Heaven Hill distillery
Heaven Hill Bernheim is a U.S. based distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. The distillery produces excellent American whisky, such as Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye. In addition to the home brand Heaven Hill, other major American whisky brands like Elijah Craig and the Rittenhouse Straight Rye are made at Heaven Hill.
Heaven Hill is the second distillery to carry the name, a previous distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, was founded in 1935 shortly after the end of the prohibition. On November 7th 1996 however this original distillery fell victim to a fire that consumed 90,000 barrels of whiskey and gutted the distillery.
The production of Heaven Hill was moved to the Bernheim distillery and the distillery today is called Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery. The long family tradition can also be found among the distillers, who come from the fifth generation of the Beam family.
How is Heaven Hill produced?In addition to Straight Bourbon and Rye Whisky, the rare wheat Whisky Bernheim Wheat Whisky is also produced. Given that a variety of whisky types are produced at the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery it’s tricky to point to a single process. It’s also worth noting that production is divided between the two sites.
As the heritage and the headquarters are still in Bardstown, it is bottled and matured, but the entire production is carried out at the distillery in Louisville. For each grain variety, Heaven Hill has its own mill. As is the case with American whisky, Heaven Hill is not distilled to Pot Stills, but to Column Stills.
Heaven Hill is the largest single-Site Bourbon distillery in American, its most recent expansion increased production to 400,000 Barrels a year (~80,000,000 litres). Unsurprisingly with this capacity the distillery has a number of Brands.
The house brand Heaven Hill is a classic straight bourbon, with sweet aromas in the direction of honey, oak and corn bottled at 40% ABV.
The Elijah Craig brand is named after the Baptist, businessman and bourbon pioneer, who is said to have invented ripening in toasted and charred oak barrels. However, there is no historical evidence for this legend.
Elijah Craig Bourbons are bottled in the small batch process, that is, in smaller barrel batches than usual. They are as 94 Proof and as Barrel Proof 124.2 variants available. Both are supposed to be between 8 and 12 years old. There are also versions of Elijah Craig with age 18 and 23 years old.
Evan Williams, also named after one of the great Bourbon pioneers, is one of the best-selling bourbon brands of the USA. Evan Williams was one of the first commercial burners in Kentucky and the recipe for today’s bourbon is supposedly dating back to 1783, which, however, is rather unlikely. The production is traditional according to Bourbon standards and the yeast strain required for fermentation has been used continuously for 7 generations!
The Evan Williams Extra Aged and the Evan Williams Bottled are the entry-level offerings. The Evan Williams 1783 No. 10 Sour Mash Small Batch bottled at 43% ABV is a slightly more premium offering. Those looking for something more special would do well to explore the Evan Williams Single Barrel 43.3% ABV, as a Bourbon single-barrel filling the exact flavours will vary from cask to cask but expect strong sweet caramalised sugar, rich tannic oak and lingering sweetness.
John E. Fitzgerald
John E. Fitzgerald Larceny 92 Proof Very Special Small Batch Straight Bourbon is a Wheated bourbon, which means it consists of at least 51% corn and a share of wheat instead of the traditional rye in the mashbill. The Fitzgerald Larceny is bottled at 46% ABV.
The Straight Rye from the House of Heaven Hill is Rittenhouse 100 Proof with aromas of ripe fruit and dark chocolate. The raging 50% vol. lends this Rye Whisky the necessary force. On the palate, this rye whisky presents spice notes in the direction of cinnamon and nutmeg, paired with orange peel and honey. A strong rye whisky with good price-performance ratio. Bernheim Wheat Whisky The Bernheim Straight Wheat Whisky was the first of its kind. The Bernheim Original 7 Years Small Batch Kentucky Straight Wheat Whisky is with 45% vol. Bottled. Backwares and sweetness dominate this whisky. An interesting variety to the hundreds of Bourbons out there.
The Heaven Hill Distillery is closely associated with two names: Shapira and Beam. It was the Shapira brothers and distiller Joe Beam who founded the distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky with some investors shortly after the prohibition ended in 1935. The Shapira brothers gradually bought up the shares of the other investors until the entire distillery was finally family-owned, and that is still the case today. Heaven Hill is the largest independent family-run distillery in the country United States.
The famous Beam family also contributed to the success of the distillery. A member of the Beam family has always worked as a Master Distiller at Heaven Hill. Co-founder Joe Beam, a cousin of the Bourbon legend Jim Beam, was the first distiller after the company was founded. His son Harry Beam followed, followed by Earl Beam, the son of Jim Beam’s brother. Earl was replaced by Parker Beam, who died in January 2018. Since the death of his father, his son Craig Beam has been a master distiller in the traditional distillery.
The original Heaven Hill distillery began it’s life as the “Old Heaven Hill Sources”. Alas the original distillery was destroyed in November 1996 when lightning struck a warehouse. The resulting fire spread to the surrounding warehouses, 90,000 barrels of maturing whisky, and destroyed the buildings and equipment required for whiskey production. Eyewitnesses speak of “rivers of fire” that spread out in the area and melted whole street trains. The last of the five brothers, who co-founded the distillery and later took over died in 1996.
The company survived the next few years by providing production capacity through its fellow local bourbon label, Brown-Forman and Jim Beam, until it bought and adapted Diageo’s Bernheim distillery in Louisville (registered facility DSP-KY-1) in 1999. Fermentation, mashing and distilling occurs in the new distillery, aging, bottling and shipping still occur in Bardstown. Today, Heaven Hill has the second largest whiskey warehouse in the world after Glenfiddich.
The company was founded as a bourbon distillery and for most of its existence has focused on its flagship bourbon labels, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. However, in the past two decades, the company has expanded its portfolio significantly, acquiring brands or import rights for obtaining gins, malt whiskey, vodka and other beverages.
The Heaven Hill company places great emphasis on the history and traditions of bourbon in its public relations, the company, the historic home of bourbon manufacturing and its status as just such companies still highlighting the local ownership. In 2004 the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center was opened on the old distillery grounds, historical exhibits and guided tours of the facility . The company is also home to the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival , and several of the company’s brands are named after famous local distilleries.
Since 2010, Heaven Hill has invested over $100 million in distillery expansion, warehouse construction, and bourbon tourism. In November 2018, Heaven Hill announced a $65m multi-year investment in expanding operations that included renovating the Bourbon Heritage Center.
Heaven Hill factsheet
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Active||1935 - Present||Grain||Heaven Hill||Not Available|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
|Parker Beam||Beam Family|
Can I tour Heaven Hill?
No, unfortunately Heaven Hill distillery is not open to the public for tours