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Friday, April 21, 2017

J.W. Dant Bottled-in-Bond versus Heaven Hill 6yo Bottled-in-Bond, 3 Ways!

Yes, just last week I reviewed Heaven Hill 6yo BIB. Then I noticed I had JW Dant BIB on the calendar for this week. What better way to get a clearer idea of a pair of bourbons than with a little Taste Off! perspective?

That was a rhetorical question.


I bought these two bottles in Kentucky last year: $9 for the JWD and $11 for the HH. (If you're a scotch drinker, you may be saying "Fucken A" right now.) I opened both at the same time and, as you can see, they're both almost gone.

A quick refresher: Both of these bourbons are distilled by Heaven Hill Distillery, and both are bottled at 50% from barrels in bonded Kentucky warehouses. The HH BIB is at least 6 years old (though that age statement has started to vanish from new bottles), while the JWD BIB is at least 4 years old. And both, as mentioned before, are hella cheap.

I tasted these bourbons side-by-side in three different formats: Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Neat.



Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Heaven Hill
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Region: Louisville, Kentucky
Maturation: New American oak
Age: at least six years (HH), at least four years (JWD)
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Bottle Code: F167 615 27 (HH), 173 5122 (JWD)
Alcohol by Volume: 50%

OLD FASHIONED
(orange peel, angostura bitters, half a demerara cube and a splash of water muddled together, then rocks, then 25mL of bourbon)


Heaven Hill 6 year old BIB
The whiskey merges with the orange peel and sugar very well, so that one can't tell where the whiskey ends and the other ingredients begin. A substantial bubblegum note. Overall its very even and drinky.

J.W. Dant BIB
More spirity and mouth-drying, though also plenty sweet. Needs a lot of ice melt to straighten it out. Though that also brings out a green woody bitterness.

Verdict: The Heaven Hill old-fashioned is pretty decent. The JW Dant old-fashioned is pretty bad.



MANHATTAN
(20mL of bourbon stirred with 10mL of Carpano Antica, angostura bitters and a drop of Luxardo cherry syrup)


Heaven Hill 6 year old BIB
Tangy and caramel-rich. It's a little woody (tee-hee) but not too much. The bourbon leaves room for the Antica to shine. Very fruity and full of cinnamon.

J.W. Dant BIB
Hot, sharp, mouth-drying, and very oaky (sawdust and bark). Ah, and there's the woody bitterness. It feels out of balance, but is still drinkable.

Verdict: This bottle of Heaven Hill BIB has been my go-to Manhattan bourbon ever since I opened it. I dig it. The Dant is a mess but will serve its purpose if that's what you have on hand, or if you're already on your third Manhattan.



NEAT
(If you say that these whiskies were not designed to be sipped from a Glencairn, then I would say you're right, now hush up.)


Heaven Hill 6 year old BIB
Nose - Orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. Fresh cut lumber. Lots of vanilla after 15 minutes of air.
Palate - Not as vibrant as the nose. Cherries, oak, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. A little bit of heat and a little bit of hazelnuts.
Finish - Simple and straightforward. Oak char and oak spice.

J.W. Dant BIB
Nose - Sawdust, rock candy and corn whiskey. Something green and vegetal.
Palate - Hotter than the HH. Burnt nuts, loads of drying oak. Dirt and bark. Sugar and soap.
Finish - Soap, oak, caramel and nuts. A little bitterness. Lots of heat.

Verdict: Heaven Hill wins again. Excellent nose, good enough palate. The Dant is so-so.



WORDS WORDS WORDS

My opinion of Heaven Hill 6yo bourbon remains the same as last week, though its quality was made quite clear when compared with the Dant in cocktail form. Meanwhile, it's difficult to recommend the Dant for cocktails. When neat, it smells and tastes very similar to the average well bourbon. No more, no less. With that being said, I'd still pick the Dant over the basic scotch blends (JW Red, Dewar's, Cutty Sark, etc.) that are 2.5x-3x Dant's price.

Verdict: J.W. Dant BIB smells and tastes like cheap whiskey. Heaven Hill 6yo BIB has better qualities than most of the common bourbons twice its price, and every "craft" bourbon four or five times its price. R.I.P.

Availability - These are both only available in certain states. The HH's age statement has been phased out.
Pricing - HH: $10-$15, JWD: $9-$20(!)
Rating - HH: 82 and JWD: 70

6 comments:

  1. I just did a side by side of these myself, but also threw in EW BIB. Simply put, my impression was HH is woody and spicy, JWD is grainy and nutty, and EW is bright fruit and artificial sweetener. The HH was the clear winner. I like the Fant better than you, probably rating it 80. EW came in last. BTW, where did you hear HH 6 BIB is going away?

