Heaven Hill Podcasts


347 – An Insider’s Look at Quality Control and Remembering the ’96 Fire at Heaven Hill with Tawnie Gootee



We’re always looking for veterans of the bourbon industry to bring on the show to talk about their story and career growth. Tawnie Gootee has been at Heaven Hill for nearly 30 years and has done it all. I mean, they used to have to rotate workers to give tours when a small group of people would show up. But Tawnie has excelled in her career and worked with Mike Sonne and other Heaven Hill elites to become one of the most respected palates in the industry and she gives us the low down on the quality control process at Heaven Hill. This episode is also very significant because this year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1996 fire at Heaven Hill. Tawnie remembers the first phone calls and what it was like in the days following the aftermath. It’s a true testament to how the bourbon industry really works together.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about the taste of bourbon.
  • Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Heaven Hill.
  • What was the tour experience like 30 years ago?
  • How did you hone your tasting skills?
  • What happens when you find a barrel that’s not acceptable?
  • Explain what reading the tank means.
  • How often do you get complaints?
  • How long do you keep samples?
  • Talk about cork taint.
  • What’s your high end inspection?
  • Talk about the process of creating limited edition products.
  • Can you tell us about the fire of 1996?
  • @heavenhilldistillery
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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344 – Heaven Hill’s Acquisition Motives, What Happens When a Face of the Brand Leaves?, and the Top Places to Visit in Kentucky on Bourbon Community Roundtable #65



It’s Bourbon Community Roundtable #65 and here’s what we have on the topic list for today! Heaven Hill acquires Samson & Surrey, but what is the motive and what does that mean for brands like FEW and Widow Jane? Wes Henderson announced his retirement from Angel’s Envy. Fred Noe is retiring soon. Then Eddie will likely retire when Jimmy isn’t around. So what happens when the face of a brand leaves? There has been a huge surge of updates to distilleries in the past year. So now what is your top place to recommend visitors when they visit Kentucky?

Show Notes:

  • Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about regaining your sense of taste and smell after being sick.
  • Heaven Hill Acquisitions. What does this mean and who could be next?
  • Wes Henderson announced his retirement from Angel’s Envy. So what happens when the face of a brand leaves?
  • There has been a huge surge of updates to distilleries in the past year. So now what is the top place you recommend visitors going to on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
  • Thanks to @bourbonr and @breakingbourbon for joining.
  • @bourbonr @breakingbourbon @sippn_corn
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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335 – Introducing The Bardstown Collection with Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Log Still, Preservation, and Bardstown Bourbon Company



What happens when you bring 5 of the top distilleries together and have them each provide two of their best barrels? You get the Bardstown Collection. Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Log Still, Preservation, and Bardstown Bourbon Company have come together along with the tourism side of Visit Bardstown to release 5 special edition bottles that will benefit the community of Bardstown. All proceeds will go to the Main Street Association, Hospitality, and First Responders. These exclusive expressions have a unified packaging featuring Bardstown imagery and the only difference is a small label with each brand logo at the bottom of the bottle. In this episode, we’re joined by Freddie Noe, Conor O’Driscoll, Lynne Dant, and Steve Nally to talk about the process of making this collection. These  bottles will be released at each distillery starting on January 13th and the cost will range $159 – $249 per bottle. Get ready to collect the whole set! Visit BardstownCollection.com for more details and specific release times.

Show Partners:

  • Catoctin Creek has been honoring that tradition of small craft rye whisky since 2009. Learn more at CatoctinCreekDistilling.com.
  • Smooth Ambler builds on the traditional roots of American whiskey in West Virginia. Visit SmoothAmbler.com to learn more.
  • Wilderness Trail is Sweet Mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in Danville, Kentucky. Learn more at WildernessTrailDistillery.com.
  • You can now buy Barrell Craft Spirits products online and have them shipped right to your door. Visit BarrellBourbon.com and click Buy Now.
  • Spirits of French Lick is delivering the finest hand crafted Bottled in Bond bourbons. Check out SpiritsofFrenchLick.com.
  • Total Wine and More is wonderland for wine, spirits, and beer lovers! Explore more in store or online at TotalWine.com.
  • Heaven Hill Distillery has been lifting America’s spirit since 1935. Check out educational resources and sign up for their newsletter at HeavenHillDistillery.com.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about your palate being off.
  • Tell us about your role in this project.
  • What was the process like for choosing the barrels for this project?
  • What does this project mean for Bardstown?
  • Talk about the charity aspect of this project.
  • When are these bottles being released?
  • Why aren’t more distilleries getting together to do these kinds of projects?
  • What does this project mean to you?
  • @jimbeamofficial @heavenhilldistillery @bardstownbourbonco @logstilldistillery @preservationdistillery
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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308 – Mellow Corn, Selecting Parker’s, and Bourbon Business with Bernie Lubbers of Heaven Hill


