Heaven Hill’s first installment of its new Heaven Hill Heritage Collection set a high water mark right out of the gate, earning a spot on our top 10 whiskeys of the year list — not to mention an aftermarket price that now hovers around $1500. For round two of this collection, released every spring, Heaven Hill is turning to a curious offering: Kentucky straight corn whiskey, aged 20 years.
Made from a mash of 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye, this is the same mashbill you’ll find in the iconic Mellow Corn — only much, much older. Drawn from the third floor of Heaven Hill’s Rickhouse 1K, a total of 110 barrels were produced and have now been bottled for our enjoyment.
Let’s give it a whirl.
To be sure, it doesn’t much resemble Mellow Corn, in part because of the age and in part because of the proof — which hits 57.5% abv. The nose gives you a big, woody beatdown, which is wholly to be expected after this length of time in the barrel. That classically corny character that evokes peanut shells and popcorn lies in wait underneath, but quietly, giving time to notes of dark chocolate and a touch of black cherry, neither of which you’ll find in any Mellow Corn experience.
Tough on the palate at full strength, lumberyard elements dominate as a stronger caramel corn and dark chocolate character work to push through. The exuberant fruit of a well-aged bourbon doesn’t ever materialize here, no matter how much you want it to, reminding you that you’re sipping on corn whiskey in the end. Give it time in glass, however, and a more soothing butterscotch note makes an appearance late in the game, alongside elements of tea leaf and ample baking spice. Water? To be sure it’s a good idea, though this creates a culminating finish reminiscent of iced tea, lightly sweetened — perhaps the most “corn whiskey” quality you’ll find in the experience. As with Mellow Corn, complexity remains an elusive quality ’til the end.
I can’t say this is a whiskey I particularly loved — there’s plenty left in my sample bottle — but it is one I had fun tasting through and thinking about. I don’t imagine this will hit the stratospheric prices or cult following that the 2022 HHHC demanded, though I’m sure Mellow Corn fanatics are gonna totally freak out.
B+ / $290 / heavenhilldistillery.com