Whiskey Name: Whisky Broker Heaven Hill 8 years old
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Whiskey Type: Straight Bourbon … apparently
Release Date: 2017
Age: 8 years
Mashbill: Presumably standard HH rye-recipe bourbon: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
Introduction/Background: Indie Heaven Hill bourbon, with a decent age statement, bottled by the young-ish Scottish firm Whisky Broker. At just £45, BBS members were buying it in droves. I’d have done so myself, but it was that time of the month when the bank account was at its most accusatorial.
On paper, very exciting stuff. We’re seeing quite a few indie bourbon bottlings lately, most of which seem to be from George Dickel. But lot of these bottlings are rather heftily priced, so £45 for a decent strength HH seemed very reasonable indeed. I’ve had some cracking scotches – both grain and malt – from Whisky Broker, so I’d made plans to pick up a bottle if any had been left come pay day.
But then the photos started appearing on the group, and something about them put me off a little. The colour, mostly. For eight years old in Virgin oak it’s pretty pale. Insanely pale, really, especially if you stick it next to the 6 year old Bottled in Bond. Whilst colour’s no guarantee of quality per se, it gave me pause for thought, and I spent my money elsewhere.
Kept thinking about the Whisky Broker bottling though, so I was really pleased when BBS member Lee passed on a sample, which is in my glass today.
Appearance: Burnished gold.
Nose: Where’s the oak? However much you stick your nose in, grain is all that really jumps out. I always think of Heaven Hill as having some pretty chunky, burly grain, but this is over the top. No caramel, no virgin oak, no spices, nothing. Doesn’t smell like bourbon.
Mouth: The taste is a little – a little – more on point, but it’s only for the briefest flicker that caramel and oak creep in before the cereal mash returns with a vengeance and overhauls everything else. It’s also really bitter, and there’s a sour lemon sharpness. The levels of body and flavour are not equal to the booze; this has a vicious prickle.
Finish: Not short enough.
Value for Money: Not worth it.
Summary: A weird and unsettling bourbon. It simply does not feel like it has spent those years in virgin oak. I have had bourbons less than a year old with several times the wood influence. This feels naked and exposed, and a different sort of whiskey entirely.
I tasted it next to tomorrow’s pour, and the differences were simply shocking. This just doesn’t look, smell, or taste as bourbon should, and is a very poor representation both of the calibre of Heaven Hill, and the normally very impressive credentials of Whisky Broker.
Proof that sometimes gift horses really should be looked in the mouth.
Overall Verdict: Avoid.
Thanks very much to Lee for providing the sample. (And sorry!)