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Review: 2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon

The 2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC) is a blend of Heaven Hill’s rye-based (Evan Williams mashbill) and wheat-based (Old Fitzgerald/Larceny) bourbon. Put together, the whiskey is an assembly of four grains. This year’s release has large shoes to fill. The 2011 PHC was finished in Cognac barrels and received a 9.6 rating on Sour Mash Manifesto. It was without question one of my top 3-4 whiskeys of the year.

2012 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon, 65.8% abv (131.6 Proof), $80/bottle
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Caramel, demerara sugar, and vanilla wrapped around golden raisin with hints of ground cinnamon and ginger.
Palate: Sharp yet concentrated and syrupy on the palate -caramel syrup, sorghum, vanilla, cinnamon toast and moderate heat.
Finish: Long and lingering – sorghum and caramel sweetness with a roasty/toasty quality and rising warmth. Beautiful finish.
Overall: Not quite the uniqueness and level of quality of 2011′s cognac barrel finished bourbon, but the 2012 PHC is an excellent whiskey. The blend of rye-based and wheated bourbon don’t fight one another, but instead achieve a nice harmony. Maybe even a bit too much harmony.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Excellent)

25 Comments

  1. Great review. One of the highest ratings I’ve seen for this bourbon. Question for you: almost every review I’ve read of this compares it to the 2011 release. Almost every review I’ve read also ends by saying it doesn’t quite match up to 2011. I wonder if this release would rate higher if a reviewer had never tasted 2011 or if 2011 had never come out?

    My younger brother had a similar issue in high school (we grew up in a very small town). I got good grades and teachers loved me. He was average, but compared to me he disappointed more than a few teachers (until they realized we weren’t the same person).

    I wonder if this release is suffering from that same small-town, younger brother syndrome and is being, well not punished exactly but you get my meaning, because it isn’t as spectacular as it’s older brother. What are your thoughts on this?

  2. Harald Moore says:

    I’ve only sampled a small pour, and I only took one sip before adding a splash of water – I suspect it had more to do with me, on that particular day, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it otherwise. I don’t really want to comment further until I’ve had a chance to revisit this.
    To Eric: it is pretty natural to make some comparisons among different entries in a series (or siblings in a family)…but, ultimately, each is judged on its own merits. IMO, this product is too different from last year’s for it to “suffer” any sort of identity crisis – it’s like comparing an orange to grapefruit…sure, they’re both citrus, but they can’t be graded on the same scale. Heck, this 6th edition is more than 30 proof over the 5th; so it’s hardly a level playing field.

  3. Brent says:

    So if one were to happen on last years cognac and this years at the same price, would one choose the 2011 edition? I have not tried either one, just not sure of spending the $$ on something I’m not that familiar with. I’m just now getting on the 4 roses wagon and my wife will probably kill me if I start having multiple bottles open.

  4. Brent – hands down – grab the 2011. The 2012 is excellent whiskey and is barrel proof so you can cut it as you see fit, but it’s not in the class of last years.

    Eric – I review each whiskey on its own merits regardless of whether or not it has annual release. My commentary at the bottom is really more additional information for the reader to understand my thoughts. Each whiskey is reviewed, assessed, and given a numerical rating regardless of price, how it compares to other releases, etc. etc. However once that’s done, I do have an opportunity to share some thoughts, and that’s what you have.

  5. Brent says:

    Thanks Jason. Just another one added to the list of what should I buy this Christmas season. I was set on a bottle of 21yr Willet, but these other bottles keep making me rethink my decision. With being able to get a Parkers and Four Roses LE for the price of the Willet, I end up banging my head on the table trying to decide.

  6. theBitterFig says:

    As a fan of Four Roses, I really don’t know why more distillers don’t blend bourbons. I know some blending goes on between ages and flavors within the same mashbill, but there are whole dimensions of possibilities when you start mixing different stuff together.

    Meanwhile, I’ll probably pick up a bottle of this if I see one, but I doubt I’ll run into it.

  7. Travis says:

    Nice review, thank you. I actually thought it stacked up pretty well to the 2011 version, one of my favorites in a long time.

  8. Justin says:

    My take on this years PHC release is quite similar to Jason’s. It is a really good bottle. But I think many of us whiskey enthusiasts look to these annual one offs for something new, inovative, or exciting. Something maybe we have never had before. That, in my opinion, is why last year’s PHC cognac finish was so awesome. Parker released something that no one else has. And though many of us did a double take when we first heard of it, we were thoroughly “wowed” when we tasted it. I wish the cognac finish would become a regular offering from Heaven Hill. All that having been said, I don’t find as much in this year’s release that raises the bar for inovation. It is a great whiskey in its own right, and I might rate it a little higher than Jason did. But we have seen 4 grain bourbons, we have seen many barrel proof bourbons, so what is in this bottle doesn’t really push the envelope like finishing your bourbon in a cognac barrel.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on why many reviews seem to harken back to last year’s release when reviewing this one.

