Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary” Bourbon

February 3rd, 2010

American Whiskey of the Year

Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary,” 50%, $150

Fifty years is a long time to be working in one industry, and master distiller Parker Beam has done just that. This bottling celebrates Parker’s 50 years of service by mingling whiskey from each of the past five decades. (Although, I don’t think there’s a whole lot from the 1960s in there.)

This is a fabulous whiskey; seamless, incredibly complex, with an impeccable marriage of youth and maturity. It’s also very even-keeled throughout—quite different than last year’s equally impressive Parker’s Heritage Collection bottling, a 27 year old, whose personality was more like an exhilarating old wooden rollercoaster ride (and also brandished more oak).

The Golden Anniversary bottling shows candied citrus, nectarine, blueberry, and sultana anchored by a nougat center and laced with honeyed vanilla and orange creamsicle. There’s a dusting of cocoa powder, brittle mint, and cinnamon, too! Tobacco leaves, polished leather, and teasing bourbon barrel char round out the palate, emerging more prominently toward its warming finish. This is a classic bourbon that’s very complex, yet very drinkable.

Tomorrow’s Malt Advocate Whisky Awards announcement: Canadian Whisky of the Year.

39 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary” Bourbon”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    Last years 27 yo is the best bourbon I’ve ever, in part because it’s so different from run of the mill older bourbons. John, you call this a “classic bourbon.” Should I expect something that, though just as delicious, is somewhat more orthodox?

    • John Hansell says:

      That’s right, Red. The Golden Anniversary bottling doesn’t taste like an old bottle of bourbon (like last year’s 27 year old), but rather more like a really fantastic fully matured, well-balanced bottle of bourbon.

      • Seth Nadel says:

        John, do you think distilleries are aging bourbons too long? I had the Hirsch 28yr and it was like chewing on a piece of wood. The Parkers 27 wasn’t quite as woody, but a little too woody for me. It seems like there is a trend to present bourbons a little more like single malt.

  2. Alex says:

    I admit that bourbon is less my taste that Scotch and the only bourbon I have that comes close to this in age is the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 yo. John, are there similarities between these two? I think one main reason I gravitate less to bourbon is that so many that I’ve had tend to be younger in character so this more mature character might interest me.

  3. Archaeology Carl says:

    When I opened up a bottle of this I heard the angels sing (really). It has a wonderful nose and is extremely well balanced. An excellent tasting bourbon! Though I usually can’t detect the variety of scents and flavors that those with more experience can, I believe I could actually do it with this bourbon. Despite the cost I’ve purchased additional bottles. This is one that I want to enjoy for years and years to come. And really…I thought I heard angels.

  4. Alex says:

    Archaeology Carl – Your review might have cinched the deal for me!

  5. Jay Erisman says:

    The Party Source was very privileged to host the public debut of Golden Heritage on August 1, 2009. Craig Beam came up from Bardstown to our EQ cooking school for a thorough tasting of Heaven Hill whiskeys, and the grand finale was a sample—bottled just the day before especially for this event—of this whiskey. Craig told our assembled customers that the whiskey representing the 1960s was distilled in 1968, that it comprised 3% of the vatting, and, incredibly, had been in the wood all those years. No, he did not get to taste it on its own.

  6. JWC says:

    John, based on your ratings (and I keep up with the bourbon reviews much more closely), I figured that this would win your award. Unfortunately for me, I’ve never seen a bottle of it for sale here in Houston and I cannot buy online bc of Texas state law. Two previous heritage editions are still on sale but not this baby. Oh well.

  7. Brian says:

    While it sounds phenomenal, and I’m sure it’s worth it, that price point is definitely going to keep quite a few readers from even finishing reading the excellent write-up.

    I know I enjoy reading about the “inaccessibles”, but it sure would be nice to try them.

    John – have you thought about coordinating a table at Whiskyfest that could offer tastings of all your winners for 2009?

