Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
The surging popularity of craft distilleries has changed how consumers view brands. A new generation of whiskey enthusiasts seeks out unfamiliar labels with novel branding. Consequently, many smaller brands are seeing the kind of success once reserved for established names. Like many creative fields, enthusiasts are looking for the next big thing in the indies as often as the mainstream.
Also like other creative fields, mainstream producers are diversifying their offerings through specialty labels. You see this in film when a large film studio spins off a label, like Fox did with Searchlight Pictures. For large production companies with established identities, these labels allow them to experiment with smaller releases. During times when tastes are gravitating toward new and novel releases, it’s a way for larger companies to build an identity adjacent to the craft space.
One such specialty label is Heaven Hill’s Square 6 Line of whiskey. While part of the massive Heaven Hill portfolio, this whiskey line represents a series of small, experimental releases led by master distiller Jodie Filiatreau. This specialty distillery, located near the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, produces only one barrel of whiskey each day. Unlike Heaven Hill’s flagship brands, they’re constantly tweaking the composition. For this expression, they’re mixing two wheated bourbons with similar mash bills and bottling at a higher proof. While it’s not wildly different, it’s still the kind of experiment you don’t regularly see at a huge distiller.
While I don’t expect Square 6 to change craft whiskey, I think it’s encouraging to see a large producer dabble in small batch releases. These producers have significant resources in terms of grain, tools, and talent. Excellent things are possible when distillers like Jodie Filiatreau are able to complement managing huge brands with side projects like this. It’s the kind of creative exchange that can push both big whiskey and craft distilling forward.
Tasting Notes: Heaven Hill Square 6 Wheated Bourbon
Vital Stats: 47.5% ABV. Mash bill: Blend of 74% corn, 16% wheat, and 10% malted barley and 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley. 105 Proof. MSRP 89.99 USD.
Nose: I can immediately pick out multiple sweet, gourmand flavors. There’s hints of vanilla, crisp fig, and cigar box wood. An underlying body of cream gives character to the scents.
Palate: The body has the quality of a light, sweet bread like shokupan. As the taste opens up, I can pick out jammy fig, baking spices, and a strong feeling of clove. The finish deepens a bit, and gains notes of walnut, cigar, and molasses.
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