Heaven Hill Green Label
I recently responded to several inquiries on a local bourbon lovers social media group. Several of the members were headed to the Bluegrass for bourbon tours and they inquired about must-see spots to shop for rare and coveted bourbons. Confession is good for the soul, and one of the bourbons I covet is a bourbon affectionately called Heaven Hill Green Label.
A Bourbon for the Locals
They say "a picture is worth a thousand words". As you view the cover photo for this bourbon, and the name isn't one that's rolling off your tongue, you may have never hunted this lowly bourbon on bottom shelves in Kentucky. For many years, Heaven Hill Green Label was readily available on store shelves (usually the bottom one) across the Commonwealth. To be honest, when it was so available and so inexpensive, it was my cooking bourbon. The label, which I adore, remains unchanged since the 1940's, proudly carrying a 6-year age statement.
While I've shared this has typically only been seen in Kentucky, several websites have shared sightings (in true Bigfoot style) in a few surrounding states. You won't find this bourbon on Heaven Hill's official website, though.. Insiders have shared that this humble bourbon, priced for many years sub-$15, was one that the Shapira family, owners of Heaven Hill Distillery, reserved as a high-quality, value pour for their friends and neighbors throughout Kentucky.
For decades, this bourbon, like its siblings Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond 6-Year and Heaven Hill Quality House, flew under the radar of many bourbon drinkers. Thanks to some highlights from bourbon-experts, including Fred Minnick, this bourbon began flying off the shelves. By 2019, this bourbon was increasingly harder to find, and by 2020 - mid-Pandemic - was nearly extinct. On a recent tour at the Heaven Hill Experience in Bardstown, Kentucky, our host shared that it was not extinct, but thanks to supply bottlenecks from bottles to caps to labels, the distillery had been forced to focus on its core line. Not long after our tour, my wife and daughter surprised me with a small haul compliments of Total Wine in Lexington.
As shared earlier, this is a 6-year product that has been distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky. While undisclosed, most distilleries use a short list of mash bills, and this is likely produced from a mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. This mash bill is shared by several other brands, including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Heaven Hill 7-Year Bottled-in-Bond, and Quality House. The finished product is bottled at a versatile 90 proof.
Color: Medium amber with a dizzying array of thin legs displayed in my Kentucky Bourbon Trail tasting glass.
Nose: The nose is absolutely delicious, with a blend of vanilla, bourbon caramel candies, and a subtle scent of angel’s share mixed with aged wood.
Palate: There is caramel and vanilla, with a ladle-full of maple syrup with a sprinkling of brown sugar balanced with peppercorn spice. This is very smooth and balanced, and with a velvety mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium-long with vanilla and dry oak char. This is gentle and smooth, and rises gently to a slightly spicy crescendo.
Overall: Similar to my comments on its cousin Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, this is one of the best value bourbons on the market today. For several years, this was easily found for around $13. A year ago, I was able to secure a couple bottles for around $18 - still a bargain for a 6-year age-disclosed bourbon.
If you’re in the Bluegrass, you needn’t look “high” - only “low” for this one. Don’t be afraid to check out those small towns with out-of-the-mainstream liquor stores. You might be able to see this one in the wild and see for yourself if this bourbon with an unassuming label won’t beat many, more expensive brands.