Disclaimer: A sample of the 2014 Parker’s Heritage Collection Wheat Whiskey was provided to us by Heaven Hill for this review. I appreciate their willingness to allow Bourbon & Banter to review the whiskey with no strings attached. Thank you.
Every year I look forward to learning what type of bourbon will be released as part of the Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC) from Heaven Hill. So imagine my surprise when I learned that a bourbon wasn’t being released as part of PHC this year. Instead, they decided to release a wheat whiskey this year. I’m not going to lie to you that I was a bit concerned upon hearing the news. I’ve never been big on wheat whiskey, especially the Bernheim Wheat whiskey that’s on the market today. It’s a good product but not something that really appeals to my personal palate. So here’s hoping that this year’s release can convince me to reconsider the merits of wheat whiskey.
Here’s what they have to say about this year’s release:
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.
As I stated above, I’ve never been a big fan of the standard Bernheim Wheat whiskey at 7 years. I’m really hoping that the extra 6 years in barrel, full cask strength and non-chill filtering makes a difference.
Here’s my full tasting notes on this year’s release.
2014 PARKER’S HERITAGE COLLECTION BOURBON REVIEW
Bourbon Name: 2014 Parker’s Heritage Collection Wheat Whiskey
Age: 13 years
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Creamy Caramel | Vanilla | Baking Spice
First Sip: Caramel | Honey | Baking Spice | Oak
The Burn:** Starts off nice and sweet with the familiar Beam corn notes but with some cinnamon spice. The oak arrives next which helps to tame the corn notes to a point that I didn’t react negatively to them. As you finish the oak gets drier and leaves a bit of coconut on the tongue. It threatens to get overly oaky but never quite gets there. The burn is there in the back of the throat but never really stands up and shouts “Look at me!”.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: Drinking this one neat is very enjoyable. That being said, adding a bit of water takes off the oaky, tannic edges and really makes it shine. I’ll be drinking this one with water every time I open the bottle.
Share With: Share this one with folks that like big, full of flavor whiskey. Don’t let the whiskey label scare you off. You’ll enjoy this one even if you typically don’t go for wheat whiskies. It’s a bottle that I’ll be sharing with my whiskey loving friends this fall.
Worth The Price: Suggested retail price is $90.00. This is a very good whiskey but $90 is a lot of money. If it was whiskey that you could get year round, I’d say it was overpriced. However, knowing that it’s a special release, from the first year Bernheim Wheat Whiskey was put in barrels and helps to support ALS research I’m good with the price.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is a definitely a bottle recommendation. I’m even going to try to get my hands on a few more bottles myself.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?
Heaven Hill has really hit a home run with this year’s release. It’s rich, full-bodied and complex in ways that really shine. It’s easy to mistake this one for a bourbon based on its flavor and aroma. Whether you’re a fan of wheat whiskey or just good whiskey, you should make an extra effort to get your hands on a glass, if not bottle, of the 2014 Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey.