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Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection (Cognac Finished) Bourbon

Parker Beam is American Whiskey royalty. Few men in the industry have accomplished more. Today he and his son Craig, decendents of THAT Beam, are the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill Distillery, makers of Evan William, Elijiah Craig, and many others.

Five years ago Parker introduced a limited annual release under the label Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC). He’s continued to release a PHC whiskey each year since. While many of you are quite familiar, these PHC products stand up with the best in whiskey almost every year. Last year’s release was a 10 year old wheated bourbon. I thought it was wonderful, but not quite different enough to stand out.

A month or two ago word got out that the latest PHC release would be a 10 year old bourbon (with rye as the small flavoring grain, not wheat) that had been finished in massive Grande Champagne Cognac barrels from Frapin Cellars in France. The bourbon used is the same recipe as Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon. This bourbon is aged high in the upper levels of the rickhouse where temperature exchange is greatest. Once the barrels are dumped, the bourbon was placed in the cognac barrels for another four months (the label says six but Parker confirms it was actually four) high up in the aging racks.

Folks, I wasn’t exactly moved upon hearing about this cognac finish. While we haven’t seen such a finishing process in many many years, I was somewhat concerned this was a bit of a gimmick of sorts. I was foolish for thinking that…………..

Parker’s Heritage Collection (Cognac Finished) Bourbon, 50% abv (100 Proof), $80

Color: Deep, rich amber with glints of copper

Nose: Rum soaked fruits, toffee candy, banana, bright floral fragrance, and vanilla bean at the fore. Crushed rock and barrel in the background along with well toasted oak.

Palate: Structured and well rounded. The layers of flavor peel back like an onion. First, syrupy toffee sauce is brightened with candy apple, and dates over an undercurrent of warm spices (clove, nutmeg, and a gentle hum of chili). There’s a welcomed bitterness from the barrel as well.

Finish: Long, sweet, and well spiced. Rum raisin, chewy caramel, and spicy warmth remain.

Overall: Easy to sip even at 100 proof. I don’t recommend cutting it with any water – it drinks too well right from the bottle. However, don’t be fooled either. There is still loads going on here, but it’s just so well integrated. The 2011, 5th Edition Parker’s Heritage Collection is a whiskey masterpiece and also a clear whiskey of the year candidate for me.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (9.6 Epic/Whiskey Classic!)

36 Comments

  1. sam k says:

    When both you and John Hansell lavish praise on something, the rest of us should pay attention. I hope I get the chance to pick up one of these…PA being a whiskey dinosaur, you know.

    Once again, my thanks go out to the folks at Heaven Hill for making a 9.6 rated bottle of bourbon accessible to the masses.

  2. ac says:

    Nice review. I’m really enjoying this expression myself, the Heritage series is an annual release that never disappoints.

  3. Thanks Jason. This is definitely on my radar.

  4. Josh says:

    Completely agree Jason. I was blown away! The PHC releases NEVER disappoint. I will be bunkering a few bottles of this along with the 10yr Wheater.

  5. sku says:

    Great review. I have to admit that I was also skeptical of this one, just because I have not had positive experiences with most of the wine finished bourbons that are out there. How would you compare it to Angel’s Envy, which I know you liked but I didn’t find very exciting?

    I also think you are dead on with the comparison of PHC and BTAC. PHC is always interesting, always a different concept, at worst they are quite good, at best they are phenomenol, and, most importantly, there is always plenty of it.

    Given that the price is comparable to BTAC, the whiskey is always something new and you don’t need to offer sexual favors to your retailer to get it, I’ve lately been buying the PHC and skipping the BTAC.

  6. Mary says:

    “I don’t recommend cutting it with any water – it drinks too well right from the bottle.”

    However, IMO when you add just a bit of water, there are even more flavors…it really opens up & becomes even more special.

  7. Sam, agreed, Heaven Hill produces some excellent stuff from the budget level right on up to the high end.

    Sku, I shared your skepticism as noted in the review. Frankly, I think I kind of “eye rolled” when I read about that finish. It’s great stuff. I got a sense from your review of Angel’s Envy that you felt it lacked some spark. There’s a lot more depth with the PHC. I do taste some of that grapey, raisiny quality that the Angel’s Envy finish gave off, but the flavors are less jammy and far more refined. In short it’s different. Also great point on the availability. I should have mentioned that so folks didn’t have to read into it, but there’s no contest that you can ACTUALLY find these bottles. Not to mention, I like that PHC brings out something different each year.

    Mary, great point – it’s always worth giving it a shot and seeing how the whiskey responds. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Michael says:

    Has anyone tried the 27-yr old PHC from a few years back?

