Yesterday I had a review of the Heaven Hill 6, Bottled in Bond that cost about $12; alas, it has recently been discontinued. Today I have a review of a 9 yo Heaven Hill that cost quite a bit more—I’m not sure how much exactly as it was only available from a couple of stores in Georgia and maybe also K&L in California. This is a single cask bottled by the excellent Dutch store Whiskybase for their indie label, Archives. It was part of the first set of Archives releases to make it to the US (earlier this year) and the only American whiskey in the set. The number of European indie releases of American whisky seems to have started rising in recent years and if I’m not mistaken, Heaven Hill may be more represented in this phenomenon than any other major American whiskey maker. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve randomly come across more of them. I’ve already reviewed two released by Malts of Scotland: one a Caribbean cask and one a Port cask. As far as I know this Archives cask is just a regular cask. It is, however, at a highly irregular 69.1!
Heaven Hill 9 (69.1%; Archives; from a bottle split)
Nose: Despite the three extra years there’s less oak on the nose here than in the 6 yo Bottled in Bond; which is not to say there isn’t any. The citrus is brighter—more lemon than oak—and there’s less corn and caramel and spice. The crazy high abv may be damping a lot of that down, I suppose. As it sits some of the corn starts peeping out—I expect there’ll be a lot more of it with water. A big splash of water (probably down below 60%) releases some oak and a lot of dill and pine and then black tea. After a while there’s a softer, pastry crust’ish note too. Okay with another, smaller splash of water (probably about 50% now) it’s now nicely balanced: oak, corn, orange peel, spice and some toffee.
Palate: Sweeter to start here and spicier; not particularly oaky here either. The high abv is very apparent but it’s not undrinkable. The corn begins to pop out here too as it sits but this needs water; no point in waiting to add it. Ah yes, much better with water as the rye notes pop out here as well along with some lemon and a touch of apricot. Gets spicier still as it sits and the oak begins to emerge. I’m going to give it a little more time and then add some more water. Ah yes, very much as on the nose with the second splash of water.
Finish: Short-medium. Not much happening here past an alcohol burn. I expect water will lengthen the finish and bring out more development. Longer with water and spicier. Stays mostly spicy here with more water but some fruit makes it out too.
Comments: I expect bourbon mavens have mostly been drinking this neat but it needs water and more than a bit of it to reveal its charms. Not sure how much this went for but I would have been up for a bottle at a reasonable price.
Rating: 87 points.