In November 2018, Heaven Hill Distillery proudly unveiled plans to renovate and expand the Bourbon Heritage Center. And now, we’re excited to announce the opening of the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience (HHBE) in Bardstown, Ky.
The expansion, renovation and renaming are the culmination of a multi-year $125 million investment in Kentucky’s signature industry and model for the future of tourism. The state-of-the-art visitor center received a $19 million upgrade to become an interactive, educational space offering signature exhibits unique to the HHBE. Heaven Hill also invested $106 million across American Whiskey production including new barrel warehousing, bottling line and equipment upgrades, increased holdings of Bourbon Whiskey, and distillery enhancements.
OPENING DAY EVENTS
On the morning of June 14, Heaven Hill President Max Shapira and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear presided over the ribbon cutting to commemorate the grand opening of the HHBE.
“In the heart of Bourbon country, we welcome fans back to experience America’s Native Spirit, immerse themselves in the long history of Heaven Hill, and learn about the award-winning portfolio of storied brands now told on these walls,” said Heaven Hill President Max Shapira. “We honor the vision held by my father and his four brothers, celebrating the people who built the foundation upon which we stand today. The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience is an innovative, state-of-the-art tourism model, grounded in history, and developed to entice fans for generations to come.”
Gov. Beshear also presented Shapira and Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory with a proclamation to henceforth name June 14 as “National Kentucky Bourbon Day.”
“I am proud to be in the heart of Bourbon country to proclaim today ‘National Kentucky Bourbon Day’ and I am thrilled to be here to congratulate the Shapira family and the Heaven Hill team on another successful project investing millions in Kentucky and our people,” Gov. Beshear said at the grand opening.
Heaven Hill’s investment in the future of American Whiskey is also focused on the communities that lift up the industry. Bernheim Forest Executive Director Dr. Mark Wourms joined Shapira and Gov. Beshear on stage to celebrate Heaven Hill’s corporate partnership with Bernheim, as well as the commitment to donate $5 per bottle purchased from the “You Do Bourbon” experience to Bernheim Forest for six months, up to $10,000.
THE ROAD TO THE HHBE
Our visitor center first opened on Oct. 15, 2004 as the Bourbon Heritage Center under the guidance of the late Harry Shapira, and helped establish Heaven Hill’s presence as one of the first visitor centers on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
With expansion plans announced in 2018, Heaven Hill unveiled the renovation phase of the new experience in November 2019, in partnership with Solid Light and Abel Construction. Now complete, the new HHBE triples the previous footprint with more than 30,000 square feet, capable of welcoming over 900 American Whiskey enthusiasts or newcomers at any given time to witness history brought to life.
WHAT’S NEW AT HHBE
You are welcomed onto the Heaven Hill campus by several rickhouses, filled with up to 52,000 barrels each. The newest rickhouse on site features a bird’s eye view into the resting barrels with a glass window corner spanning the seven floors.
The exterior of the new visitor center showcases a replica of how the distillery looked in 1935, an authentic, vintage barrel truck representative of what the Shapira brothers may have driven in the 1940s and an updated sign celebrating the new name.
Inside the HHBE, the full breadth of whiskey splendor is on display including a new product unique to the experience and select Kentucky retailers; Five Brothers Bourbon is a small batch blending of five ages of Bourbon ranging from five- to nine-years-old. The name pays homage to the courage, dedication and solidarity of the five Shapira brothers who started it all in 1935.
The innovative exhibits at the HHBE offer an in-depth perspective not yet told on the Bourbon Trail. Highlights include:
- The You Do Bourbon immersive space invites you into a classroom style tasting room where a host will guide you through a tasting of unique products. To commemorate your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to bottle your favorite Bourbon or whiskey from the tasting through the custom-designed filling machines, apply the label and personalize it in the adjacent Bottling Room. Finally, you will experience a day in the life of a quality technician by inspecting through microscopes, gauging the proof of whiskey and testing their sense of smell at the nosing station. At any given time, there will be three to four mashbills available to choose from: Heaven Hill Bourbon, Heaven Hill Wheat Whiskey, Heaven Hill Wheated Bourbon and a fourth option on rotation. You will be able to select a commemorative mashbill and label in honor of the grand opening while supplies last.
- The 1935 Distillery Theater invites up to 40 guests to experience an immersive 11-minute show highlighting the story of the Shapira family and Heaven Hill Distillery.
- After walking through the Family Gallery, which details important people behind Heaven Hill’s rise within distilled spirits, you will enter three new self-guided, interactive exhibition spaces dedicated to integral players and movements within American Whiskey:
The new Five Brothers Bar & Kitchen located on the second floor boasts an upscale bar fully equipped to serve craft cocktails and Bourbon tastings, a lounge area and dining space for the soon-to-be-opened restaurant. You can also take their cocktails to the rooftop area connected to the lounge space to enjoy views of Heaven Hill’s rickhouses.
- The Elijah Craig exhibit immediately immerses you in a charred barrel, the “Father of Bourbon’s” claim to fame. Walls made of charred oak, curved in a barrel shape, enclose a fabricated ring of fire where you can learn how the char on the inside of a barrel affects the aging process and flavor development of a whiskey and understand the nuances of each product in the Elijah Craig family.
- The Larceny space takes you behind lock and key into Treasury Agent John E. Fitzgerald’s room where he kept the registry of his “Fitzgerald” barrels. You are invited to learn how to properly thieve whiskey from a barrel, interact with talking decanters detailing Fitzgerald’s ability to choose only the best barrels, and understand the key differences between Wheated Bourbon, like Larceny, and Rye Bourbon.
- The Bottled-in-Bond exhibit showcases Heaven Hill Distillery’s leading portfolio of bonded products. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 was an important turning point in the history of Bourbon as exacting standards set forth offered consumers a guarantee of quality and transparency. Today, this designation continues to offer those same guarantees, which you will take a deep dive into through the exhibit.
TAKE A TOUR
You are welcome to join us for a tour and tasting in one of our three iconic tasting rooms. Our initial tour offerings include:
Magic of the Mashbill, where you can learn about both the fascinating history of Bourbon as well as the story behind Heaven Hill Distillery, family owned and operated since 1935. You will also enjoy five of our nationally acclaimed American Whiskeys, each from a different mashbill, in one of our iconic tasting rooms.
On the Whiskey Connoisseur Experience, your host will share a short history of Heaven Hill Distillery. You’ll then discuss the unique characteristics of four of our premium or limited release American Whiskeys, focusing on the color, aroma, taste and finish.
As previously mentioned, You Do Bourbon invites you to learn about mashbills, bottling, labeling and quality control. The one-hour experience costs $40, which does not include the price of the personalized bottle. A donation of $5 per bottle will be made to a rotating charitable cause, with Bernheim Forest receiving the donations for the first six months. The You Do Bourbon tour will be open for reservations at the beginning of July.
For current hours, or to book a tour at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, please click below.