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Friday, March 11, 2016

When Heaven Hill Goes Malt: Parker's Heritage Collection 9th Edition, 8 year old Straight Malt Whiskey

Released annually by Heaven Hill, the Parker's Heritage whiskies are a tribute to Master Distiller Parker Beam.  Since Mr. Beam was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a portion ($5) of each bottle sold gets donated to the ALS Promise Fund.  Meanwhile, the whiskies themselves have become big time collectors' items, fetching big money on the secondary market.  It would be nice if the flippers who sell their bottles for 3x the MSRP would also donate at least $5 to the ALS Promise Fund for each bottle they sell, but since they don't, fuck 'em.

Most of the previous editions were experimental bourbons, some super old, some super strong, some wheated, and some were mashbill mixes.  (The eighth edition was a wheat whiskey. Thank you, Richard for catching that.)  This ninth edition is a Straight Malt Whiskey.  Like a Straight Rye whiskey, a Straight Malt Whiskey (something rarely seen) must have 51% of its mashbill be its listed grain, thus malted barley in this case.  The mashbill used by Heaven Hill here was 65% malted barley and 35% corn.  It was distilled by Craig Beam, Parker's son, in late 2006.

I'd like to thank Mr. WSKY-CVLT (aka Dirty Uncle Mike) -- the rare man who actually opens his bottles and drinks them --for this sample.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Parker's Heritage
Region: Louisville, Kentucky
Type: Straight Malt Whiskey
Age: 8 years old, distilled in 2006
Maturation: New American oak
Mashbill: 65% malted barley, 35% corn
Alcohol by Volume: 54%

Color -- Glendronach

Nose -- It starts with pinesap, lemon-scented Mr. Clean, freshly sliced ginger, and eucalyptus.  But at the same time it does the candy shop note more successfully than Glenmorangie Milsean.  Minor notes include caramel, new tar, and melon rind.

Palate -- MINT.  Mint leaves, mint toothpaste, and crème de menthe.  Some white fruits and chocolate thrown in for good measure.  Simultaneously it shows off an alternate personality: oaky bourbon.  Vanilla, caramel, and cherry candy.

Finish -- Cocoa melts into milk chocolate.  Add in the mint and we get Andes candies.  It grows sweeter with time, and has an occasional bitter nudge that matches up with tart limes.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Nose -- It gets a little malty and salty.  A little bit of the pine and caramel remain.  And here comes the mint.

Palate -- At turns malty and bourbon-y.  The mint tones down.  Cherry candy and wood pulp get louder.  An growing bitterness appears.

Finish -- Good length.  Less sweet.  A coffee bitterness and just a whisper of mint.  A new sourness.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Nose -- Spearmint candy canes with a little chocolate in the background.  Clean malt underneath.

Palate -- Mint extract.  A weird bitterness arrives, towing behind it a slight soapiness.

Finish -- Minty metallic soap.

What a strange whiskey.  The nose works really well, with or without water.   But the neat palate tastes like some odd bourbon cocktail.  It straightens out with a little bit of water, but then falls apart as more water is added.  The finish works best when neat, but (like the palate) it crumbles at 40%abv.  Yesterday, Josh from Sipology mentioned that the mint character can be found in other Heaven Hill products (see the tweets here) so that helped me understand those curious notes.

I'm thankful to have had an opportunity to try this since the stuff is neither fish nor fowl.  It was a unique experience and the whiskey deserves points for that.  Because of its quirks, I thought it best to list some other opinions of the whiskey:

--For a variety of takes here are those by the LAWS guys.  'Fuji' is one of the few folks who found the mint note too.
--For a mixed review see Red, White, and Bourbon.
--For a positive review, see The Whisky Jug's post.
--Axis of Whisky found a bit of mint in it too, but liked it more than I.
--And Whisky Advocate gave it an 84, which I think translates into D- in their system.

Apparently I'm the only one who got bugged out about the minty intensity.  So take that fact as you'd like.  It's very cool that Heaven Hill released an experimental American malt with some age on it.  I hope other producers try it (maybe with some rye in the mashbill!) and find a more balanced result.

Availability - Here and there, mostly in the secondary market
Pricing - Primary market only: $100 to $300 (yup)
Rating - 78