In 2010, Parker Beam, Master Distiller at Heaven Hill Distillery, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Fighting silently for three years, he decided to announce his diagnosis publicly in 2013, along with his plan to bring more awareness to the topic. Working with company leaders at Heaven Hill, Parker came up with a creative idea that utilized his 56 years of Whiskey distilling expertise to aid in his new fight against ALS.
The plan was to utilize his namesake series, the Parker’s Heritage Collection®, an established annual fall release of ultra-premium whiskeys, to raise funds for ALS research and patient care. In 2013, that plan came to life with the release of the seventh edition of the Parker’s Heritage Collection: The Promise of Hope, from which a portion of the proceeds were donated to the ALS Association.
“When he told us about it, Parker figured the proceeds we’d get would be $5 to $10 per bottle,” says Patricia Peak, Director of Care Service for the KY chapter. “But when in that first year we received a $400,000 donation - and those funds came to our chapter - I about had a heart attack! That this many people became supporters of ALS through Parker Beam…his notoriety got this going to where it is now.”
Parker was often asked about what it took to become a Master Distiller and to produce such highly esteemed brands as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. He would always say, "If you are born with a name like Beam, it opens a few doors. Then, it’s up to you to produce a quality product that lives up to the tradition of the Beam family." Parker was a genuinely humble guy, who didn’t consider himself a rock star or a legend, though much of the whiskey world would say otherwise. His hard work and unwavering dedication to quality earned him a few notable accolades such as Whisky Advocate’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and being selected as a charter member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.
Each year, the next edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection is released in the name of the late Master Distiller Emeritus, Parker Beam, who passed away in 2017. The barrels selected for this series include Bourbon, Rye, and Wheat Whiskeys, among others, and are some of the finest and most diverse American Whiskeys ever produced, many of which Parker had a hand in creating. They are a fitting tribute to the expertise of Parker, and a way for his legacy to continue to live on today. Since 2013, a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold of this annual release has been donated to the ALS Association, totaling over $1.2 million to date.