Monday, September 17, 2007

Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, Bardstown, KY.

On Saturday the 15th, on the way back from touring the Maker's Mark Distillery, we stopped at the Heaven Hill "Bourbon Heritage Center". This beautiful new visitor's center outlines the process of making bourbon, and highlights the famous names in the spirit's past (notably Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, whose names the distillery use for bottling). They show an interesting video before we were lead through a tasting. Special mention has to be made to the fact they let us taste their premium bottlings, specifically the 1997 Vintage of the Evan Williams Single Barrel, and Elijah Craig 18 year. There were also aging warehouses on site and their bottling line, which they give tours of, though we did not go. There is no distillery tour on site, because it burned in 1996. Heaven Hill now distills at the Bernheim Plant in Louisville. Overall it was a very nice experience. There is a quick overview of Heaven Hill below.
Heaven Hill was founded shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1935 by five brothers of the Shapira family, whose descendants control the company to this day. The original name of the company was "Old Heavenhill Springs" distillery. The company was founded as a bourbon distillery, and for most of its existence has concentrated on its flagship bourbon labels, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. However, in the past two decades the company has expanded its portfolio significantly, acquiring brands or obtaining import rights for gins, malt whiskey, vodkas, and other drinks.

On November 7, 1996, Heaven Hill's production plant was almost completely destroyed by fire; the company's warehouses were destroyed, and over 90,000 gallons of alcohol lost. The company survived the next several years through the provision of production capacity by its fellow local bourbon labels, Brown-Forman and Jim Beam, until its purchase and adaptation of the new Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery in Louisville. While fermenting, mashing, and distilling occurs at the new distillery, aging, bottling, and shipping still occur in Bardstown.

Heaven Hill's location in the historical home of bourbon-making, coupled with its status as the only such company still under local ownership, has led it to take a role in curating and advertising bourbon tradition. In 2004, the Bourbon Heritage Center was opened on distillery grounds, featuring historical exhibits and guided tours of the plant. The company also helps host the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and many of the company's own labels are named after famous local distillers.



Yakyuu Shonen said...

I've lived right next to many of these places for years and not visited... Maybe I should stop by and see the sights sometime soon.

ColbyPants said...

Kentucky Native then?


Yakyuu Shonen said...

I've lived in Kentucky most of my life... I'm in Louisville at the moment, but I've only lived in this part o' the state for a few years. But glancing over your blog, I've noticed a bunch of cool plcaes I've never visited. I guess when you live somewhere, maybe you tend to take some cool sites for granted.