Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Heaven Hill Wheater Has Cognac Vibe.

It is in very well-aged wheated bourbons that you can experience why I believe bourbon whiskey evolved more in imitation of cognac than scotch. Without the sharp, grassy notes of rye the new charred barrel reigns supreme and it is almost possible to forget you are drinking whiskey and not brandy.

You can taste this for yourself if you are lucky enough to snag a bottle of Heaven Hill’s upcoming limited edition, cask strength, non-chilled filtered, 10-year-old wheated bourbon. That is this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection release, which should start to appear in stores next month. But it won't be there long. There will be fewer than 5,000 bottles available. The suggested retail is $79.99.

Here are my tasting notes for the first of what will be two batches. The first one is 63.9 percent alcohol (127.8° proof).

Undiluted I get red raspberry on the nose and very dark molasses on the palate. Diluted I get caramel and vanilla on both, also old oak on the nose and on the palate very light notes of mint, oregano, and teriyaki sauce.

Especially when diluted it is all wheater, with caramel and vanilla dominating, though at times the caramel slips away and pancake syrup sweetness takes over. Undiluted it is very rich and intense. More licorice comes through, especially on the finish.

That’s what I think. Here is what Parker Beam has to say about his latest creation: “I am genuinely excited to introduce a nicely aged, cask-strength wheated bourbon for this next version of my Parker’s Heritage Collection. At this age and barrel-proof is how a wheated bourbon shows best. It has the caramel and smoke notes that only ten years in the top floors of our rickhouses can produce.”

Parker loves those top floors. That’s why this whiskey bears little resemblance to any other 10+ year old wheater you know. This is also some of the oldest wheated bourbon made at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville since Heaven Hill took it over in 1999. The second batch, in fact, is not quite old enough and won’t be dumped until next month.

Not that $80 is cheap, but this year is more in line with the first Parker’s Heritage Collection releases in 2007. Prices for 2008 and 2009 were $200 and $150 respectively.

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