Review: Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof

DSR – VA – 024: Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof

Company/Distillery: Hilltop Distillery

Location: Maidens, Virginia

Mash Bill: Undisclosed

Age Statement: No Age Statement

Proof/ABV: 119.4 Proof/59.7% ABV

Color & Viscosity: Viewing this whiskey from the bottle, it presents tawny in color. Poured into the tasting vessel, Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey materializes a light chestnut hue.

Purchase Price: $89.99 – Distillery Only Release

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label





119.4 PROOF | 59.7% ALC/VOL | BATCH NO. 003

Back Label

Distilled & Bottled by Hill Top Distillery in Maidens, Virginia

Distillery Background

Hilltop Distillery

Hilltop Distillery is located in the beautiful rolling hills of Goochland, Virginia just north west of the state capital, Richmond. The distillery, founded by John and Sherry Brockenbrough and their son John in 2018. The Brockenbroughs are native Richmonders with backgrounds in education, mortgage lending, and the Marines. The family caught the bug to learn and pursue the distilling process after multiple vacations to Ireland and Scotland. Shortly after these trips, the idea of Hilltop Distillery was born as the family broke ground on their new Virginia distillery on top of the rolling hills.

In addition to their Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Barrel Proof reviewed here, the distillery also produces Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Hilltop Whiskey, Hilltop Virginia Single Malt Whiskey, Hilltop Maple Flavored Whiskey, Hilltop Vodka, Hilltop White Turtle Gin, Hilltop Coffee Flavored Whiskey, Gooch Hooch Moonshine, Gooch Hooch Apple Pie, Gooch Hooch Lemondrop, Gooch Hooch Blueberry, Gooch Hooch Blackberry, Gooch Hooch Strawberry, and Gooch Hooch Tangerine Moonshine.

If you find yourself in the Goochland area, stop by Hilltop Distillery and pay a visit to John and Sherry. It is a beautiful property and John will make you a delicious cocktail with their spirits while Sherry will tell stories of their past, the relationship between Goochland and the distillery, and how it all began. Check out their hours at the Hilltop website.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: July 13, 2023 – Neat in a Glencairn glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.


Christian: In the bottle, Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof offers significant amounts of brown sugar, vanilla bean, oatmeal, and tobacco. In my Glencairn glass, the whiskey has a very buttery nose. Rich caramel corn and brown sugar are followed by a punch of ethanol. A gentle swirl brings forth sweet caramel candies and cereal grains. I am noticing just a touch of floral notes here. Overall, the nose is sweet and attractive while hiding the 119 proof from overpowering the aromas. The addition of distilled water to this spirit slightly subdues the nose here. Buttery toffee, brown sugar, and honey become the predominant aromas present. An ethanol fueled floral note also remains in the nose.

Mike: Nosing this straight bourbon from the bottle, I detect a freshly opened jar of popcorn kernels followed by a swift transition to light brown sugar notes that eventually fade into room temperature margarine. 

Drawing the glass to my nose reveals subtle hints of pear that yield to soft notes of velvety buttercream icing. Overall, this is a very light and underdeveloped nose from this single barrel whiskey.


Christian: Hilltop Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof has an oily viscous mouthfeel. On my palate I get notes of honey, vanilla, and bitter oak barrel char. A second pass brings out cereal grains, mostly corn and rye spice. I do notice a hint of smokiness combined with a wisp of citrus. Distilled water really balances out the mouthfeel. It becomes almost velvety in texture while remaining full-bodied. A warm flavor profile begins to show up. Brown Sugar, natural leather, and coriander are also present. I believe I am also detecting a little bit of milk chocolate and caramel.

Mike: My first sip of this Hilltop Straight Bourbon razes the palate with young heat. It is very corn forward and simplistic in its flavor profile upfront. After a second sip of this whiskey, I detect a semi-sweetness of fruit medley as it transitions to becoming very dry and bitter mid-palate. The bitterness of dry oak and wood tannin lingers. This is a very immature bourbon, and it shows with each new sip.


Christian: Boy, the finish here is loud, in your face, 119 proof dry heat. The heat begins in the back of the throat and slowly glides all the way down deep into the chest. Flavors of honey and peach try to sneak out from behind the peppery kick of rye spice. Again, a hint of smoke and bitter oak barrel char are present and hang around to make a smoked peach profile. The distilled water takes a little of the punch out of the finish here, allowing the whiskey to be much more approachable. Again, the stone fruit of peach really sweetens up and is just kissed by the essence of smoke and rye peppery spices.

Mike: The oak tannin bitterness lurks into the finish briefly. There is a slight saccharinity present in the back and upper throat before an increasingly exceeding warmth grows in the lower chest region. Faint hints of pome fruits, leaning towards apples or pears, endure after the “Kentucky Hug” fades. Overall, for a nearly 120 proof bourbon, the finish is rather mild.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: This offering from Hilltop Distillery in Maidens, Virginia is a truly interesting pour. In its advertised barrel proof form, the spirit is a little immature, raw, and very much in your face. To me, this whiskey really sings when a few drops of distilled water are added. The sip becomes much more balanced with sweet aromatics that compliment the palate and finish nicely. There is definitely something to be said for purchasing a barrel proof whiskey and adding your own water or ice cube to get it proofed down to your liking, but, at a steep $89 per a bottle I think I would prefer just purchasing the standard small batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Hilltop Distillery. 

I highly recommend stopping in to visit the distillery. The family that runs the operation is welcoming and excited to share their journey and products with you. Enjoy a flight, sampling the many different whiskies and moonshines they have to offer. Then allow them to make you a signature cocktail with one of their spirits. Their wide variety of offerings is sure to have an option that fits your palate! Cheers!

Rating: 2.35 Rickhouses

Mike: This single barrel offering from Hilltop falls flat. It is exceptionally young and lackluster in overall flavor. The price is prohibitive and not indicative of the actual product offered. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I had visited the distillery along with Christian.

Rating: 1.75 Rickhouses



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