The world of bourbon is a big one, and growing bigger by the day as new brands emerge, new expressions are released and folks like you and I continue to be excited for the next thing to try or unicorn to capture. If you're into trying to catch unicorns in the wild, check out the Bourboneur Guide to Rare Bourbon Hunting.
There are of course plenty of bottles that can be picked up any day of the week at your regular liquor store that are incredible daily drinkers, but the appeal and allure of rare bottles never quite goes out of style. In this post we'll cover 10 of the most elusive, expensive, unicorny bourbons that are on the market today. Some of these you'll need a rich uncle or a good relationship with a banker to obtain!
This bourbon pays homage to the tornado that left a path of destruction through the middle of Kentucky in April of 2006. Two distillery warehouses were damaged from the tornado, with 93 barrels being exposed to the elements in Warehouse C whose roof and a part of a brick wall were impacted. Fast forward a few years and these exposed barrels were found to have a little something-something compared to others and so they were packaged up and put out as a special bottling. Aside from the novelty, which admittedly is cool, reviews of this bourbon often come back quite positive. So, if you’ve got a chunk of change sitting around to spare, consider drinking it away with this one! At number ten on our list, I just saw several of these bottles sell for around $7,500 in the past week.
Willett intermittently releases "Willett Family Estate" single barrel expressions, and the 24 Year Bourbon is one of the coveted prizes in mix of various bottlings offered. A long time name in the whiskey world, with the Willett Distillery being built in Bardstown in 1936, Willett has worked tirelessly to set itself apart from the rest of the pack. The 24 year bourbon strikes an elegant balance between quality and maturity and will set you back a cool $12,500.
Michter's 25 is something of legend, with a fair bit of mystery surrounding everything about this bottling, be that the history of the expression itself, the mashbill or the schedule upon which it gets released. Basically it seems that whenever Michter's has some juice that it feels meets an unknown set of criteria to merit release, and provided it is appropriately aged, they bottle and release it - an event that's only occurred three times. Given the age of the bourbon, it's not surprising that these releases are also pretty tight with only a couple hundred bottles each. Given the rarity, mystique and grandeur associated with such a bottle, expect to fork over up to $14,500 to be lucky enough to call this juice yours!
One of the sexiest presentations on the market, Buffalo Trace really gives Double Eagle Very Rare a hell of a presentation in this pure crystal handmade decanter with custom sliding door presentation box. Only a few hundred bottles have been released each year on average since 2019. The third edition of the bottling only saw 199 bottles released and comes in a bit hotter than the others at 101 proof - a hat tip to when Eagle Rare started distilling in 1975. This particular bottling today will run you around $16,000.
With it's 18-carat gold lettering this bottle is a beauty, with the very limited release being pulled and blended from six barrels (two straight bourbons and four straight ryes, aged up to 30 years and as few as 10). Less than 300 of these bottles ever made it to market and today they can fetch as much as $16,500 or more for the lucky few who ever even see one!
When the George T. Stagg distillery was bought in 1992 by the Sazerac Company, the oldest continuously operating bourbon distillery in the world was handed over, including some barrels of bourbon which were distilled in 1980 stashed in the corner of one of the warehouses. The Last Drop Distillers acquired these barrels producing less than 250 bottles in total. Interestingly, the juice, a 20-year bourbon was released in 2020; it spent 20 years in the barrel and then another 20 in a steel tank which arrested the maturation process. Although this is a modern release, just looking at this bottle takes you back in time; you can almost picture an Oldsmobile Cutlass with a velvety velour divided front bench seat similar in color to the box pictured, transporting Gary Gayheart to and from the distillery at the time. This very unique bottle will run you around $19,500 in today's market!
Bottled in 1990 by Julian Van Winkle III following 16 years of maturing at Old Commonwealth distillery, this bourbon has an interesting history having been sourced from the Van Winkle family's own personal reserve. At 90-proof this prized bourbon continued to be released in limited quantities until the juice was depleted in the early 2000s. Expect to fork over around $24,000 for the pleasure of ownership of such a magnificent bottle of bourbon history!
Colonel EH Taylor Jr. played a key role in the evolution of America's bourbon industry and the label bearing his name certainly stands out as a flagship brand with most every bottle being a solid pour. As detailed in our Guide to EH Taylor, the Old Fashioned Sour Mash, distilled in 2002 gets rarer by the year. This modern replica, paying homage to EH Taylors natural sour mash methodology yields a complex Gold Medal worthy dram. Just a cool $25,000 price tag; I've even seen folks trade their car for this bottle!
Thirty what? Six? Yes, thirty-six years old! As a part of the Seagram's "Ancients" lineup this bourbon pushes the limits of the possible and is perhaps one of the oldest to ever be released by anyone. As the juice sits in the barrel year by year, it gives up an increasing amount of the "angels share" to evaporation; over time at nearly four decades that doesn't leave much...in fact, from four barrels only 18 bottles were what was actually produced. A typical barrel yields around 200 bottles...so the angels had more than their fair share you might say! A unique aspect of this bottling as well is that they are sealed with a 1978 U.S. penny marking the year in which the juice hit the barrel. Presumed value for this bottle sits around $42,000; perhaps consider selling a kidney on the black market?
An undisputed number one on anyone's list is the Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year bottling. It's the oldest release in the Van Winkle lineup barreled at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1989. In 2014 these barrels were transferred to steel tanks until 2017 when it was released. Eleven barrels resulted in 710 bottles, packaged up with a handcrafted box made from the very staves that once held the juice! It's the pinnacle of bourbon desire and you'll need to take out a home equity loan or win the lotto to secure one with a price tag of $56,000 United States dollars!
Although these bottles are impossibly rare, some do show up here and there for purchase on the secondary market. Bourboneur has began 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.
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