Thanks to /u/j4ni for the sample!
I swear I had nothing to do with Heaven Hill 20 1996 Cadenhead’s 175th Anniversary. Oh, wait, no one is asking that. Okay then.
A year ago I wrote about a gem I found in Scotland. Specifically Cadenhead’s had bought a barrel of Heaven Hills which had been aged for 5 years, and then finished aging it for an additional 6 years in Campbeltown. It’s still one of my favourite bourbons ever. Sadly I only split one bottle with my father, and he enjoyed his as well (not sad about the enjoying part, more so sad it’s all gone and we don’t have some magical bottle of it that constantly pours it).
Thus when I found out that Cadenhead’s brought out a 20 year version to celebrate their 175th anniversary, suffice to say I was sad that I was on a tighter budget and couldn’t get a bottle.
And then this guy j4ni sends me a sample! For Xmas! Which is sweet!
So what I can find on this one is it’s a cask strength Heaven Hill that’s 20 years old, was distilled in 1996, and released for their 175th anniversary. I don’t know if it was aged in Campbeltown like the last one I had, or just in Kentucky, so I can’t speak to either.
However it’s a 20 year old bourbon picked by one of my favourite independent bottlers that has similar specs to my favourite bourbon ever. What’s not to get all excited about? Let’s see how this tastes.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Number of bottles: 102
Colour: 10YR 6/10
Nose: Orange polished wood, butter tarts, S’mores, chocolate mousse, rosemary steak, anise
Initial nose is wood. I know, I know, you’re shocked, what with it being in new oak for 20 years, but stay with me.
There’s some orange, some well developed brown sugar/butter/pastry, and some chocolate, though a lighter chocolate than I’m used to. And even some light char on it too.
So what I’m saying is: yeah, this is complex. Also: Yeah, this is nice.
Taste: Orange truffles, mint whipped cream, caramel chocolate, banana milk, cloves
I’ve spoken before at my hatred of orange mixed with chocolate, so I won’t bury the truth here: The initial taste, not my cup of tea. Or whisky, in this case.
However the dram did it’s best to acquiesce to my pickiness. Lovely milk notes, interesting banana elements, and spice. Lovely caramel and chocolate as well. This is complex, and closer to a scotch than a bourbon normally is, with the flavours blending more than popping strong flavours that share the spotlight.
Finish: Raspberry airspray, rosemary syrup, peanuts, honey biscuits, cereal, oak
Interesting finish. This is closer to the “standard” bourbon flavours that I’m used to. And that’s not a bash, more so on the finish is goes from the complexity to the big flavours, each taking their turn for the front.
But wow there’s a lot going on here. Floral, honey, nutty, fruity, and even herbal, just to start. It’s a medium finish, which is my one slight against it.
Conclusion: An amazing whiskey to have anytime. Yes, this was picked by Europeans, who tend to lend closer to a Scotch or Irish than a bourbon style whiskey. However I enjoy both, so my life is good.
I couldn’t be more Canadian right now if I tried.
The nose is amazing, the taste is a calm view of desserts that’s balanced on the head of a needle, and the finish shows off what a crazy amount of flavours can be. The finish isn’t as long as I wanted it to be. And I have a bias against orange chocolate. However the sheer amount of complex flavours puts this over the top for me.
So try this if you get the chance.
Bourbon review #214, Kentucky review #135, Whiskey Network review #1353