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White Dog
09-21-2012, 20:40
Let's talk Heaven Hill. With the PHC 2012(Beyond my expectations) and Larceny(Which I have not yet tried.) just being released, I've been thinking about this distillery quite a bit, lately. I know there are HH haters out there, which is cool, but I would like to hear from all. Why do you hate, and why do you love?

I love HH on many levels, but it's not because I love all the Whiskey.

I love that they still do Straight Corn. Darker versions of DD, along with MC are delicious, and keep this wonderfully unique American spirit alive. I'm very thankful that they do this.

I love value labels like FC, which over deliver. In Wisconsin there is no actual Heaven Hill label and no other BIBs except for Old Fitz, so I have no experience there. I do feel that EW Black is one of the best "cheap" labels going.

EC12 and EC18 are wildly inconsistent. Some I've loved, while others have been disappointing.

Some well-respected voices on this forum are also fans of EWSB, while I've found most years to be only so-so.

Old Fitz is aweful. Shame.

PHC: I've had all but the 27yr, and I've loved all but the Cognac, which I feel was good, but was not up to the greatness of the others. The latest 4-grain is stunning to me, and I've already categorized it as legendary.

RittBIB is as good a cheap Rye as there is, if a bit Bourbon like. Can't wait to try RittBIB DSP-1. I also love Pikesville. Stephen Foster and Ritt80 are just okay. I've had Ritt21 twice, which was amazing both times.

They also supply many others, and favorites of mine include Old Ezra 7, Johnny Drum Private Stock, and various Willett bottlings.

All in all, I mostly love HH for it's diversity, IMHO. Let's hope it keeps expanding on that. Yo Craig, how about a High-Rye Bourbon?

(PS: FWIW, my avatar is a series of barrel-strength EC12s that a friendly retailer allowed me to try when he was selecting a barrel. The bottle on the far left was 153.2 proof, and better than any Stagg I've ever had. The retailer agreed with me. It was jaw-dropping, drop to your knees Bourbon. When the retailer went to order the barrel, it was sadly already gone.)

Clavius
09-21-2012, 20:58
I like that HH isn't owned by some mega-conglomerate corporation. As for their products, some I like and others I don't.

MyOldKyDram
09-21-2012, 21:03
I think you've pretty well hit on their highs and lows, and i agree pretty much across the board. And besides, any additional negatives I may be able to add have been forgiven after having the PHC 2012 tonight. :grin:

theglobalguy
09-21-2012, 21:16
I appreciate that they're releasing products across the cost spectrum, not just ultra high-end. It takes a lot of courage to resist profits for sake of loyal customers.

I dislike the confusion within their staff. My wife works in Bardstown, called the heritage centre to find a birthday present for me. They knew less about their new products than she did (and she's by no means a bourbon lover). I would expect lack of communication and pricing confusion in a much larger company, but for a family run firm, not acceptable.

Brisko
09-21-2012, 21:22
I can't disagree with White Dog. I would add that they seem comitted to providing value at a fair price. Shoot, there's more diversity at their bottom end than at the top!

sutton
09-22-2012, 06:40
Agree with everything above - but I do have a question that has been bugging me since I tasted (and really enjoyed) Larceny: how can this same distillery end up producing the Old Fitz BiB? Same recipe, right? I would assume same barrels more or less - so it has to be in the warehouse/aging right? Or is it coming off the still/going into barrel at different proofs? (if so, stop and do what you do for Larceny and PHC!)

It seems incredible that with more aging Old Fitz could progress to Larceny and then PHC ... but I know next to nothing about whiskey production - but these products are more than a couple of orders of magnitude apart ... I'm curious as to what any of you think the explanation might be, or can we expect an improvement in Old Fitz as time goes on? HH can clearly make good/great/outstanding wheaters ...

darylld911
09-22-2012, 06:49
While I do like to know where my bourbon and whiskey comes from, I don't tend to like or dislike the distilleries themselves. Some of their products I think are a great value as you call out, while others I'm not impressed with or don't care for. I do love their visitor center and think that does a great job of educating folks. I spent an hour just reading the exhibits, and it was as informative as most tours.

