As I write this in the first few days of January 2014, a bitter cold is making headlines and turning much of the nation into a mean and nasty freezer state. The remnants of the storm they called Hercules are still being felt in the northeast. The thermometers read less than zero in a big swath of the midwest. And a lot of people are struggling to get through this cold snap. They’re worried about getting stuck in their home due to ice or snow, or even finding a warm place to stay the night. Frivolities like limited edition spirits in fancy bottles are decidedly not top of mind.
Me? I’m fortunate enough to say I’ve got it relatively easy. Atlanta is far from the worst of this weather, my heat is keeping things a comfy 72 degrees in my house, and I’ve got plenty of food, water, (bourbon), and friends and family to keep me healthy and happy for the time being. But I can’t help but think about those in need, and ways to help them out (here’s one way – and some helpful hints on dealing with the cold as well).
Which is all a roundabout way to introducing the latest Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon release from Heaven Hill, dubbed Promise of Hope. This year’s release (out since October 2013) is distinguished by the fact that, for every bottle sold, $20 is being given to the ALS Association to help fund research and patient care for those effected by ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Parker Beam himself, the master distiller who has worked with Heaven Hill since 1960, was diagnosed with ALS in 2013, so it’s a cause clearly very dear to the Heaven Hill family.
At $90 or so, this is not cheap bourbon, but knowing that it supports a cause like this takes the sting out of the price. Previous Parker’s Heritage Collection releases have run the gamut from an 11 year old cask strength small batch in 2007 (its first year), to a 27 ! year old release, to a cognac-finished release (by the way, Heaven Hill, please update your website, since the last edition shown is from two years ago!). This year’s Promise of Hope is fairly straightforward in its premise – a 10 year old single barrel bourbon that simply hits all the things Parker Beam looks for, from the age, to the location in the rickhouse where it matured, to the proof (96) it was bottled at. It’s basically the very best of the best of what the Evan Williams Single Barrel can be (at a higher proof). Which is to say that it’s very, very good. Prototypical Evan Williams/Elijah Craig excellence.
Amazingly, there’s still some of this stuff to be found if you get lucky. It hasn’t fallen prey to the mania around bourbons like Pappy or the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. If you do see a bottle, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s a good cause, and a great bourbon. Tasting notes and review below.
I have to admit that I wasn’t fully appreciative of this bottle on the first few tastes back in November. It tasted, well, a bit pedestrian for the price. The fact that I knew it was basically Evan Williams Single Barrel (though hand selected especially for this release by Parker Beam) maybe played with my mind a bit, since EWSB runs for roughly a fourth of the price (a great bargain). But Promise of Hope is a bourbon that has grown on me over time, becoming a regular go-to when I’m in need of something to warm me from the cold or simply bring a slow smile to my face.
The nose here hits basically every note you expect it to hit… toasty oak, burnt caramel, cinnamon and vanilla, orange peel, a bit of crisp apple fruit, then a sharp mineral edge at the end. And, yes, the proof is just right for sipping neat. Plenty strong, tongue coating richness, but not at all too hot. Those same elements you get on the nose come out strongly on the palate, the fruit and grain a bit more pronounced, but the spicy cinnamon coming on stronger, too. Cloves and baking spice carry through into a finish that keeps going and going and going. Robust without being domineering, balanced and wholly integrated. It’s enough to keep you happy on a cold winter night, and it also puts you in the mind of thinking about the challenges that others are facing, and the fact that even a little thing like supporting a charity with a purchase (or a donation) can have an impact.
Thirsty South Rating: Excellent*