  8. Texas says:

    After having the Stagg and the Weller from the BTAC this year, some PVW as well WT Rare Breed and EWSB 99 and 2000, I am really starting to appreciate the higher end bourbons. This sounds fantastic, but even if I could get, gonna have to pass at $150. Sure hope BTAC stays in the more reasonable range. Gotta admit though, considering what goes into this bourbon I must say that $150 is not outrageous.

    • JWC says:

      Texas, as far as the higher end bourbons are concerned, let’s admit that not all are great. However, they used to be a steal compared to scotch (i remember buying the btac’s when they first came out). The price disparity is narrowing real quickly – still better value than scotch. the issue besides ever increasing price is the availability. on that point, i will say that the ewsb’s are consistently a great bargain. i greatly favor bourbon over scotch. the first eagle rare 15 (btac) i got was significantly less expensive and better than the er 17 (btac) 2009. unfortunately, all my er 15’s are long gone and i never got to do a side by side comparison of the er 15 with the better er 17’s – i’ll have to take the experts’ op that the er 17 was/is (the good years) better than the er 15.

      • Texas says:

        Well, my highest end is the BTAC. PVW 10 is my upper limit with the PVW stuff. I have been careful to choose mainly based on the Maltadvocate reviews, so haven’t had the ones that aren’t that good yet. Frankly I am happy with just good’ol WT 101 or WT Rye as well, as well as the cheaper Antique Weller.

        My #1 love is Scotch, but the finances of Bourbon (good bourbon) have made it more the go to.

        On the subject of this whiskey again (Parker) the more I read the more I might request it as a birthday and Christmas present if they ever get it in at Spec’s.

  9. Ernest says:

    If only 3% is from the 1960s then imo it’s hard to justify the price. Unless of course a much higher percentage is from the 1970s. Otherwise we’re looking at a bourbon that is primarily from the 1980s onward and again, to me, would no justify the price. That said I’m sure it’s very good but maybe not as special as HH would lead us to believe.

  10. Texas says:

    True, but not knowing how long it was in the wood (the 1968) maybe it was too woody to be there in a higher percentage.

    • Ernest says:

      Excellent point. I’ll most likely still buy it; as one other blogger noted it’s the highest rated bourbon ever and John’s palate has never steered me wrong.

  11. Ray says:

    John, I cannot say I am surprised as this is the highest rated Bourbon you have ever rated (97 rating)! Bourbon is such as bargain. The highest rated single malt Scotch you rated (also a 97) cost $6500 vs a mere $150 for this awesome Bourbon!

    JWC, go look at Binny’s website, I believe they had it last time I checked.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      I think John’s ratings are category specific– to some extent different characteristics are supposed to be preferred in different categories. I don’t think that for John it’s as if, except for it’s place of origin, this could have been a scotch and that in that case it would have received the same score.

      But you’re right, Bourbon drinkers have things so much easier on their wallets. Take the hyper-peated Bruichladdich, Octomore. I love the stuff. And I’d like to buy it. But it’s only 5 years old and it goes for more than 200$. Why? Who knows. I wonder how much it would cost if they were calculating their prices the Parker’s-Heritage-Style– probably 40$,,,

      If only I could choose to wake up tomorrow and prefer bourbon to scotch my life would definetly be easier.

    • Texas says:

      Ray, Unfortunately JWC and I both live in Texas and by state law we can’t order liquor and have it shipped into the state (even into the counties that aren’t dry counties). It’s even more frustrating for me because while working in New Mexico for a few months I ordered some High West Rendezvous Rye (can’t get it in Texas) from Binnys and had it sent to my hotel. That was fun and I know how cool it would be to be able to do that from home.

  12. John Hansell says:

    I can understand everyone’s issue with price. That’s a lot for a bourbon. But, like Ray points out, it’s a great whiskey and still a lot less expensive than some of the better high-end single malt scotches out there. If you DO find a way to come up with the $150 and buy a bottle, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Right John. Like I just wrote probably at the same exact time that you we’re writing your comment, from the scotch end of the table the pricing on this one looks downright generous. I really can’t see it any other way.