Young Blacksmith
09-22-2012, 08:41
Like others, some of their products I love, others I would drink over scotch any day. :)

I have yet to have a bad bottle of EC, but I've only had one bottle of the 18. I seem to like anything they put out over 89 proof, but some of the EWSB's are a little watery to me. I enjoy my bottle of PHC Cognac I have, but when it's gone I won't replace it, as I think this year's product sounds far better.

For only having a few mash bills, Craig and Parker really know how to pick and age barrels to get the different profiles they produce. Possibly not being backed by a huge corporation makes them more responsive to the market? I don't know. I do know they take a licking and keep on ticking, having their distillery burn down, purchase another, and keep on producing. That could be why a huge corporation has not picked them up yet, and now I feel they are successful enough to have surpassed the stage where someone would absorb them.

They're also producing a wide range of products, not just Bourbon, which helps us. I feel it lets the Bourbon division experiment more with what they have, producing those PHC bottlings, while the Pama's and EWB's bring in the steady cash flow.

Bmac
09-22-2012, 08:48
I like that they have the largestamountof aging barrels than any other distillery. I think that gives them more options and more probability that they would have a higher number of "honey" barrels. I mean, they have 50+ year old bourbon still aging. Who could claim that right?

CoMobourbon
09-22-2012, 10:34
It's stunning to me that no one has mentioned EWB yet. In terms of what the Heaven Hill brings to the table, I think it's got to be the distillery's most important contribution to bourbon. I mean, I guess it's not very sexy, but that's kind of the whole point of it; it's pretty good/decent/ok, very cheap, completely reliable, and infinitely available. (IMHO, of course of course.) It's not very exciting, but it represents an invaluable HH service to bourbon and booze in general.

*So on second glance it appears that several people have made references to EWB. My bad. In any case, I submit that we needed a little panegyric to those $17-$20 handles.

Josh
09-22-2012, 11:34
I would add that they seem comitted to providing value at a fair price. Shoot, there's more diversity at their bottom end than at the top!

Nailed it.

I'm not a fan of all of the low end stuff. I don't care for the gold label Heaven Hills and I can take or leave most of the cats & dogs. The rest are great baragins, from top to bottom, especially Elijah Craig 12.

The wheaters are hit & miss. Old Fitz Prime & 1849 are vile, but I don't think the current BiB is bad for the price. I liked Larceny & I like VSOF, but the latter tends to suffer by comparison to Weller 12 & Lot B. The Wheated PHC was great, but I wonder if there was S-W in the mix.

The rest of the PHC has been very good. I liked the Cognac finish a lot, but the price was high for what it was. I'm skeptical of the new edition but I was skeptical of the rest of them too and they were all good.

That's my two cents.

WAINWRIGHT
09-22-2012, 12:03
I feel they have a very agreeable line from top to bottom few excluded by way of the Fitz's.A greater array of approachable products vs.BT across the board.The PHC line has always been stellar other than the Cognac which feel fell just short IMHO.I look forward to future releases and am highly enthusiastic to try the 4 grain release of this year.I hope they keep the BIB line around and market more niche market releases as well.

sutton
09-22-2012, 14:44
I feel they have a very agreeable line from top to bottom few excluded by way of the Fitz's.A greater array of approachable products vs.BT across the board.The PHC line has always been stellar other than the Cognac which feel fell just short IMHO.I look forward to future releases and am highly enthusiastic to try the 4 grain release of this year.I hope they keep the BIB line around and market more niche market releases as well.

Which is why I can't understand the quality variation in the Old Fitz line - they can produce QPR bourbon on the low end - so what gives with the Old Fitz? It really stands out IMHO ... too much variation and when it is bad, it is close to undrinkable. A bad bottle of old Fitz BiB took a couple of tablespoons of Vermont's best medium amber maple syrup, about 200 ml of leftover red vermouth, and a bottle of Maker's to blend it to a point of drinkable. It's actually quite enjoyable now - I pour about half a pour of the ameleorated OF with an equal measure of decent wheater, and it is actually a pretty nice result.

