Whiskey Review: Parker’s Heritage (2017)

It’s a poignant year for the Parker’s Heritage collection. Earlier this year, Parker Beam, Heaven Hill’s sixth-generation master distiller, passed away after suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gherig’s disease) for six years.

Rather than retreat to the private sphere after his diagnosis, Parker and his family used their influence in the bourbon industry to call attention to the disease and support treatment and research efforts. One of the ways they did that was to partner with Heaven Hill to use the Parker’s Heritage Collection of limited-edition single-barrel bourbons to raise money.

The Parker’s Heritage Collection was first introduced in 2006, and was designed to showcase a distinctive limited-edition single-barrel whiskey each year. Past expressions have run the gamut, from 24-year-old bourbon to straight wheat and malt whiskeys, and they’ve been popular. Between 2013 and 2016, sales of Parker’s Heritage bourbon raised more than half a million dollars for ALS research and patient care.

In the wake of Parker’s death, Heaven Hill appears to be continuing the effort. This year’s release is an 11-year-old bourbon from Parker’s “favorite rickhouse location,” Deatsville. It’s bottled at 122 proof and non-chill filtered. Heaven Hill will donate $10 from each bottle sold to the ALS Association.

The press sample I received gives even more detail about the origin of the whiskey; It’s from barrel number 5027255, originally distilled on April 10, 2006. It was stored in rickhouse DD on floor 6, rick no. 39.

Heaven Hill 2017 Parker's Heritage Collection

Tasting Notes: Parker’s Heritage Collection 2017 11-Year-Old Bourbon

Vital Stats: 11 years old, 122 proof. Single barrel release. Suggested retail pricing $129.99.

Appearance: Dusky chestnut 

Nose: At first, the nose appears a little bit closed—soft vanilla and cream soda atop a deep backdrop of polished oak. After a few minutes, a richer, darker side begins to reveal itself. There’s char and smoke, caramel and dark spice, and just-the-right-edge-of-burnt popcorn, like a wood-powered kettlecorn machine. A little more nosing reveals a gentle suggestion of something fruity—concord grape, maybe?—and a warm note of sandalwood. A few drops of water increases the amplitude of the aroma, bringing out dill, fruit salad, and toasted grain. 

Palate: Deeply roasty, with lovely rich notes of char, roasted corn, citrus pith, sandalwood, toasted nuts, leather, and smoke. The finish is long and warming, with a nice raisin-like quality.

Again, a little water opens up things considerably, bringing out some sweetness as well as bitter orange, lemon zest, more caramel and spice, and an almost sherried nuttiness. It reminds me a little of a Manhattan cocktail made with amaro instead vermouth.

The Takeaway

Powerful, elegant, complete, and intentional, this bourbon isn’t flashy, but the marketing materials are spot on: “The sixth-generation Master Distiller would have described these bottles as ‘just good bourbon.’” A fitting tribute to a lost friend from Heaven Hill.

4.5
User Rating 3.67 (15 votes)
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About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.