Bardstown’s Heaven Hill recently hosted the opening of its new visitors center, the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the company wanted a new bourbon product ready to sell alongside a major event for the company. Lo and behold, we have here Five Brothers Bourbon, a new spin on Heaven Hill’s classic, core bourbon mashbill. This is only a few weeks after the launch of the somewhat more unique Square 6 Bourbon from the company’s similarly titled Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville, Kentucky, but Five Brothers ultimately ends up hewing considerably closer to the classic Heaven Hill mold. In no way do I consider that to be a bad thing.
Story-wise, Five Brothers is all about the initial founders of Heaven Hill, the five Shapira Brothers who first started distilling operations in 1935. They’re pictured on the bottle’s label in black and white, when all five were in their 20s and early 30s: David, Ed, Gary, George and Mose Shapira. Current Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira said the following in the company’s press release: “In 1935, my father and his four brothers invested in a speculative venture that today is the largest family-owned and operated distillery in America, Heaven Hill Distillery. With patience and perseverance, they built the foundation for the nationally acclaimed American Whiskey portfolio we enjoy today and a legacy built on consistent quality and innovation.”
So there you have it. In terms of nuts and bolts, Five Brothers Bourbon is a 90 proof offering from Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon mashbill (78% corn, 10% rye, 12% malted barley), a blend of bourbons aged between 5 and 9 years. Specifically, it’s made of five bourbons representing each of the brothers—5, 6, 7, 8 and 9-year-old juice. If it were made of equal quantities of each, that would obviously give it an average age of 7 years, the same as the current Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond brand.
Five Brothers Bourbon is available primarily from the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience and its accompanying Five Brothers bar, although it will also be sold at “select retailers” in Kentucky. It carries a $59.99 MSRP, which seems a bit on the high side, considering that the non-age-stated (but still decently old) Elijah Craig Small Batch remains in the $25-30 range, with a proof of 94. Clearly, though, the company is capitalizing on the more limited availability of Five Brothers, which will no doubt be positioned as a “take one home from the distillery as a souvenir” opportunity, rather than the nationwide value represented by Elijah Craig.
So with all that said, let’s get to actually tasting the stuff.
On the nose, this is really classic Heaven Hill bourbon notes all the way, almost unmistakably. I’m getting lots of fresh caramel corn and peanut brittle, along with more candied nuts (pralines), toffee, a little bit of peppery rye and sweeter gingerbread notes. It smells a bit on the sweeter side, which does evoke Elijah Craig, which might be the most apt comparison for this particular brand.
On the palate, I’m getting some lovely and very friendly notes of brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, gingerbread and … more caramel. The candied nuttiness is here as well, although fairly subtle, and there’s also a little bit of chocolate. There’s a bit more rye spice here than on the nose, and a kiss of spicy oak. All in all, though, it drinks quite easily, with toned down ethanol and an inviting, moderate sweetness. From top to bottom, it’s a textbook example of Heaven Hill’s distillery house style, which is probably exactly what it was designed to be, so you really can’t fault them on that.
In comparison with the likes of Elijah Craig Small Batch, I’m tempted to say that this tastes a bit oakier and more spicy, but I’d have to compare them side by side to really be sure. I’d also say that Five Brothers actually seems a bit fuller of flavor despite EC having a slightly higher proof, but they’re certainly in the same flavor wheelhouse. Regardless, this is a very inviting bourbon, of the sort that one might use to turn friends and family on to the “good stuff” for the first time. Again, I can only imagine that’s exactly what Five Brothers is intended to be, so my conclusion is that Heaven Hill’s intent is being captured quite successfully here. It is perhaps not a necessary pickup for the Heaven Hill superfan who is already quite familiar with this profile, but if you do buy it I can’t imagine you’d dislike it.
Distillery: Heaven Hill
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $60 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.