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    1. Hey Anon,

      There's this very disheartening photo taken by a major Kentucky retailer:
      https://goo.gl/photos/KjNvPf8qwwwKMxti9

      If I'm seeing things right, they're keeping the same label design, but dropping the BIB and the age statement altogether. It's actually kinda horrifying. Meanwhile the bourbon secondary market is being flooded by people trying to flip their HH BIB 6s.

      Regarding Evan Williams BIB, I haven't been the biggest fan of it either, which is kinda weird because I like the Black AND Green label versions.

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    2. That's disappointing. I knew it was pulled from distribution here in Indiana, but i thought it would still be available in Kentucky. I wonder if the 6 yr green label will still be available, I wnjoyed it the one time I had it.
      I was surprised that I didn't care for the EW BIB, because I also enjoy the black label (I've never tried the green).

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  2. Hi Michael,

    I looked into the discontinuation rumor a little bit. Apparently Heaven Hill is updating all of their HH-branded Bourbons to look the same. While I hesitate to guarantee anything in this crazy market (and HH has certainly lied in the past), I was told that the Heaven Hill 6 Year Bottled in Bond would continue to be produced for limited markets. The rep I spoke to claims the photo is misleading because the "new look" tag refers to the old version of that NAS 80proof bourbon, not a replacement fo the HH6BIB. So you should probably stock up, because every single time I've stood up for a distiller regarding stuff like this, they have cancelled or removed the age statement of their product within 18 months.

    Cheers,

    Eric

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    Replies
    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your comment.

      A disclaimer: Heaven Hill is my favorite bourbon producer. Their quality to price ratio is unmatched by any company in any whisk(e)y industry. They're the only bourbon producer whose products I'd buy blindly.

      With that being said, they have an honesty problem. I think that's the careful phrasing people are using in politics nowadays.

      Their national ambassador publicly taunted and pissed on FANS OF HIS PRODUCT (Elijah Craig 12) who dared suggest that its age statement was going away. Just before its age statement went away. Whether he outright lied or was misled by his own employers, I don't know. But he was neither fired nor demoted after that.

      I attended representative-led tastings for many years, but now no longer do so. Yes those events are cheaper than private events, but the misinformation dished out by representatives of American craft whiskey producers and Scotch producers reliably proves broad and unsettling at their events. Whether it's bad training or purposeful misinformation, again, I don't know. But it's bad information. And it's the sort of bad information that aims to make sales. (On a side note, I'm not a full-on rep hater like some prominent whisky folks. I have met a number of awesome reps who have proven to be very honest, and keep in touch with them. But they are in the minority.)

      Then there's economics. If volume sales continue to be much higher than were expected when these products were distilled, then it's natural that some expressions will need an age drop to meet demand. Or a company will drop the age statement to take advantage of the demand, as we've seen in scotch. Heaven Hill's brands' pricing has been amazing. Even if HH BIB goes down to 4 years, it's still only $10-$15 dollars.

      Finally, there's a branding issue. Here in Kentucky-Adjacent, I've seen all the "Heaven Hill" bourbons. Their labels are nearly identical already, with each expression separated by colors: white, green and black. It's easy to tell them apart while also knowing they're part of the same brand. Making them all look exactly the same creates complete confusion amongst buyers in the retail setting. I won't say that confusion will decrease sales, but it certainly won't increase them.

      Sorry for the long rant here. I really dig Heaven Hill's products, but their public relations smells. I do hope that HH6BIB continues to be sold in at least some markets. If it loses its age statement, but keeps the BIB, at least it's still cheap. And hopefully good.

      Cheers,
      MIchael

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    2. Hi Michael,

      I don't blame you for being distrustful. The Elijah Craig 12 debacle was when I learned I couldn't trust anything Heaven Hill brand reps say. That said the traditional HH6BIB markets seem to be flush, so if you're worried I expect you can easily find a case or two. The only distillery that has been more dishonest with me than HH is Laphroaig. I actually started saving the text of their correspondence in one file so I can show it to whoever lies (either directly or lies about knowing what is going on) to me. This behavior, along with their current "wood treatment in place of aging" policy has resulted in a halt in any OB Laphroaig purchases. Heaven Hill I love to much to quit, but it is still a sore spot. I was never big on Elijah Craig 12 or Barrel proof, but I love almost everything else they produce, even their cheaper bourbon.

      Cheers (and good luck),

      Eric

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