Heaven Hill releases 17-year bourbon from its ‘vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey’ — so how’s it taste?

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle

Earlier this month, word spread about a new bourbon Heaven Hill was launching that would be a whopping 17 years old. Yes, there are older bourbons on the market — Pappy 23 to reference a popular one — but in this age where many distilleries cite limited supplies of aged whiskey, it makes headlines when out pops any release older than 12.

But then again, Heaven Hill isn’t your average everyday bourbon distillery either. After announcing the release of the new Heritage Collection 17-Year-Old Barrel-Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, they followed it up a week or so later with news that the next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release would be 17 years as well. Hot damn!

Call it gumption, call it ingenious foresight or call it great supply management, but Heaven Hill is sitting on a “vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey,” according to Susan Wahl, VP of American Whiskeys. Wahl spoke during a media event on the Heritage Collection via Zoom, which included a tasting of the 17-year bourbon led by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll.

There are currently 1.9 million barrels aging throughout Heaven Hill’s six rick house sites, so yes, I can see where some of that probably is older whiskey, which is good news for them and consumers.

The new release is the first of the Heritage Collection, which will debut each spring and always feature some of the distillery’s oldest juice (15+). Their highly sought-after Parker’s Heritage Collection will continue to be released each fall and focuses more on the experimental side of the coin, including finishes, mashbills and more.

Tell me about the bourbon already!

OK, OK. This first iteration of the Heritage Collection features Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malted barley. The proof on this one is a stout 118.2, so it does pack a punch for an older guy.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle
Fancy bottle, fancy box. | Courtesy

And, as we know, the age statement comes from the youngest bourbon in the batch — which is 17 years old — but O’Driscoll told us it also contains a good amount of 19- and 20-year-old barrels, which brings its average age to 18.7.

The barrels were also pulled from several rick houses, including Deatsville, Glencoe, Schenley and the main campus in Bardstown, and most barrels were from floors 1-4.

The suggested retail price on this fancy 750ml bottle is $274.99, and Wahl said it should be hitting store shelves any day now in Kentucky as well as across the country.

So how’s it taste?

It tastes delicious, thank you. I’ll have another.

Only kidding — about having another … unless I can get lucky and find one on the shelf.

From first sniff, you know this bourbon is going to be complex. It smells like walking into a rick house and all those wonderful notes that invade your nostrils — vanilla, caramel, toffee, oak, baked apple and dark chocolate.

Now onto the sip …

This bourbon is not overly oaked at all, which can be the case with older whiskeys. It’s also quite sweet for being 118.2 proof. Along with the aromas I mentioned above, I get some nutty flavors, like pecans and almonds, a lot more of that apple, this time with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and even a tinge of leather on the long finish.

If your tongue was a dance floor, it’s waltzing from left to right, gliding effortlessly like the mature spirit it is. After sitting inside a barrel for 17 years, this is the bourbon’s time to grab the spotlight and never let go — until the last drop has been savored.

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