better whiskey when compared blindly to Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A122. Now that that's out of the way, I thought it was time to do a deeper dive on this release. Given the relative rarity of this bottle I'm sure there are many who are curious if this is worth chasing. I hope this review helps you to come to your own conclusion there. Now let's get into it!
Company on Label: Heaven Hill
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Age: 17 years (a blend of 28% 20 year, 44% 19 year, and 28% 17 year bourbons)
Further identification: This is the first release of a new yearly line from Heaven Hill called the Heritage Collection; it debuted in the Spring of 2022
Nose: From a foot away I can smell the rich caramel from a what seems to be a great deal of barrel influence. Soft orange peel dances in the air. Upon bringing the glass to my nose I find a rich, dark molasses right upfront. Wow, there's definitely a lot of oak going on here. There's a lovely cinnamon spice that trails off into rich pepper, damp earth and a dense pile of firewood. I'm finding a lot of the rich funk you would expect out of this release. I'm almost reminded of the pervasive cinnamon hots that some of the Starlight Cigar Batches take on from the Brazilian Amburana oak finishes but it is distinctly more subtle here. The orange peel I was smelling from a distance is subdued now as more of the cool, dark earthy tones express themselves in this early glass. Caramel, rich oak and molasses continue to be the persistent aromas in the glass before sipping on anything. There are hints of a bright vanilla bean and some herbaceous garden bed smells hiding in the depths. Oh now there's much more vanilla and just a touch of linen; it's like a Heaven Hill lightswitch just went off in my brain! We've returned to the big oak tones and big, spice-forward black pepper notes - time for a sip.
Wow - the vanilla characteristics have turned really delectable after a sip. What a delicious aroma! The soft herbal tones have also returned in a larger way. Coffee grounds can be dug up with a prying nose. I'm really sticking a lot to the nutty tones here - testament perhaps to the fact that this almost certainly has to be from the gifted Beam yeast given the timeline of the awful fire that occurred at Heaven Hill in 1996. That slight nuttiness is one of my favorite characteristics in whiskey personally. It's not overpowering here and balances extremely well with the traditional vanilla that's been ramped up to the perfect age. As I get near the bottom of the glass I find myself wanting to drift away into silent enjoyment rather than keep up the analytics, which is typically a sure sign of a truly enjoyable pour! As the liquid in the glass seems to keep disappearing I start to find some hallmarks of age: aromas of a leather-bound book, oiled mahogany and troves of oak trinkets. The empty glass smells like vanilla perfected with just the right amount of sweetness.
Palate: My first sip is surprisingly fruity given the experience on the nose. I find a ton of zesty orange peel right away. The cinnamon hots are definitely also present so that transferred well from the initial nose. There's an impressive ease to the palate which is surprising for a first sip of the day. Even from one sip there is a long linger highlighted by a slight salty peanut flavor. I'm more reminded of peanut shells and there's a touch of milk chocolate if you work your tongue around the rich mouth coating. I am already starting to think that this is a fantastic glass to sit and savour, and it might not do as well in a head-to-head format where there is a faster pace and more flavors competing. It's subtle and nuanced from the get go, but perhaps lacking a bit of wow factor up front. That said I do think it delivers an exceptional experience for someone with a refined palate. Perhaps it's time for another sip? I think so. Airing out a second sip builds in soft cherry skins, apricot and buttery peach cobbler. There is a big chest hug after this sip for me today. The similar peanut and chocolate linger from the first sip persists, but builds in intensity closer to a Reese's peanut butter cup. A larger sip and swish brings me to a lovely maraschino cherry with just a kiss of rye spice. It's cocktail forward in its sweetness with what feels like a dash of Angostura bitters on the side. As I near the end of the glass this continues to stand up really well; zesty orange peel, confectioners sugar, My last sip is a delight as blood orange, cherry parfait, and cinnamon doughnuts pepper my taste buds. The linger is long with a singing caramel, butterscotch and molasses granola sticks to every surface of my mouth. Yum!
This is a damn fine release from Heaven Hill. I'll certainly be sharing it and enjoying it in good company, but I'm not going to give this one a "Keep Amongst the Whiskey" rating as I don't think I will be able to readily find another to enjoy once this bottle is gone.