  9. Jeffrey Woolley says:

    I have tried all of the Parker’s except for the Golden Anniversary (but hope to remedy that soon). These whiskeys are unbelievably good and the 27 Year is a standout even among these giants. The age brings an incredible richness, thickness, even a chewiness with a lot of saddle leather, tobacco, fruit, and spice. A local store here in WA claims to have the last bottle of this beauty. My guess is you can probably find it online, though. Well worth the expense, to my mind, so long as you like the leathery aspects of an aged bourbon. This is my personal favorite and I have tried all the PVWs and many of the Willett, Hirsch, and other fine aged bourbons. The PVWs are in what I would style the Pinot Noir category with their superfine almost crystalline quality; Parker’s 27 Year is a Syrah or Malbec, if that makes sense.

  10. Michael says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. I know where to find a bottle of it here in Brooklyn for $150, so I thought I’d see if it was worth it.

  11. AaronWF says:

    Very interesting review Jason. I’m definitely in the skeptical camp, having been left searching for the bourbon in Angel’s Envy. Your description brings to mind Canadian whisky, like Forty Creek, which while very, very good whiskey, just doesn’t fit the bill when I’m in the mood for bourbon specifically. I can imagine exactly what you mean when you call out its refinement, as I’ve found the other PHC expressions to be quite expertly massaged with a gravity and depth, if that makes any sense.

    You have piqued my curiosity, and if the finish really is well-integrated with the bourbon, as you say, then I expect I’m in for a treat.

  12. Aaron, I think this one will be a polarizing one for some, but I just cannot hide how much I really enjoy it. It’s a beautiful whiskey.

  13. Jeffrey, good analogy with wine. Makes sense to me!

  14. Greg says:

    I sipped this along with your review. It’s really good stuff, but I can’t quite wrap my mind around it the way you did. It’s slightly aloof on my first pour. It is very warming though, and I’m guessing the next time I try it the familiarity will allow it to really shine.

    I’d like to echo the sentiments of the others re: BTAC vs. PHC. You mentioned the finish possibly seeming gimmicky, but how gimmicky is it to so severely limit release? Of course there are some real reasons, but one of them is surely marketing.
    That said, I bought two bottles of BTAC on ebay and plan to crack the Saz 18 at a whisky party this weekend…There’s a sucker born every minute.

  15. Greg, what do you think of the new Buffalo Trace Antique Collection? Sipped any of them yet?

  16. SteveBM says:

    I purchased the Stagg, Saz, and ER17 from this years BTAC release. The Saz is phenomenal. I feel like that one gets better every year. The Stagg is still powerful stuff and remarkable flavor but I still think the 2009 release tops both 2010 and 2011. Haven’t cracked open the ER17 yet. Didn’t really want to purchase it this year but ended up saying “what the hell” and got it anyways.

    Just scored a few bottles of Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel. Tried it in Houston and then again in Philly and thought it was fantastic stuff. Really smooth. I hear the Sour Mash is also a winner.

  17. SteveBM I am looking forward to trying the Saz. I’ve heard it’s excellent.

  18. Ronnie G. McDougal says:

    This may be my all time favorite bourbon, and that’s comparing it to 20 year old Pappy. I have had only three drinks out of the bottle but it has been wonderful.

  19. Ronnie, it’s delicious stuff!

  20. Bmac says:

    After I saw your review I went out hunting for it. My first several attempts yielded nothing. However, today at a store that doesn’t carry “limited edition” Bourbons on average, I spied a dusty bottle with a $122 price tag. I noticed the curvacious, copperplate “H.” I bought what appears to be the ‘Golden Anniversary’ edition from 2009. I searched the web for any review…and there are practically NO reviews. I can find the 2008, 2010, and even the new 2011, but somehow the 2009 escaped. maybe it was the price tag or maybe because it’s a blended Whiskey. I just want to know if it’s worth cracking open to enjoy or if this is more of a collector’s edition that is best served being placed on a shelf, un-drank?

  21. BMAC, I’m the worst to ask about holding bottles. I believe whiskey was made for drinking. Few things are so great that they need to be held until a rainy day or special occassion. And if they are that great – then I want to taste it!!! ; )

    I say drink, and by the way, that is an outstanding outstanding whiskey!

  22. Josh says:

    Hey Jason. Based on this review, I was intrigued and decided to locate a bottle of this particular Parkers Heritage. Luck must have been on my side, b/c low and behold at my local liquor store behind the glass case, were 4 bottles. Obviously, I picked up 1 so now I am looking forward to joining your excitement in tasting this bourbon. Do you know how many bottles were produced?

    Also, for all you Pappy fans that are hanging your heads because you were not on a waiting list 6 months in advance to get 1 bottle, keep searching! I found a liquor store in Texas with 3 bottles of pappy 20, 3 bottles of pappy 23, and 2 bottles of 12 year old lot B SITTING on the shelf. In an effort to share the wealth so to speak and not hord their entire inventory for myself or sell it on eBay to make a quick buck, instead I graciously purchased only 1 bottle of pappy 20. Hopefully, the next Pappy fan that walks in and sees that display of bottles will return the favor so more can enjoy…

    share the goods as well

  23. Josh, thanks for the comment. Cheers!

  24. JDW says:

    Great review, Jason. I picked up a bottle of this a week last week and have been enjoying it immensely. By the way, have you tried the Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece 18 Year? Tried this a couple weeks ago and was duly impressed.

