Whiskey Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection 10 Year Old Heavy Char Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Heaven Hill. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

It’s going to be interesting, having you review this,” my editor said as he handed me a sample recently of Parker’s Heritage Collection Heavy Char Bourbon. “But let’s see what happens.”

I don’t like smoke. I don’t like sitting too close to a fire. I don’t do burnouts with my car. I don’t like cigarette smoke—or any other kind. I don’t like smoked cheese or smoked meats. It’s overwhelming, too much, over-the- top gross, as disgusting as cilantro must taste to some like having their mouth washed out with suds or the kid from A Christmas Story who has said the word that is not “fudge.”

But sure: Let’s see what happens.

Parker’s Heritage Collection is part of Heaven Hill Distillery, known for its many whiskey brands including Larceny, Old Fitzgerald, Pikesville, and Elijah Craig. The name of the brand I’m reviewing honors the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2010. Each year of this collection, from 2013 to 2019, has together raised more than $1 million toward ALS research and patient care: Heaven Hill contributes a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle. They will be doing the same thing with this 2020 edition.

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The 2020 edition of the Parker’s Heritage Collection uses Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mash bill of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye—but they age it in “Level 5” heavy char barrels. Usually their bourbon is aged in Level 3, if that gives you an idea of scale The extra char is said to intensify the flavors of the bourbon by allowing the liquid to penetrate deeper into each barrel.

Wondering about the different levels of char? I was! Luckily, Paste magazine offers a good description of the various points. A #1 char only exposes the barrel to flame for 15 seconds, and a #2 char for 30 seconds; both are usually used only as finishing barrels for experimental whiskies. A #3 char, fired up for 40 seconds, is the standard char level for many commercial distillers such as Brown-Forman, Jim Beam, and Michter’s. Left under a flame for about 50-60 seconds brings a #4 char, employed by brands such as Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey. After 90 seconds, you arrive at char level #5, utilized by this whiskey.

Parker’s Heritage Collection 10 Year Old Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker’s Heritage Collection 10 Year Old Heavy Char Bourbon (image via Heaven Hill)

Tasting Notes: Parker’s Heritage Collection 10 Year Old Heavy Char Bourbon

Vital Stats: Aged 10 years; mash bill of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye; bottled without chill filtration at 120 proof; about $120.

Appearance: Polished cherrywood. Dark amber but with a lean toward the orange family. Fresh-baked pumpkin muffins.

Nose: Smooth, not jagged. Nothing acrid, which I appreciate. A little sweet. Brown sugar. Fig Newtons. Dates.

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Palate: Aha! I really like this! Where there is fire, there is…not smoke. And hooray for that. This tastes not at all like burning. It only brings sweetness, and a light and balanced one at that. Cherries. Shortbread. But not too light; there’s depth, and a richness and lushness—but it sidesteps being too too. There’s something very desserty about this, but not overbearing like many ports can be. So well-balanced! Nice job. Well done. And I love that part of the proceeds go to charity; in a year like 2020, more brands should be doing stuff like this.

My name is Carin Moonin, and I approve this whiskey.

The Takeaway


Think about this whiskey like an extremely pleasant road trip companion: someone with whom there are no awkward silences, only comfortable ones. You enjoy the same music and the same snacks. You don’t even mind when traffic slows you down, because it means more time with this person. Is it worth its MSRP price $120? Yes. I’d recommend.

User Rating 3.14 (28 votes)