Have Your Rye and Wheat It Too: Bourbon Gets Master's Treatment

Spirit Reviews

New brands and bottles you should know.


Many great things only happened once a year. Halloween, my birthday, April Fool's Day, and many more I'm sure. In the bourbon world, the annual release of Parker's Heritage Collection rivals any of these as the leading cause for celebration and calendar-marking, with the possible exception of my birthday.

These limited releases from Heaven Hill Distilleries are a tribute to master distiller Parker Beam, featuring hand-selected barrels by Parker himself from the HH catalogue of over 700,000. It's a tough job selecting and releasing a bottle that ends up as a top contender for bourbon-of-the-year lists time after time, but I guess those 50+ years of experience come in handy...

This year's release, the 6th edition, is a blend of two different bourbon mashbills— one rye-based, and one wheated. Selected from 11 year old barrels, blended, and bottled at cask strength without chill filtering, it's a unique offering of what is in a sense a four-grain Kentucky Strength Bourbon Whiskey (corn, malted barley, rye, and wheat). I'm a big fan of advancing the science and marketshare of new approaches to whiskey blends, so this release had me excited even before I cracked open the bottle.

Upon tasting it, I must say, Heaven Hill and Parker Beam have done it again. This year's Parker's Heritage collection is a wonderful bourbon. Bottled at a huge 132 proof, the nose is assertive and snappy. There's almost every scent that you'd expect from a high-quality bourbon, but the cinnamon, oak, and baking spices jump at your nose.

On the palate, and with a fair dash of water, this is thick nectar. So chewy you'll think it's a caramel candy—this is where the blend of mashbills really shines. The sweetness of the corn and the softness of the wheat are held in check by the assertive and spicy rye. But unlike other blends I've recently tried, it isn't a battle where one flavor first dominates and then is replaced by the other. Rather, they're all present at once. If you're at all interested in the future of American whiskey blends, seek this bottle out. (Or try to convince your local bar to buy one and sell you a sip.)

This year's edition is set to hit stores in the next few weeks at a suggested retail price of $80.

Sample provided for review consideration.