  25. JDW I have not tried the Distiller’s Masterpiece. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  26. JDW says:

    The Parker’s is better bourbon than the Beam offering, in my opinion. While I enjoyed the Beam it did not leave me speechless like the Parker’s did. A little surfing revealed a bottle of the Beam listed at $450 and I am not inclined to spring for it at that price, even with the unique decanter. I was fairly neutral toward the Angel’s Envy but am completely pro Parker’s. Beautiful stuff.

  27. Justin Victor says:

    Great review. Though I own a bottle of this, I have not opened it yet as I have a back log of bottles to get through first. Just this past week I finally opened and shared my bottle of the PHC wheated mashbill and found it to be sublime.

    The comment I wanted to leave you with is that here in Oklahoma I can find both the wheated mashbill and cognac finished PHC bourbons for about $50 a bottle. I am going to get another bottle of each to enjoy down the road.

    Cheers!

  28. Bmac says:

    My goodness! I finally got around to cracking open my PHC Cognac Finish and I was BLOWN AWAY!!! I even read your review to see if I could determine the same flavors. You were SPOT on…with the addition of I tasted a bit of rich licorice on the finish. The chewiness of this bourbon instantly reminded me of Pappy Van Winkle 15yr’s finish. In my own mind I rate this at just below PVW 15. I admit I had some serious doubts mainly because I am not a big fan of Evan Williams Single Barrel. I have a bottle of the 2000 bottling because many ranked it so high. Mine is barrel# 856 and perhaps the later barrels weren’t as high quality? So when I discovered that PHC Cognac finish is the same recipe i was worried. All the worry has melted away with the nutmeg, caramel, rum-soaked fruit flavors of this b@d @$$ bourbon!! if this one is considered the weaker of the set so far…then I might just explode into orgasmic spasm when i get to my PHC Golden Anniversary and 1st Ed Cask Strength.

    Most excellent review, sir!!!

  29. Chris says:

    Just picked up a bottle of this highly touted whiskey. WOW!!!!! This Bourbon does not disappoint. I picked up this Bourbon because of you’re recommendation Jason, and all I can say is thank you, thank you! This is my number 1 for sure. I’m going to have to pick up a few bottles of this stuff! This Bourbon is pure heaven, these guys know their stuff, that’s for sure. I can’t imagine a Bourbon better than this one. I’m not as knowledgable about Bourbons as you Jason, But this is the Best that I have experienced so far. Jason, once again you’re the man! I’m looking forward to many reviews in the future. I’d like to thank you personally, for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. I’ve learned a lot on this site, about this Great American Spirit called Bourbon. Thank’s again Jason, Salute!

  30. Chris, glad you enjoyed the Parkers. It’s wonderful stuff and I sure appreciate your comments as well. Thank you.

  31. Harry Marsh says:

    Was not impressed.

    Too much of the cognac lingering for me.
    I like the strong stuff, though. My favorite is William Larue Weller Vintage.

    When I’m wanting Bourbon, this isn’t what I’d reach for

  32. Harry, I certainly understand. I think my word for this one was polarizing. I think people will either love it or really not care for it all that much. I happened to really enjoy it though. Cheers!

  33. Jeff Fahsel says:

    I received a bottle of PHC 10 year old finished in cognac barrels as a gift for my 50th birthday its an awesome bottle of bourbon love the sweet after taste and lingering warmth i wouldnt cut or mix this with anything. I usually drink scotch. Ill have to be more open minded. Thank you PHC.

  34. Steve W. says:

    Opened the PHC Cognac to toast the New Year. Not a good way to start out. Finished with a very weird bitter aftertaste, both myself and my brother found this same taste. First time i ever tossed half my dram in the sink, just intolerable . What a dissapointment .

  35. Peter says:

    Jason, as always your reviews are as informative as they are enjoyable to read. I was lucky enough to find an online retailer who had this in stock for $100. I bought one bottle, and after my first dram I promptly ordered 3 more! This one hits all the right buttons for me and has become one of my all-time favorites. With the recent news about Parker’s health, I’ll be savoring these few bottles as much as possible. Thanks again for the wonderful review and allowing me to experience this outstanding bourbon!

  36. Peter says:

    Boy, am I a lucky guy. Got an email from my local retailer who said he got a 3-pack of Parker’s. I thought it was the 2013 edition, which you praised to the heavens. Even better — it’s the Cognac finish! Needless to say, I’m grabbing all 3!!!

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