Parker’s Heritage Collection: Through the Years

In creating the Parker’s Heritage Collection many years ago, we recognized a rare opportunity to create one of the finest and broadest lines of rare American whiskeys ever assembled. What we didn’t know at the start was just how significant the Parker’s Heritage Collection would become in the whiskey world, and to our distillery family.

If you know the story of Bourbon, you know its sales plummeted in the 1970s. But back then, our Master Distiller, Parker Beam, insisted that American whiskey’s return was imminent, and he continued producing lots of it. By the 1990s, those stores were now long-aged gems worth mining and turning into new brands. By the new millennia, we were moving to release some truly special spirits spanning across our traditional American Whiskey mashbills, six rickhouse sites and 1.2 million barrels in inventory. Given the heart, soul and heritage he brought to those whiskeys, we thought it right to name that eventual collection in Parker’s honor. Since its inception, the Collection has garnered some of the industry’s most sought after awards including Whisky Magazine’s “World’s Best North American Whiskey” and three Double Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Following his 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. Despite battling ALS Parker continued adding unique whiskeys to his eponymous line throughout the years. The 2014 bottling was a cask strength Wheat Whiskey, followed by a Straight Malt Whiskey in 2015. 2016 saw him choose a 24-year-old Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon that was not only elderly, it was the world’s oldest example of that designation. Before Parker’s death in 2017, Denny Potter, now Master Distiller, worked with the legend himself for three years on a number of projects, including the 2017 release.

This 11th edition showcases what Parker felt was one of his greatest achievements throughout his more than 50 years of distilling experience – the introduction of Heaven Hill’s single barrel Bourbons. Beginning with 175 different 11-year-old barrels from the Deatsville rickhouse location, Potter and his team whittled their options down to 120. “I know it sounds fun, which it is, but our team had to taste every single one of those, which is a lot of work,” says Potter. “But it is so fulfilling to carry out Parker’s legacy.” Of the three Parker’s Heritage Collection releases he’s assisted with, Potter calls the 2017 the most special to him because it was Parker’s last. But he smiles knowing many future releases will still bear the influence of Bourbon Hall of Fame Distiller, Parker Beam. “Some of those whiskeys that we have yet to use were put away 22 years ago,” Potter says. “So, he’s still involved. Now it’s up to us to execute his vision.”

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