Reviews posted on consecutive days? It must be National Bourbon Heritage Month! This makes the timing right for the perennial highly-anticipated limited edition Parker’s Heritage Collection from Heaven Hill, which for the first time ever is a Rye Whiskey.
Heaven Hill continues to honor its late Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam while also continuing to support ALS research and patient care with the 2019 release of Parker’s Heritage Collection. Heaven Hill used its standard 51% rye-grain mashbill, but this time the barrels were Level 5 char (instead of level 3, which means an additional 50 seconds of flame) and they were all aged high in the warehouse (7th floor). So, the combination of the heavier char and hottest location in the warehouse should produce a spicier, more oaky whiskey from greater interaction with the barrel. Of course, this limited edition whiskey is non-chill filtered to retain more flavor.
Parker’s Heritage Collection Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Parker’s Heritage Collection, 13th Edition (2019) Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Distillery: Heaven Hill, Bardstown, Kentucky (distilled in Louisville and aged in Bardstown)
Age: 8 years, 9 months
ABV: 52.5% (105 proof)
Brown with a shimmer of gold.
Heavy oak and leather, but wow, there’s a blast of alcohol heat too. While there’s a hint of some cotton candy sweetness, that’s about the only sweetness.
My first impression on the first pour was that it was way too hot neat. The first week I needed to try it on ice, which really improved it for me. It retained its rye spice, oak, and cinnamon, but added a little more balance with vanilla and a mint kicker. I came back for a second pour a week later and the heat had definitely dissipated. During the second week I didn’t add ice and enjoyed it neat with a robust blast of oak, char, pepper, and baking spice for an overall dry, spicy experience. My third and final tasting had the same sort of heat and spice as the first time; I wish that I could have duplicated that middle tasting.
The finish had the same night-and-day difference for me between tastings. During the first week when it seemed too hot, the finish was overshadowed by the burn, but on ice, the finish was warming with caramel sweetness before shifting back to spice and oak for a dry finish. On my second tasting, I never wanted ice or a splash of water; I enjoyed the robust finish that was overall spicy and dry, but it had an almost sherry-cask-finished dark sweetness. My final tasting gave me more of the heat again as a big robust whiskey.
Pikesville Rye is one of my favorite whiskies, so I was hoping for Pikesville on steroids for PHC 13. That’s not really where it landed for me. Kudos to Heaven Hill for including a Rye Whiskey in the Parker’s Heritage lineup and for continuing to support the fight against ALS, but expect some push-back at this price. The proof doesn’t sound high in today’s climate of barrel-proof mania—and Heaven Hill no doubt would have received all kinds of grief if it released PHC 13 under 100 proof—but especially on the first taste it might have been over-proofed. I still don’t understand the chemistry enough to know why some 120 proof whiskies mask their high ABV while other lower-proof whiskies seem to taste so much higher, but regardless, be ready to add a splash of water to PHC 13 or to pour it over ice.
But I also re-learned my lesson about going back for a second try. The tasting experience is influenced by your surroundings, your mood, what you had for dinner, and innumerable other factors. My second try was so much better than the first to the point that I wouldn’t have bought it during the first week whereas I would definitely buy it the second week. My third try was somewhere in between, so I’ll be on the hunt for PCH 13, and I recommend it as a buy for barrel-proof fans, rye fans, and anyone who favors dryness and spice over sweetness in their whiskey.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly sent me a sample
for this review, without any strings attached.