There are certain releases in the Bourbon and Whiskey arena each year that generate a ton of buzz. The obvious Pappy release leads the pack, but the Four Roses Limited Editions, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and Buffalo Trace Antique collection come to mind. Another release that sits high in that list is the annual Heaven Hill release of Parker’s Heritage Collection.
Previously, Parker’s Heritage has been bourbon, with most being cut to 90 or 100 proof, with the exception of 4th release, which was wheated bourbon that came out in barrel proof form around 2010 when the Pappy craze was just blowing up. This time, Heaven Hill threw us all a curve ball and decided to really showcase what their wheat whiskey mash can be.
Wait…wheat whiskey? That’s right. You may be familiar with Bernheim, Heaven Hill’s 51% wheat whiskey that comes off light and sweet on the palate, and is a very enjoyable sipper.
While there are a few other distillers producing wheat whiskey, such as Masterson’s, Heaven Hill’s Bernheim is really the pack leader here. Unlike others, it is made exactly as if it was bourbon, with the exception of the mash bill percentages. It’s 51% soft winter wheat, 39% corn, and 10% barley. But, like bourbon, it is aged in new, charred oak barrels, and now is even age stated at 7 years.
It’s really a very interesting liquor. Hold a glass of it side-by-side with Masterson’s and you’d wonder if they’re even both whiskey. Masterson’s is so pale in color that it might be mistaken for lemonade. Bernheim is the deep, golden color of bourbon
So it was to some trepidation and some excitement that the bourbon world eagerly awaited the release of this year’s PHC. And what’s not to like? It’s cask strength. It’s 13 years old, making it the first barreling of the Bernheim stock. $10 of each purchase goes straight to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research in honor of the line’s namesake, Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam, who suffers from ALS. Sounds like a winner to me.
- Producer/Distiller: Heaven Hill
- Distilled at: Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, KY
- 63.7% ABV (127.4 Proof)
- Age: 13 Years
- Mash Bill: 51% Wheat, 39% Corn, 10% Barley Malt
- Price Paid: $120 at the Evan Williams experience Gift Shop ($90 MSRP)
- Availability: Extremely Limited
The bottle itself matches previous Parker’s Heritage Collection bottles. It’s cordial-like cylindrical bottle with cream label and black foil. The Parker’s heritage Collection Logo is prominently displayed above the label. Very Attractive. The Evan Williams Experience went a step further and packaged it into a very nice canvas bag with the Heaven Hill logo and…surprisingly….the words “Kentucky Bourbon” on it tied with a black ribbon. Odd, considering this isn’t bourbon. But that’s nitpicking. Clearly, the bags are meant for any of their top shelf purchases at the gift shop, and this one just happened to be something other than bourbon. Still a very neat package.
Surprisingly dark, speaking to its 13 years of age. Caramel-brown and murky. Made me anxious to rip into it.
This one has TONS of burnt caramel, brown sugar, baking spices, cloves and cinnamon.
PHC starts out with a concentrated sweetness on the tip of the tongue. Loads of caramel goodness followed with sticky honey and cloves. The back of the tongue begins to get burnt brown sugar and is hit with a pleasing and powerful rush of oak and tannins. This one is mostly flavor forward, with the tingling in front and middle of the mouth rather than the back. That’s the wheat speaking. This is tongue-coating at its finest.
Long, sweet, satisfying, this one lingers in the mouth with oak and more of that cinnamon spice throughout.
I’m impressed. Really impressed. It’s so bourbon-like that it could be mistaken for a wheated bourbon if you didn’t see the label, but there’s just enough extra wheat punch to really make this unique and interesting like few other recent releases.
Hats off to Heaven Hill for really doing something different here. The real kicker is the cask strength format. It changes the entire feel and flavor of this mash bill into something big, robust, and impressive. I recommend drinking this one straight, if you can handle the alcohol burn. If not, a splash of distilled water does really well in the glass, as it opens up the aromas ever so slightly.
In the end, this is an epic release, and is likely one that collectors will be scrambling to load up on for future enjoyment. So if you find it, get it. You won’t be disappointed.
ModernThirst.com score: 95 out of 100 Points
2014 Modern Thirst Whiskey of the Year
The ModernThirst.com scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.
- Appearance: 15 points
- Nose: 25 Points
- Palate/Taste: 35 Points
- Finish: 25 points
- 95+ Epic
- 90-94 Excellent, Good representative of its style
- 85-89 Solid sipper
- 80-84 Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
- 75-79 Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
- <75 Rot Gut, avoid