By Matt Goldstein
Heaven Hill Distilleries has been named distillery of the year Whiskey Magazine and will be awarded the prize at the U.S. Icons awards in November. Heaven Hill Distilleries specializes in just about every type of spirit from bourbon whiskey, tequila, vodka and liqueurs. The critically acclaimed Bernheim whiskey is simply one of the best American whiskeys out there and Pama liqueur is definitely worth a few sips. Heaven Hill has proved itself time and time again and Whiskey Magazine can’t be faulted for making such a choice. “As the only remaining distiller that produces all the unique styles of American Straight Whiskey – bourbon, rye, wheat whiskey, and corn whiskey–we take great pride in this recognition and award from Whisky Magazine. On behalf of my family, of Parker and Craig Beam, and all of our Heaven Hill employees, we are most humbled by and appreciative for this honour,” stated President Max L. Shapira. The American winners will now go up against the rest of the world in February.
Source: Whiskey Drinker
Heaven Hill Distillery: A Timeline
1783 — William Heavenhill is born “during an Indian raid which was being waged, under the cliffs near Rowan Creek” at the site of present day Heaven Hill Distilleries.
1783 — Evan Williams sets up his distillery on the banks of the Ohio in Louisville at what is now 4th Street, thereby becoming Kentucky’s First Distiller.
1789 — Rev. Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister and farmer who had immigrated to Kentucky from Virginia, experiences a fire in his barn where he stores whiskey barrels. Putting his new whiskey in the burnt barrels anyway, Craig soon discovered that the whiskey would age better in the charred barrels, picking up color and flavor, and earning Craig the title of the “Father of Bourbon.”
1837 — Henry McKenna arrives in Kentucky from his native County Derry, Ireland. He sets up his distillery in Fairfield in 1855 where he begins producing his eponymous Bourbon, known as “Kentucky’s Finest Table Whiskey.”
1870 — John E. Fitzgerald introduces his “private label” Bourbon, Old Fitzgerald, available only on rail and steamship lines and private clubs.
1934 — Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., originally known as “Old Heavenhill Springs” distillery, is founded by a group of Bardstown-area investors and the five Shapira brothers, David, Ed, Gary, George and Mose. The company has 12 employees at the time of its founding.
1935 — Barrel #1 is filled on December 13. Bourbon Falls is the company’s first label.
1942 — Heaven Hill, and many other distilled spirits production plants, are shut down during World War II and work with the government to produce alcohol for the war effort.
1946 — Earl Beam leaves the Beam Company to succeed his cousin, Harry Beam, as Heaven Hill’s Master Distiller.
1955 — Barrel #500,000 is filled on September 30.
1957 — Evan Williams Bourbon is introduced and becomes one of the nation’s leading Bourbons and Heaven Hill’s flagship brand.
1960 — Earl Beam’s son and current Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam joins the family business.
1961 — Barrel #1,000,000 is filled on July 21.
1967 — A new bottling facility is built with a capacity of 2.5 million cases per year.
1968 — Barrel #1,500,000 is filled on December 5.
1971 — Current Heaven Hill president Max L. Shapira joins the family business.
1973 — Current Heaven Hill executive vice president Harry J. Shapira joins the family business.
1975 — Parker Beam is named Heaven Hill Master Distiller, succeeding his father Earl.
1976 — Barrel #2,000,000 is filled on March 24.
1982 — Barrel #2,500,000 is filled on June 18.
1983 — Parker Beam’s son and current Heaven Hill Master Distiller Craig Beam joins the family business.
1986 — Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Bourbon is introduced, thus becoming the first “Small Batch” Bourbon available.
1988 — Heaven Hill becomes the licensed importing agent for Invergordon Distillers, plc. (now Whyte and Mackay, Ltd.)and begins importing Cluny Scotch Whisky.
1988 — Barrel #3,000,000 is filled on February 18.
1989 — Heaven Hill acquires Burnett’s Gin, Henry McKenna Bourbon and Harwood Canadian Whisky.
1991 — Heaven Hill launches a companion to Burnett’s Gin: Burnett’s Vodka.
1993 — Heaven Hill acquires Copa De Oro Coffee Liqueur, Dubonnet Aperitif, Coronet VSQ Brandy, DuBouchett Cordials and Liqueurs, Philadelphia Blended Whiskey, Cabin Still Bourbon and J. W. Dant Bourbon, among others.
1993 — Barrel #3,500,000 is filled on September 7.
1995 — Heaven Hill introduces Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon, Elijah Craig 18 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon, and Henry McKenna Bottled In Bond Single Barrel Bourbon. Heaven Hill acquires Two Fingers Tequila, and in conjunction with First Ireland Spirits, Ltd., of Abbyleix, Ireland introduces O’Mara’s Irish Country Cream.
1996 — George Shapira, last surviving member of the five founding brothers, passes away.
1998 — Barrel #4,000,000 is filled on January 13.
1999 — Heaven Hill acquires the historic Bernheim Distillery, The Christian Brothers Brandies, and the Old Fitzgerald Bourbon brand.
2000 — Heaven Hill acquires the full line of Whaler’s Flavored Rums.
2001 — Current Heaven Hill Director of Marketing Strategy Kate Shapira Latts and her husband, Director of Corporate Planning Allan Latts, join the family business.
2002 — Barrel #4,500,000 is filled on December 4.
2003 — Heaven Hill acquires HPNOTIQ Liqueur
2003 — Heaven Hill breaks ground for the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center – set to open in Fall 2004
2004 — Heaven Hill dedicates the new Heaven Hill Trolley to aid tourism in Bardstown and Nelson County
2004 — Heaven Hill recieves its first prestigious Impact “Hot Brand” award from M. Shanken Publishing for HPNOTIQ
2004 — Heaven Hill dedicates the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center
2004 — Wine Enthusiast names Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. Wine Star “Distiller of the Year”
2005 — Heaven Hill introduces Bernheim Wheat Whiskey
2005 — Heaven Hill introduces PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
2006 — Barrel #5,000,000 is filled on February 1st
2006 — Rittenhouse Rye wins “North American Whiskey of the Year” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2007 — Current Heaven Hill Director of Sales Analysis Andy Shapira joins the family business
2007 — Heaven Hill forms a joint venture to distribute Agua Luca Brazilian Rum Cachaca
2007 — Heaven Hill introduces the first edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection, a signature series of rare American Whiskeys
2007 — Heaven Hill acquires the Mohawk Distilled Products Spirits portfolio
2008 — Heaven Hill announces joint venture with Tierra de Agaves SA de CV to import and market La Certeza and Lunazul 100% Agave Tequilas
2008 — Heaven Hill increases bottling capacity by over one million cases per year with opening of new high speed “J” bottling line
2008 — Heaven Hill opens newly expanded Bernheim Distillery, increasing production capacity by 40%
2008 — Barrel #5,500,000 is filled on November 18th
2008 — The Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center captures North American and Worldwide “Visitor’s Attraction of the Year” awards from Whisky Magazine
2008 — Heaven Hill Distilleries is awarded North American “Distiller of the Year” from Whisky Magazine
2009 — Parker’s Heritage Collection second edition 27-year-old Bourbon becomes first American Whiskey to capture “Best of Show, Brown Spirits” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2009 — Heaven Hill Distilleries is awarded North American “Distiller of the Year” from Whisky Magazine for the second consecutive year