I planned to review the Parker’s Heritage 24yr bourbon, but I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided to feature it in my Album and a Pour series. Enjoy.
24 years ago I was a freshly minted high school kid, and that summer my friends Derek, Andy and I spent hours coursing the lane-and-a-half arterial backroads that meandered and twisted their way between our slice of corn and pastureland in southern Indiana to the only big town nearby, Louisville, KY. Music was our life; our bond. That summer had one album that defined it, a soundtrack. Siamese Dream.
24 years ago Billy Corgan and his band Smashing Pumpkins released Siamese Dream, an album that should and will forever in my mind be considered one of seminal rock recordings ever made. An alternative, shoegaze masterpiece. Talking to Derek the other night, we were discussing what made Siamese Dream so special. “It challenged me in what a ‘typical’ voice should sound like” Derek said. I agreed. He went on, “From a production standpoint, it’s not a normal sonic mix, but I always felt that it served the band the best. Butch Vig was great at making each record sound the best for each band, despite the traditional tones that most producers want to use.” The layers are just so deep on Siamese Dream. For instance, there are over 40 guitar tracks layered into the song Soma. It’s almost mind-numbing to process everything that’s happening in headphones after the bridge section. Try it for yourself.
I always felt like Smashing Pumpkins played a distinct brand of rock that was very Midwestern in its essence and origin. In its DNA. Coming from the basement in the wintertime when it’s cold as shit and dreary for months so that all you do is rehearse and get tight. It’s so aggressive, but so humble. So much bombast. Yet so tight and precise. Like a nuclear blast applied with a surgeon’s scalpel. Derek said, “Its basic rock and love songs lyrically, just influenced by and introverted kid so it sounds so unique.”
I’ve got it locked and loaded now, along with a pour of Parker’s Heritage 10, the 24 year old bonded bourbon.
This bourbon, and this album pair perfectly.
24 years ago Heaven Hill was still distilling on their hilltop, crafting the bourbon I’m drinking now, pumped out of their original copper works. This was before the inferno consumed the distillery and rickhouses, shooting drunken flames hundreds of feet in the air.
The nose is all of the big shoulders of spicy aged charred oak that you would expect, but it doesn’t go down the road that some of the ultra-agers do; that of being overly oaked, or what I would consider “mulch water”. Some bit of leathery aroma. There is a fine balance of sweetness in the nose, heady sugary corn. Plenty of caramel too. Who doesn’t like caramel corn? I was pretty impressed at the aroma coming from the glencairn.
The flavor hits with nice components of vanilla and cinnamon, and has some spiciness as well. But it’s not “hot”. More of the oak, which I found to be more buttery than spicy. There is a nuttiness in the formula; tree nuts, walnuts. As well, I detected minor notes of citrus in the sip, and a sprig of mint. At this age, and this proof, there is just a lot more happening than you would expect. Frankly, the flavor profile is not overblown, nor overshadowed by alcohol that’s only 100 proof. Yes, we all love high proof. Heaven Hill knows this, as evidenced by a few of their recent 135 and 144 proof green labels. But in this case, and at this age, the bourbon would have been underserved by gassing it. At least I think so. It’s old school bourbon. There are layers of subtlety residing within.
It’s hard not to describe the flavor in shapes. Rounded comes to mind immediately. The components are round. Some of that stems from the fact that PHC10 is Non-Chill Filtered. It’s just thicker, as far as the mouthfeel. Bold and syrupy.
But it’s also instantly classic. The subtle, classic qualities that we love about bourbon that used to come out of places like Old Crow and Stitzel Weller. The pantheon of 100 proof bonded gems. It’s almost a forgotten art to be honest, and something that’s unique and underappreciated. These are some of the reasons PHC10 pairs so nicely with Siamese Dream. It’s big and bold, but also humble and classic. At 24 years old, it redefines what you think a bonded bourbon should be.
The finish is fairly short, and to the point. Just a short burst. A jab of everything you just tasted at once, a fine, short sizzle. A great bourbon book-end.
And as the final guitar chords of Mayonnaise fade out, and the glass goes empty, I will listen to the Gibson and Marshall sustain ring into silence and inhale the final dying liquid embers of the PHC 24 at the bottom, until they are gone.
24 years ago. What a great time. What a great album. What a great bourbon.
(As a side note, some years later, the band that Derek, Andy and I formed would be recording an album in the same studio where Siamese Dream and Nirvana’s Nevermind were fleshed out, under the glimmering shimmer of platinum records that hung on the wall.)