By Richard Thomas
Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Old is a special Bourbon in my book, because it is a Kentucky-only release, made for the distillery’s local following and priced accordingly at $12 a bottle.
Just the stats should make the eyes of any halfway seasoned Bourbon enthusiast widen with that $12 price tag. It’s a Bottled in Bond, drawn from stock made in the same distilling season, matured under government supervision for (in this case) six years and bottled at 100 proof. All of that for just $12!
But wait, there’s more! Heaven Hill 6YO BiB (to use the full brace of abbreviations) is also a charcoal-filtered Bourbon. There is often some confusion surrounding charcoal-filtered Bourbons, like Jim Beam Green Label, and whiskey trolls often incorrectly dismiss them as “Kentuckified Jack Daniel’s.” In doing so, the ignorant naysayers make two major mistakes.
First, Tennessee Whiskey is required to use sugar maple charcoal for filtration, whereas charcoal-filtered Bourbons can use any hardwood (in some instances, they are known to use charcoal used from the staves of bad barrels that cannot be resold). Whether that makes a difference is open to some debate, but the distinction is still there.
Second, Tennessee Whiskey filters its new make before barreling, while charcoal-filtered Bourbons go into the charcoal between barrel dumping and bottling (i.e. after aging). That does make a difference, because the chemistry of the whiskey is changed by barrel aging, and along with it what charcoal filtration might subtract. It’s also cheaper to filter aged whiskey, because filtering new make also means paying to filter the angel’s share.
The look of this whiskey is middle amber, mostly red with a touch of brown, giving it the look of dulled copper. The glass coat lets down just a few, heavily-bearded and quite slow tears.
The nose is sweet, agreeable, and firmly in the middle of Bourbon’s profile. Predominately sweet with candy corn and vanilla, the scent also stirs in some light notes of leathery oak, spice and orange zest.
Those notes that were so light in the nose come over with more heft in the flavor profile. The sweetness is still at the core of things, with a small river of brown sugar, honey and vanilla meandering through, start to finish. However, now the oaky note comes out in a bull rush, sharing equally with the sweetness in the opening go. This woodiness fades rapidly, however, allowing the spiciness, now developing as minty, to bubble up. The texture is creamy, albeit more along the lines of a skimmed cream than the full-bodied stuff.
The finish is warm, middling in length, and a resurgence of that leathery oak. Frankly, it’s the finish of a much older Bourbon. Even Elijah Craig 12 Year Old didn’t conclude on such a nice, woody note.
Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Old is just a plain good Bourbon. Considering the price tag is what you might spend on a fairly ordinary dinner for one, it’s a must-buy item for anyone visiting the Commonwealth of Kentucky… or even just passing through. It’s such a must-buy, in fact, that the very points that make it so endearing have prompted rumors that Heaven Hill intends to discontinue it. However, when I asked them about it in preparing this review, the company indicated they had no such plans. Heaven Hill BiB 6 Year Old is here for the foreseeable future.
Seriously, if you are here in Kentucky and see this, buy one or more bottles. You can get three for what you might spend on a single bottle of Knob Creek for chrissakes!
In case you needed the reminder, Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 Year Old goes for a mere $12.