Heaven Hill Distillery is part of a family-owned company that produces over 73 brands, labels and variations of North American whiskey including bourbon. The company is headquartered in the "Bourbon Capital of the World" in Bardstown, Kentucky. The organization and its distillery is now the second largest producer of Bourbon and the third largest producer North American whiskies in the world, it also has the second largest stockpile of aging bourbon in the world.
The story of Heaven Hill Brands revolves around two families, the Shapira Family and the Beam Family. The five Shapira brothers and their decedents have run the business side of things so successful that the name Heaven Hill is recognized and consumed all over the world. The Beam family ran the distilling or whiskey making side of Heaven Hill. These Beams came from the same acorn and tree as their famous cousins but from a different branch of "America's First Family of Bourbon."
A few years after Prohibition ended in 1935 several prominent people around Bardstown including Joseph L. "Mr. Joe" Beam (Jim Beam's cousin) and two brothers from the Shipira family started a distillery. The Shapira’s investment share was $17,500 for a start up venture that had no still, no brands, no inventory and no warehouses. As time went on during the early years of the company, the cash-strapped distillery's other investors sold out and all of the other five Shapira brothers (David, Ed, Gary, George and Mose) bought in investing an additional $20,000. The Shapira family owned a company of small Department Stores across the mid-west called the Louisville Department Store headed by their father. The brothers eventually bought up and owned 100% of the company. Now called Heaven Hill Brands they produce more than whiskeys, they also distill vodkas, rums, liqueurs and other spirits that they sell all over the U.S. and in 40 other countries internationally.
"Mr. Joe" Beam was one of the initial investors but had to sell his share. In 1935 he was made the first master distiller when the distillery had a scant 12 employees. He was followed by his son Harry Beam. In 1940's when none of Harry's children wanted to pursue a career in the bourbon industry, the Shapira brothers reached out and brought in another branch of the Beam family. They went directly to the top by bringing in Jim Beam's brother Park Beam, the son of David M. Beam and another direct decedent from the Jacob Beam tree. He was followed in 1946 by his son Earl Beam and in 1957 Heaven Hill launched Evan Williams Bourbon which went on to become their Flagship brand as well as the second most popular bourbon in the world.
In 1960 Earl's son, Parker Beam joined Heaven Hill followed by his son Craig Beam in 1983. All six beams have served as the Master Distiller at one time or another at Heaven Hill. In 1970 Ed's only son Max Shapira joined his father and uncles in the family business. In 1973 one of David sons Harry Shapira joined Heaven Hill. In 1986, Parker Beam introduced the Super Premium Bourbon Elijah Craig Small Batch. This brand is one of three bourbons that is credited with saving the bourbon industry and completely revolutionized the way most people looked at bourbon. In 1989 Heaven Hill acquired Henry McKenna Bourbon, Harwood Canadian Whisky and Burnett's Gin.
In 1993 they bought Cabin Still Bourbon, J. W. Dant Bourbons and Philadelphia Blended Whiskey. In 1995, Heaven Hill under Parker and Craig Beam launched three new Super Premium or Top Shelf brands as a spin-off of their current offerings. They were Super Premium Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon, Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel 10 year-old and Top Shelf Elijah Craig Single Barrel 23 year-old.
In 1996, George, the last remaining founder of the five original Shapira brothers died and the second generation takes over. Max Shapira is promoted to President and Harry to Executive Vice President. Also in 1996, a disastrous fire levels seven warehouses and over 90,000 barrels of aging whiskey along with and the family's distillery in Bardstown. In 1999 the company acquires the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky along with the brand line of John E. Fitzgerald Wheated Bourbon as well as Christian Brothers Brandy. In 2012 Heaven Hill launches its own wheated bourbon with new a new twist on an old story with Larceny Bourbon.
In 2001 Kate Shapira Latts and her husband Allan Latts join the company representing the third generation of the Shapira family in the Bourbon Industry. In 2004 Heaven Hill opened the "Bourbon Heritage Center" on the property that destroyed the old distillery in 1996. In that same year, Heaven Hill was named "Distillery of the Year." The Center set the gold standard for guided tours of the plant, historic exhibits and events including the largest event of the year, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
In 2006 Andy Shapira, Max's son joins Heaven Hill and in that same year, Rittenhouse Rye is repackaged and wins "North American Whiskey of the Year." In 2011, Heaven Hill is again named "Distiller of the Year." In 2012 Elijah Craig is named "North American Whiskey of the Year."
In 2013 Heaven Hill opens up the "Evan Williams Bourbon Experience" becoming the first company to re-open a distillery on Louisville's famous "Whiskey Row." In 2015, Heaven Hill for the third time is named "Distiller of the Year." In 2017 Craig Beam stepped away from his duties as Master Distiller to take care of his father Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam who was diagnosed with ALS and later passed away. As a fitting tribute to Parker, in 2017 Elijah Craig Single Barrel 23 year-old Bourbon is pronounced the "World's Best Whiskey." That same year Denny Potts became the first non-beam to be a Master Distiller at Heaven Hill.
Heaven Hill filled its 1,000,000 barrel in 1961. It took 26 years (from 1935 to 1961) to fill barrel number one million but only took the distillery 15 years (1976) to get to 2,000,000, only 12 years (1988) to get to 3,000,000 barrels, 10 years (1998) to get to 4,000,000 barrels, 8 years (2006) to get to 5,000,000 barrels, 4 years (2010) to get to 6,000,000 and finally 4 more years (2014) to get to its 7,000,000th barrel of bourbon.
Heaven Hill makes over 62 different labels, brands or variations of whiskey. Their most popular bourbon brands include; Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon, Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, Henry McKenna Bourbon, Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel Bourbon, Fighting Cock 103 Bourbon, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon, Evan Williams also has a whole line of 10 Bourbons and 7 flavored whiskies, Elijah Craig 18, 20 & 23 year-old Single Barrels, Cabin Still Bourbon, Very Special Old Fitgerald wheated Bourbon, Larceny Bourbon and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve.
Some of Heaven Hill's other North American whiskies include; Pikesville Supreme Rye, J. W. Dant Bourbon, Philadelphia American Bleneded Whiskey, Echo Springs Bourbon, Parker's Heritage Collection (10 different releases in consecutive years), Old Whiskey River, Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, 7 different versions of Heaven Hill Bourbon, Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Rye, Harwood Canadian Whisky, T. W. Samuels Bourbon, Tom Sims, J. T. S. Brown Bonded Bourbon, Georgia Moon, Mellow Corn, Cold Spell Intense Mint Whiskey, Cinnerator Hot Cinnamon Whiskey and Kentucky Deluxe Blended Whiskey.
Click On first Slide to see all of Heaven Hill's North American Whiskies
All photos of Heaven Hill are provided by Heaven Hill Distillery