By Richard Thomas
Autumn is coming, and one sign of that in my calendar is the forthcoming release of Parker’s Heritage 2017, part of a series of American whiskey releases ardently sought by enthusiasts. Among the crop of annual Fall limited edition whiskeys, Parker’s Heritage occupies a middling spot. It’s not as uber-trendy as the Pappies or as hunted to death as the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but it is still hard to get and often fetches above the recommended price.
Parker’s Heritage is an interesting series, because each year what exactly the release is going to be is a wide open question. Past installments have included a wheat whiskey, a malt whiskey and a blended whiskey, plus several bourbons. The only major category thus far not covered has been rye.
The Parker’s Heritage 2017 is an 11 year old single barrel bourbon, bottled at cask strength (122 proof). My sample came from barrel 5027255, matured on the 6th floor of rickhouse DD.
Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam passed away from ALS in January, and for some years a portion of Parker’s Heritage proceeds have been donated to ALS research. This particular release pays an additional nod to Parker Beam by taking the Evan Williams 1783 he was so fond of and amping it up.
The bourbon has a moodily toned, classic amber appearance in the glass. The swish puts a thick, sticky coat on the glass, one that forms a thin crown and reluctantly drops a few skinny legs.
My initial nosing gave me a heavy dollop of spices accented by dried cherries, but also a tinge of heat. Knowing this was a 61% ABV whiskey, I decided to put in a splash of water and have another go. With that water, the heat disappeared and was replaced by a trace of woodiness.
The liquid had a buttery texture on my palate, and came across as thick and flavorful with out being big and ballsy, as the high octane contents might suggest. Indeed, for a 122 proof whiskey, Parker’s Heritage 2017 is rather subdued, but that yields some good results. Caramel, cherries and medicinal herbs come together in a well-balanced presentation, touched by some dry, toasty wood. The finish is woody and spicy.
I was on the fence about whether to give this bourbon an A- or an A, and my rule about that is to default to a lower grade if further acquaintance with the whiskey doesn’t decide for me. In particular, I have a thing for cherries, but this excellent bourbon was lacking that extra special something to make it a clear A. Even so, I’m sure it will measure up as the equal of much of the stuff coming from Buffalo Trace, Four Roses and Old Forester in the next few months.
Officially, this bourbon should go for $130. Without friends at the liquor store or distributor, however, expect to pay twice that.