Bernie Lubbers is one of the great treasures of the modern whiskey era. A few years ago, he gave us a deep dive on Bottled in Bond in episode 89, but now he’s back and we’re talking Mellow Corn, Parker’s Heritage selections, and where the market is headed with pricing bourbon on the shelf. Stay tuned until the end for a performance of Whiskey, Honey, and Loving.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about flasks.
  • Has Bottled in Bond changed since the last time you were on the show?
  • How many bourbons are Bottled in Bond?
  • Do you still love Bottled in Bond?
  • Talk about corn whiskey.
  • Tell us about the process for selecting Parker’s.
  • Where do you think we are going with pricing in bourbon?
  • Do you get any pushback from retailers about having allocated items in your gift shop?
  • What are your thoughts on private barrel picks?
  • Talk about the Black Velvet acquisition.
  • @BernieLubbers

Support this Podcast on Patreon

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231 – Continuing 84 Years of Tradition at Heaven Hill with Conor O’Driscoll


Conor O’Driscoll is beginning to make a name for himself. After spending part of his career at Brown Forman and Angel’s Envy, he was recruited to fulfill the role left behind by Denny Potter. Conor is now the seventh Master Distiller in Heaven Hill’s 84-year history. We spend some time getting to know Conor’s past, what the recruitment process is like to find a master distiller, what his role is going to be with the operation side of things, and how at the end of the day he just doesn’t want to screw anything up.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about dry January.
  • Where are you from?
  • How did you end up in Terre Haute, Indiana?
  • How did you get into bourbon?
  • Tell us about your time at Woodford.
  • What was difficult to learn about the distilling process?
  • Talk about working at Angel’s Envy.
  • Is distilling rum the same process as bourbon?
  • Are distillers in charge of blending?
  • How did you end up at Heaven Hill?
  • Did you have to give up anything to move into this role?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve the legacy brands?
  • Was there a learning curve coming to Heaven Hill?
  • Who determines the increase in production?
  • Were you involved in forecasting at your other roles?
  • How did you learn the Heaven Hill portfolio?
  • Do you have a favorite brand?
  • What was it like to sign your first bottle?

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181 – Brand Management and Market Data with Larry Kass of Heaven Hill

Larry Kass has done it all at Heaven Hill. Public relations, brand management, legal, and even more behind the scenes rolls over his 20 year career. Larry first made an appearance on the podcast back on episode 167. You’re going to hear about growing some small family run operation managing a few brands turned into hundreds, how the infamous Rittenhouse Rye 21, 23, and 25 year bottling came into existence, the disappearance of Heaven Hill 6yr BIB, and the original partnership with the Kentucky Distillers Association before it was a real thing. This is a  real piece of history and we wish Larry years of relaxation in his retirement.
Show Notes:
  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about Bourbon Geek Pricing
  • Fred, tell us a little about Larry
  • Let’s start at the beginning. Before coming into Heaven Hill did you have a fascination of spirits?
  • We’re you doing the job of 45 people back then?
  • Did you ever find a knack for brown and aged goods?
  • Who really stood out for you?
  • What was marketing like for whiskey back in 1998?
  • Talk about the Rittenhouse Rye 21, 23, and 25 years
  • What do you think of the secondary market?
  • Do you all use it as market data?
  • Is that why we saw the end to Heaven Hill 6yr Bottled In Bond?
  • Give us a story about a writer that pissed you off over the years
  • Do you think Heaven Hill has done a poor job at PR over the past few years to whiskey geeks?
  • Who are the leakers?
  • Fred has feelings of remorse about Elijah Craig 12
  • Take us through the days of high aged stuff like Martin Mills 24 year that were part of the export market.
  • As a brand manager, how much influence do you have into the final product?
  • You’re part of the original KDA partnership
  • Can you leave bourbon? What’s the retirement plan?
  • What’s the proudest thing you accomplished in your career?

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167 – EXCLUSIVE: 2018 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame featuring Freddie Johnson, Matt Shattock, Pearse Lyons, and Max Shapira

