Heaven Hill was founded shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1935 by several investors, including a prominent distiller, Joseph L. Beam, and a member of the Shapira family. 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 run the company to this day.
The original name was "Old Heavenhill Springs" distillery. The company was founded as a bourbon distillery, and for most of its existence has concentrated on its flagship bourbon labels, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. However, in the past two decades the company has expanded its portfolio significantly, acquiring brands or obtaining import rights for gins, malt whiskey, vodkas, and other drinks.
On November 7, 1996, Heaven Hill's production plant was almost completely destroyed by fire. Several of the company's warehouses were destroyed, and over 90,000 gallons of alcohol lost. 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 new Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery in Louisville, while fermenting, mashing, and distilling occurs at the new distillery, aging, bottling, and shipping still occur in Bardstown.
Heaven Hill's location in the historical home of bourbon-making, coupled with its status as the only such company still under local ownership, has led it to take a role in curating and advertising bourbon tradition. In 2004, the Bourbon Heritage Centre was opened on distillery grounds, featuring historical exhibits and guided tours of the plant. The company also hosts the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and many of the company's own labels are named after famous local distillers.
Elijah Craig, owned by the brilliant Heaven Hill, is one of the most well-known bourbon brands around the world.
It is an enduring myth that Elijah Craig invented bourbon as we know it today, although apart from an unsubstantiated claim in an early history of Kentucky written in the late 1800s around a century after the events took place, there has never been any evidence to back this claim up. The legend is that at some point during the 1780s the Reverend Elijah Craig, a baptist minister and distiller who had been incarcerated earlier in his career when his sermons were deemed to be causing a breach of the peace, suffered a fire at his distillery which damaged many of his barrels. Being too stingy to replace them, he filled the burnt barrels with whiskey regardless, noticing later that the whiskey from the burnt barrels tasted better. It's most likely a myth, but it's a good one.
While this may or may not be true, it seems unlikely that this was the genesis of bourbon, as the Rev. Craig's distillery was never located in Bourbon county, and at the time there were likely hundreds of similar spirit-distillers in operation in the state. Nonetheless, Reverend Craig has become a symbol of the pioneer spirit in Kentucky folklore, and today his place in bourbon history is honoured by the Heaven Hill company, who produce two very popular long-aged small batch whiskeys bearing his name.
This barrel-proof bottling of Elijah Craig is aged for around 12 years and bottled at 62.1%.
Lots of creamy vanilla, maple butter and candy corn aromas are able to penetrate the spirit's high ABV, alongside a little oak spice and sawdust. Plenty of heat and drying oak lead on the palate. A touch of browning apples and orange peel emerge among rich rye spice and a helping of cinnamon. A firm toasted oak note lingers alongside a little wood spice on the finish.