      But as I’ve said before, if they can bourbon drinkers should involve themselves in curtailing the premiumization of their favorite drink sooner rather than later. Look how warped the scotch market has become by the rampant focus on luxury and collectability. Like I said I’d like to buy Octomore, but my principles won’t let me. Perhaps bourbon drinkers are feeling the same about Parker’s as I do about it. And perhaps they’re right to feel that way.

  13. Joshua Hafer says:

    What a major honor, John! The announcement has already made the rounds at HHD. We are excited that the Golden Anniversary of Parker’s start with Heaven Hill would elicit an award commiserate with his impact on the industry.

    We will certainly pass along the kind words, not just from John, but all the commenters.

  14. Mr Manhattan says:

    All I can say is: well done, well deserved! Tasting this was one of the highlights of SF Whiskey Fest last fall. I’ve not see it any where in the SF bay area yet but I’ll gladly treat myself to a bottle when I do.


  15. sam k says:

    Keep in mind that the price of last year’s Parker’s was over $200. They could easily have done the same (or more) this year. Yet another reason that Heaven Hill is my favorite distillery in the price/quality ratio ratings.

    • Texas says:

      sam k ..not to question your opinion, but you rate HH over Buffalo Trace in price/quality when the annual BTAC Stagg/Weller/Eagle Rare/T. Handy releases are only $60-$70?

  16. sam k says:

    Tex, as far as overall product line I’ll put HH against any American distillery. They offer great bourbons and ryes at minimal price points versus most other distillers, and have proven that they can compete with the best, as evidenced by this award. Evan Williams 1783 at well less than $20 is virtually unbeatable, let alone other great whiskeys in the Heaven hill stable, including Rittenhouse rye BIB at about $20. The regular Evan Williams, which comes to us at an above average 86 proof, is a steal on its own.

    No quarrel with the BTAC! Bought a Stagg this year, and find those selections impressive. Buffalo Trace is the darling of the bourbon enthusiast these days for good reason, but please don’t ignore the contributions of Heaven Hill, which have been considerable.

    • Texas says:

      Well you learn something new everyday. I did not know Evan Williams was from HH. The EWSB is an incredible deal. Good points.

  17. I love this stuff. One of the most balanced, most sophisticated bourbons I have ever had. It feels like it is dancing around all over your mouth. I have no problem with the price when you compare it to other classic whiskeys. Red_Arremer & Ray have it right, bourbon is the best value whiskey category out there. This is a must have for any bourbon aficionado.

  18. Monique at the Dell says:

    My favorite Parkers! Very complex, spicy and effervescent, congrats HH! We tried this at a neighbor’s Christmas party, looks like the best gift was for us!

    It’s hard to compare prices with scotches this age, well, blends that might contain a percentage this age… but this is such a well-crafted whiskey. I’d much rather the perfect blend, including just 3% from 1968, that a much woodier one. The PPVW 23 gets a bit sulphury after a bit and doesn’t seem to hold in the glass as well as the Parker’s Golden. Well worth the price of admission.

  19. mindofmenjim says:

    I have to agree with John on this one. I’ve tasted a lot of bourbons and do tend to lean towards the higher priced ones. I’ve had all of the Pappy Van Winkles as well as the two prior Parkers Heritage releases and can honestly say that when I cracked open this bottle, I was simply amazed. It is easily the best Bourbon I have ever tasted.

    $150 is a lot, but given how good this Bourbon is, it justifies the price in my mind. I have paid more for some of the other Scotches and Bourbons I have tried and when you compare it to other high priced ones, it really shines. For me, the price is driven more by the quality of the dram than simply its age, so the fact that this one may not have tons of overly old whiskies is not a problem.

  20. Keith Adair says:

    This was my favorite whiskey this year at the San Francisco Whiskey Fest. I am glad it is getting the praise it deserves. John is right in saying that you will not be dissapointed. Also, for those of you who missed Parker’s Lecture on aged bourbon at the Fest, you missed out on tasting the different effects age has on bourbon as well as barrel location. We tasted samples that were over 26 years old. The samples taken from different floors that were the same age were dramatically different.

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