First up is a remaking of one of the distillery’s old stand-by bourbons: Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond. This was a workhorse bottling for many years, usually located on the bottom shelf, but still a reliable and tasty whiskey.
At six-years-old and 100-proof, this was one of the best sub-$20 whiskeys you could find. But nothing in the whiskey business ever stays the same — not these days, anyway — so the label was discontinued last year.
Now Heaven Hill is relaunching it in a beautiful new package — truly one of my favorite redesigns I’ve seen of a bottle. It’s still bottled-in-bond, which means it’s still 100-proof, and they’ve added a year to the age, so now it comes in at a very respectable seven years.
Naturally, this all comes at a price — namely an estimated $40 per 750-ml bottle. It’s a lot more than it used to cost. But considering how much NAS bourbons with lower proofs are selling for, it’s still a bargain.
According to Josh Hafer, Senior Manager for Corporate Communications at Heaven Hill Brands, this will only be available in California, Texas, New York, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, and Colorado to start. But it will presumably be rolling out wider in the months to come. I have not yet had a chance to try it. But once I do, I’ll try to report back.
Even more exciting, for me anyway, is the news that Heaven Hill will be launching a straight rye whiskey under the Elijah Craig banner. Elijah Craig is one of Heaven Hill’s most-respected whiskeys, a bourbon that wins awards and pleases fans, even after they removed the 12-year-old age statement.
(As an aside, they still make an 18-year-old bourbon and, when you can find it, it’s superb. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 2012 when our review was written, you could still find Elijah Craig 18 for $36 in almost any liquor store. Those days, sadly, are long gone.)
But now comes Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. It won’t officially be available until January 2020, but I’m already looking forward to it. It will initially launch in limited markets — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Oregon — but I hope a bottle makes its way to me sooner than that. At a suggested price of $29.99, I predict this will become a favorite rye of a lot of people very quickly.
To compare the Elijah Craig Rye to the two other ryes available in Heaven Hill’s portfolio — Pikesville Rye and Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Rye — I’d say it falls somewhere in the middle.
All three whiskeys have the same mashbill: 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley. The differences come with the aging, blending, and proofing.
Rittenhouse Rye is bonded, so it’s bottled at 100-proof and consists of all four-year-old whiskey. Pikesville Rye is all six-year-old whiskey and is bottled at 110-proof.
The new Elijah Craig, on the other hand, will be bottled at a gentler 94-proof and will consist of whiskeys from age four on up, whatever mix it takes to get the flavor profile they’re looking for. It is expected to contain at least some older barrels.*
Hats off to Heaven Hill for keeping things interesting, and for giving us some new whiskeys to be on the hunt for.
*The information on the age of Elijah Craig Rye comes to me from Bernie Lubbers, the Whiskey Brand Ambassador for Heaven Hill.