Whisky Magazine Issue 24
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Stuart Maclean Ramsay meets Heaven Hill Distillery President Max L Shapira to find out how they keep it in the family and preserve tradition at one of America's premier bourbon producers
The sharpest tack in the box”. That is how a fellow blue blood bourbon distiller describes Max L. Shapira, President of Heaven Hill Distilleries. Founded in 1935 by Gary, Ed, George, Mose and David Shapira, the company operates today under the direction of second generation family member Max Shapira. Harry Shapira, Max's cousin, is Vice-President-Treasurer.
Heaven Hill is America's largest independent, family-owned marketer and producer of distilled spirit products. It is the second largest holder of ageing bourbon whiskey in the world, with more than 600,000 barrels currently ageing in its traditional, ironclad warehouses in and around Bardstown, Kentucky. The inventory accounts for approximately 17% of the world's future supply of bourbon. The company sells bourbon in nearly 40 countries around the world and employs close to 400 people in Bardstown and Louisville. Its storage, bottling and distribution, as well as sales and marketing offices, occupy the same farmland in Bardstown once owned by the company's namesake, William Heavenhill. In 1999, the company bought the historic Bernheim Distillery in Louisville from Diageo PLC, and this facility is the sole location for the production of its bourbons.
Heaven Hill's portfolio of specialty bourbons includes three whiskies that belong in the cabinet of every serious drinker: Elijah Craig 12-year-old, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage and Very Special Old Fitzgerald 12-year-old. In addition, the company distills Henry McKe...