We’re 17 years in on one of the most unicorny of whiskey unicorns, the Parker’s Heritage Collection. For 2023, you’re getting a 10 year old rye at cask strength, a vatting of distillate barreled in August, October, and December 2012, made from a mash of 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley.
Like the previous 10 editions a portion of the proceeds will continue to support ALS research and patient care in honor of Parker Beam, Master Distiller Emeritus.
It’s one of the more straightforward Parker’s Heritage releases in recent years, so let’s dive into a tasting.
There’s seemingly no shortage of cask strength rye on the market right now, so Heaven Hill has a high bar to hit if it wants to stand out. The good news is that it does. The nose is brisk with spice but lacks the overpowering grassy character that so much modern rye bombards the senses with. A gentler white pepper note gives the nose some heat, alongside ample, smoldering barrel char notes, but soon we’re down a rabbit hole of more bourbon-like qualities, predominantly evoking vanilla custard and toffee notes, those rye-driven spice notes hanging out a bit, ringing the edges.
The palate is on the hot side, gritty not just from the rye in the mix but also from the cask strength presentation. The rye shows much better with a modest splash of water, coaxing out a butterscotch quality that’s hard not to love, paired with notes of baked apples, tons of vanilla, and a citrus quality that you don’t often find in rye. Busy but balanced as various spices move in and out of focus, I found myself dosing it further with water as the night went on, which gave the whiskey a creamy, seductive quality, clearly driven by the relatively high amount of corn in the mash. The finish evokes chocolate with corn-driven peanut butter — but again with a pinch of pepper and spice to brighten things up.
If you’re into in-your-face rye whiskey, the latest Parker’s isn’t for you. This is far closer to bourbon than any other cask strength rye I’ve encountered of late. But that’s not a bad thing, as Heaven Hill blends the two styles here to produce something that will appeal to both sides of that fence — while doing something good for medical science along the way.
A- / $185 / heavenhilldistillery.com