April 29, 2015

Parker's Heritage Collection Battle: Blend of Mashbills, Promise of Hope, and Wheat Whiskey

The Parker's Heritage Collection is a series of annual limited release whiskeys from Heaven Hill. Named after Parker Beam, who has been making whiskey at Heaven Hill for fifty years and is a sixth generation Master Distiller, PHC showcases some of the best casks and small batch whiskies to come from this prolific family and distillery.

We've been lucky enough to try the second PHC release - the 27-year bourbon, which is on our list of the top five bourbons of all time. We also got to try the fourth release - the wheated bourbon, which is an awesome beast in its own right. Last year we had queued up a battle of the sixth and seventh PHC bottles - The Blend of Mashbills, and the Promise of Hope, but we never ended up publishing it. Since the eighth release - the Wheat Whiskey, came out this year we figured we'd go ahead and line up all three.

Parker's Heritage Collection Blend of Mashbills (right) and Promise of Hope (left)

Tasting Notes

PHC 6 Blend of Mashbills 

The "Blend of Mashbills" is a mix of high-rye and wheated bourbons.

Nose:  Equal parts aromatic pipe tobacco, deep autumn fields turning from grass to hay, fresh thyme, and caramel sauce.  Baking chocolate and bitter cherries, very rich nose with deep molasses, smoky bbq meats, lots of char, very thick muscly balls-out nose on this one.

Palate:  First of all, this is an "open-upper". We've been sipping on this over the course of a year and it's changed dramatically.  Once the bottle's been open for about six months it really hits its stride.  At first it's pretty harsh, with the high-rye character sort of wiping out any real trace of the wheated mashbill.  But once a little oxidation happens, the rawness fades into a very rich and drinkable bourbon, and the sweetness of the wheat ingredients become more pronounced.  By our fifth or six try at this over the course of as many months, it's now a real treat.  In the same vein as William Larue Weller (though not quite good honestly).  Layers of anise, cloves, cinnamon, all spice. More caramel, like a scoop of vanilla ice cream dripping with hot caramel sauce.

Finish:  The sweetness and the spice integrate very nicely and the pipe smoke comes back for an earthy deep finish that's quite long for a bourbon.  Very rewarding finish with lingering bbq ribs, birch smoke, and molasses.

PHC 7 Promise of Hope

Promise of Hope was a standard 96 proof single barrel release.  For each bottle sold, $20 would be donated to ALS research.

Nose:  A lot more sweetness on the nose here with candy corn and a hint of ocean boardwalk carnival - salt water taffy, fried dough, and cotton candy.  There's also some saddle leather and still a hint of the farm-ness we got from the full-proof PHC 6.

Palate:  This one drinks like a dream neat, right out of a fresh bottle.  The sweetness continues.  It's still full-bodied, but has a lightness and balance to it that's very pleasant.  There are more fruits coming through in the body - a nice mango salsa floating on top of the spirit spice.

Finish:  Again the faint hint of pipe smoke and old wood on the finish.  Very smooth and just a welcome undercurrent of spirit warmth.

PHC 8 Wheat Whiskey

Heaven Hill also makes Bernheim Wheat Whiskey.  The PHC Wheat Whiskey release is from the very first batch of wheat whiskey created for this brand, now 13 years old.

Nose:  Unlike some of the buttery rich wheated bourbons (see William Larue Weller, Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year), this is a dry cracking nose with punchy wood and crisp profile to it.  Really neat and clean wood with a touch of grain and smoke.

Palate:  While it's quite drinkable for it's hefty 128.6 proof, there's not a lot of depth to this whiskey. Maybe the legend of the wheated bourbon had our sites set too high, but it's not really that complex.

Finish:  Nice crisp punchy finish.  Again very drinkable and very neat for the huge proof, which is no small feat, but nothing to really write home about here.

And the Winner Is...

We're going 6, 8, 7 here.  Once the Blend of Mashbills had a few months to open up in the bottle, it really was a great bourbon.  The Wheat Whiskey is a great drinker, but not quite up to the incredible standards of some of the earlier PHC's.  The Promise of Hope is also a very nice bourbon, though after tasting two cask strength beauties it's hard to square off a standard proof bottle in this lineup.


  1. I recommend trying PHC8 first next time. Wheat whiskey, even at barrel proof, has many complexities that can get overshadowed by having two big profile bourbons prior to the pour.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Please post your tasting notes. We'd love to hear what you think. We had bottles of each of these, so plenty of opportunities to taste them in all the different orders and by themselves over time. We'll stick with our notes. The WW is very good, but not really that complex. But to each her own! Let us know more about what you taste in there!

    2. You know, I may have spoken too soon. There are two versions of the PHC8 (63.4% and 63.7%). I found the latter to be much more complex than the 63.4% version. Notes for the 63.7% PHC8:

      Nose: bold but soft flavors. As in round/sweet notes with the volume turned way up. Big oak, salted caramels, buttered popcorn, leather books, cherry sauce, cinnamon toffee, and feint ever so slightly smokey tobacco. Mouth: wowwa woowa. More salty caramels and toffees. Sweet and soft flavors, but in a big way, if that makes sense. Finish: gripping oak, banana peel, and cinnamon. Cinnamon like a cinnamon roll from Cinnabon, glaze and all.

      Your notes were excellent. Love your site and especially dig how you have multiple opinions/reviewers for so many posts. Your ones on the Michter's 10 Bourbon put the url to the top of my bookmarks :-)

      Thanks for publishing this blog!