United States

Heaven Hill Distilleries

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill

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Shortly after Prohibition ended in the United States, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., was founded in Bardstown, Kentucky by the Shapira family to produce and market Bourbon and premium American whiskeys. At the time, it was as speculative a new business venture as the dot com start-ups of the 1990's -- a company founded with no brands, no available stocks of whiskey, and at the height of the Great Depression. Today, the company has overcome these initial challenges and grown to become the largest independent, family-owned producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the country. According to industry analysts, Heaven Hill is now the seventh largest spirits supplier in the United States and is the second largest holder of aging Bourbon whiskey in the world with an inventory in excess of 675,000 barrels.

Over the last two decades Heaven Hill has moved beyond its traditional focus on American whiskeys to become a broadly diversified spirits supplier. Heaven Hill's portfolio includes both domestically produced products, such as Evan Williams Bourbon and Christian Brothers Brandy, as well as a growing line of selected imported brands from around the world, such as Hpnotiq Liqueur and Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch. Brands are identified and developed to take advantage of the many varied consumer tastes that exist in the vast U.S. distilled spirits market. These brands are then sold on a national basis through an innovative and aggressive marketing and sales organization under a concept that is unique to the industry.

With an already robust business in the United States, Heaven Hill has now mounted an aggressive international expansion plan, forming partnerships with like-minded companies throughout the world. Heaven Hill has established its brands in over 40 countries throughout Europe, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Central and South America.

The company's success is based on the fact that it is large enough to market brands aggressively in the United States and throughout the world, yet small enough to care about every brand and be responsive to the needs of every customer. Heaven Hill's formula for growth begins with the commitment to support its current portfolio of brands, while continuing to diversify by adding new products through internal development, agency relationships and acquisitions. Throughout its product line, Heaven Hill offers a competitive advantage by emphasizing unique characteristics like extra aging, superior quality, innovative packaging and uncompromised craftsmanship. Whether it is a Bourbon from Kentucky's First Distiller, such as Evan Williams, or a Gin first produced by the Lord Mayor of London, such as Burnett's, Heaven Hill products enjoy heritage, history and an unexcelled reputation.

In stark contrast to the unpredictable and ever-consolidating spirits industry, Heaven Hill remains fiercely independent, guided by the steady hands of the Shapira and Homel families. The company is dedicated to establishing long-term relationships with their customers in order to build strong brands and implement consistent, effective programming. Heritage, stability and dedication define Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., a company committed to producing and marketing the highest quality spirits products worldwide.

Company Timeline

1783 -- William Heavenhill is born 'during an Indian raid which was being waged, under the cliffs near Rowan Creek' at the site of present day Heaven Hill Distilleries.
1783 -- Evan Williams sets up his distillery on the banks of the Ohio in Louisville at what is now 4th Street, thereby becoming Kentucky's First Distiller.
1789 -- Rev. Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister and farmer who had immigrated to Kentucky from Virginia, experiences a fire in his barn where he stores whiskey barrels. Putting his new whiskey in the burnt barrels anyway, Craig soon discovered that the whiskey would age better in the charred barrels, picking up color and flavor, and earning Craig the title of the 'Father of Bourbon.'
1837 -- Henry McKenna arrives in Kentucky from his native County Derry, Ireland. He sets up his distillery in Fairfield in 1855 where he begins producing his eponymous Bourbon, known as 'Kentucky's Finest Table Whiskey.'
1870 -- John E. Fitzgerald introduces his 'private label' Bourbon, Old Fitzgerald, available only on rail and steamship lines and private clubs.
1934 -- Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., originally known as 'Old Heavenhill Springs' distillery, is founded by a group of Bardstown-area investors and the five Shapira brothers, David, Ed, Gary, George and Mose. The company has 12 employees at the time of its founding.
1935 -- Barrel #1 is filled on December 13. Bourbon Falls is the company's first label.
1942 -- Harry Homel sells his interest in the Jim Beam Company and forms an association with the Shapira family. Heaven Hill, and many other distilled spirits production plants, are shut down during World War II and work with the government to produce alcohol for the war effort.
1946 -- Earl Beam leaves the Beam Company to succeed his cousin, Harry Beam, as Heaven Hill's Master Distiller.
1971 -- Current Heaven Hill president Max L. Shapira joins the family business.
1973 -- Current Heaven Hill executive vice president Harry J. Shapira joins the family business.
1979 -- Current president of Heaven Hill Sales Company Jeffrey S. Homel joins the family business.
1982 -- Parker Beam's son and current Heaven Hill Master Distiller Craig Beam joins the family business.
1996 -- George Shapira, last surviving member of the five founding brothers, passes away.
1999 -- Heaven Hill acquires the historic Bernheim Distillery, The Christian Brothers Brandies, and the Old Fitzgerald Bourbon brand.
2000 -- Heaven Hill acquires the full line of Whaler's Flavored Rums.
2001 -- Current Heaven Hill Director of Marketing Strategy Kate Shapira Latts and her husband, Director of Corporate Planning Allan Latts, join the family business.


