Welcome to Shelf Sleepers, our semi-regular guide to the best booze nobody is buying. This time: Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label, a bottle whiskey conspiracy theorists believe is only made for in-the-know Kentuckians.
A little over an hour into Fred Minnick's sub-$15 bourbon taste-off, Minnick, prolific bourbon reviewer, personality, host and author, had narrowed a field of dozen bottom-shelf bourbons to just one.
"Let me make sure I didn't fuck this up on the blind tasting. You never know," Minnick said, checking the sticker on the bottom of a Glencairn glass. He pulled the sticker off and flashed it in front of the camera. "Green."
Out of a field that included Buffalo Trace Distillery's Benchmark and Ancient Age bourbons, Very Old Barton, Old Charter and Heaven Hill's own Evan William's Black Label, Minnick landed on Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label. What the hell is that?
Green Label is from Heaven Hill Distillery, makers of Evan William's, Elijah Craig, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, Henry McKenna and other brand whiskeys. It's a 6-year-old, 90 proof, roughly $12 product, making it perhaps the best value — from an age-price perspective, at least — you can buy. As far as I (and Minnick) can tell, the bottle receives zero marketing dollars and, if you check Heaven Hill's own website, may as well not exist (they've even reserved a place for another venerable bottom-shelf hero, Mellow Corn, but not Green Label).
According to Minnick, it's only available in Kentucky, Heaven Hill's homestate. He says the owners of the distillery, the Shapira family, always keep a bottle of it in their homes.
"I've always wondered why is it that they always have a 6-year age statement on a Kentucky-only product at 90 proof, and I think I know why — that's what they buy," he said.
Heaven Hill Distillery aren't strangers to absurd value whiskey. Before its 2019 refresh, Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond — called White Label at the time — was another shelf sleeper. The Bottled-in-Bond whiskey was another sub-$15 juggernaut, available only in Kentucky (it earned the nickname "Gift to Kentucky" because of the absurdly low price).
Elsewhere on the internet, Green Label is heaped praise on.
"The next time I find my self in Kentucky I will be buying a case if they don’t discontinue this one too," writes a review on Bourbon for the Masses. "At just $12.99 a bottle, a case of Heaven Hill Green Label will be joining me on the ride home to Alabama. It is better tasting and more enjoyable that other bourbons I have had a several times the cost," Reddit user LesterMaddox wrote in a review earlier this year. Someone by the name of Bill (just Bill) on the website Modern Thirst wrote that there is no bourbon better at the price point.
As mentioned, finding a bottle (or case) will likely entail a trip to bourbon's home turf. There are reports of bottles appearing in other markets (online booze retailer Casker's lists nearly two dozen states), but as far as we know the only legal distribution occurs in Kentucky (Minnick says bottles of it occasionally creep outside the state through less-than-legal means). Hunt it down before it meets the same fate as its Bottled-in-Bond predecessor.