Parker’s Heritage Collection

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection Heavy Char Rye Whiskey

Starting this September, the 13th edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection will hit shelves. The 2019 limited edition release from Heaven Hill Distillery is a rye whiskey aged in heavily charred barrels. As with the past few Parker’s Heritage Collection releases, Heaven Hill will contribute a portion of the proceeds from each bottle to the ALS Association in honor of late Master Distiller Parker Beam.

Typically, the distillery utilizes a Level 3 char, but the barrels used in this release saw a Level 5 char. That equates to about 50 seconds more charring compared to a Level 3 char. The distillery states the intense charring allows the whiskey to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave.

The whiskey itself is made from the distillery’s standard rye mash bill and aged eight years and nine months] on the seventh floor of Rickhouse Y. Additionally, this release was bottled at 105 proof and non-chill filtered.

Let’s dig in.

The aromatic nose features a heavy helping of baking spices, including the usual suspects – cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, and cardamom. Those spices are complemented by dark caramel, vanilla bean, and oak as well as toasted rye grain. Dark and spicy, but not overly so. Taste-wise, we’re looking at more of the same. Initial waves of slightly burnt caramel intermingle with oak spice and freshly baked rye bread. Creamy vanilla custard adds weight. Slightly astringent oak tannins grip the back palate and the bittersweet and spicy medium-long finish.

Compared to the distillery’s Pikesville Rye, which is only two years younger, this Heavy Char Rye Whiskey is darker, heavier, spicier, and more oak driven. It’s also about $100 more expensive, priced at $149.99. I really dug my initial casual pour. However, I didn’t find the whiskey as complex as expected when tasted under scrutiny. While I found the heavy char experiment interesting, the resulting whiskey didn’t quite captivate me. The nose was great, but the palate seemed to be missing a bit of vibrancy that would have made all the difference in the world.

As it stands, Parker’s Heritage Collection Heavy Char Rye Whiskey is an interesting, enjoyable whiskey, but is it worth $150? I’d rather grab a pour of the very balanced Pikesville Rye. 7.5/10

Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: 2018 Parker’s Heritage Collection


Photo courtesy of Heaven Hill

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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2017 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon Review

Photo courtesy of Heaven Hill Distillery

Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC), Heaven Hill Distillery’s most anticipated annual whiskey release, is already hitting shelves.  The 2017 release is an 11-year-old single barrel bourbon bottled at 122 proof.  The barrels were chosen from the late Master Distiller Parker Beam’s favorite warehouse location in Deatsville, Kentucky.  This is similar to the 10-year-old single barrel PHC release a few years ago, only with more age and a much higher proof.

Beam passed away earlier this year after a years long battle with ALS, so it is fitting that Heaven Hill honored his legacy with a whiskey Beam would have described as “just good bourbon.”  This edition, like the last few, will see $10 from every bottle sold donated to the ALS Association.

The nose on this whiskey is stunning, showing hints of dark caramel, oak spice, vanilla and dried fruit.  It’s high proof doesn’t close off the nose, so water doesn’t need to be added to fully appreciate the contained aromas.  The entry is spiced toffee and dark fruit, followed by vanilla and more spice.  Sun-baked tobacco and oak appear on the backend.  Though oakier than the aforementioned 10-year-old release, this botting is NOT overoaked.  The long, bittersweet finish features hints of burnt sugar, wood smoke, and oak spice.

It is very rare for me to describe a whiskey as flawless, but that’s how this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection bottling comes across.  Like its younger sibling from a few years back, his 11-year-old is firing on all cylinders.  I do wish this was a barrel-proof release, but 122 proof is close enough.  A beautiful bourbon at a reasonable price, this one comes highly recommended. 9/10
Thanks to Heaven Hill for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.