Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Cognac Barrels
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Released: Ongoing (Gift Shop only)
Age: 8 year old bourbon finished in a cognac barrel for 21 months
Mashbill: 68% Corn, 20% Wheat, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Deep Amber
MSRP: $150 (2016)
The bottle being reviewed was hand selected for Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown Kentucky and is only sold on site. It’s an 8 year old wheated bourbon finished in a cognac barrel for 21 months. It was aged in Rickhouse J on Floor 6 on the Rack/Tier: 0-0. The barrel serial number it was produced from is 44824-44835. It was distilled on 09/24/03 and was bottled on 11/01/14.
The additional cognac barrel aging is evident right from the start. Rich is the best way to describe this nose. Toasted sugar, vanilla, creme brulee, dark berries, spiced raisins, and aged oak lightly dance out of the glass. For a 124.4 proof bourbon, I’m surprised how extremely little alcohol is present. This allows the bourbon to come across as more mellow with rich undertones that are clearly influenced by the additional time the bourbon spent in the cognac barrel, and makes me excited to take a sip each time. The rich scents become more prominent with additional exposure to air.
This is where the influence of the cognac barrel seems most evident. Plump juicy raisins that have been soaked in syrup, dark berries, a bit of grain, aged oak, and hints of toasted sugar and light caramel all nicely play together. Much like the nose, the palate comes across as mellow and refined, however it also tends to lean slightly to the dry side, though this shouldn’t be interpreted as a fault by any means. Additionally there’s a bit of heat in the palate, but nothing so unmanageable that you can’t swirl this around the inside of your mouth to pick out the flavors and enjoy.
Aged oak is a consistent flavor throughout and the finish is no exception to this. Oak is the driving flavor in this finish, but I also find it contains gratifying hints of leather, pepper, raisins, and dark dry chocolate. It lingers for a while with a warming oaky dry aftertaste being present. This finishes older than its age and if you had me taste this blind I would have guessed this to be more of a 14-16 year old bourbon. It’s not bad by any means, however it doesn’t quite shine as brightly as the palate.
From a high level view, the individual components of Select Stock aren’t groundbreaking by any means. For starters, you can buy a wheated barrel proof bourbon any time you wish thanks to Maker’s Mark Cask Strength or by visiting the Maker’s Mark gift shop for Maker's 46 Cask Strength, and let’s not forget the hard to get your hands on William Larue Weller. Additionally, barrel finished bourbons and whiskeys in general are becoming more and more commonplace and run the gamut of the various alcohol barrel types the whiskey is finished in, including Angel’s Envy Finished Rye, 1792 Port Finish, Barrell Whiskey Batch 002, and High West’s Yippee Ki-Yay to name a few. Even the type of finish, in this case a cognac barrel, isn’t new as Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection 5th edition was a rye based bourbon finished in cognac barrels and Belle Meade produces a cognac finished bourbon too. Finally, the age of the bourbon certainly isn’t unique nor is the amount of time it was barrel finished.
However, the magic with this bourbon is when you combine all of its individual components together. A wheated barrel proof bourbon that has been barrel finished in a cognac barrel for 21 months is certainly unique. Not only that but the flavor profile it offers is delicious. It’s a great bourbon that makes you want to pair it with a rich creme brulee or a nice dish of rich handmade vanilla ice cream to help complement it. I’m looking forward to taking on the hard job of experimenting to find out what desserts this pairs best with in the future.
Value is something that’s always hard to rate, as the value lies in the eye of the beholder. To some, paying a premium for a unique barrel finished whiskey that also happens to be a barrel proof wheater is well worth the price of admission. To others, anything over $100 needs to blow them out of the water to justify the price. As tasty and unique as this bourbon is, at $150, this personally gives me pause. Yes the bourbon is quite delicious, and I would definitely like to have another in my collection, however I would also like to see this sold for about $50 less.
For those interested in trying a barrel finished whiskey, you can find examples in the market that are good and unique for a lot less. 1792 Port Finish and Angel’s Envy Finished Rye are two that immediately come to mind, and both sell for significantly less. In fact for the price of Select Stock, you could buy a bottle of each and still walk away with money in your pocket.
A unique delicious tasting barrel proof wheated bourbon finished in cognac barrels that can best be summed up as rich...both in flavor profile and in price!
Sure this may not be Heaven Hill’s first go around with a cognac barrel finished bourbon, however that shouldn’t make it any less enticing. While this is priced higher than I would like to see it, I do think this is a unique tasting bourbon that I can easily see being loved by most who experience it. The rich, easy to distinguish flavor elements provide a perfect balance between bourbon and cognac. It’s a shame this isn’t offered outside of their Bourbon Heritage Gift Shop in Kentucky since I’m sure many people would appreciate the chance to try this, even if it’s only a glass at their favorite bourbon bar.