Earlier this year, I had some time off and had the privilege of taking a trip to Kentucky. While I had hoped to be able to wind up with a bottle or two of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, one of the most sought after whisky releases in the world, I missed it by a week or so – but found, to my delight, a bottle of Parker’s Heritage Collection. Parker’s Heritage Collection is a highly regarded bourbon which is released once a year from Heaven Hill distillery. Each year, it is produced differently, but consistently is of very high quality. This year, Parker Beam, who has been a master distiller at Heaven Hill for decades, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and consequently the release this year is raising money for ALS research with 20 dollars from each bottle going toward the research.
The whisky is a ten year old bourbon, a single barrel, bottled at 48% ABV. It was selected by Parker Beam and the entire release consists of 100 barrels, from Parker’s favourite warehouse spot.
Nose: Caramel comes on at first, and the whisky seems to take a bit of time to open up. The nose, for sure, is dense and rich. Dark chocolate, a bit of orange citrus, dried apricot, fresh oak, along with some spice. vanilla custard, bread pudding, cream…the wood integration in the whole experience also reminds me a bit of an oak forest, similar to some that I spent some time in when I was in England as a child. It’s not a nose that aggressively dominates but rather is wonderfully subtle, and keeps me interested and interested…27.5/30 (92%)
Taste: A beautiful example of why people describe a whisky as silky. Rich, rye-tinged bourbon enters with caramel softly and then a candy-like rye takes it up a notch. There’s some orange and a tinge of sourness. Pineapple is present throughout, which makes for quite an interesting bourbon experience (also, my favourite fruit!). It’s so smooth and thick that it almost reminds me of custard with the mouthfeel, vanilla, and caramel notes. It’s of such quality that I just want to drink it, drink it, and drink some more – that’s how pleasant it goes down. I like the taste so much that it’s difficult really to spend time nosing it as I just want to taste and taste and taste. So wonderfully light, complex, and thick at the same time. It’s just sweet enough, it’s just creamy enough, it’s just spicy enough. It’s not a bourbon where I find much movement, so to speak – the flavours more of less stay the same throughout as the bourbon. However, the quality of that which doesn’t seem to change requires all that extra time to admire while it makes its home in your mouth. Beautiful balance. 29/30 (97%)
Finish: The palate dries out with some pepper and caramel, and a bit of pineapple. There’s some oak, orange, tree bark, honey, egg pastry, all the while remaining quite sweet. It almost makes your mouth feel empty, for an interesting effect – as if your mouth is trying to figure out life without such a beautiful dram contained within. Overall, it’s a very clean finish – you can still feel the effects of your mouth having been coated with the whisky minutes before. The flavour isn’t overwhelming, but what is there is clean and complex. It makes your mouth water and long to be filled back up with the whisky….it’s oily, and slowly that breaks down and releases dried corn flavours. I find myself licking the insides of my mouth – and I enjoy the subtlety in the finish! 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: It’s quite difficult to have the patience to enjoy a whisky so fully and slowly when it tastes so good, and is so drinkable. The silky and rich character on the palate is absolutely fabulous. I wish the nose were a bit more prominent, and the finish, but the taste is just so fantastic. mmmmm…. what a sublime bourbon experience. For all the experimentation being done with whisky now, all the finishes, all the exploration with oak…it is really great to have a simple, excellent, single barrel bourbon which shows how well a straight bourbon can please. 19/20 (95%)
It’s always interesting because the nose reminds me of the smells in the warehouse I toured at Heaven Hill…while there, it was fairly interesting to note the differences in smell from the angel’s share (the evaporated whisky through the barrels) across the different distilleries when I was in Kentucky this fall. I think the warehouse at Heaven Hill I toured had my second favourite smell of them all, after, surprisingly enough, Jim Beam.
Overall Score: 93.5/100