Six Heaven Hill Bourbons Reviewed: Cabin Still, Henry McKenna, Fighting Cock, Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams

Editor’s note: We’re republishing this article from our archive as part of a reorganization of the site’s content.

Six Heaven Hill Bourbons
by  F. Sot Fitzgerald

Heaven Hill Distilleries is a whale in the world of Bourbon.  They are located in Bardstown, Kentucky, and have been churning out many brands of whiskey since 1935.

On November 7 of 1996, a horrible fire broke out.  As Jim Murray writes in The Complete Guide to Whiskey,

as a storm passed over central Kentucky skies, flames were seen dancing from warehouse “J”.  Before anyone ahd a chance to react, the building was an inferno.  With powerful gusting winds fanning the flames, it was just minutes before warehouse “I” was engulfed and then another and then another.

Up to 90,000 gallons of Bourbon were destroyed that day.  Nonetheless, they soldier on, making a variety of bourbons, some of the medium priced ones we’ve reviewed previously and positively (e.g., Elijah Craig 12 YearEvan Williams 1989 Single Barrel).

Recently I had the pleasure of tasting six of their value-competitive to modestly priced Bourbons, ranging from $8-$16 a bottle.  On the whole, I was impressed- while one often finds throat-scorchers in this price range, not  one of these whiskeys isn’t worth trying.

Heaven Hill Bourbon (80 proof) is aged four years and costs about $8-$10.  On the nose it has a pungent rye-like aroma.  On the palate its a little spicy, a little woody, a touch warm going down, and finishes with sugar-caramel note.  Heaven Hill Bourbon is sweet, nice on ice and well worth the price.  Why more bars don’t stock this in the well I do not know. (Rating ***1/4)

Click here to shop for Heaven Hill Bourbon, and click here to read more about Heaven Hill Bourbon.

 

 

Cabin Still (80 proof) threw me entirely.  It’s much drier than Heaven Hill Bourbon, more medicinal, and offers light notes of mint and smoke.  Not for the newcomer, but this three year old $10-$12 whiskey will intrigue whiskey lovers.  (Rating ***1/4)

Click here to shop for Cabin Still Bourbon, and click here to read more about Cabin Still Bourbon
Next up was Henry McKenna Bourbon, which is aged four to five years, and retails for $11-$13 for a fifth and about $20 for a jug.  Touted as “Kentucky’s finest table whiskey,” Henry Mckenna tastes of caramel, cinnamon, honey and cloves.  It is very smooth and very enjoyable.  (Rating ****)

Click here to shop for Henry McKenna Bourbon, and click here to read more about Henry McKenna Bourbon.

 

Then came Fighting Cock, which Heaven Hill pushes with the motto, “If you can’t run with the rooster, stay in the hen house.”  Well!  Fighting Cock was the most potent of the bunch, weighing in at 103 proof.  Hold the clear bottle to the light and you’ll see a caramel-copper color.  Sip with a few drops of water and you’ll find it is intense, a tiny bit sweet, spicy, and dishes out, surprisingly, a hazelnut note.  (Rating ***3/4)  Click here to shop for Fighting Cock Bourbon.  And you can read more about this six-year old whiskey at http://www.fightingcock.com/.

Rounding out the selection were two Evan Williams Bourbons.  Evan Williams Green Label (80 proof) is gold-straw colored, light, smooth, and very nuanced whiskey.  Aged four years, one can taste the grain and an orange-cinnamon note.  It finishes with a caramel chewyness.  Quite impressive, and a real bargain at at $9 a bottle.  (Rating ***3/4)

Click here to shop for Evan Williams Green Label Bourbon, and click here to read more about Evan Williams Bourbon.

 

Last, came Evan Williams Black (80 proof).  More viscous than the Green, this bourbon has a firm caramel sweetness that slides into a honey note before finishing with a mint taste.  Aged seven years and running about $12 a fifth, Evan Williams Black is a very smooth and quite tasty sipping bourbon. (Rating ****1/4)

Click here to shop for Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon, and click here to read more about Evan Williams Bourbon.

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11 thoughts on “Six Heaven Hill Bourbons Reviewed: Cabin Still, Henry McKenna, Fighting Cock, Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams

  1. Henry McKenna is truly the finest whiskey in it’s price range. I prefer scotch over bourbon, but considering the fact I love all types of whiskey, H.M. is my go to because I’m broke. In this price range, no other bourbon can compare.

  2. I wish Henry McKenna was more widely distributed. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed it!

  3. What about Old Heaven Hill? It’s 8 years old, 86 proof. I have a bottle on hand, and like it, but I’m not even sure if it’s still at stores.

  4. Thanks for reading. I cannot recall if we have tried that one. What does it retail for? Cheers!

  5. Great post! Heaven Hill is becoming my favorite distillery. They always provide extra bang for your buck regardless of what shelf you find yourself on

  6. I have fond memories of it, but it has been some years since I enjoyed it. My memory is that it provided great flavor for the relatively low price. What do you think?

  7. I noticed yesterday, March 31, that the label on Elijah Craig has been changed. It no longer says “12 Years Old”. To me that means it has been blended with younger bourbons that are not nearly as old. The wonderful mellow taste I always enjoyed will, I believe, be missing or at least compromised by this process. Tell me if I am wrong. Otherwise, (and in the meantime) I will be enjoying a different bourbon.

  8. Yes, removal of the age statement usually means the brand is no longer as old. Whether the age of Elijah has been much lowered I do not know. A change to 11.3 years might make little difference. A more significant drop could have bad results. Maybe I should get a bottle of this new version and give it a try!

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