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Heaven Hill Distilleries
by
Meghan A. Sullivan
Photos by Andy Neumeier

Heaven Hill DistilleriesSummary: Heaven Hill Distilleries is located in Bardstown, Kentucky, a town known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Heaven Hill is home to a bourbon heritage center, which houses a theatre, museum, gift shop, and tasting room. The property also contains 49 bourbon warehouses. The distillery sees about 60,000 visitors a year.

History

Heaven Hill Distilleries is one of the oldest independently family-owned distillery in the world. Heaven Hill is located in Bardstown, KY, where limestone springs, rich soil for growing corn and white oak, and a seasonal climate provide perfect conditions for making Bourbon. The five Shapira brothers founded the distillery in December 1934, after Prohibition. The name “Heaven Hill” came from the landowner, William Heavenhill. The words “heaven” and “hill” were separated because, as legend has it, William Heavenhill’s granddaughter did not want her grandfather’s name associated with liquor.

Heaven Hill DistilleriesTour

The tour began at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, which was built just seven years ago. The beautiful heritage center features wooden floors and tall windows and houses a museum, theatre, tasting room, and gift shop. The first stop along the tour was the theatre, where we watched a film about the history of the bourbon industry. The film explained that Heaven Hill is unique because they make bourbon every month of the year, which helps keep the bourbon’s taste consistent. The distillery also ages its bourbon extra long (usually seven to ten years) and uses a special blend of yeast from the Beam family. The master distillers at Heaven Hill, Parker and Craig Beam, are related to the Jim Beam family.

Heaven Hill DistilleriesAfter we viewed the film, we passed through the museum, which displays the history of the area and its Bourbon makers. We then walked across a beautiful patio and landscaped grounds and passed 49 bourbon warehouses, one of which we toured. Each warehouse holds 20,000 barrels of bourbon, which weigh about 510 pounds each. When the bourbon is finished aging, the barrel is not reused; instead, it is shipped to Scotland to make Scotch Whiskey. Locals in Bardstown are also known to use old bourbon barrels to make wine. After touring the warehouse, we browsed the gift shop, which features interactive displays that teach visitors about the bourbon-making process. The gift shop sells a large variety of items such as t-shirts, gift baskets, candles, Christmas ornaments, marinades, and sauces.

Heaven Hill DistilleriesTasting

Heaven Hill DistilleriesThe tasting took place in a barrel-shaped tasting room called “Parker Beam’s Tasting Barrel.” We began the tasting by smelling rosemary and chamomile. We then tasted a 10-year-old bottle of Evan Williams. This single barrel bourbon was the color of straw, smelled like caramel and vanilla, and was hot and spicy. After the first sip, we added water to the bourbon and tasted it again. This time, the bourbon was less spicy and full of flavor. The second bourbon we tasted was an 18-year-old bottle of Elijah Craig. This bourbon was an amber color and smelled of caramel, vanilla, and oak. It had a dry taste with less heat and spiciness. After adding water, it tasted sweeter and smoother. We topped off the tasting with a bourbon chocolate ball.

Heaven Hill Distilleries provides visitors with an informative and entertaining tour. The distillery sees about 60,000 visitors a year and is well worth the visit.

Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center
1311 Gilkey Run Road
Bardstown, Kentucky

 


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