Friday, July 17, 2020

Parker's Heritage Collection Heavy Char Barrels 8 Year Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

- $160
- 105 Proof
- 8 Years
- Kentucky

Last year was a great year for premium rye whiskey releases. Right around the same time that Wild Turkey released its Cornerstone Rye as part of its Master's Keep Collection, Heaven Hill released a rye whiskey as part of the Parker's Heritage collection.  Both bottles carried steep price tags, and as a result, they didn't necessarily fly off the shelves. That being said, they're not around much more, and for the most part, I've seen very little buyer's remorse from people that did get their hands on a bottle of either one.

This one was a bit more unique in that Heaven Hill aged this rye in "heavy char barrels." That means the the barrels that were used were a Level 5 char, significantly more char than the level 3 char that Heaven Hill typically uses. Not that I expected any sort of peat flavor, but I do like a good, smokey whiskey, and I was curious enough to grab a bottle, even at that price and even after seeing some negative initial reviews.

On the nose I got a pretty decent amount of wood. It had that dry, oaky, tannic quality to it. However, underneath those wood notes I got some more traditional aromas, including a healthy amount of caramel as well as some sweet but spicy cinnamon to tickle my nose. There was also a sweetness to it that was a bit more sugary, almost like a burnt sugar or even a bit of a rum note to it.

On my first sip, my initial reaction was that this is sweet and spicy and delicious. It had a lot of soft but sweet caramel notes, so much so that if it weren't for the other notes I was getting I'd have called this a "caramel-bomb." Coupled with that rich, creamy caramel note was a very welcome chocolate flavor. It was like drinking a really good chocolate covered caramel candy, like the kind you get from a really nice chocolate store.  It just had that quality of flavor to it.  On later pours I was even getting a creamy nougat flavor, like the inside of a 3 Musketeers bar. Of course, that only made me enjoy these flavors that much more!

It also had that spice that I got on the nose. I got a decent amount of cinnamon, which leaned towards the more sweet cinnamon flavor, like cinnamon candy, rather than cinnamon sticks. There was also a light pepper spice that I really noticed at the back of my throat after every sip. Quite frankly, this just made me ready to go in for my next sip.

The wood notes that I got on the nose weren't really present in the flavor. However, while I expected a certain smokey or char quality to this, while I didn't get any of that on the nose, it made its appearance in the flavor. It didn't come across as a smoked or peated whiskey by any stretch. It just added a touch of char flavor to the whiskey, and it actually seemed to complement all the other flavors going on.

That said, though, this was very much a dessert whiskey. the sweet caramel and chocolate notes seemed to take lead, with just enough spice at the back end to keep me diving back in for more. On its initial release, this was getting some negative reviews, perhaps somewhat a result of the backlash over the price. However, having tasted it for myself, this was a fantastic rye! The "Heavy Char," was in no way gimmicky, as I was worried it would be, and in the end it was just a great rye, sweet up front and spicy at the back. It hit a lot of the right notes for me.

Grade: A

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