Recently I wrote about the most expensive bourbons of 2022 in our Bourboneur Unicorn Edition. These were the who’s who list of bourbons encompassing a number of bottles that many will go their entire life and never taste, let alone even see! Back in the day, folks would walk down an aisle and Pappy was on the shelf, and many folks passed it by. I have to wonder, what bottles may be on the shelf today that will become the next Pappy? With that in mind, todays post covers a suite of bourbons which you can pick up out and about in the “wild,” and probably should, before everyone catches on.
The Bourboneur list of “baby unicorns” was derived based on quality of the juice and availability, with all of these having solid bones and being “available” but not overly so. They are all bourbons I’ve seen on the shelf, but don’t come across with any regularity. I also almost always buy them when I see them, because my wife wants me to be happy and that requires me to buy more bourbon.
Joseph Magnus Bourbon
Joseph Magnus is an interesting brand, having roots that date back to the late 1800's. The brand continued until Prohibition and then was reestablished in 2015 following the discovery of a couple unopened bottles by Joseph Magnus's grandson. The bourbon is a straight bourbon whiskey that is triple cask finished in Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and cognac casks. Although barrel finishing isn't unique, the three-layered finish is a bit novel and takes some gravitas to pull off. That extra effort shines through in this dram which you can find, but you'll have to probably hit a few stores and there's probably just going to be a single bottle. Given what this brand offers, and the uncommonness of encounter, you can easily see why it's found its way onto the Bourboneur baby unicorn list!
Kings County Barrel Strength
After setting up a still in his Brooklyn apartment, Kings County distiller Colin Spoelman decided to make it a full-time job in 2012. Kings County has taken a road less traveled with their bourbon and created something uniquely their own. Intriguingly, the mash bill for Kings County only uses two grains - corn and malted barley. Be it the unique crafting techniques, the resulting tantalizing texture, or the fact that this is an artisanal bourbon, there is something about it that sets it apart in a genre almost its own. Scoop some up whilst you can.
Little Book is the first bottling released by Freddie Noe, who is an eighth generation Beam distiller, son of Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and grandson of the legendary Booker Noe. Little Book is an annual release which is on its sixth year, featuring unique blends that highlight Freddie's focus on layering of taste profiles and his passion for blending. Each yearly release is branded as a "chapter" with the current release for 2022 being Chapter 6. Although it is distributed nationwide, it's only in limited quantities and given how much I enjoyed Chapter 5, if you see Chapter 6 out and about you should 100 percent scoop it up.
Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered
One of the most uniquely branded bourbons I've set eyes on, Smoke Wagon has a look and taste that's all its own despite sourcing their juice from MGP in Indiana. Stamped into the wax seal on the front of the bottle is an image of two crossed guns and the phrase "Bibamus Moriendum EST" which means "drink, for we must die" or a happier version of that is "drink and enjoy today because we won't be around forever." Despite the MGP base, Smoke Wagon finds a way to make their juice stand out from a crowded field of similar players and creates a dram that is a roller coaster of flavors that will keep you interested and pouring more.
Still Austin Cask Strength
Still Austin you may not have heard of, but it's one to keep your eye on, their Cask Strength offering recently made it on my list of Best High Proof Bourbons for 2022. Unsurprisingly located in Austin, Texas this craft distillery has earned a spot on my shelf and is a bottle I'll be buying some extras of to have on hand. There's a lot to enjoy in this pour which definitely does not register as being a cask strength bourbon given how smooth it goes down.
How Much is Too Much?
In case you were wondering, a few of these baby unicorns do show up on the secondary market already. Bourboneur has begun tracking secondary sales to provide our readers with the latest pricing for bottles using our free service, the Bourbon Blue Book. Updated regularly, we've done the leg work in tracking what bottles are selling for on the market today. If you've not already, please join us on Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even TikTok for home bar resources, giveaways, laughs, and more. Find more intriguing articles like this one on our blog. Cheers!