Thursday, September 1, 2011

Heaven Hill's Corn Whiskies- A Corny Review!

Heaven Hill is one of the last major distillers to produce corn whiskey. What was once the predominant "moonshine" whiskey, corn whiskey has all but disappeared in the US. As whiskey is once again finding an audience, drinkers are looking for all sorts of variants to try. Corn whiskey is quite different than traditional American whiskies as the rules of aging are a bit more lax. While Rye and Bourbon must be aged in new, charred white oak barrels, Corn Whiskey can be aged not only in the new, charred white oak barrels, but also used Bourbon or Rye barrels, or un-charred barrels. It is also generally not aged nearly as long- usually only a few months up to 2 years. So I got my hands on some variants of the Heaven Hill Corn Whiskies. The only thing that really varies here is proof and age. 2 are bottled by McCormick Distilling in Weston, MO, while the other is bottled by Heaven Hill.

Platte Valle Corn Whiskey:
-$25 for a 750ML ceramic decanter via PLCB State Store.
-80 Proof, 30 months old and bottled by McCormick Distilling
The coolest thing about this whiskey is the nifty decanter it comes in. Very cool and reminiscent of a whiskey crock from the 1800's. The whiskey itself is almost colorless. It has a slight yellow tint, as if someone put a drop of yellow food coloring in your shot glass. It has very little nose. What is there smells of alcohol, sugar, and a hint of fresh corn. It's very earthy and has no indications of oak smells from the barrel. It's light and sweet on the tongue with almost no depth in the flavor. It's just plain smooth. The corn blasts through and once again, there is no evidence of oak notes. Once it's down the hatch, there is really no finish. It's gone! My assessment: A very unique product that is easy to drink and would mix really well in place of gut-rot Vodka. Mixing this with a Bourbon or Rye to lighten the flavor wouldn't be out of the question and may yield some interesting results. An overall good product.

Hirsch Selection Special Reserve Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey
-$37 for a 750ML bottle from WineSource in Baltimore, MD
-90 Proof with no age statement. Aged in used barrels.
This is a dead-ringer for the Platte Valley and was even bottled by McCormick also. The difference is the proof and barrel selection. These barrels were specifically chosen by Hirsch Distillers for bottling, so you're getting a little better pick (Hopefully!). The nose is the same, but more intense. Almost like someone turned the volume from 5 to 8. With it comes an increase in flavor and alcohol bite. With being aged so little, it's very "moonshine-esque." It's getting high enough in proof that you can get a bit more flavor on the tongue and the sweetness is much nicer. The hardest part to get down my throat is the price tag! Ouch! A small hint of the barrel aging is present, but the whiskey is still a very pale yellow color. Once down the hatch, the sweetness lingers for seconds and then it too is gone. There's a certain sweetness and flavor to this one that is not in the Platte Valley. Overall, a better whiskey than the Platte Valley, but the price ruins it. I keep it around for its unique character, but that's about it. Pick a bottle up if you can get it for a good price!

Mellow Corn Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey
-$10 via a friend.
-100 proof and aged for at least 2 years. No age statement.
This is straight Heaven Hill. Mellow Corn is an awesome value- if you can find it. I can't emphasize this enough! The 100 proof and longer aging gives this a totally different profile than the McCormick-bottled products. The color is no longer a lemon yellow, but a light brown. In the shot glass, it's like watered down apple juice. The nose is wonderful- corn, light oak, fruits, with a tiny hint of cocoa and leather. On the tongue it's heaven. The moonshine flavors are dialed down and a slight oak flavor has now entered. The corn takes center stage and the 100 proof has brought the flavors to a blasting "10." It's still smooth and drinks like a young Bourbon but with no rye bite. It's all sugar and sweets. The finish is heavy towards the corn side (as usual), but has more complexity with a hint of syrup and oak. It lasts for a few short seconds and is gone- just like the others. This whiskey is amazing. As long as I have friends that can find it and provide it for me, I'll take it! If I could buy it by the case, I would! At ten bucks a bottle, this is one whiskey that should be in every collection! Buy it, you won't be disappointed!


  1. A few corrections: 1) A corn whiskey distillate (80%+ corn mash bill) aged in new charred oak is a bourbon (George Dickel is 86% corn) 2) Mellow Corn is aged at least 4 years, as it is a bottled-in-bond product.

  2. Thank you! You are correct. I will admit- my knowledge of American whiskies has grown exponentially since I wrote this article.