For the 13th edition of Heaven Hill’s resoundingly popular Parker’s Heritage Collection Limited Edition bottling, the distillery is releasing a rye — surprisingly the first appearance of rye in the entire series.
What’s distinguished here is that the rye spends its eight years of aging time in level 5 charred barrels — a very heavy char level which is virtually unheard of in Kentucky (or anywhere else). While many distilleries use level 4 char barrels, level 3 is arguably the most common — and is the customary char level for all of Heaven Hill’s products. (The rare exception to this is the insane level 7 char used in this Buffalo Trace Experimental Release.) To put that in perspective, a level 3 char equates to 35 seconds of fire charring the interior of a whiskey barrel, while a level 5 char equals a whopping 85 seconds of burn. The heavy char barrels spend eight years and nine months on the seventh floor of Rickhouse Y before bottling.
Finally, with the 2019 Heavy Char Rye Whiskey edition, Heaven Hill will again contribute a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to the ALS Association, the disease from which Parker Beam died in 2017.
Ready for some heavy char rye? Let’s dive in.
From the top, there’s plenty of toasty wood here, but an ultra-heavy char isn’t immediately evident. By and large it presents like any top-shelf rye, with lots of baking spice, red pepper, and cigar box notes — although the higher alcohol level makes for a somewhat heady experience on the nose. The palate has some heat up front, but give it a few minutes in glass and things even out. Here that heavy char becomes more apparent, with a rush of charcoal that quickly dissipates. What’s left in its wake is a surprisingly sweet whiskey with lots of fruit-adjacent notes — applesauce, cherry cola, and mint chocolate — all working in service of a rye that, in its final throes, takes a victory lap around a woody and well-charred (yet perfectly balanced) finish.
Altogether it’s a very compelling and highly sippable rye — and one of the best Parker’s Heritage editions in recent years. Snap it up.