13th Edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection is Extra-Aged in Heavy Char Barrels

The Parker’s Heritage Collection is a series of rare, limited-edition American Whiskeys offered as a tribute to sixth-generation Master Distiller Parker Beam for his 50+ years of distilling experience. Throughout those years, Parker was involved in developing Heaven Hill’s premium Small Batch and Single Barrel Bourbons, as well as much of the whiskey that now bears his name in the Parker’s Heritage Collection.

The 2019 edition, the 13th of the series, is one of those whiskeys. It not only holds the honor of being the first ever Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey in the Parker’s Heritage Collection but is especially notable for the unique way in which it was aged: in heavy char barrels.

We worked with our cooperage partners to create custom charred barrels not normally sold to other distilleries. These barrels went through an extended “heavy charring” session before being filled with our rye mashbill and aged on our Bardstown campus.

Whiskey barrels are graded into “Levels” that represent the intensity of char on the inside. All whiskey barrels are charred with the same burners and at the same temperature; the difference lies in how long they’re exposed to the flame. Heaven Hill normally ages our whiskey in barrels that have been charred for 40 seconds, resulting in a Level 3 char that creates the best balance of caramelized wood sugars, vanillin, and spice.

The barrels used for the 13th edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection, however, were custom charred to a Level 5. The interior was blasted with intense heat for a full 1 minute and 30 seconds, more than twice as long as our standard barrels. The resulting heavy “alligator char” creates deep fissures in the oak, in which the charred layers actually pull away from the rest of the wood. These cracks allow the whiskey to move in and out of the barrel even more intensely, extracting more flavor from the charred and uncharred oak.

Once the 75 specialty barrels arrived in Bardstown, they were filled with freshly distilled rye whiskey, made from our traditional rye mashbill of 51% rye, 35% corn, and 14% malted barley, then aged patiently for 8 years and 9 months on the seventh floor of Rickhouse Y. We monitored the maturation, and once they achieved the perfect balance of spiciness and robust complexity beloved in our high-quality ryes, they were mingled and bottled, without chill filtration, at 105 proof.

Parker Beam helped guide the company’s operations through the American Whiskey revival and into the current Bourbon boom. He not only headed distilling operations at both our original Bardstown location and our current Bernheim Distillery in Louisville but served as a leader who oversaw some of our earliest innovation projects.

To give whiskey enthusiasts a thorough look at the differing levels of barrel char, we built an interactive slideshow experience that details their effect on the whiskey aging inside. Head to our Parker’s Heritage Collection page and click on each barrel staves to learn more about how charring impacts flavor.

Explore Parker’s Heavy Char Rye

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