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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hanukkah Whiskey Report: Heaven Hill 15 year old Bourbon for Whisky Jewbilee

Hanukkah arrived early-ish this year and caught me unprepared, without presents for others.  Well, if it arrived late, I still wouldn't have bought presents in time because I'm a dick.  BUT, I do have two samples given to me by members of South Bay Whisky Tribe (and Booze Dancing).

Today's item is the exclusive bourbon from the 2013 Whisky Jewbilee, the annual event organized by the fellows of Single Cask Nation (nice guys, but they were also the subjects of a recent lazy unfortunate puff piece in The Daily Beast; see the link for MAO's take and my comments at the bottom of his post).  I have yet to attend a Whisky Jewbilee, because money.  Maybe I will someday, but only if no one there says out loud, "hashtag whiskyfabric!"  That's an inside bloggie joke, but YOU PEOPLE know who you are.

Aaron Krouse, a whiskyfabrician (not a word) also known as aaron197172, handed me a set of remarkable samples at this year's Peatin' Meetin'.  Amongst them was this:

It's on top of a challah, see, because the whiskey
is soooooo Jewish.
It's a Heaven Hill high-rye bourbon, approximately 15.81918 years old, distilled in 1998 (or maybe 1997) and bottled at full power.  There were "fewer than 100 bottles" of it issued in 2013.  Or as per my usual info:

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled: 1998 (or maybe 1997?)
Bottled: 2013
Age: 15 years
Region: Louisville, Kentucky
Maturation: New American oak
Mashbill: high-rye, as per SCN's notes
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
photo from the Jewbilee site

Its color is dark, very dark, GlenDronach single oloroso cask dark.

The nose is closed at first.  Maybe some old furniture and furniture polish.  Slightly metallic.  Then gradually that becomes a (good) moldy basement, followed by Frangelico, vanilla extract, and pound cake.

Woo.  The palate is big.  Bigger than 122.6 proof big.  Stagg big.  Lots of fruit (oranges and limes) with the loud rye and oak spices.  A corn sweetness slowly builds.  Cherry snow cone syrup.  Aromatic and spicy, very woody.

Lots of pepper and caramel in the finish and an almost rum-like sweetness.  It eventually focuses in on drying oak tannins.

Lemme hydrate it...

WITH WATER (~50%abv)

The nose gets cornier.  Sugary, bigger vanilla, notebook paper.

The palate mellows out, but is super sweet.  Think orange hard candies and corn syrup.  Barrel char.

It's sweet through the finish with a hint of the rye spice.  Maybe a little citrus.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)

Well, it does not drown at this level.  The nose starts to feel like a younger spritely woody high-rye bourbon.  Mint leaves and soil.

Lots of rye in the palate.  Pepper, mint, and sugar.

A sweet and spicy finish with minty menthol.

Some things became very apparent during this tasting.  First off, the rye element sometimes reads bigger than it does in the current version of Rittenhouse and maybe even in the Pikesville 6.  That's good for my palate.

Secondly, when neat, this whiskey is tremendously oaky, as is the case with many older bourbons.  And, as is the case with many older bourbons, my palate doesn't jive with that.  Other palates may like it better.  I've noticed that long-aged dusty bourbons have oak notes that become silky rich vanilla, caramel, and maple syrup.  Meanwhile, current long-aged bourbons have oak notes that read like......wood.  Is it a change in maturation and barrel processes or is it an Old Bottle Effect?  I don't know.

Thirdly, this thing gets intensely sugary sweet once a little bit of water is added.  I don't have the biggest sweet tooth, but I know some of you do and you'd probably like this more than I.  Adding more water actually reduces the sweetness.

Funny enough, I liked this best at 40%abv.  It's as if the years and the corn have been stripped off and a rye whiskey remains.  The fact that this Heaven Hill can stand up to so much water works in its favor.  Most high powered bourbons that I've tried don't swim so well, but comparatively this one is Mark Spitz.

Availability - Gone, though it might pop up in auctions
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84, but only with a lot of water (79-81 otherwise)


  1. So I wonder where it was distilled, since HH didn't buu Bernheim until 1999. Was it stock they got in the sale, or something made on contract?

    1. That's a legit point. Perhaps they bought the stock in the warehouses along with the distillery when they made the purchase in 1999?