BP EXCLUSIVE! Get the inside experience of the 2018 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Hear from icons in the whiskey industry as they stroll down the red carpet and listen to the heart warming speeches delivered by inductees from Freddie Johnson of Buffalo Trace, Matt Shattock, CEO of Beam Suntory, and Max Shapira, CEO of Heaven Hill. The first time ever this event is being made available to the public.
Show Notes:
  • This week’s Above the Char has Fred Minnick discussing friendships and choosing that right bottle to celebrate
  • The show starts off interviewing Fred Noe, Freddie Noe, and Matt Shattock of Jim Beam on the red carpet
  • Transitions to the ceremony where Eric Gregory, President of the KDA, introduces everyone
  • Louisville Mayor, Greg Fisher, gives an introduction of Matt Shattock
  • Matt’s speech is delivered unedited
  • We transition back out to the red carpet to interview Freddie Johnson
  • The ceremony then kicks off with Eric Gregory talking about Freddie’s history
  • A.J. Hochhalter, Film Producer of NEAT, introduces Freddie
  • Freddie delivers his speech and talks about his dad and family – completely unedited
  • The red carpet is alive once again talking to Mark Coffman, Master Distiller at Town Branch
  • The ceremony resumes with Eric Gregory giving a history of Dr. Pearse Lyons of Alltech
  • A short story from Jerry Summers, HOF 2017 inductee, about Pearse Lyons
  • The final red carpet appearance features Andy Shapira talking about his father Max, as well as Larry Kass with a brief history of Rittenhouse 21-25 year single barrels
  • The ceremony begins the wrap up with Eric Gregory giving Max Shapira’s resume
  • Donn Lux, Chairman and President of Luxco, shares some funny stories of Max’s attention to the bottom line
  • Max Shapira talks about his family, the history of Heaven Hill, and that growth will continue
  • Listen to all of our Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Town Branch, and Beam podcasts

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116 – The Visitor Experience at Heaven Hill with Jeff Crowe

Have you ever visited the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown or the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville? It’s time you meet Jeff Crowe who is the General Manager of Visitor Experiences for Heaven Hill. Jeff takes us through what each locations have to offer and gives some insight into how he can fairly distribute Parker’s Heritage and William Heaven Hill releases

Show Notes:

  • Did you come from a hospitality background or whiskey?
  • Was life a bit less hectic in 2013?
  • How has bourbonism grown since you have been around?
  • Has it put more stress on your job
  • Talk about each theEvan Williams Bourbon Experience EWBE and theBourbon Heritage Center BHC and what you will see in each
  • Heaven Hill is unique that you don’t actually ever get to tour where the majority of the bourbon is made. Is there plans to open up Bernheim for visitors?
  • I’ve always told people that they need to visit EWBE to break up the distillery visits because it’s more like a mix of a museum with video projectors. Most distillery visits get pretty repetitive but this breaks the mold. Do you know whose idea it was to build it this way?
  • Talk about the history of this building because it was owned by the Shapiros at one point too.
  • What is the wildest thing you’ve seen happen at either location? Someone trying to dive into the large glass of Evan Williams at the entrance?
  • You also spend time at the BHC in Bardstown. Even though these locations are only an hour away from each other, is there a different vibe or feeling the visitors get from each?
  • Is there something one offers that the other can’t?

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108 – Green Bourbon Production and Age Statements with Denny Potter, Master Distiller at Heaven Hill

Denny Potter, Master Distiller and VP of Operations at Heaven Hill, talks about his past handling dangerous chemicals, answers if bourbon production is green, touches on age statement removals and the market for higher age statements.

Show Notes:

  • Thanks to Linden Ferguson for being the guest co-host
  • The man behind many of the famous brands we talk about on the show like Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, Larceny and much more. Former Master Distiller and now VP of Operations at Heaven Hill, Denny Potter
  • Talk about your history and how you came to Heaven Hill
  • Talk about your old jobs dealing with dangerous chemicals.
  • Talk about the environmental impact of bourbon production.
  • So you have a history of rum. What do you think about this newborn uptick in Rum interest?
  • How many barrels is Heaven Hill producing per day?
  • What once was impossible to get rid of and now HH has been known for their high aged premium products by whiskey geeks. From Martin Mills 24 to EC18 and 23 and WHH 14 and 15 years, do you anticipate the future whiskey drinkers 10 years from now to still be wanting higher aged products?
  • There’s a little known gem here in KY and that’s the 6 year BIB white label. When you travel do people ask you about how they can get their hands on some?
  • What are some of those labels people are always wanting to know more about or how they can get their hands on?

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100 – Small Time Operations At A Big Time Distiller featuring Charlie Downs, Artisanal Distillery Manager at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience


Charlie Downs, Artisanal Distillery Manager at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (a part of Heaven Hill Brands) talks about the operations, his mentorship with Parker Beam, and the recollection of events that took place at the Heaven Hill fire of 1996.

Show Notes:

  • Before we dive into it, people have to know about you. As most people may know, my wife works at HH and I was at the company Christmas party this year where you were honored by spending your 40th year at HH.
  • What has this business taught you?
  • Talk about how you carved your path in HH and who was your mentor and who gave you those lucky breaks?
  • Do you have a favorite memory with Parker?
  • Lots of people like to just call this a tourist center, but this is actually a functioning distillery as well
  • Is it just Evan Williams or a different mash bill are you distilling?
  • How many barrels a day?
  • And you’re about to hit that 4 year mark, what’s the plans for the first few barrels?
  • Talk about the fire of 1996 and where were you
  • Other than amount, what the difference between you here and Denny over at the Bernheim plant
  • Do you often feel like a hamster in a cage?

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