Damned lovely whiskey. Please bury me with a bottle of this.
Notes: This whiskey is produced at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, and has a new visitors center the Bourbon Heritage Center (which sadly was about to open the week after we visited so we never got there).
Close to both Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve Distillery if you are touring. Home of numerous other whiskies such as Trybox Series New Make, TryBox Series New Make Rye, Elijah Craig 12 Year Old, Elijah Craig 18 Year Old Single Barrel, Evan Williams Vintage 2000, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Fighting Cock and Cabin Still among others.
On the golden (50th) year of his employment at Heaven Hill, Parker Beam, the Master Distiller, came up with this personal blend to commemorate the event. The blend itself requires some explanation – it is made primarily from age ten and twenty year old barrels with additions from barrels that date from the 60’s,70’s and 80’s so the age is hard to quantify or even average. There are less than 4,500 of these bottles in existence, and dropping fast.
Appearance: Deep red/bronze color in the bottle, wears it’s age almost as well as its’ distiller (Parker Beam). This color is very unusual in a bourbon (more common with scotch) as for a bourbon to acquire this color requires about 20 years or so usually. Legs form very slowly on swirling, with very long thin legs.
First Impression:Char, apricots, persimmons, nutmeg , vietnamese cinnamon, vanilla, leather, macadamia nuts, some spiciness, and a faint trace of marzipan, and on more warming tropical fruit.This is a great, complex, multilayered but somehow delicate whiskey.
Taste: Toffee, (not caramel), corn, apricot again, vanilla, cinnamon family spices much like the bouquet. A slightly sweet start, medium mouth feel, more like a good armagnac than like a cognac (and I mean that in a positive way, armagnac can be much more complex and interesting than cognac). Lovely long finish with a fair amount of oak, char, leather, dark fruit, apple butter and vanilla.
Drinks: Great in almost any drink calling for bourbon that we tried- Manhattans were singular in subtle complexity. We also tried it in some cocktails calling for Islay single malt scotch and it worked wonderfully as a variation on a theme. But really, this whiskey is really deserving of enjoying on its one with maybe a splash of good water. Glass choice is however critical- the wrong glass will either lose a lot of subtlety or give you a charcoal like blast. I recommend experimenting with different glasses, some of which are reviewed in our barware reviews section. We particularly liked the cane tulip glass for this whiskey.
Bottle: Bottle is similar to the earlier releases but the labeling has changed to reflect the new release. Black and gold neckwrap with a real cork closure ( a increasingly rare thing) The short neck along with a heavy glass foot give it a distinct decanter look. Main body is slightly oval (more towards the bottom. with rounded edges give it a nice effect and shelf appeal (in the store or on your own shelf). Simple straightforward label with a deckled edge has the legally required labeling on back. The weight and heft of the bottle conveys a solid feel. Overall the design harkens to antique malt bottle in overall influence and appearance.
Final Thoughts: Think of this as the Islay version of bourbon – but instead of peat you have char- lots of char – think of (or in the same way as) the scene in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves said guns- lots of guns. That being said, this bourbon is NOT just some tired, over oaked and over the hill whiskey that someone bottled for age bragging rights and little else- far from it!
Complex, interesting, and multilayered, an example that bourbon whiskey can stand with other older whiskies when aged and blended properly.
Fast loading and easy to navigate. This one of the most comprehensive bourbon (or any other spirit for that matter) website I have come across – and that is saying a lot! Extensive information and good pictures of how bourbon is made, the distillery, the bourbon heritage with reviews and ratings by different people and organizations of the different vintage years. Also the most extensive store of bourbon-related gear and accessories in the industry.