Classification: Wheat Whiskey
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Released: Fall 2014
Proof: 126.8 (this is the 2nd batch, the first was 127.4 proof)
Age: 13 Years
Color: Deep bronze with an orange hue
MSRP: $90 (2014)
This is the 8th edition of the Parker’s Heritage Collection. There are currently two batches released, each at cask strength and non-chill filtered. The barrels used for this 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 mash bill, Bernheim is the only straight wheat whiskey produced by a major American distiller and has been available since 2005. Simply, this is the Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey with six additional years of aging bottled at cask strength. For every bottle sold Heaven Hill will contribute $5 to ALS research and treatment in honor of Parker.
Upon opening this for the first time it revealed very little of anything on the nose. After the bottle sat for a week or so the whiskey seems to have come alive, with a more intense mix of scents albeit still more faint than I had expected. There’s some caramel and vanilla in there. Alcohol is present, with something coming through that I just can’t seem to put my finger on. It almost has a baking bread kind of smell, but what kind I’m not sure.
I could guzzle this stuff. One of the best “Palates” in whiskey this year. The sip is delightful and full of flavor and warmth. It’s surprisingly smooth for the proof on the palate, but still has the intensity you’d expect from a barrel proof whiskey. It’s sweet, but not the same kind of sweet as a bourbon with a high amount of corn in the mash bill. The sweetness is softened by the taste of rich, warm bread just out of the oven. There's some grain and honey in there too. It’s downright delicious.
The burn intensifies quite dramatically as I swallow, developing a spicy intensity on the tongue and moving into the back of the throat. It lingers for a bit, but the flavors dissipate rather quickly along with the burn. It’s a good burn and maybe even too much for some. Considering the deliciousness of the palate it’s surprisingly not as balanced as I’d hoped.
A wheat whiskey aged 13 years is pretty damn unique. I love the fact that the annual Parker’s Heritage releases are completely different from year to year, and this is the first non-bourbon Parker’s Heritage release so far. We’ve also got the “Wheated” Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and annual BTAC William Larue Weller to compare this to, a trifecta of delicious whiskeys even if the later two are just wheated bourbons... maybe a topic for a future Breaking Bourbon Face Off. I will say this, it shows much more intensity and character when sipped next to the Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, which is also very enjoyable. Despite the interesting technicals, I didn’t find the flavor profile quite as unique as I’d anticipated. It still echoes the same traits as a bourbon, and although the flavor profile has its own unique traits, I cannot say I would have identified it as a wheat whiskey in a blind taste test.
This is a good deal. It’s a quality whiskey right up there with the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, albeit maybe not quite as balanced in a nose - palate - finish sense. It’s MSRP is also a little higher than BTAC, although not as high as Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary. It’s certainly not cheap, but for $90 (you may see this in the $80 - $100 range) this is definitely one of the year’s releases you should seek out.
A palate so good I could guzzle it - this is definitely one of the year’s best releases.
This is easily one of my favorite whiskeys of the year so far. From the first sip and each pour thereafter I’ve enjoyed it immensely. The flavor profile is unique enough to inspire discussion, but mainstream enough to appeal to nearly everyone who enjoys American Whiskey. The highlight of this year’s Parker’s is the intense flavor and warmth of the palate, while the nose and finish are good yet surprisingly underwhelming in comparison.
I don’t typically add any water to my whiskey, but I do try some in barrel proofers on occasion. I use distilled water whenever I can, especially if I’m doing a review. The water was a good addition. While I still choose to drink most barrel proof whiskeys neat, I will say the addition of water to this particular whiskey does bring it into balance. It subdues the alcohol just enough to allow a nice well-rounded flavor to push through and balances the intense burn in the throat found in the finish. If you’re interested in comparing the two batches be sure to check out Josh Chinn’s (redwhiteandbourbon.com) well-written review of the first (127.4 proof) batch.