Parker’s Heritage is a highly respected label from Heaven Hill honoring the late Parker Beam. Each year, a small amount of allocated bottles are released nationwide carrying his name. It joins two other labels from Heaven Hill that celebrate all of the unique whiskies within the arsenal of their vast warehouses. Heaven Hill Select Stock sees unique experiments or highly aged and extremely limited whiskies.
William Heaven Hill sees highly aged bourbons at both cask strength and bottled in bond. But Parker’s Heritage combines aspects of both Heaven Hill Select Stock and William Heaven Hill lines. Sometimes they are extremely old, sometimes they use a finishing barrel, sometimes they use different mashbills (like Wheat Whiskey) and sometimes they experiment with their distillates. Parker’s Heritage Release #14 takes their standard bourbon mashbill and ages it in a Heavy Char (Char #5) barrel.
Heaven Hill normally utilizes a #3 char barrel for all of their whiskies but they wanted to experiment with the effects of charring the barrel even longer. They initially tried this concept last year for Release #13 (rye whiskey aged in heavy char barrels) but it was not well received.
When it was announced that 2020’s release was going to use the same concept, except this time for bourbon, the community held their breath. Aged for 10 years, the hope for this bourbon was that the heavier char would impart a darker and richer profile into the bourbon. So how did it end up? Let’s take a look. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: You can smell the charred oak scent right away. Underneath it is the aroma of musty wood and charred marshmallow. Every scent seems to have a toasted element to it. The vanilla bean scent seems toasted, the toffee seems a little burnt and even the chocolate scent smells a bit scorched. Overall, everything has a very rich and deep scent to it, but in a good way.
Palate: I’m not going to lie, most Heaven Hill whiskies (even lower proofed ones) usually have a roughness about them that may stem from distilling the whiskey to the maximum proof (160) and barreling their whiskey at the maximum barrel proof (125). So I was impressed with the first sip that showed a total lack of harshness (I’m struggling to not use the word “smooth”). Flavors center around loads of char and heavy caramels. Rich vanilla buttercream frosting and some fudge brownie edges with toffee chips also add their weight. Fruits are few and far between with each sip, but I do detect a small amount of cherry cordial flavors. Overall it’s sweet, smoky and very rich.
Finish: Rich, heavy wood flavors dominate on the finish leaving little room for much else to shine through. If anything there may be some cigar box notes followed by a bit of chocolate covered cherries. It feels like every flavor has somehow been condensed even more
This is a really rich and delicious pour. It’s a perfect no-nonsense bourbon that simply blankets your tongue under the heavy flavors and scents. It also tastes much more balanced than a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. In a way, I’d liken PHC #14 to the Lux Row Double Barreled 12 Year Bourbon. They’re both right at the perfect proof where it’s not going to wipe out your tastebuds but won’t dilute any flavors either. It’s just right.
Many people I’ve talked to about this bourbon have opinions that range from either “best bourbon of 2020” to “solid” (which is just a safe word for someone who likes something but can’t describe why they like it and just want to conform). The ones that say that this is the best have vast experience with “dusties” and liken this to the rich, lower proof bourbons of the 50s-70s. The ones that say this is just a solid bourbon often seek out higher proofed bourbons and generally prefer Buffalo Trace products.
I think that the truth lies in the middle. This is an enhanced version of a low-proof Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. No new flavors outside the normal scope of Heaven Hill products are really discovered, but every flavor and scent has the richness turned up to 11.
That’s always been something I think Heaven Hill products desperately need help with. On the flipside, truly “rich” bourbons are hard to find these days ever since the government allowed the barrel entry proof to be increased to 125. Is the answer to that to use a heavier charred barrel? Parker’s Heritage Release #14 ends up making a very convincing argument.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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