I have hope that OF BiB will improve down the line ...

White Dog
09-22-2012, 15:59
Which is why I can't understand the quality variation in the Old Fitz line - they can produce QPR bourbon on the low end - so what gives with the Old Fitz? It really stands out IMHO ... too much variation and when it is bad, it is close to undrinkable. A bad bottle of old Fitz BiB took a couple of tablespoons of Vermont's best medium amber maple syrup, about 200 ml of leftover red vermouth, and a bottle of Maker's to blend it to a point of drinkable. It's actually quite enjoyable now - I pour about half a pour of the ameleorated OF with an equal measure of decent wheater, and it is actually a pretty nice result.

I have hope that OF BiB will improve down the line ...

I think the OF BIB did improve, but they're calling it Larceny.:lol:

sutton
09-22-2012, 16:09
I think the OF BIB did improve, but they're calling it Larceny.:lol:

Well then, mission accomplished!!

ethangsmith
09-22-2012, 20:04
I like the Heaven Hill lineup better than any other major distiller. Rittenhouse and Pikesville ryes, Mellow Corn, the Elijah Craigs, and the Old Heaven Hill gold label BIB are my favorites. Probably the most amazing "bottom shelf" lineup of any distiller. My favorite part about Heaven Hill? They've taken it upon themselves to keep several old labels alive. Oh, and the quasi-Heaven Hill products are pretty dang good too. I'm a huge Ezra 90 and Ezra 101 fan, along with Johnny Drum Private Stock and the KBD small batch collection of bourbons.

beerfactory
09-23-2012, 11:28
Rittenhouse BIB, Mellow Corn, Elijah Craig 12, Fighting Cock, and EWB are among my favorite. I've always got an open bottle of these whiskeys.

Now that WT101 is gone and I'm down to two bottles left, I'll rely even more on Ritt. I can't find anything in HH lineup that will compare to OWA, otherwise, I might be HH all the way.

Brisko
09-25-2012, 08:53
Agree with everything above - but I do have a question that has been bugging me since I tasted (and really enjoyed) Larceny: how can this same distillery end up producing the Old Fitz BiB? Same recipe, right? I would assume same barrels more or less - so it has to be in the warehouse/aging right? Or is it coming off the still/going into barrel at different proofs? (if so, stop and do what you do for Larceny and PHC!)

It seems incredible that with more aging Old Fitz could progress to Larceny and then PHC ... but I know next to nothing about whiskey production - but these products are more than a couple of orders of magnitude apart ... I'm curious as to what any of you think the explanation might be, or can we expect an improvement in Old Fitz as time goes on? HH can clearly make good/great/outstanding wheaters ...

Here's the deal. You make a bunch of whiskey, and after four years or whatever, you have two basic categories: Whiskey that might improve with further aging, and whiskey that's not going to get any better. If you have the space and the market, you set aside as much of the former category as you can.

The latter category might run the gamut from great to absolutely lousy. But you still need to get rid of it somehow, so you can either put most of the lousy whiskey into one of your crap brands and direct the rest into your standard offerings, or you can put it all together and hope the good balances out the bad.

Now HH makes a ton of rye recipe bourbon and they have tons of brands to direct it to. Hence why EWB is pretty damn good, considering, and why some of the bottom end cats and dogs aren't. But with wheaters, they don't have options at the bottom besides Fitz. So all of that young bourbon that isn't going to get any better is going to the same place. Maybe the worst is going into Prime and 1849. But with the Bond they don't have the flexibility of adding aged stock to round it out, so their hands are tied a little in terms of what they can do--they can't just fill fewer orders for the Bond (I'm sure the demand is pretty consistent) so it ends up being the best they can do under the circumstances.