  9. David says:

    Actually, we’ve also seen cognac finished bourbon prior to last year’s Parker’s Heritage Release. Beam released an 18 year old Distiller’s Masterpiece cognac finished bourbon a few years back. I agree, though, that the 2011 Parker’s was something special.

  10. Justin says:

    I stand corrected. Obviously I never tried the beam product.

  11. Josh says:

    Dissapointing review Jason. I was hoping you would have rated this bourbon much higher considering how much you like all of the EWSB offerings and that the previous Parkers Heritage Wheater was such a hit. Asuuming this blend is basically honey barrels of the Two I mentioned above. I went ahead and picked up a bottle a few months ago, since they tend to go very quick here in Texas. I didn’t want to take a chance of missing out on a stellar product like the parkers cognac finished turned out to be last year. I plan to pop the top on my bottle around Christmas time…but thanks for the review as I always look forward to your comments. Now I am just waiting for your thoughts on the 2012 WLW. This was the first year that I ever scored a bottle and interested to see how it compares to previous years at a lower barrel proof of 123?

  12. Matt says:

    Hey Jason, I’m a long time bourbon drinker that left it for a couple years. I know you’ve all heard it before, but 5 years ago, when I would buy the occasional nice bottle, Pappys was everywhere, and this is in Los Angeles! I even bought a bottle of AH Hirsch 16 year for a 100 bucks in ’08. They had 2 dusty bottles, man I wish I wouldve gotten them both! Wow, how things have changed. Anyway, I’m new to your site in the last month or so. It is so well done, congrats to you for doing such a great job with it. It has already become my go-to resource for reviews and such. I agree with you about the last 2 Parker’s. I like the new one, but last years is amazing. I’ve got a buddy, though, who thinks just the opposite. I’ve been reading about Breckenridge Bourbon here and there. Any plans for a review of it? Thanks.

  13. Roy says:

    This years release in my opinion gets better every time I try it,
    I am not sure if my pallate is picking up more each time or it is improving as the bottle lowers. My first impression was not positive. It seems to have much improved in the bottle.

    Let me know if you agree.
    Roy

  14. Alan says:

    Air time definitely favors this bourbon. In fact, I like it better than last years PHC. I bought three bottles and would definitely pick up another if I run across one.

  15. Roy says:

    Jason,

    Have you given this release any air time? I would be interested in your opinion.
    Thank you,

    Roy

  16. Kolin says:

    Any idea how they skirt the law regarding barrel entry proof for Bourbon? If this is bottled at 131.6 Proof, it stands to reason that it entered the barrel at much higher than that. The law requires Bourbon to be aged at 125 proof or lower, per CFR 27, 5.22. Any ideas?

  17. Kolin – evaporation can raise the proof. I have little doubt that barrel entry was 125 or less, but it can happen. Depends greatly on where they are aging the the barrels – more evaporation can occor in more volatile areas of the facility.

  18. You guys are crazy giving this bourbon such a low rating. This is one of the best bourbons that I have ever tasted.

  19. Joey says:

    Miracle of miracles, I found a bottle of this in OKC and for only $59 (Sam’s Wholesale on NW 23rd, if any other Okies are wondering). I haven’t opened it up yet but I’m excited to.

  20. jburlowski says:

    Surprised at your remark about a long and lingering finish. Most comments that I have read (including my own) cite the incredibly short finish. IMO, the short finish is the one flaw (albeit not a fatal one) in this PHC release.

  21. LC Woody says:

    Just tasted this for the first time, One of the best Bourbons I have tasted this year. I know everyone’s taste buds are different but this is a great bourbon.

  22. JFo says:

    Finally opened a bottle of this tonight, and it’s incredible! I feel like half of the qualities of the finish linger for a while, while the other half fall off a bit quickly. But the spicy candy easily makes up for the slightly thin finish.

    I can hang with it neat, but a few drops of water and a few minutes in the glass made me do the happy dance.

    Based on your reviews of last year’s PHC, I wish I could taste it! But I’m smiling now.

  23. Joe says:

    Maybe I missed it, but how did you drink this? Neat or with a splash of water?

    I have some of the 4th release and it’s one of my favorite wheaters. Big flavors for just 10 years old. Did you ever get a chance to taste that one?

  24. JN says:

    Sipping on this now as I write. I have had both the 5th and 6th and I must say that I am a bigger fan of the 6th. While I appreciate the creativity of the Cognac finish, I am also a sucker for unadulterated high-proof barrel-strength bourbon. I liked this so much after tasting for the first time that I tracked down a few more bottles. Bottom line is all of the PHC’s are amazing. Already looking forward to the 7th release! Love your blog by the way. Keep doing what you’re doing. Cheers!

  25. JFo says:

    I commented here a couple months ago about how much I loved this stuff.

    I was out today and spotted another lone bottle (and bought it), but this one is a whopping 69.7% abv. It’s a little puzzling, and that’s a significant variation from the other bottles I have, but I’m definitely interested to see how they compare.

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