HEAVEN HILL 6-YEAR BOTTLED-IN-BOND

Goodbye old friend. So long to a legend. It was nice knowing you. You’ll be sadly missed.

Took it for Granted 

Spoiler alert: you probably won’t find this one, unless you scour out-of-the-way places with dusty bourbon bottles. For some time, I’d be grabbing a bottle or two when in Kentucky and enjoying it as an everyday drinker.

In September 2018, Heaven Hill made it official – the Heaven Hill 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond would be discontinued. There were social media posts everywhere – whether it was in disbelief (like “Old Coke” “New Coke”) or pictures of hoarding. Either way, the result was the same. Faster than milk and bread run out during blizzard forecasts, this little gem flew off the shelves.

The Heaven Hill public relations group announced that “with the support of our distributor partner in Kentucky, we made the decision to eliminate sales of Heaven Hill 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon altogether… Due to the growing demand for American Whiskey, we have ceased production of some of our more regional and younger aged brands over the past several years, including Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond and some various Heaven Hill labels.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe 

Well, it is. I discovered the Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond product following a Fred Minnick story on its sibling Heaven Hill 6-Year Green Label. At the time, a mere $10 got you the Green Label version (bottled at 90 proof), $2 more got you the full 100-proof version of the elixir. And both were in plentiful supply – so much so, that I took the BiB product for granted that it would always be there.

You’ve heard me comment on the 6-Year Green Label several times now, and I truly enjoyed the 100-proof Bottled-in-Bond up-purchase. Buyers beware though – Heaven Hill does produce a deceptively similar label for their 80-proof version – without an age statement, and of course, without the Bottled-in-Bond label. I made that mistake only once.  

I was known to have said, while sitting on the patio with my wife, “I love you.” She replied, “Is that you talking, or the bourbon talking?” To which I replied, “It’s me talking to the bourbon”.  

The Tasting

Disclosure: I’ve been nursing this bottle for some time. A month ago, we were in Kentucky visiting my daughter when, to my surprise, there was a half-full bottle of the 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond that I had left in her cabinet last year – before the press release. According to sources, the mashbill is 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley, the same as their beautiful Henry McKenna 10-Year.  

Eye: Medium copper. Darker than many similar products

Nose: Lots of sweet notes, including caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, and brown sugar. There is some oakiness, as well, but not overpowering. This smells very balanced, with classic bourbon essences.

Palate: Definitely a little bit of spice on the tip of my tongue, followed by more vanilla and oak. It’s a thin mouthfeel, and while I’d scorn other bourbons for this, at a mere $12-$14 when I purchased this bottle, I find myself reaching for the glass again.  

Finish: Medium, smooth finish, with oak, vanilla, and a little bit of cinnamon spice.  

Overall: If you stumble across a bottle of this, don’t hesitate to grab this legend with both hands. Similar to Heaven Hill’s 6-Year Green Label, I’ve offered this blind sample to bourbon friends and most are surprised when I pull the bottle from underneath the counter.  “What IS THAT???” They’re even more surprised when I shared the age, proof, and bottled-in-bond designation.

For too long, we were spooled. With a limited regional availability, and bourbon continuing to boom, it was a matter of supply and demand.  While the bourbon may not overwhelm a much pricier competitor, it’s pleasant, with few demerits, and for the price, it was hard to beat and was fine bourbon.  

In the meantime, Evan Williams, also made by Heaven Hill, has a 100-proof non-BiB version with an identical mashbill. It may be the closest you get to this antique.  

Farewell, old friend. Until we meet again.

POSTSCRIPT:  A few weeks after I wrote this post, Heaven Hill announced a re-introduction of their Bottled-in-Bond bourbon, along with a 7-year age statement, a redesigned label, and a $40 retail price tag. This product should begin hitting store shelves in CA, TX, NY, GA, FL, IL, SC and CO beginning in October 2019.

I’ll save a final pour or two of my 6-year sub-$20 bottle and compare it with the new version soon. Be on the lookout for an upcoming Battle of the Bourbons.

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