Family-owned distillery Heaven Hill is one of the largest alcohol suppliers in the country. Not only do they produced some distilled spirits, but they are also the second-largest producer of bourbon whiskey in the world. If that’s not impressive enough, Heaven Hill is also one of the oldest distilleries in the US – in operation since right after Prohibition times were over.
We talked to Tyler Tramuta with Heaven Hill about some very impressive numbers and what it takes to take the whiskey world by storm.
CRUSHBREW: Heaven Hill is one of the oldest distilleries in the country. Can you tell us a bit about its beginnings and how have things changed over the past few decades?
TYLER TRAMUTA: Heaven Hill just celebrated its 80th year Anniversary this year. HH was started in 1934 by the Shapira family, who at that time were in the clothing business. Back then, they teamed up with Jim Bean, who had a long history of making whiskey [and it one of the best selling brands of bourbon in the world].
The company is still owned, and ran by the Shapira family, and our master distiller is still Parker Beam. We have changed significantly over the past 80 years – from a distillery that produces whiskey to a company that produces and owns brands in every major spirit category.
CRUSHBREW: Heaven Hill is “America’s largest independent family-owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits.” Can you give us some examples of what that means exactly?
TT: We currently are the second largest holder of Bourbon/American Whiskey, with over 1.2 Million Barrels aging in our Rick houses (buildings where whiskey is aged). We sell over 15 million cases of distilled spirits a year. Evan Williams Black Label is the #2 selling Bourbon Whiskey in the world, Burnett’s Vodka is the #5 Vodka in the world.
C: You produce a very large number of spirits. Any favorites or unusual bottles?
TT: My favorite product that we produce is Henry McKenna Single 10-year-old Barrel Bourbon. It is unique because it is a Bottled in Bond, which is a law that was passed in 1897 and called “Bottled in Bond Act.
This was a government stamp that says the distilled spirit that you are drinking is of superior quality and safe to drink. To be a Bottled in Bond, the spirits must be aged at least four years, must be exactly 100 Proof, be produced by only one distillery, barrels must be aged in Bonded warehouses and must be from one distilling season. We are the largest producers of Bottled in Bond Whiskey to this day.
C: While other distilleries sell all their spirits under one single brand, you produce many different ones. How does that work and why did you make that choice?
TT: We are the only whiskey producer that makes five different types of American Whiskey – Bourbon Whiskey, Wheated Bourbon (wheat as secondary grain and no rye), Rye Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey and Corn Whiskey.
C: In addition to spirits, you also produce dessert wines — a somewhat unusual choice for a distillery. How is wine different to spirits when it comes to production and can you tell us something about them?
TT: Christian Brothers Brandy and the Desert Wines are produced in California. We purchased the Christian Brothers Brand, but the brand was originally started by “The Christian Brothers,” who a religious organization.
They had a facility in California and began producing Communion wine, had learned that it was great quality, and later began producing brandy. We currently own the brand and still produce the desert wines, but Christian Brothers Brands is one of the best-selling Brandies in the world.
C: What’s next for the distillery?
TT: We continue to expand our facility in Kentucky to accommodate the demand for American Whiskey. We are in the process of putting over $15 Million into our distillery.