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Best of the Best 2012: Spirits: Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished Bourbon

Richard Carleton Hacker

Although we tend to think of bourbon as robust and Cognac as more refined, these two brown spirits share many traits. Their production is heavily regulated; both are aged in oak barrels; and each has an underlying sweetness—bourbon from its corn mash and Cognac from its grape wine. Thus, sixth-generation master distiller Parker Beam, a great-nephew of Jim Beam, had good reason to join forces with sixth-generation master distiller Alain Royer—founder of A. de Fussigny Cognac and now working with the Cointreau family—to create something extraordinary together. Beam hand-selected bourbons that he had been barrel-aging for 10 years in Bardstown, Ky., and wanted to finish (extra age) them in Cognac barrels. Royer responded by acquiring 15 French-oak Limousin barrels that had previously contained 3-year-old Grande Champagne Cognac. Beam poured his bourbon into Royer’s barrels and let the spirits continue to mature in the same Kentucky warehouse for an additional six months. The result is Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished Bourbon (www.heavenhill.com, $80). Non-chill-filtered and bottled at 100 proof, this American whiskey is like no other, full of honeyed sweetness and fruity oak. There was just enough spirit to fill 6,000 bottles of this newest member of the limited Parker’s Heritage Collection.

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