The two releases I probably look forward to most in fall whiskey season are the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and the unveiling of the newest bottle in the Parker's Heritage Collection. This is the fourth year of Heaven Hill's Parker's Heritage series and each release has been unique and pretty darned good. The inaugural bottle, released in 2007, was a high strength, Stagg-style Bourbon; the 2008 edition was a whopping 27 years old; and the 2009 Golden Anniversary edition featured whiskies from each of the last four decades.
This year, for the first time, the Parker's Heritage bottling is a wheated Bourbon, using wheat instead of rye as the secondary grain. This is particularly surprising since, while Heaven Hill does produce wheaters under the Old Fitzgerald label, they have never seemed to put much care into making or promoting that brand. Many the old Bourbon lover has lamented the decline of that previously vaunted label under the stewardship of the otherwise quality-oriented Heaven Hill. So for those of us who are fans of the unique beast that is wheated Bourbon, perhaps this is a sign of good things to come from the bards of Bardstown.
The other pleasing thing about this year's release is that, after two years of three figure prices on the Parker's bottlings, the price has come back down to earth's orbit at a still premium but more reasonable $80.
Let's give it a try...
Parker's Heritage Collection 2010, 10 year old wheated Bourbon, 63.9% abv ($80)
There is a lot of alcohol on the nose, beneath it is caramel candy and other sweet Bourbon notes. The flavor profile is very nice, with lots of good wheated Bourbon notes, including some apple brandy type fruit. It's sweet with some acidity and some herbal flavors in the finish. It remains very hot on the palate. This is one that really benefits from a few drops of water. As the alcohol content diminishes, more flavors emerge. There is some oak, but its the sweet caramel that becomes really pronounced, bringing with it some Cognac-style fruit. The finish evinces a certain umami that was previously undetectable.
After an initial tasting, I tasted some of the 2009 William Larue Weller from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection for comparison. The Weller is a wheated bourbon at a similar proof and price point that I really loved, so I thought it would make for a good head to head.
The flavor profiles of these two are quite different. The Parker's is sweeter, with more of those candy notes, while the Weller has more of that dry, oaky/woody/wood polish profile. While these are both great bourbons, the Weller had more depth and complexity. The flavor profile of the Weller is just so rich and varied, and the flavors are sharper and more direct. Even though the Weller is slightly higher proof than the Parker's, the alcohol is better integrated and it's actually less hot tasting than the Parker's. While I prefer the Parker's with water, I prefer the Weller neat.
Still, the Parker's is a great bourbon that I would recommend. I would love to see Heaven Hill put this kind of energy into the neglected Old Fitzgerald line. Hopefully, there will be more great wheaters to come.