Heaven Hill Just Dropped Three Great Whiskeys, But One Is Already A Standout Favorite

Kentucky bourbon and rye lovers, rejoice.

(Heaven Hill)

Kentucky’s Heaven Hill distillery dropped a trio of new whiskeys this week, and all three are affordable, innovative, and delicious. 

The Heaven Hill Grain to Glass collection includes a straight rye whiskey and two bourbons: one wheat recipe and one rye recipe. All three are aged at least six years, and all three use corn specifically bred, selected, and farmed by family-run business partners. In other words, they’re made with corn that has been carefully monitored by Heaven Hill from grain to glass.

Aside from the careful cultivation of selected corn varietals, Heaven Hill also has created new mashbills for these releases. Higher secondary grain contents (35 percent wheat and 35 percent rye, respectively) mean that the rye bill is spicier and the wheat bill is softer. As for the straight rye, it’s 63 percent rye, 24 percent corn, and (like the others) 13 percent malted barley.

Another thing makes this trio different than what’s coming out of Heaven Hill right now: the proof points. While the Grain to Glass Rye Bourbon is bottled at 107, the Wheated Bourbon comes in at a hefty 121, and the straight rye weighs in at 123.2 proof (it’s bottled at barrel proof). 

If you’re turning up your nose at the name, it’s understandable: “grain-to-glass” whiskeys have largely released as underwhelming and underaged works in progress. But Heaven Hill’s trio of releases is neither young nor rushed.

In fact, Heaven Hill’s Executive Chairman Max Shapira has been waiting a decade to see these releases come to fruition, with a sizable chunk of that time spent watching barrels age. To distract himself from the wait, he’s continued to work with the project’s two primary partners to keep improving the quality of the grains selected, grown, and fermented for these whiskeys.

“Over the course of the nearly 90 years, since the founding of Heaven Hill by my Dad and his brothers,” said Shapira, “we have always been cognizant of viewing our business from the long term, developing products that fit into this broad vision.”

It’s unclear what puzzle piece Shapira deemed “missing” — Heaven Hill has a long history of great and diverse whiskey offerings. Many of them, including Henry McKenna 10-Year, have been frequently and formally recognized for their greatness. 

But the Grain to Glass releases seem poised to maintain the 90-year winning streak without flying under the radar for long. 

At an exclusive tasting hosted at Heaven Hill’s Cox’s Creek rickhouse site earlier this week, the wheated recipe was the standout. The rye bourbon was buttery and round, with brown sugar syrup and thin mint notes, and the straight rye hits the palate bold and oily with tons of orange peel, cherry and vanilla notes as the finish lingers. 

But the wheated bourbon — that is something on another level. A nose of freshly torched creme brulee and cinnamon only hinted at the mouth-coating caramel and cocoa on the palate. Orange oils and more burnt sugar swirled on subsequent sips, before a deep finish of freshly toasted baking spices. 

There have been a few great bourbons released this year already, but this one may end up elbowing its way to the front of the line as “best of the year” lists start to take shape.

Currently, the Grain to Glass collection is being bottled at 700ml, which is in keeping with international standards, but a heavily-poured shot shy of what you may be used to. They’re certainly not the first to do this (several Sazerac products including Blanton’s have 700ml releases), but Heaven Hill is being transparent with it. 

Each Heaven Hill Grain to Glass bottle provides a lot of reading material, too: the labels will feature the names of what corn seed varietals were used for that particular batch, the breakdown of the final mashbill, and a vintage date for its distillation and release years. 

The non-chill filtered bourbons and rye whiskey are available beginning this month.  A $100 price point puts them in the higher bracket of “normal” releases, but these aren’t normal Heaven Hill whiskeys, nor are they normal 6-year whiskeys. 

They’re something to stock up on, before everyone finds out.