The wheated stuff they can afford to age is going to PHC, Larceny, and so on. The really, really bad probably gets sold off to Luxco.

StraightNoChaser
09-25-2012, 11:06
PHC is one of the best high end lineups I've tasted. The first release and the wheated version are easily in my top 10 favorite bourbons of all time. I'm looking forward to more releases like those.

Hopefully the straight rye I'm pining for is released in the next couple years.

Flyfish
09-25-2012, 16:13
[QUOTE=StraightNoChaser;302940]PHC is one of the best high end lineups I've tasted. The first release and the wheated version are easily in my top 10 favorite bourbons of all time. I'm looking forward to more releases like those.

The wheated PHC is the best bourbon I have ever wrapped my lips around. It is encouraging to see that HH really can do a superior wheated
considering how disappointing OF has been.

camduncan
09-25-2012, 19:00
I'm a big fan of Heaven Hill products, but unfortunately Australia doesn't get many of them.... and what we do get tends to be overpriced. What we really need is for them to release a wheated bourbon into our market. As far as i know, Makers is the only wheated recipe available here and it sells very well. Given they water it down to 40%, put it in a 700ml bottle, and sell it for $35-$40 a bottle, HH would probablt make a killing if they could get an Old Fitz version into our market...... or Bernheim Wheated..... I guess I can dream :)

For the record, Australia gets the following HH products through our national chains:
Evan Williams Single Barrel ($65)
Elijah Craig 12yo ($67)
Evan Williams Black Label ($38)
Virgin 101 ($42)
Evan Williams Honey Reserve ($38)
Lower Shelf:
Nelson County ($28 37%abv)
Kentucky Gold ($29 37%abv)
Kentucky Gold Honey ($29)
Kentucky Gold Cherry ($29)
We were also lucky to get a limited supply of PHC Congac Finish at $139 per bottle. :shocked:

sutton
09-26-2012, 06:15
But with wheaters, they don't have options at the bottom besides Fitz. So all of that young bourbon that isn't going to get any better is going to the same place. Maybe the worst is going into Prime and 1849. But with the Bond they don't have the flexibility of adding aged stock to round it out, so their hands are tied a little in terms of what they can do--they can't just fill fewer orders for the Bond (I'm sure the demand is pretty consistent) so it ends up being the best they can do under the circumstances.

The wheated stuff they can afford to age is going to PHC, Larceny, and so on. The really, really bad probably gets sold off to Luxco.

Thanks, that makes sense - I can also see how BiB constrains them even further when trying to blend out the occasional off-batch. I did have a decent bottle of OF BiB, which caused me to go out and replace it - I was shocked at the difference between the two bottles.

White Dog
09-26-2012, 09:03
I'm a big fan of Heaven Hill products, but unfortunately Australia doesn't get many of them.... and what we do get tends to be overpriced. What we really need is for them to release a wheated bourbon into our market. As far as i know, Makers is the only wheated recipe available here and it sells very well. Given they water it down to 40%, put it in a 700ml bottle, and sell it for $35-$40 a bottle, HH would probablt make a killing if they could get an Old Fitz version into our market...... or Bernheim Wheated..... I guess I can dream :)

For the record, Australia gets the following HH products through our national chains:
Evan Williams Single Barrel ($65)
Elijah Craig 12yo ($67)
Evan Williams Black Label ($38)
Virgin 101 ($42)
Evan Williams Honey Reserve ($38)
Lower Shelf:
Nelson County ($28 37%abv)
Kentucky Gold ($29 37%abv)
Kentucky Gold Honey ($29)
Kentucky Gold Cherry ($29)
We were also lucky to get a limited supply of PHC Congac Finish at $139 per bottle. :shocked:

For those of us in the states, this is a fascinating list. Thanks, Cam.

What can you tell us about Virgin 101?

