Ah the independent bottler! For many years independent bottlers have delighted their eager customers with bottlings of rare or unconventional barrels from their favorite distilleries. These offerings can take many shapes but most tend to be either a different strength than what the distillery typically offers, a barrel that was passed over as it wasn’t consistent with the particular style of the distillery, a single barrel offering, a non-chill filtered alternative, or a combination of these factors and many others. As the name suggests, Whisky Broker is an independent bottler and since 2010 they have been sourcing, bottling, and selling casks of whisky/whiskey from distilleries the world over. So, when the news hit that a barrel of 8 year old Heaven Hill bourbon hit the UK market at £40 ($57) a bottle, British bourbon fans flocked in their droves. For the same price as Elijah Craig’s NAS Small Batch punters were offered a limited single barrel and non-chill filtered bottling of Heaven Hill’s finest with an extra 3.2% ABV (6.4 proof) to boot.
Name: Whisky Broker ‘Bourbon Whiskey’
Age: 8 years old
Proof: 100.4 Proof (50.2% ABV)
Type: Single Barrel Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: No information on the mashbill given but we can assume Heaven Hill’ s standard bourbon mashbill of 75% Corn/13% Rye/12% Malted Barley applies here
Producer: Whisky Broker, UK
Appearance: Dry yellow straw.
Nose: The nose is very light with citrus, grain sweetness and a hit of alcohol. Once this passes there is some slight caramel and but it doesn’t jump out as willingly as you would expect from a bourbon.
Palate: The palate improves over the nose with a mouth-feel that has a nice viscousity followed by sweet notes of citrus, honey, then bitter dark chocolate, slight burnt caramel, very faint vanilla, and some hefty charred oak spice.
Finish: The finish is medium length with hot spice up front, another flash of caramel, oak, and a sweet aftertaste.
Overall: Trust an independent bottler to throw you a bourbon curve-ball! This is definitely an odd one and I have to admit I didn’t really know what to make of it when I first tasted it. It has a really light colour and the flavours are not what you would expect from a bourbon that has spent 8 years in a charred barrel. At its core there are definitely some classic Heaven Hill flavours like charred oak, rye spiciness, and creamy sweetness, however- this is where the similarities to a Heaven Hill bourbon end for me. There is lots of citrus on the nose and palate which would suggest to me that this has been watered down to the bottling proof. When I asked Whisky Broker about the final proof, they confirmed that this bourbon was reduced to 50.2% ABV (100.4 Proof) from barrel proof (unknown ABV). This might explain to a degree why I’m seeing and tasting what I am.
Apart from its very light colour, the combined flavours don’t match any bottling of Heaven Hill bourbon I’ve tasted before and although there is nice viscosity on the palate, the flavours are really light and nuanced for a bourbon. It seems like you almost need a mouthful of whiskey before you get any traditional bourbon notes and even then it is dominated by corn sweetness, bitter dark chocolate and barrel spice – not what you would expect from your usual run-of-the-mill 8 year old bourbon. If this was given to me blind I’m not sure that I would have been able to guess that it is a bourbon. It tastes more like what craft distilleries are putting out when they release a really young whiskey.
Usually when the label says Heaven Hill you enter with a few basic expectations of what you’re drinking, however, this barrel really challenges all those preconceptions and Whisky Broker definitely deserve some kudos for picking a unique barrel. As I said previously, independent bottlers often get a barrel that doesn’t match the flavour profile a distillery would want for consistency’s sake and this is definitely one of those for me. The difficulty with single barrels are that you’re not going to like them all, however, this being said I am sure that I am not the only one who hopes that more single barrels of bourbon find their way to the UK and Ireland.
Try or Buy? This is definitely an interesting pour but not one that I will be buying a full bottle of because it tastes more like a quirky Scotch or Irish whiskey than a bourbon. If you wanted to try something vastly different from Heaven Hill then I’d recommend this but don’t buy it expecting a cheaper Elijah Craig or Heaven Hill White Label. Luckily Whisky Broker also sell 350ml bottles of this whiskey which is definitely something that I would recommend to anyone that’s teetering on uncertainty when it comes to this pour.