Heaven Hill just sent me a pre-release of the whiskey maker’s latest Parker’s Heritage Collection, a series of four (so far) special releases that are a tribute to its distinguished master distiller Parker Beam. The good news is it’s excellent. The further good news is it will sell for $79.99, far more approachable to the wallet than the prior two releases ($200 and $150 respectively). If there’s any bad news it’s that there will be only 4,800 bottles for distribution in the U.S. as well as internationally.
A 10-year-old, this whiskey is packed with flavor, but doesn’t have the pronounced woodiness that the earlier Parker’s released at 27 years was shouldered with. I found plenty of everything here—sweetness, spice, vanilla, caramel and maple—all layered in a kind of confection.
This year’s Parker’s is a wheated Bourbon from its Bernheim distillery, where Heaven Hill now produces Old Fitzgerald. While Bourbon is typically made with a grain recipe that includes more than 51 percent corn together with a mix of rye and barley, Old Fitzgerald substitutes winter wheat for the rye. That tradition dates to when the legendary Pappy Van Win Winkle owned the label. The Fitzgerald label came to Heaven Hill when it bought the Bernheim facility from United Distillers in 1999 after losing its own Bardstown distillery in a fire in 1996.
As a 10-year-old, the new Parker’s Heritage represents the oldest wheated Bourbon Heaven Hill has produced. (The Very Special Old Fitzgerald 12-year-old is product the company inherited from United Distillers.) The Parker’s Heritage is bottled at a cask strength of 127.8 proof (63.9 percent alcohol) and so has a pronounced tang despite the smoothness that wheat usually implies.
Heaven Hill's whiskies are all aged and bottled in its original facilities in Bardstown. The 52 barrels for this release come from the fourth, sixth and seventh floors of Rickhouse A. Beam says, “It has the caramel and smokes notes that only 10 years in the top floors of our rickhouses can produce.” The distiller adds that it is at this age and proof that a wheated Bourbon shows best.
Appearance: Very dark copper hue. Fat clingy legs.
Nose: Spice, licorice, green coffee bean.
Mouth: Intense flavors right from the licorice at the front of the mouth. As it moves further along the palate, maple and caramel notes develop along with vanilla. Then the distinct impression a cinnamon graham cracker arises as the wheat kicks in.
Finish: This whiskey goes on and on and it’s hard to distinguish where the palate sensations end and the finish begins, as flavors fold over flavors. Spices particularly arrive on the finish.
Note: At this proof it’s no shame to add water or ice. Both open up the whiskey. Water brings out the wheat, ice the spice.
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