I came into the Parker’s Heritage Collection a little late with 2014’s 10-year-old single barrel bourbon. That release was chosen from a particular warehouse favored by then Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, who is sadly no longer with us. I picked up the bottle of what I described as a “flawless bourbon” on my honeymoon. It holds a special place on my shelf… what’s left of it anyway.
Heaven Hill Distillery uses this collection to release one-off experiments. Past bottlings included a blend of mash bills, a malt whiskey, and a cognac-finished bourbon.
The 2018 release, or 12th edition for those counting, is a 7- to 8-year-old bourbon finished in curaçao barrels for four months. The French orange liqueur barrels were provided by Alain Royer, who also provided the cognac barrels for the aforementioned release. This barrel finished whiskey is bottled at 55% ABV, or 110 proof. The suggested retail price is $89.99.
Barrel finishes can complement notes found in a whiskey, but sometimes they overpower the base spirit. The key is to not approach it like a standard whiskey. Barrel finishes are the whiskey equivalent of fusion in cuisine. They take two things that may not normally go together with a “sum is greater than the parts” mindset. Though not always successful, sometimes a release can soar.
This falls in the latter group.
The aromatic nose features heavy notes of orange and vanilla – orange dreamsicle, anyone? A little airtime reveals a bit of oak and a touch of spice. The high ABV offers a full mouthfeel. The flavors, surprisingly, aren’t too sweet. The somewhat strong orange notes take the form of freshly squeezed fruit juice AND slightly charred orange peel. Layers of classic bourbon flavors – light caramel, creamy vanilla, and fresh oak – provide an undercurrent that helps counterbalance the orange quality here. Like on the nose, some cloves and allspice add a little seasoning. The finish is long, with a lingering orange and basil note.
Take this release for what it is – a fun, tasty experiment from a trusted American distillery. I love what this bourbon brings to the table, but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone. There are some bourbon fans who always want to stick to traditional releases, and 2018 Parker’s Heritage is nowhere near traditional. To you I say expand your whiskey horizons. To everyone else, I think you’ll like what’s in the bottle. 8.5/10
Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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