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Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon

“You marvel at the economy and this choice of words. How many ways can you describe the sky and the moon? After Sylvia Plath, what can you say?” – Toni Morrison

The amount of ink spilled in praise of Heaven Hill’s inaugural Heritage Collection release could consume a considerable tome. Take the words found here on Malt as but a microcosm of the near-universal acclaim it enjoyed: “This expression has all of the complexity and hallmark Heaven Hill qualities to please fans of the brand,” said yours truly at the time. With great expectations came a great whiskey, and it marked a successful opening salvo for the new product line.

2023’s Heaven Hill Heritage Collection expression was less warmly received, but it was certainly impressive in that it proved the brand was willing to swing big! A 20-year-old corn whiskey is unprecedented on today’s market and – though the critical acclaim was more tempered on the second go-round – the stakes had certainly been raised. How would Heaven Hill follow up those two hyper-aged expressions?

Today it’s time for us to review their third effort, the Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon. Immediately one is drawn to the fact that despite being the third installment, this is really more of a sequel to the original release. With an additional year of aging and similarly stately packaging, expectations are again high that Heaven Hill will return to the brilliance of their inaugural Heritage Collection expression. And why shouldn’t they be? Across a plethora of SKUs, Heaven Hill has made it abundantly clear that they know how to produce excellent bourbon; those with double digit age statements seem to be where they shine brightest.

The category of 18-year-old bourbons seems to be swelling of late. To list the newcomers: there’s George Dickel 18 Year Bourbon and Knob Creek 18 Year, along with the expression we’ll be reviewing today. Then there’s also the most well-known of them all, Elijah Craig 18 which is also produced by Heaven Hill. Of note is the fact that while Elijah Craig 18 enjoys a moderately positive reputation, one of the most oft-repeated remarks about that product is its modest proof point, bottled at 90 proof or 45% ABV. You may at this juncture, dear reader, be contemplating a few questions. Will Heaven Hill 18 taste like a proofed-up (and more premium priced) Elijah Craig 18? Another understandable inquiry might be, will Heaven Hill 18 taste like a more mature Heaven Hill 17? Naturally, one wonders how Heaven Hill 18 will differ from its predecessor.

I’ll attempt to answer those questions at the end but first let’s dispense with the remaining pertinent details. Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon is bottled at 120 proof (60% ABV) but it was diluted down from an eye-watering 150 proof out of the barrel. The mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malted barley is the same as the 17-year expression. Furthermore, the label notes that this year’s release consists of 133 barrels that were produced in December of 2005, and aged on the third of rickhouse 1I’s 12 floors.

Let’s dive in!

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon – Review

Color: Dark amber.

On the nose: Upon first opening this bottle it was surprisingly floral with notes of fresh figs, graham crackers, and dark chocolate seizing the lead. After some time, I began to pick up aromas like cherry compote, nougat, and peanut brittle along with some Tootsie Roll notes. A little touch of torched orange peel also makes an appearance, providing an overall well-layered, impressively balanced, and decidedly sumptuous nosing experience. Consider me intrigued.

In the mouth: Again, there are floral aspects combined with a chocolate drizzled cereal bar note which lay claim to the palate at the outset. From there I found hints of leather barreling down the middle of the tongue along with oak, allspice, and black pepper, which provided some spicy flourish on the finish. On to a second sip, I found a good deal of almond meat, caramel, stewed stone fruit, and juicy orange peel, particularly at midpalate.

The complexity, as it was on the nose, is readily apparent here; the liquid itself is refreshingly spry, with a liveliness that typically eludes hyper-aged bourbon. If given some time you’ll find that the floral and citrus notes recede a bit – a welcome evolution – as they allows the more prototypical notes of well-aged bourbon to shine through. Oak, dark chocolate, tart cherry, and dashes of baking spice all stand tall here.

Conclusions:

Woah. While I was immediately blown away by the Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17-Year Bourbon, it received high marks for showcasing all the hallmarks of hyper-aged bourbon and executing them in impressive fashion. The Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year Bourbon is equally impressive but, by exhibiting a more fleet-footed texture and a flavor wheel resplendent with piquant berries, capricious chocolate notes, and ample spice, it offers even more intrigue than its predecessor.

If you intend to spend extended time savoring this pour – and really you should – then you’ll be rewarded with a sipping experience that’s worth waiting 18 years for. Simply put, Heaven Hill Heritage Collection’s 18-Year-Old Bourbon has all of the favorable qualities of well-made whiskey at any age. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to buy a bottle.

On that last point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the fact that $300 is a steep asking price for most bourbons. Though $300 for a limited edition, 18-year-old, 120 proof bourbon from a heritage distillery feels just about right on today’s market and with regard to quality, I’m tempted to dock it a point for having such a high cost. Ultimately, however, I resisted that urge, because I don’t think anyone willing to shell out $300 for life’s potable pleasures will be disappointed upon tasting this treasure.

Toni Morrison lamented the difficulty in describing the sky in the wake of Sylvia Plath, and similarly I was at a loss at how Heaven Hill would follow the success of their first Heritage Collection bourbon. I’ll leave you, dear reader, with the opening lines of “The Rival” and apply it to this whiskey:

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you. You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

Score: 9/10

CategoriesAmerican
Frank

Calling New Jersey “home” isn’t just reserved for Frank’s less handsome contemporary, Michael B. Jordan. Born and raised in the Garden State, he developed an enthusiasm for bourbon, a respect for wood, and a penchant for proclaiming things are “pretty, pretty, good.”

  1. zenatello says:

    Frank, in the beginning you didn’t just review these unicorns. I wish you would return to reviewing things mere mortals could buy.

    1. Frank says:

      zenatello, thank you for the note! As you’ll see my previous review was of the awesome budget rye from Green River but consider your comment duly noted. I’d be happy to highlight more affordable options alongside the unicorns going forward.

      Cheers!

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