Smithford
09-26-2012, 09:15
Australia doesn't get many of them.... and what we do get tends to be overpriced. What we really need is for them to release a wheated bourbon into our market. As far as i know, Makers is the only wheated recipe available here and it sells very well.
Same situation here in Canada (Ontario anyway). There's never a constant, steady supply of HH products. But over the last two years we've seen EC12 ($40), EWSB ($55), Ritt BIB ($35) and Bernheim Wheat (at a preposterous $75!). We also get Pennypacker ($33), but it comes by way of some European re-seller and it's pretty much undrinkable anyway. We've never seen any of the Heritage Collection, or any of the bottom shelf HH/EW bottles. In bars (but not at our liquor stores) you can sometimes find the Luxco stuff (3 Ezras & 2 Rebels), but it's ridiculously overpriced. There's a bar down the street from me (http://thecountygeneral.ca/menus/6/) that sells a shot of Rebel Reserve for $12! I saw it on the menu and laughed out loud - told the bartender that in most states you'd pay less than that for the whole bottle.

Makers is our only wheater too (regular MM as well as 46). I recently had a brief email exchange with the agent for HH in Canada and encouraged him to try to bring in some Larceny. Not holding my breath though. EC12 and Ritt have both disappeared from liquor store shelves and I have no idea if/when they'll be back.

To answer the OP, I'd just echo what everyone else says here. HH are neither the best, nor the worst. They make some great bourbon, but also some not so great. They do seem to be defined somewhat by their inconsistency, which worries me a little bit for when Ritt BIB reverts to DSP-KY1. I've managed to stow away a few bottles of DSP-KY354 which is, I think, the best value American Whiskey that's ever been available here.

smokinjoe
09-26-2012, 09:39
For those of us in the states, this is a fascinating list. Thanks, Cam.

What can you tell us about Virgin 101?

Virgin 101 is a class you definitely don't want to register for, but certainly may be worth auditing... :D

cowdery
09-26-2012, 10:48
I can't believe only one person mentioned Parker and Craig Beam, since that's the answer right there. How does Old Fitz become Larceny? Through masterful barrel selection and mixing. We know they cherry-pick the best barrels for the single barrel products and they do the same thing for PHC and Larceny. Parker and Craig are just the masters at that. Nobody is better. There is somebody doing that job at every distillery. Some have slightly different skill sets. I don't want to say anything negative about anyone, but I will say that no one surpasses Parker and Craig in that regard. Part of it is in the nature of the company. Chains of command there are clear and short. Everybody has been in their jobs for a long time. They trust each other. And when it comes to their whiskey and what goes into the bottle, there is no question who is in charge and who makes those decisions. And senior company management doesn't undermine that, they reinforce it. Parker and Craig are simply awesomely good at their jobs and Max Shapira, et al, stay out of the way and let them do their jobs. It's simple but not easily duplicated.

All this with a distillery they don't really like. Imagine what HH would be producing if they still had DSP-31 going.

sailor22
09-26-2012, 11:23
HH seems to have their ear to the ground as far as what the market wants and they have enough product to match quality to demand. A few of their older labels have slipped in my personal desirability list as they went to younger juice and perhaps some of the better barrels are being used for the newer premium labels. But the premium labels are generally very good. I really miss the older 10yr 1783, the current non age stated is similar but just isn't as good OMHO. YMMV.

I look forward to the annual Parkers Heritage release more than any other annual release now.

HighHorse
09-26-2012, 12:37
Per White Dog: (PS: FWIW, my avatar is a series of barrel-strength EC12s that a friendly retailer allowed me to try when he was selecting a barrel. The bottle on the far left was 153.2 proof, and better than any Stagg I've ever had. The retailer agreed with me. It was jaw-dropping, drop to your knees Bourbon. When the retailer went to order the barrel, it was sadly already gone.)[/QUOTE]

Earlier this year we selected a couple of barrels of EC12 at barrel strength. Yet they were bottled at 90 proof. At barrel proof they were bell ringers (jaw droppers as you say) and we were mighty excited about it. At 90 they had been taken to the edge and, while still quite tasty and delicious, had lost a good bit of the character we enjoyed in the rick house. Lesson learned.

