Parker’s Heritage Collection from Heaven Hill has always ranked among our favorite specialty bourbon releases and often appears in our annual gift guides. Each year, Master Distiller Parker Beam releases a unique limited edition bourbon, often aimed at creating conversation about the category, its limits, and its possibilities. Some of the previous entries in this series have included a 27 year old bourbon, a 10 year old wheated bourbon, and bourbon finished in cognac casks. Beyond creating discourse around the category, the Parker’s Heritage Collection often wins major accolades like Whiskey of the Year and Bourbon of the Year with many major whiskey magazines. In 2010, Heaven Hill released the Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary, to commemorate 50 years of bourbon making by Parker Beam. Golden Anniversary still stands as one of the best bourbons we’ve ever tasted.
This year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection release is a departure from many of the previous experimental releases, and it commemorates something that’s both sad and hopeful. In 2013, Master Distiller Parker Beam was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease is a nightmare, robbing a person of the use of their motor skills, and ultimately leading to death. To date, there is no cure for ALS, but there are great organizations that are working hard to find a cure and to help patients with ALS cope with their illness. ALS is a gradual disease, and for now Parker Beam is still hard at work at Heaven Hill, tasting barrels, making selections, and putting together blends. Many of the major bourbon men and women have rallied around Parker, who has established the Promise of Hope fund dedicated to research, advocacy, and compassionate care. This year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection celebrates this Promise of Hope both in name and in real dollars: $20 from each bottle of this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection release will go directly to the Promise of Hope Fund. (Heaven Hill is estimating the overall contribution to the Promise of Hope Fund will be in excess of $250,000.)
Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope Bourbon (48% ABV, 96 Proof) is one of the most personal releases of Parker’s Bourbon yet (perhaps even more so than Golden Anniversary). Rather than experimenting with barrel finishes, mashbills, or proofs, Parker Beam went directly to his favorite rickhouse at Heaven Hill’s Deatsville facility, Rickhouse EE. At that rickhouse, Parker Beam hand selected 100 barrels of a ten year old rye-based bourbon, each individually dumped and bottled with no chill filtering. These barrels were selected because Parker Beam felt that they best represented his style and taste in bourbon. Beam selected 96 proof as the ideal proof for this release, a proof he felt was ideal for sipping neat. This is the first time the Parker’s Heritage collection has released a single barrel whiskey.
From the nose it’s apparent that the Promise of Hope bourbon has a good deal of rye in the mix. This spicy rye is accompanied by a very clear oak barrel note with an undertone of vanilla. There isn’t a ton of sweetness to the nose, which smells a lot stronger than its 96 proof. The entry of Promise of Hope is lush and round with a phenomenal mouth feel. Light caramel is there at the opening but it steps aside to make way for bold rye and oak spice. There’s an oak spice blast in the midpalate, which is intense but not overwhelming, and it’s that spice that defines the extraordinarily long finish. What makes Promise of Hope so exceptional isn’t just its flavor delivery, but the way that it feels on the palate. There’s a roundness and balance to it which is maintained even during its spiciest moments.
Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope Bourbon is a perfect example that you simply can’t judge a whiskey by its age and proof. We tasted Parker’s side by side with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, a whiskey that’s also produced at Heaven Hill, is 2 years older, and has nearly 20% more alcohol. The difference between the two is night and day. Promise of Hope blows Elijah Craig Barrel Proof out of the water with its refinement, balance, and mouthfeel. Over the past 53 years, Parker Beam has produced some amazing whiskeys, and Promise of Hope is the kind of no-frills, straightforward, amazing whiskey that Parker is known for.
We at Drink Spirits wish Parker Beam all the best in his struggle with ALS and encourage our readers to help support the Promise of Hope fund. Also be sure to watch our video with Heaven Hill’s Larry Kass, Understanding Aged Bourbon.