Our man on the bar stool salutes Parker Beam of Heaven Hill Distilleries
In the bourbon world, autumn’s arrival means another highly anticipated release from the Parker’s Heritage Collection. Now in its ninth year, this series continues its impressive streak with “Kentucky’s Straight Malt Whiskey.” Bottled at 108 proof, it comes non-chill filtered, meaning it went straight from the barrel to the bottle. It will keep you warm while watching leaves change colors, and it’s a guaranteed winner among friends at a bonfire. It’s another home run from Parker Beam, one of whiskey’s greatest players.
In fact, it’s hard to find someone more knowledgeable about the whiskey business than Parker Beam. As a Master Distiller at Heaven Hill Distilleries for nearly five decades, his last name has become synonymous with bourbon perfection, and the list of accolades continues to grow with each passing year. He’s a man who once lived in the shadow of his family’s heritage until the time came for his star to shine. As you may have already guessed, whiskey runs in his family much like blood runs through veins—and it all started with a man named Jim.
The Beam family’s distilling legend began when James Beauregard Beam, or, as you may know him, Jim Beam, decided he needed to earn a living supporting the world’s desire for alcohol. The reins continued passing down through generations until Parker took control in 1975. During his 50-plus years as Master Distiller, Parker has chalked up an impressive resume. Besides Parker’s Heritage Collection, he also helped jumpstart popular brands such as Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. His multiple accomplishments earned him a spot as a charter member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame and he was awarded the coveted Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today, even with a debilitating disease, he works with his son, Craig Beam, much like when his father, Earl, taught him the tricks of the trade. When the time comes, Craig will join the ranks of his bloodline and become the seventh Master Distiller with the last name Beam.
Tragedy struck Parker in 2012 when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A.L.S. for short, or as most know it, Lou Gehrig’s Disease), an incurable illness. Although Parker’s Heritage Collection originally started out as a showcase highlighting America’s rich whiskey past, it developed into something much more meaningful over the past three years. After Beam’s diagnosis, Heaven Hill Distilleries decided they would donate five dollars for every Collection bottle sold to “Parker’s Promise of Hope Fund,” a charity founded by the man himself, with a dedication towards A.L.S research and treatment. With their combined help, an incredible half a million dollars has been raised.
For their ninth installment, Parker’s Heritage dug deep into Kentucky’s backwoods, uncovering, and restoring, a true Southern classic. The concoction comes with 65 percent malted barley alongside 35 percent corn, distilled in Louisville, and left to mature for eight long years on the fifth and seventh floors at Heaven Hill Distilleries. Expect a spicy finish that will leave you wanting more long after the last drop.
There’s no need for cocktails when drinking a whiskey this nice. In Parker Beam’s honor, we’re making a whiskey neat. Leave the bells and whistles at home—fall’s here and we’re sipping on straight whiskey. Grab your favorite Old Fashioned glass from the cupboard (the one with the wide brim), fill it three-fourths of the way full and taste a true master working at his highest level. After a few sips, the complex flavors begin surfacing, and you begin to appreciate Parker’s newest accomplishment.
This drink is for Parker Beam, a man who, although he’s fighting an uphill battle, continues producing innovative, while still remaining true to the past, liquors each and every year.
Christopher Armstrong was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on a brisk morning in November when the stars aligned and Jupiter was visible with the naked eye. He enjoys the changing of seasons, vinyl records, books with lots of pages and beer that is too expensive for him to ever buy.