Parker’s Heritage Wheat Whiskey

Parker’s Heritage Collection, 8th Edition (2014),
Original Batch Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey Aged 13 years

63.7% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., the country’s largest independent family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer, announces the 2014 limited edition release of Parker’s Heritage Collection. Heaven Hill, who holds the world’s second largest inventory of aging American Whiskey, will be shipping the rarity into selected markets across the country beginning in mid-September and it will hit retail shelves in September and October. The annual release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection bottling, of which this represents the eigth in the series, is always highly anticipated by whiskey lovers worldwide and the bottlings are some of the most lauded and coveted releases of the year.

This year, for the first time, Heaven Hill will be using an American Straight Whiskey style other than Bourbon for the Parker’s Heritage Collection release. The 2014 edition will feature 13-year-old straight wheat whiskey, bottled at cask strength and non-chill filtered. The barrels used for this year’s offering were from the very first run of what later would become Bernheim Original Straight Wheat Whiskey. With a minimum of 51% soft winter wheat in the mashbill or grain recipe, Bernheim is the only straight wheat whiskey produced by a major American distiller and has been available since 2005. For this reason, this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection release has been dubbed “Original Batch Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey”.

The release will be comprised of two small batch dumps, the first of which will be bottled at a robust 127.4° proof or 63.7% alcohol by volume. The cask strength and lack of chill filtering mean the whiskey is bottled much as it came out of the barrel after 13 years of aging on the top floors of Rickhouse Y on the Heaven Hill property in Bardstown. Heaven Hill announced in June that they were repackaging the Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey to add a 7 year age statement, but the additional 6 years of maturation gives the Parker’s Heritage Collection Original Batch Wheat Whiskey even greater complexity and depth. The soft, biscuity profile of Bernheim is tempered with additional oak and char notes, and the finish is long and spicy.

Heaven Hill Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam, for whom the acclaimed series is named, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) several years ago. Last year’s edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection, called the “Promise of Hope” release, raised over $300,000 for the ALS Association’s Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund through a $20 per bottle contribution made by Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill will continue with this cause-related campaign, and will contribute $5 from the average national retail cost of $89.99 for every 750ml bottle sold of this year’s “Original Batch” release to ALS research and treatment. With every past edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection selling out of Heaven Hill’s warehouses, the company expects to generate an additional $65,000 to battle ALS through this year’s edition, which is not as broad a release as last year’s “Promise of Hope” bottling.
This year’s release of Parker’s Heritage Collection promises to be a worthy successor to the previous seven releases, which, having won multiple awards from Whisky Advocate magazine, Whisky Magazine and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, stand as some of the most critically lauded American Whiskeys in recent memory. Past bottlings have won awards ranging from “Best North American Whiskey” to “American Whiskey of the Year” to “Best of Show, Brown Spirits.” As a result, the Parker’s Heritage Collection releases have become some of the most anticipated and sought after bottlings of every new year.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Clearly high-proof; allspice, bit of clove, honey, pound cake and sandalwood. A bit of water helps knock the alcohol down, and brings out more cereal (malted milk?)
Palate: Heat at first, followed by hints of vanilla, cream of wheat (or oatmeal – I get those confused). A bit of water dissipates the heat and leaves a lovely honey-suckle sweetness with cinnamon and baking spices.
Finish: Nice, moderate to long, although a bit dry. Water helps this out as well.
Comments: Like the Bernheim 7 yr Wheat Whiskey, important to have expectations that this is not a bourbon, although there are some similarities. Almost twice as old as the Bernheim 7 yr Wheat Whiskey, I think this whiskey showcases how well the wheat grain takes age without taking on a lot heavy oak characteristics. I diluted some of this to 90 proof (same as Bernheim 7 yr), and there is a marked difference with the added 6 yrs of age (richer, sweeter, wood more evident). To me, this isn’t as woody as a rye bourbon of similar age (say Elijah Craig 12yr). I have had whiskey at 127 proof that is more drinkable and not as hot as this one, but it opens up beautifully with some water.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Whoa, that alcohol punches you in the nose. There are some nice hints of baking spices but the alcohol dominates until you add some water.
Palate: Even at bottle strength this is a delicious palate of vanilla creme brulee and brown sugar & cinnamon oatmeal. A few splashes of water open up a nice honeyed creaminess.
Finish: This is surprisingly smooth at bottling strength with a dry, chalky, woody finish that I’m not too fond of.
Comments: This is definitely a lighter whiskey (not to be confused with “light whiskey”) and I feel that with the age a proof it suffers because of that. It tastes very good, especially if you can get that water ratio just right. However, the nose is too delicate on this wheat whiskey to stand up to the higher proof. It’s a sub 100 proof nose for me. Second, it doesn’t finish well. It doesn’t really matter how I play with the water, the finish just isn’t doing it for me. I’m sure if you are a big Bernheim Wheat Whiskey fan that you will love this but it’s more of niche curiosity than something I think you would have to try or buy.
Rating: Stands Out

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