Heaven Hill

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Heaven Hill
Heaven Hill Green.jpg
TypeBourbon whiskey
ManufacturerHeaven Hill
Country of originKentucky, United States President  : Max Shapira
Alcohol by volume40%
Proof (US)80
Related productsHeaven Hill
Websiteheavenhill.com Edit this on Wikidata

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. is a private, American family-owned and operated distillery founded in 1935 and headquartered in Bardstown, Kentucky, that produces and markets the Heaven Hill brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a variety of other distilled spirits.[1] Its current distillery facility, called the Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery, is in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the seventh-largest alcohol supplier in the United States, the second-largest holder of bourbon whiskey inventory in the world, the largest, independent, family-owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the United States,[1] and the only large family-owned distillery company headquartered in Kentucky (not counting Brown-Forman Corporation, which is publicly traded but more than two-thirds family-controlled, or Sazerac Company, which is family-owned but headquartered in Louisiana).[2]


Heaven Hill was founded by several investors shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1935, including a prominent distiller, Joseph L. Beam, and a member of the Shapira family.[3] As the company developed, the five brothers of the Shapira family bought out the other investors. Joe Beam remained as Master Distiller, along with his youngest son, Harry. Descendants of the Shapira brothers own and operate the company today.

All of the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill since its founding have been members of the Beam family. The original Master Distiller was Joseph L. Beam, Jim Beam's first cousin. He was followed by his son, Harry, who was followed by Earl Beam, the son of Jim Beam's brother, Park. Earl Beam was succeeded by the current Master Distillers, Parker Beam and his son, Craig Beam.

The original name was "Old Heavenhill Springs" distillery.[4] The company was founded as a bourbon distillery,[4] with a model focused on providing bulk whiskey for third parties on a basis of futures (a buyer would purchase fresh whiskey, to be held in Heaven Hill's warehouses until the buyer paid the government tax to have it released).[5] It also focused on its flagship bourbon labels, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. In the past two decades the company has expanded its portfolio, acquiring brands or obtaining import rights for gins, malt whiskey, vodkas, and other drinks.[4]

Warehouses for aging bourbon at Heaven Hill's Bardstown headquarters. The gray-black discoloration rising from the bottom of the rickhouses is a colony of the sac fungus Baudoinia compniacensis, a natural result of the maturing process.

On November 7, 1996, Heaven Hill's production plant (registered plant DSP-KY-31[6]) was almost completely destroyed by fire.[7] The fire started in an aging warehouse and spread to other buildings and vehicles. 90,000 barrels of flammable bourbon were consumed. A "river of fire" flowed from the warehouses.[8] From one account of the fire: "Flames leapt hundreds of feet into the air and lit the sky throughout the night. Witnesses reported seeing whiskey barrels explode and rocket across the sky like shooting stars ... a two-mile long stretch of the creek that supplied process water to the distillery was set ablaze for a brief time."[9]

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 Bernheim distillery in Louisville (registered plant DSP-KY-1,[6]) from Diageo in 1999.[10] While fermenting, mashing, and distilling occurs at the new distillery, aging, bottling, and shipping still occur in Bardstown.

With the 2003 acquisition of distribution rights to Hpnotiq, Heaven Hill greatly expanded their product base beyond bourbon. Hpnotiq is now the fourth highest selling imported liqueur in the US.[11] While bourbon is still its main focus, Heaven Hill now distributes a wide variety of different products.

The Heaven Hill company strongly emphasizes the history and traditions of bourbon in its public relations, highlighting the company's location in the historical home of bourbon-making and its status as the only such company still under local ownership. In 2004, the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center was opened on the old distillery grounds, providing historical exhibits and guided tours of the plant.[12] The company also hosts the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival,[13] and several of the company's brands are named after famous local distillers.

