Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review
Heaven Hill currently promotes two nationwide, ultra-premium, annual releases: Parker’s Heritage, and the Heritage Collection. Released each Fall, Parker’s Heritage often focuses on experimental releases, with a wide range of blends, mashbills, and finishing techniques on display.
By contrast, the Heritage Collection drops each Spring and leans into tradition and age. Each bottling features one of the distillery’s classic mashbills at 15-plus year age statements. Previous iterations have included a 17 year-old bourbon and 20 year-old corn whiskey.
(Of course, the distillery’s twice-yearly Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond lineup also warrants a mention, though the only variation between releases is age.)
The 2024 Heritage Collection release is an 18 year-old Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey. It was batched using 133 barrels selected from the third floor of Rickhouse 1I. The mashbill is Heaven Hill’s most standard for bourbon: 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and 10 percent rye. All barrels were laid down in December 2005.
According to Heaven Hill Master Distiller Connor O’Driscoll, these particular barrels were picked to showcase depth of age without falling into overly oaked territory. Ultimately, the release was bottled at 120 proof. A Heaven Hill representative told me that after the initial barrel dump, the batch clocked in at a whopping 150-plus proof.
VinePair had an exclusive first taste of the 2024 Heaven Hill Heritage Collection. Let’s dive in and see how it tastes!
Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon: Stats and Availability
This 18 year-old bourbon carries a suggested retail price of $299.99. Heaven Hill hasn’t released an exact bottle count for this edition of its Heritage Collection. However, we do know it came from 133 barrels, all aged on the same floor of the same warehouse. It’s a highly allocated nationwide release that will pop up in select retailers and on-premise accounts.
Though it’s a relatively new addition to the premium whiskey market, Heaven Hill’s brand recognition — and quality of the first couple releases — have already pushed the Heritage Collection into sought-after territory. That often comes with significant retail and secondary markups. I’ve seen the previous releases go for between two and five times MSRP on shelves. (Though the 20 year corn whiskey tended to command smaller multiples, as there are few if any comparisons on the market.)
Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
Dense caramel, nougat, and semi-sweet chocolate lead on the nose, with wisps of honey wafting in shortly thereafter. The next sniff brings cedar wood, followed by lightly toasted nuts along with almond extract. This expression already leans into a slightly nuttier aroma profile than most other standard Heaven Hill bourbon releases.
Perhaps the most surprising note here is lavender, though it comes in long after the scents listed above, lingering just below some of that honey and almond sweetness. Save for some burnt orange peel, this latest Heaven Hill Heritage Collection release doesn’t carry a high density of fruit on the nose. But that small pop of lavender — and upon further nosing, rosemary — helps add freshness where oak might otherwise overpower.
And about that oak influence: It’s certainly pronounced, but it walks the line between bold aromas and tannic overload quite well. That could be in part due to the proofing, and 120 feels about right in carrying that aforementioned balance. (Though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious what this smelled like at the original 150+ proof…)
The first sip is almost shockingly subtle, a definite changeup from the bold nose. Confectioners' sugar sweetness starts at the very tip of the tongue and builds toward the midpalate, shifting to something richer, darker, and fruitier on its journey.The fruit is much more prevalent here than on the nose. Strawberry candy, gummy orange, lemon drops, and the tiniest hint of — surprise! — blue raspberry flavoring make their way back and forth across the tongue.
At the midpalate, fruit gives way to both spice and oak. (Though a lemon note remains throughout, transitioning from sweet candy to fresh zest.) The spice is more clove and white pepper than cinnamon. And here the bourbon shows its 18 years without overplaying its hand. From the midpalate and back, rich, cured tobacco combines with a fatty element that — coupled with the bourbon’s initial sweetness — reminds me of a spiced olive oil cake.
Despite that perceived fattiness, the overall mouthfeel is on the thinner side for a whiskey of this age, proof, and pedigree. But thus far, that’s a relatively small gripe, as it has little difficulty carrying complex flavors.
Toward the very back of the tongue, fruit makes a subtle and quick reappearance in the form of cooked pear. On the palate, Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18 Year spells out quite the narrative — but we’re not done just yet.
I was worried a slightly thinner-than-expected mouthfeel might contribute to a short finish. Thankfully, I was wrong.
The finish begins with a hefty helping of peppery spice and an ethanol kick at the extreme back of the mouth. The spice lingers — on the upper palate especially — while other flavors evolve. White and brown sugar linger over the tongue, as do elements of citrus candy and baked pears.
Here, the lack of a syrupy viscosity allows the whiskey to linger without gumming up the taste buds. And that allows new flavors to reveal themselves with almost every sip.
There’s also remarkable freshness on the finish. Sweetness, fruit, spice, and wood are all present and accounted for, in addition to a small amount of cooling mint that invites another return (or three) to the glass.
Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 18-Year-Old Bourbon Rating
Heaven Hill’s latest Heritage Collection release is its best yet. It’s tough to imagine the 133 barrels in the batch being selected at a more optimal age. And while bourbon fans can dream of trying this at the original 75 percent plus ABV, the final 120 proof feels approachable without compromising robust flavor.
Great bourbon over 15 years old isn’t an everyday occurrence. For brands, there’s certainly the temptation to release sky-high age statements, and Heaven Hill’s deep stocks can support very old premium bottlings. But this 18 year-old offering can go toe-to-toe with the handful of 20+ year bourbon’s on today’s market — and I’d guess it could beat most of those in the blind.