Over his half-century career as Heaven Hill Master Distiller, Parker Beam oversaw production of much of what became our current 1.4-million-barrel inventory of whiskey. And as American Whiskey boomed in the final decade of his memorable career, he moved to mine the jewels of that liquid cache to create a new line of premium bottlings.

Launched in 2007 as the Parker’s Heritage Collection, those rare whiskeys became limited annual releases of some of our oldest spirits (a 27-year-old Bourbon in 2008), finest blends (a mingling of Wheat and Rye Bourbons in 2012), most unique mashbills (an 8-year-old Malt whiskey in 2015), and our first step into cask finishes (a 2011 Bourbon finished in cognac barrels).

The cognac-finished release was the result of our first collaboration with master blender Alain Royer, and we enjoyed his innovative vision so much that we returned to cask-finishing another Bourbon in 2018, this time using barrels that formerly held orange curaçao.

Royer worked with Heaven Hill to sample varying Rye and Wheat Bourbons aged between six and eight years. The veteran blender settled on a 7 and 8-year-old Bourbon blend aged on the upper floors of Rickhouse Q. Once the curaçao barrels were filled with the Bourbon, the wait began.

The main concern was making sure that the flavor in the orange curaçao barrels didn’t overpower the Bourbon. After monthly tastings, the distillery locked in on a four-month finishing period. From there, the only decision remaining was proof, and a potent 110 proof (55% abv) was agreed upon.

The result is a complex and fruit-forward Bourbon that tasters say reminds them of an “Old Fashioned consumed neat.” Despite its proof, the spirit is supple and delicately sweet, backed by notes of honey, caramel and, of course, the bitter orange peels required to make fine curaçao.

“The finishing enhanced all the qualities of this Bourbon,” Royer says, “giving it a je ne sais quoi that will probably make it another collectable bottle.”

Following Parker Beam’s diagnosis with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), the 2013 “Promise of Hope” bottling mirrored Parker’s own personal preference for age, proof, and warehouse location. The bottling also started a remarkable cause-related component that lives on today, as Heaven Hill donates a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to support ALS patient care and research.

“Today, we’ve raised over $1 million for this cause,” says Max Shapira, President of Heaven Hill Distillery. “We’re looking forward to raising even more in the future through our Parker’s Heritage Collection.”

To learn more about this year’s release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, check out our interactive tool and get an inside look at every step of its production.

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