Since 2010, Heaven Hill has invested more than $100m in distillery expansions, warehouse construction, and Bourbon tourism. In November 2018, Heaven Hill announced a $65m multi-year investment into expanding operations, which includes a renovation of the Bourbon Heritage Center.[14]

In September 2021, about 420 workers, all members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, went on strike due to disagreements over the terms of a new labor contract.[15]

Production process[edit]

Heaven Hill Bourbon is made from a mash composed of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. The barrels used for aging have a #3 char.[16] Prior to bottling, the whiskey is chill filtered through charcoal at 25 °F (−4 °C).[17]


As noted, Heaven Hill's traditional product has been bourbon; however, the company now oversees a broad range of labels. The company's labels include:

Bourbon brands[edit]

A bottle of Heaven Hill "Black" Bourbon

Other brands[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chinn, Valerie (October 16, 2017). "Heaven Hill Distillery unveils $25 million expansion in downtown Louisville". WDRB 41 Louisville News. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  2. ^ Heaven Hill Key Facts[permanent dead link] page on company web site. (Accessed June 2012)
  3. ^ a b c d e f "After 80 years in business, Heaven Hill to fill seven millionth barrel of Kentucky bourbon". Herald-Leader. February 8, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Givens, R. (2013). Bourbon at its Best: The Lore and Allure of America's Finest Spirits. Clerisy Press. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-1-57860-404-3. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  5. ^ Waymack & Harris 1995, p. 102
  6. ^ a b Bourbon Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) Numbers, BourbonDriker.com, January 15, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Reigler, Susan (September 7, 2016). "Vanishing Act: Why bourbon labels are telling us less and less". Louisville Eccentric Observer. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  8. ^ "Whiskey River Scorches Heaven Hill" Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. Industrial Fire World. 1997.
  9. ^ John C. Birkmire. April 2009. "Process Hazards in the Distilled Spirits Industry" Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. Loss Prevention Symposium. p. 271–273.
  10. ^ "Diageo to Sell Liquor Brands to Heaven Hill and Others". New York Times. February 25, 1999. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  11. ^ Clouser, Stephanie (September 2, 2011). "Heaven Hill toasts success of Hpnotiq". Louisville Business First.
  12. ^ Adkins, Ben (December 31, 2007). "From traditional to trend setting: Family-owned Heaven Hill repositions itself after five years of evolution - Louisville". Louisville Business First. Retrieved January 15, 2018. (subscription required)
  13. ^ Murray, J. (1997). Jim Murray's Complete Book of Whiskey: The Definitive Guide to the Whiskeys of the World. Carlton. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-85868-494-9. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  14. ^ "Heaven Hill pours $65m into Bardstown Bourbon ops". Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  15. ^ Tobin, Ben. "6 weeks, no contract and a flipped truck: What to know about the Heaven Hill worker strike". The Courier-Journal.
  16. ^ Waymack & Harris 1995, p. 104
  17. ^ Waymack & Harris 1995, p. 103
  18. ^ a b Waymack & Harris 1995, p. 106
  19. ^ "Our History". Elijah Craig Bourbon. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  20. ^ Robare, Matthew M. (March 10, 2011). "Honey whiskey leaves drinkers buzzing". The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  21. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About Bottled in Bond Bourbon". Paste Magazine. September 24, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  22. ^ "Rare American Legion 50th Anniversary 1969 Bourbon". Forbes. December 1, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Havens, Sara (October 16, 2017). "Heaven Hill expands Louisville distillery, making it the largest single bourbon distillery in the world". Insider Louisville.
  24. ^ a b c Patton, Janet (November 27, 2017). "This bourbon - chosen from hundreds - has been named 'Whisky of the Year'". Herald-Leader. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c d e Wine Enthusiast (in Spanish). Vol. 17. 2004. p. 42. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  26. ^ "Heaven Hill acquires Deep Eddy Vodka". Thespiritsbusiness.com. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  27. ^ "Heaven Hill launches new pomegranate liqueur". Louisville Business First. January 16, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2018.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°14′41″N 85°46′53″W / 38.2448°N 85.7815°W / 38.2448; -85.7815