Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The Parker's Heritage Collection -- fine whiskeys from Heaven Hill's warehouses, selected by Mister Beam himself -- has put forth some real beauties lately, like this one. But this year, the Collection backs down from the extreme -- amazing -- age of the the last two (and backs down in price quite a bit, too), bringing us a 10 year old bottling of those first runs of wheated bourbon. This sample is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 127.8° of barrel proof, and it's just drinkable at full strength, which is pretty impressive. I know, I know...you guys can all drink uncut Stagg, whatever. I'm talking about a seriously overproof whiskey that you can actually drink without wincing.
So what do I get when I do? Sweet youthful corn, King syrup, sweet grass, and just a touch of mint make up the nose. The whiskey is overproof hot, but yields oak spice, cornbread, vanilla, and more mint on the end. Let's be smart and add some water. Much the same, without the heat; more enjoyable, good balance. You know...I screwed up and added too much water, and this whiskey didn't fall apart. Good sign.
I'm tasting it with some other wheated bourbons, like Very Special Old Fitzgerald (which I reviewed ten years ago here), Maker's Mark, Weller Antique, and a 19 year old W.L. Weller from Sazerac's Antique Collection. Let's make some comparisons. The VSOF (12 years old and 90° proof; made at Bernheim, but not by Parker) is richer, but simpler at the same time: the sweetness is more pronounced. Maker's Mark is the sweetest of the lot, though it still holds up well at around 6 years of age. Weller Antique has more of the overproof bite at 107° proof and about 7 years of age; the wood is a bit more forward on the higher proof, but I still love this one. The 19 year old Weller, though, doesn't hold up well in this relatively young company, tasting decidedly old and woody.
Back to the Parker's...decided difference here. I'm recalling that Parker likes them "high and dry," from the hotter floors, not sappy, with a firm wood note. It's here, and I think they caught it before it got too big. That's really pretty nice right at full-bore.
There's a similarity (not to say 'sameness'!) among these whiskeys, and it's not a lack of rye spice, but rather a firm sweetness; not sugary, but like that King syrup, or light molasses, a more mature sweetness. I should have maybe trotted out the bottle of Bernheim...maybe another night. I do think you'll like this one. I do.