You might be asking, aren’t we almost on the 12th release of the annual Parker’s Heritage Collection? The answer is yes, and our review on that one will be out soon, we promise. (Next week! -Ed.) The short version of this story is that it took us a while to locate a sample of the 10th Edition, but, hey, better late than never! For this release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection, Heaven Hill Distillery decided to do something groundbreaking and release a 24-year-old, bottled-in-bond bourbon, the oldest bottled-in-bond bourbon ever to hit the shelves. Released in two vintages, one from 1990 and the other from 1991, this bourbon was pulled from stocks that predated the infamous 1996 fire that destroyed the original distillery in Bardstown. Our sample was from the 1990 vintage. Thoughts follow.
The nose on this Parker’s Heritage Collection is not overly intense. At 100 proof, I expected a slightly bigger aroma, but it’s probably for the better given that much of what comes across borders on astringent with lumberyard, barrel char, and old leather made slightly more inviting with a little burnt caramel and black tea. The palate reveals initial notes of caramelized sugar, vanilla bean, and almond, all of which may have been washed out at a lower proof. The extra octane also produces a good throat-coating heat, not often found in older bourbons. Unfortunately, the enjoyable flavors up front give way to a rush of more tannic and bitter notes that include wet oak, sawdust, and soap. Despite this, it’s not overly drying on the palate, maintaining a consistently silky body. The finish lingers with a strange combination of spice cabinet and an almost vegetal warehouse funk. While it’s an interesting bourbon, there’s an overall disparity of flavors that make for a confusing experience. I imagine that less age would have likely tamed some of the sharper, woody elements and given this one some needed balance.
As a related aside, on a visit to Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in 2016 I actually had the chance to try a barrel sample of unreleased 25-year-old, bottled-in-bond bourbon (which I suppose makes it the oldest bottled-in-bond bourbon). It definitely had similar elements to the 10th Edition (and bourbon that old may have eventually found its way into that release). That sample was simply labeled by Heaven Hill: “Bad.”