Parker’s Heritage Collection – Curaçao Barrel Finished (12th Edition) Review

Parker’s Heritage Collection is Heaven Hill‘s annual special release American whiskey honoring the late Parker Beam.

Parker Beam began with Heaven Hill in 1960. He would later become Master Distiller at Heaven Hill in 1975, following the death of his father and then Master Distiller Earl Beam. In 2010, Beam was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Beginning with the 2013 release, Heaven Hill began donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of Parker’s Heritage to the ALS Association. Parker Beam passed in early 2017 following his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. By the time of his passing, Beam was with Heaven Hill for 56 years.

This year’s release is the 12th release for the Parker’s Heritage Collection line. The Parker’s Heritage Barrel Finished bourbon is 7-8 year Heaven Hill bourbon from the upper floors of Rickhouse Q. It is then finished in previously aged French orange curaçao liqueur for four months. It is then bottled at 110 proof. This is Heaven Hill’s second barrel finished release after the cognac finished bourbon (5th edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection).

According to Denny Potter, now former master distiller at Heaven Hill (after his return to Maker’s Mark), this release was actually created in advance of the 2017 Parker’s Heritage release cycle. However, after Beam passed in 2017, according to Potter, Heaven Hill did not feel that a finished bourbon would appropriately honor the legacy of Parker Beam. So instead, it released an 11 year bourbon for its 11th release. Potter had worked with Parker Beam directly on that release. 

So the curaçao finished bourbon sat. Vatted. Waiting for an opportunity for release. This September, Heaven Hill finally released it. Our new Flight Club inductee, Eric Schroeder, recently obtained a bottle and we immediately sat down and reviewed.

Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished (12th Edition) (110 Proof) 

Nose: Initial impressions of dry oak spice as the nose approaches the glass, but once you are fully nosing, the dry oily orange peel envelopes; some sweet vanilla orangesicle accompanies some of the more bitter orange notes; lemon furniture polish; some light chewy caramel; subtle vanilla.  Not an  insignificant amount of ethanol, even for 110 proof.  Unlike some reviewers’ notes, I don’t quite nose this as a cocktail-in-a-bottle, but some of those influences are present.  Certainly some good underlying bourbon notes here.  (3.5/5)

Palate: Sharp orange cocktail bitters and tart orange; dry oak; light sulfer and barrel char; a bit of orange tic-tac candied sweetness along with some minerality and vanilla linger on the palate.  A splash of water opens up the sweeter orange and softens the bitter.   For me, this palate is just too influenced by the curaçao .  (2.5/5)

Finish: Medium-long; spicy oak and bitter orange transitioning to sweet orange and vanilla. Lingering spice and tannic oak. Adding water creates an old fashioned cocktail like finish. 3/5

Overall. The underlying bourbon is solid, and I find I can still pull out many of those seasoned oak and vanilla flavors.  However, I wish I could strip the curaçao out.   It is just an overwhelming flavor.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Heaven Hill used the barrel as appropriately as I might imagine, and I can see where these flavors would get even more out of hand (see our previous review of Infinite Barrel in which this is clearly the case).  While I can’t imagine using this bottle in that way, I can see making some amazing cocktails with this. (3/5)

Value: This again retails for $90.  It is a good underlying bourbon.  It is a unique finish, done with fairly unique results.  It is enjoyable and something we are not disappointed with buying.  And add in the Parker’s name, and this is certainly satisfying.  (3/5)

“The underlying bourbon is solid, and I find I can still pull out many of those seasoned oak and vanilla flavors.  However, I wish I could strip the curaçao out.”

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