The 9th edition of Heaven HIll’s annual Parker’s Heritage Collection took a sharp left turn towards a style of whiskey not often released in the United States. In the same vein as straight bourbon or straight rye, a “straight malt” whiskey must be comprised of at least 51% malted barley in the mashbill. Aside from a special edition Woodford Reserve and some smaller craft operations, this style of whiskey is practically non-existent. Maybe that’s what made this release so appealing to the decision makers at Heaven Hill. After all, the PHC series is often a showcase for experimental and unusual whiskies.
In the case of Parker’s Heritage Straight Malt Whiskey, 141 eight year old barrels were selected from the 5th and 7th floors of Rickhouse Y. The whiskey was made from a mashbill of 65% Malt and 35% Corn and was bottled at 54% ABV. There were estimated to be just over 18,000 bottles made.
If secondary market pricing trends are any indication, this release was not particularly well received by whiskey fans relative to other PHC bottlings. Is the high malt content too much for the typical American whiskey drinker? Let’s explore further.
|Nose||Sharp spice at first including pepper and cardamom, then peanuts, apple cinnamon oatmeal, mixed berry Tums, oak, a slight yeasty/sourdough note, cherry, lemon-lime citrus. The spice calms down a lot with both time and water and this allows for a bakery/pastry note to come forward.|
|Taste||Oak driven vanilla, drying earthiness, mint, fennel, cherries, malty, hint of chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon red hots. Creamier and fruitier with both water and time including mixed dried berries and hints of stonefruit. A much richer chocolate note also comes forward more with time which is quite nice.|
|Finish||Medium length. Cinnamon Toast Crunch, herbal, lots more oak, creme brûlée, hint of raspberry and lime. Much drier with water with notes of honey, cardamom and just a touch of orchard fruit in the back.|
|Overall Thoughts||I think American Single Malt is still the toughest whiskey style to resonate with the US market but I’m placing Straight Malt Whiskey firmly in second place. Not only is a straight malt unlikely to attract a Scotch drinker but I’m not sure it appeals to bourbon drinkers on the name alone. The combination of malt and corn actually worked for me personally but I can’t help but wonder if I’m an outlier as a huge fan of both Scotch and bourbon. Compared to expectations, this is a surprisingly oak-dominant whiskey with enough spice and earthiness for me to wonder if they mistakenly put some rye into this mashbill by mistake. I enjoyed it but I can see why strict bourbon fans weren’t a big fan of this. I’d consider this a “try before you buy” whiskey.|