In the last year, Heaven Hill introduced some further structure to its lineup of annual limited releases, giving both a spring/summer and fall/winter importance to a tandem of brands. New to the lineup is the Heaven Hill Heritage Collection, which debuted last spring with a beauty of a 17-year-old bourbon, which went on to be included in our roundup of the best whiskeys of 2022. That collection is essentially meant to be the more traditional counterweight to the long-established Parker’s Heritage Collection, which revolves more around yearly experimentation that sometimes ventures out into genuinely uncharted waters. Together, the two series represent Heaven Hill’s “Heritage” in their own ways.
This year’s Parker’s Heritage for 2022, meanwhile, is the 16th expression in the series, and as always is dedicated to the memory of Heaven Hill Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam. As with previous years, a portion of proceeds will go to support ALS research and patient care in honor of Beam.
As for this year’s purple-labeled expression, it revolves around an experiment with double barrel aging. Essentially, Heaven Hill has taken extra-matured bourbon and given it a secondary maturation, and then eased it into a blend with even older bourbon that did not get a secondary maturation. Specifically, this composed of 67% 13-year-old bourbon in Heaven Hill’s classic flagship recipe, aged on the 5th-7th floors of Rickhouse Q, which then had a secondary maturation in freshly charred (level #3) barrels for a month. That whiskey was then blended in with 15-year-old bourbon from the 2nd and 5th floors of Rickhouse II. It’s presented uncut and non-chill filtered, at a cask strength of 66.1% ABV (132.2 proof). So all in all, pretty burly, and bigger than any of the recent expressions of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.
According to the brand, “the double barreling of the 13-year-old Bourbon helped to bring out even more oak and spice notes from the barrel, while later bending it with older bourbon helped to create a unique, bold, and balanced flavor profile.”
So let’s get to tasting, and see what my own palate makes of this.
On the nose, this reads as quite sweet and toasty, with a big roasted marshmallow profile, combined with plenty of caramel, clove and nutmeg. I’m getting hints of juicy red fruit here as well, along with spicy oak, graham cracker and pecan pie. Going back, the chocolate notes amplify the “pecan pie” vibe a little more. Notably, the ethanol is very light on the nose for the more than 130 proof, and if you handed me this one blind I don’t think I’d peg it nearly that high from the nose alone.
The proof, however, definitely makes itself felt more on the palate, which leads off with juicy red fruitiness (raspberry) and tons of caramel and vanilla bean. Here I’m getting more apple pie than pecan pie, with the appropriate spices, and the requisite vanilla ice cream as well. Overall I’m finding this more sweet than oak driven, though there is plenty of spicy oak, delivering tones of hot cinnamon, ginger, licorice and pepper. All in all, though, the oak makes itself felt primarily with spice, and there’s only a delicate tannic structure to this, and not a ton of pure oak flavor either—certainly not as much as I’d probably expect with that age statement and the double barrel treatment. Likewise, this doesn’t read quite as roasty as many double barrel bourbons, though the combination of sweet and spice is plenty charming. All in all, this feels like a crowd pleaser, rather than one of the more eccentric Parker’s Heritage expressions, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Compared with some of the limited edition bottles in the same price range these days, I don’t think many consumers who manage to track one of these down will find themselves regretting the purchase. Those who love Heaven Hill bourbon should be well satisfied.
Distillery: Heaven Hill
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 66.1% (132.2 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $175 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.