Heaven Hill Distilleries enjoys the distinction of being America's largest independent family-owned spirits producer and marketer. The idea of family is a guiding principal at Heaven Hill, providing continuity of leadership and consistency of mission in every part of our business. Three families in particular have been instrumental in the founding and success of the company--the Shapira family, the Homel family, and the Beam family.

The Shapira Family

Since the company was founded in 1934, the Shapira family has been a steady hand at the helm of Heaven Hill, through three generations and a multitude of changes to the industry. From the time the five founding brothers began the company after Prohibition, to its growth and diversification under second generation family members Max and Harry Shapira, to its current position as an acknowledged industry leader, Heaven Hill has always taken great pride in being family run. It has grown to be the nation's largest independent family-owned producer and marketer of distilled spirits products. And with its third generation of family management now in place with Max Shapira's daughter Kate S. Latts and her husband Allan Latts, the company's unique position in the industry is assured well into the future.

Heaven Hill, under the three generations of Shapira family leadership, has steadily built the business through internal brand development, line extensions, agency relationships and strategic acquisitions. Now the country's seventh largest spirit supplier, much of the growth has come during Max Shapira's tenure as president. Returning to his family business in 1971 after a period on Wall Street, Max has overseen a period of dynamic expansion in an often-turbulent industry climate.

With an impressive portfolio of merchandisable brands in every category and strong long-term relationships within their channels of distribution, the third generation of the Shapira family is well positioned to continue and expand Heaven Hill's unique position in the distilled spirits industry.

The Homel Family

After founding the James B. Beam Distilling Co. with two partners shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, Harry Homel sold his interest in the Beam Company and formed an association with the Shapira family at Heaven Hill in the mid-1940's. Traveling the country for months at a time, Harry Homel set up a nationwide network of wholesalers to sell Heaven Hill's products.

Continuing the tradition at Heaven Hill and the close association between the Shapira and Homel families, Harry's son Leonard followed in his footsteps to direct the sales efforts for Heaven Hill.

In 1979, Leonard's son Jeff became the third generation of the Homel family to join Heaven Hill. The sales organization has been under his direction since 1989, during which Heaven Hill has grown to become one of the country's leading spirits suppliers.

The Beam Family

For over a quarter-century, Heaven Hill Distilleries' seventh-generation Master Distiller, Parker Beam, has been practicing his family's craft for distilling, aging and selecting some of the world's most critically-acclaimed Bourbons.

Today, Parker is joined by his son Craig, who works alongside his father in much the same way as Parker did years before with his father, Earl. Together, the two are responsible for making sure that the Bourbon that is produced at the Bernheim Distillery possesses the same high quality and consistent taste consumers have come to expect from Heaven Hill's Bourbon portfolio.

Park Beam, Parker's grandfather and namesake, was the brother of James Beauregard Beam, better known as 'Jim' Beam. It was Parker's father, Earl, who was the first to ply his trade at Heaven Hill. Earl, in turn, officially turned the title of Master Distiller over to Parker in 1975. In doing so, Parker became the seventh generation Beam to achieve such a lofty title. With Craig Beam now entrenched in the business of distilling, the family's continued legacy of making Bourbon is assured. Parker Beam first began working at Heaven Hill in 1960 while Craig began work with the company in 1982.

Key Facts

  • Heaven Hill Distilleries is America's largest independent, family-owned producer and marketer of distilled spirits.
  • Heaven Hill is America's seventh largest supplier of distilled spirits.
  • Aging in its facilities is the second largest inventory of aging Kentucky whiskey in the world, with over 675,000 barrels. This accounts for nearly 17 percent of the world's future supply of Bourbon.
  • Heaven Hill has filled over 4.5 million barrels of Kentucky Bourbon since it was founded after the repeal of Prohibition.
  • Heaven Hill produces its whiskeys at the historic Bernheim Distillery, which has the designation of being Kentucky Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) #1.
  • Among other brands, Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams, America's second largest selling Bourbon, Elijah Craig, the original Small Batch Bourbon, and Old Fitzgerald, a wheated Bourbon with a storied history.
  • In addition to fine Bourbons, Heaven Hill's diverse brand portfolio includes products in every distilled spirits category, including The Christian Brothers Brandies, Hpnotiq Liqueur, Burnett's Gin and Vodka and Whaler's Rum.
  • Heaven Hill also imports fine spirits from all over the world, serving as licensed US agents for such renowned brands as Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch, O'Mara's Irish Country Cream, El Conquistador 100% Blue Agave Tequila, Lazzaroni Amaretto and Ansac Cognac.

Pictures gallery

The five Shapira Brothers, founders of Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., filling Bourbon Barrel # 500,000 on Sept. 30, 1955. Left to right, Ed Shapira, Associate Charlie DeSpain, David Shapira, Mose Shapira, George Shapira and Gary Shapira.

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Last modified: Marz 7, 2010 Created by Petr Hloušek
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