Spirit Of The Week: Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18 Y.O. Bourbon

One of Kentucky’s most celebrated whiskey makers drops an ultra-aged gem.

(Heaven Hill)

“We were thrilled to receive the “Distiller of the Year” award from Whisky Magazine for the second year in a row, it is an immense honor coming from such a prestigious publication and esteemed panel of judges,” whiskey maker Kate Shapira Latts reveals about the recent announcement of her family’s back-to-back award, a major accomplishment in the world of bourbon.  “It gives us a great sense of pride to know our efforts across the company are recognized by our peers and the media who cover the spirits industry.”

For Shapira Latts, Heaven Hill Brands Co-President and granddaughter of Ed Shapira—who, along with his brothers, recognized post-Prohibition potential and invested in a new distillery back in 1933—the titanic recognition is an accomplishment earned via decades of hyper-attentive craftsmanship. 

The then-nascent label’s first major release in the late 1930s, Old Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond, required at least four years of aging while the team waited for it to reach maturity. The patience was well rewarded, as the BIB offering quickly became the best-selling whiskey in all of Kentucky—and the foundation and namesake for one of America’s most beloved and respected distilleries.

It’s little surprise, then, that this still family-run business pours so much pride into its history and therefore celebrates its heritage so thoughtfully. Which brings us to this truly exceptional bottle from the Bardstown label: Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 2024. 

Only the third edition of the Heritage Collection started with 133 barrels of Heaven Hill’s signature bourbon mashbill (78% corn / 12% malted barley / 10% rye), produced in December of 2005, which then rested in Rickhouse 1I’s third floor to mature for no less than 18 years. 

“The Heaven Hill Heritage Collection is our opportunity to showcase some of the oldest stock in Heaven Hill’s incredible inventory of aging whiskey,” explains Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll.

“We have an innovation team which monitors some of our oldest barrels in inventory,” he adds. “The team also tastes things for lines like Old Fitzgerald which can run the range of 10 to 20-plus years aged.” 

Like most venerable whiskey makers who cherry-pick super-aged bourbons from their rickhouses, the prestige trick comes from discerning that gray area where a barrel at, say, 17 years might not be quite ready, but yet recognize that with only one more year, it could overripen.  

“When we make a batch of whiskey at the distillery, we keep in mind that the barrels could be going away for a very long time; we know it could be anywhere from four to 18-plus years,” continues the Irish Master Distiller, who came up in the industry specializing in fermentation. 

“Specific locations in the rickhouses are chosen for the barrel placement with the hope that one day they could be used for high-end releases. We lay them down strategically knowing that some could become ultra-age stated and as they age, we keep an eye on them and taste them as part of our innovation process.” 

Each spring, the highly limited release Heaven Hill’s Heritage Collection focuses on ultra-aging one of the distillery’s six traditional whiskey mashbills (marking one of the few American distilleries to make so many), as “a testament to Heaven Hill’s craftsmanship and patience.” 

Meanwhile the distillery’s more venerable collection—Parker’s Heritage, which is now on its 17th edition—is a tribute to former Hall of Fame Master Distiller Parker Beam’s renowned innovation. “He was a forward-thinker and creative distiller who took risks and created unique products,” explains O’Driscoll. 

“Both lines have their place in the Heaven Hill family and represent the quality and consistency of our company’s nearly 90-year history of distilling.” 

As hoped for the nearly cask strength (60% ABV / 120-proof) juice, Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 2024 boasts a luscious, almost gooey mouthfeel and tasting experience, with a splash of Cherry Coke added to Heaven Hill’s rich vanilla, oak char, toasted almond and caramel chew.

A nose of potpourri (oolong tea, dried jasmine leaves, even rose) add to the overall sensory experience. While certainly start drinking neat, add a couple water drops over a 20-minute dram to really let flavors unspool and develop—including layers of mandarin peel and must. 

“Our first goal is always to have the best quality whiskeys,” Shapira Latts states matter-of-factly. “We think over the last eight decades we’ve done a good job of putting quality first and managing to keep our whiskey accessible for the quality consumers are receiving.

“Our distilling lineage is a testament to our commitment to craft, quality and innovation at each step of the way.” 

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 2024 18-Year Old Straight Bourbon comes packaged in a sturdy Heaven Hill blue box highlighting specs like particular warehouse, barrel location, production date and mashbill. Expect to pay much higher than its stated $300 SRP if you can find it.   

Follow Deputy Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.

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