Still, there is an awful lot to like about the HH juice. I've grabbed up as much of the EC18 as I could find as I have yet to break the seal on a bottle that I didn't think was excellent. I know that's not a unanimous thought. I cant' get too excited that they're taking that same juice a couple of years later and putting it on the shelf at $140. That makes me appreciate the $40+ for the 18 even more.

We also selected a barrel of EW 10 .. and it satisfies with the best of them.

So my HH experience is from selective choices. Have not tried all of their brands ... but those I like .. I really like! Don't know how many barrels those folks have tucked away 'roun' the hills of Kentucky ... but there's some darn good bourbon waiting to be discovered.

camduncan
09-26-2012, 16:34
For those of us in the states, this is a fascinating list. Thanks, Cam.

What can you tell us about Virgin 101?

Unfortunately not much. I purchased a bottle several years ago, and from memory mostly used it as a mixer. I plan to pick some up before the festive season kicks in, so will report back more then.

From one of our national retailers:
https://www.1stchoice.com.au/Spirits/virgin-bourbon-101-proof-700ml_421287

"A smooth Bourbon at an affordable price. Amber red color with a well developed oak base. This 101-proof Bourbon has nice smoky notes throughout. This drinks more like a 10-12 year old spirit."

If this isn't available in the US, I'm not sure what else in the HH lineup would compare?

camduncan
09-26-2012, 16:39
Earlier this year we selected a couple of barrels of EC12 at barrel strength. Yet they were bottled at 90 proof. At barrel proof they were bell ringers (jaw droppers as you say) and we were mighty excited about it. At 90 they had been taken to the edge and, while still quite tasty and delicious, had lost a good bit of the character we enjoyed in the rick house. Lesson learned.

I had similar experiences with EC18 when visiting Heaven Hill in 2008. Got to try it straight from the barrel as they were dumping it (even got some charcoal chunks in the glass :D)... and it was by far the best bourbon I've ever tasted. Once watered and bottled, I can take or leave EC18 depending on my mood, but if they ever released it at barrel strength, I'd happily get on a plane back to the US just to buy some!

p_elliott
09-27-2012, 10:13
I can't believe only one person mentioned Parker and Craig Beam, since that's the answer right there. How does Old Fitz become Larceny? Through masterful barrel selection and mixing. We know they cherry-pick the best barrels for the single barrel products and they do the same thing for PHC and Larceny. Parker and Craig are just the masters at that. Nobody is better. There is somebody doing that job at every distillery. Some have slightly different skill sets. I don't want to say anything negative about anyone, but I will say that no one surpasses Parker and Craig in that regard. Part of it is in the nature of the company. Chains of command there are clear and short. Everybody has been in their jobs for a long time. They trust each other. And when it comes to their whiskey and what goes into the bottle, there is no question who is in charge and who makes those decisions. And senior company management doesn't undermine that, they reinforce it. Parker and Craig are simply awesomely good at their jobs and Max Shapira, et al, stay out of the way and let them do their jobs. It's simple but not easily duplicated.

All this with a distillery they don't really like. Imagine what HH would be producing if they still had DSP-31 going.

Well said Parker and Craig know their craft

AaronWF
09-28-2012, 11:20
I look forward to the annual Parkers Heritage release more than any other annual release now.

I pretty much agree with this. I'm still a FR devotee, but they have two annual LE releases plus private label 1B throughout the year. HH has a very interesting distillery character. One of the things that makes the PHC series so tantalizingly delicious is that it's so clearly related to their family of products, but taken to such luxurious heights as to deliver supreme satisfaction. In other words, the satisfaction I get from the PHC bottlings is undeniably enhanced by my familiarity with HH's other products.

There is something that strikes me as particularly honest about HH, unlike BT. Maybe it's the pricing and overall lack of gimmickry (that is, until you visit their heritage center...). It seems to be a humble company, a product perhaps of the organization Chuck was talking about. Though I'm not all that impressed with Larceny, I respect HH for the unpretentious price point.