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Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18 Year Bourbon Review and Necessary Comparisons to the Proximal 17 Year Release

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18 Year Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bar Flat Lay

Distilled by the legendary late Parker Beam, this year's Heritage Collection release is all about Bernheim. Barrels were filled on December 29th, 2005, from a mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley, this whiskey would spend the next 18 years in rickhouse 1I at the Bernheim location. Often credited by the Shapira's as one of the saving graces of the distillery's rebirth from the literal ashes of the 1996 distillery fire, Bernheim has played an integral role in the distillery's success since its purchase in 1999. Heaven Hill describes the lore of this location on their website, saying:

At the historic intersection of 17th Street and Breckenridge Street in downtown Louisville sits Heaven Hill's Bernheim Distillery: the world’s largest independent, family-owned Bourbon distillery, producing 1,300 barrels a day.

Bernheim Distillery
The acquisition of Bernheim proved to be a great move for the company
As Heaven Hill's recovery continued, the Shapira's weighed the benefits of building a new distillery or buying an existing plant. Either way, Shapira wanted Heaven Hill to return to distilling its own goods. In 1999, United Distillers, owner of the Bernheim Distillery, contacted Heaven Hill about a possible sale of their plant.
Heaven Hill decided to go for it and the sale closed later that year. Parker Beam set about redesigning the facilities, including adding copper—the ideal metal for removing sulfurous notes from whiskey. Beam believed that adding even more copper to the existing stainless steel and copper stills would yield distillate as clean tasting as that made in Bardstown prior to the fire. So, he had each of its two doublers packed with copper mesh to increase important contact with the whiskey.
"That was such a cool distillery at the time, fully automated and streamlined," Downs said. "Moving from the antiquated system we had in Bardstown to that modern system was like riding on a rocket ship to the moon."

To the moon indeed. Now one of the biggest players in American whiskey, Heaven Hill aims to continue raising the bar of bourbon with their limited edition offerings as more of their 10+ million barrels filled come of age. Ready to dive into everything there is to know about this 18 year bourbon? Let's go!


Company on Label: Heaven Hill

Whiskey Type: Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: 78% Corn, 10% Rye, 12% Malted Barley

Proof: 120°

Age: 18 years

Further identification: This is the 2024 release of the Heritage Collection which is a small batch bourbon comprised of exclusively Bernheim whiskey aged on the 3rd floor of rickhouse 1I; the whiskey inside was distilled 12/27/2005 and bottles are becoming available now at an MSRP of $300


Nose: Upon lifting the well-rested glass to my nose, I find a distinct barrel funk, which is to be expected from a release carrying this high of an age statement. Delicate brown sugar cookies, nougat, and leather dance in the nostrils. Deep inhales carry considerable heat and spice. Nutmeg, tarragon, hay, and black pepper all bubble to the surface during my exploration. Dry, sun-scorched earth tingles in the nose when diving too deep. Woodshop aromas swing in next as I find myself slowly descending a lofty ladder of space and scent. While this bottle started a little potent, zesty, and spicy, a little air time has done wonders to create a comfortable space to rest my nose. With patient observation, hints of jasmine, molasses, amber honey, vanilla, and bergamot can be dug up in soft puffs of complexity. Marshmallow aromas are delicate and ephemeral. Time for a sip.

Returning the nose to the glass offers bright effervescence alongside graham cracker, confectioners sugar, and marshmallow tones. There is a distinct underlying funk that continues to be pervasive throughout. Roasted chicory root aromas offer wonderful depth late in the glass. The empty glencairn smells of a forest floor in springtime and Reese's peanut butter cups.

Palate: My first sip is powerful, moving, and potent, with cherry skins leading before raisin, plum, raspberry, and a distinct buttery fatiness. The lingering mouthfeel is a wonderful combination of sweet, salty, and savory, like a crème brûlée with foie gras. Another sip illustrates a side of Heaven Hill we don't often see: red currant jam, dark peach, cranberry, and dark, tart amarena cherry all dance wonderfully on the tongue. There is a classic Heaven Hill vanilla backbone, which is to be expected. Sipping late in the glass offers the tingly mouthfeel that one would expect from the introductory spice levels, as it remains quite comfortable in the mouth all throughout. My goodness, late in the glass is really where this starts to shine. Despite some drying characteristics, the vanilla bean, caramelized sugar, sweet root beer, and light roast coffee flavors that can be picked apart late in the glass are well worth the price of admission for me. Delicate hints of hazelnut and walnut stimulate the mind during the undulating linger. My last sip offers hard root beer candy and black tea, a wonderful conclusion to an ever-evolving glass.

TL;DR: Marvelously balanced and complex bourbon; a nonpareil of blending prowess


Rating: 5/5

The Heaven Hill team continues to prove they have some masterclass whiskey blending skills with this release. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my three separate tastings and would wholeheartedly recommend this bourbon to anyone seeking high-quality, ultra-aged bourbon with the means to afford a $300 bottle. While I have already explored a surprising volume of my bottle, given the cost and rarity of securing a backup, I am going to start savoring this on special occasions with good company from here on out. Kudos to Heaven Hill for continuing to elevate the whiskey game with their heritage collection releases. I look forward to the next!


Bonus Comparisons to the 2022 Release

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17 Year Bourbon

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection Head to Head - 17 Year vs 18 Year Bourbon

I may be a little spoiled here.

Nose: Both glasses are rich and earthy on the nose, though they have distinctly different characters, so don't go into one expecting the other. I find the 17 year has a touch more wood tones, and it reminds me of an arts-and-crafts department a bit. The 17 year is funkier, more like vintage Heaven Hill to me. The 18 year is more on the sweet end, with marshmallow and some delicate fruit tones underlying. I might argue the 18 has more complexity, but it takes more effort to find. I like the nose of the 18 better now that it has opened up.

Palate: Sipping each, I find more vanilla on the 17 year and more fruit on the 18 year. Both exude that leathery, buttery texture with graham cracker and caramelized sugar tones. They both definitely play in the same league. I find the 17 year is a little more one-dimensional compared to the 18 year, which is an incredible feat considering how many notes I previously took on my full review of the 2022 release. Like the nose, I find this 17 year to be more in line with some of the vintage Heaven Hill releases (think old Elijah Craig barrel proof batches or a heftier Elijah Craig 18 year), while the latest 18 year release sings with rich, fruity undulations. I am going to once again give the nod to the 18 year release. I'm not sure how the Heaven Hill team is going to outdo themselves from here...

Ranking: 18 year (2024) > 17 year (2022)

That's all for now. If you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave me a comment down below, or buy me a coffee if you're really feeling generous!



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