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Friday, September 7, 2007

Parker's Heritage Collection, First Edition

Heaven Hill has some great old whiskeys tucked away deep in the recesses of their 49 rickhouses; they are, as they'll take care to remind you, "the world's second-largest holder of aging American Whiskey with over 700,000 barrels." They've been releasing little dribs and dabs of that huge storehouse, but they've let me get an advance taste of the first of a series of bottlings of rare, aged whiskeys (and remember: Heaven Hill has rye and wheated bourbons, rye whiskey, aged corn whiskey, and of course, the Bernheim wheat whiskey in those rickhouses) that they're going to be issuing, a series they're calling Parker's Heritage Collection, a tribute to their master distiller, Parker Beam.

I have a deep respect for Parker's abilities as a master distiller, surpassed only by my respect for his abilities at selecting special barrels for bottlings like this. He's proved that ability year after year with the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage bottlings, masterful whiskeys that line one shelf here at home (and for those of you who bitterly resent "all that free whiskey you get," I buy at least two bottles a year of this stuff, for myself and for friends).

This new bottling lives up to that reputation...and then some, a clear contender for my Whiskey of the Year. I'll quote: "This first edition...will be a cask-strength ['s bourbon. Anything wrong with "barrel-proof"?] 1996 bourbon that has mellowed over 48 Kentucky seasons on the fifth floor of Rickhouse Y in Bardstown. The bottling was drawn from a lot of 68 carefully selected barrels, which were dumped in three "very small batches" of 22, 22, and 24 barrels each. The bourbon is then dumped at barrel-proof [there we go!] marking the first time that Heaven Hill has released a barrel-proof bourbon in the U.S. This cask-strength whiskey will only fill about 6,400 750 ml bottles, and the proofs of the three batches range from 122.6 to 130.9... Parker Beam...personally selected these barrels for their superb nose, robust flavor and long smooth finish."

That's great, but how is it? Fantastic. I'm nosing some right now, and while the heat's definitely there (I got some of the 122.6 batch), it's not burning my nose. Plenty of vanilla, sweet burnt sugar, a drying hint of oak. The flavors puddle and linger on the tongue and soar and loft in the palate: sweet corn, hot vanilla, a touch of cinnamon and a crisp fleeting peppery note, and a long, lingering finish that twists through sweet notes of maple and corn, spicy oak dryness, and the solid authority of overproof whiskey. Mighty fine stuff indeed. Hats off to Parker Beam.


Anonymous said...

I'll keep my eyes open for this, I just found Clear Creek Sigle Malt locally!

I would have bought it but I had already gotten a bottle of Jim Beam Rye and one of Svedka Vodka. Next pay period, I'm looking forward to the Clear Creek, you wrote a very postive article about it.

Now I've tried thre Dogfish head Vodka and enjoyed it, but for my money I like the Svedka, its really smooth and has a nice clear finish.

Have you tried the Svedka, Lew? I'd like to hear your opinion on it.

Lew Bryson said...

Haven't had the Svedka; don't even remember seeing it, hell of a lot of vodkas out there!

I think the Parker's is going for about $80 a bottle.

Anonymous said...


I like it when you mix in a nice whiskey piece. Sometimes Seen Through a Glass solely to be a beer blog...I know your expertise and passions reach a lot further and it is nice to see it here.

If only you liked gin more!

Anonymous said...

Any ETA on these bottles and moreover...the approx. $? 6400 bottles sounds like $$$$$. Any rate...sounds marvelous. Bring some to the Kennett Fest.


Lew Bryson said...

I'm working on gin, Matt, and I'm getting there, but it's still not something I feel competent commenting on. I'd like to get more whiskey pieces in the blog, and there will be this week: I'm going to be blogging from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, starting Friday.

Lew Bryson said...


Projected price is $80 a bottle. Up there, for bourbon, but it sure is good. But you won't see me at Kennett, you rabble-rouser: I'm going to the World Beer Festival in Durham, doing a seminar on dark beers. Maybe next year...

Kathy said...

I'm fairly sure that Wisconsin's Tyranena Brewing uses Heaven Hill barrels to age a few of their beers. I believe one's being brewed this week that'll eventually go in the barrels, though I'm not at liberty to say what style it will be. :)

Whiskyman442 said...

I just saw it on the shelf at Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs. I've been good, maybe Santa will get it for me, otherwise I'll have to get one myself!