Black Maple Hill 23 Year Old Single Barrel Rye

BLACK MAPLE HILL 23 YEAR OLD SINGLE BARREL RYE

SPIRIT: Rye

VOLUME: 700ml

ABV/PROOF: 47.5/95

AGE: 23 years

Black Maple Hill was a whiskey ahead of its time – and, for that reason, it is among the most coveted today. Created in 2000 by a California-based company called CVI Brands, it was originally sourced and bottled by Julian Van Winkle III at his Commonwealth facility in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The relationship only lasted a few years, because in 2002 Van Winkle shut down his bottling business after moving production of his own line of whiskey to Buffalo Trace.

CVI then switched to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, a pseudonym of the Willett Distillery in Bardstown. At the time, KBD/Willett did not yet make its own whiskey; instead, it owned a vast library of well-aged honey barrels from distilleries across Kentucky, purchased for pennies during the bourbon glut of the previous two decades. Most of it came from Heaven Hill, along with barrels from Barton and Bernheim. It drew on these barrels to bottle for other brands, including Black Maple Hill.

Black Maple Hill was nothing flashy to look at: A wine bottle repurposed for whiskey, with a monochromatic label sporting a hand-drawn forest scene. But the whiskey inside was simply amazing, by reputation some of the best ever bottled, certainly during the heyday of the 2000s, when eager entrepreneurs were buying rich, superannuated bourbons and ryes and selling them for what seems today like pennies (even though, at the time, the $50+ price tags were enough to turn off most buyers).

Black Maple Hill was bottled at different ages, with different wax and label colors to tell them apart: blue/blue for 11 year old, red/brown for 14 year old, and so on, up to 23 years old, the highest, with silver wax and a silver label. All Black Maple Hill bottlings from this era are rare, but the silver, released in 2007, is by far the rarest. 

One reason Black Maple Hill is so rare is that just a few years after CVI started working with Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, the supply began to run out. Demand was growing rapidly for Willett’s own label, Willett Family Estate, and sources of aged stock were dwindling. Black Maple Hill moved first to a no-age-statement, small-batch label, its source unknown, then finally stopped completely. 

Release: Black Maple Hill 23 Year Old Single Barrel Rye

Misc.: The 23-year-old silver wax rye is reportedly from the same batch of Heaven Hill rye that produced that company’s legendary Rittenhouse 21-, 23-, and 25-year ryes.

Collectors’ tips: Black Maple Hill came back to liquor-store shelves in 2014, this time in a new bottle shape and with whiskey made at the Stein distillery in Oregon. While the name and the labels are the same, the whiskey inside bears not the slightest relationship to the original. Collectors should avoid it.

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