Bourbon prices just keep inching north, and certainly there are a load of spendy bourbons that you can drop your hard-earned cash on. A review of the Bourbon Blue Book suggests that there's no shortage of spendy options in fact, but, there are a handful of rare bourbons out there that you'll need to either have a windfall from a rich uncle, win the lottery or take out a second mortgage on your home to land! In this post we'll cover 20 of the most elusive, expensive, unicorny bourbons that are on the market today.
20. Booker's 10th Anniversary Limited Edition
At the bottom of the Bourboneur list is this Limited Edition Booker’s 10th Anniversary Bourbon which is one of the rarest bottlings of Beam whiskey on the market. Distilled in 1992 and bottled in 1998 by Jim Beam/Booker Noe Distillery in celebration of 10 years of Booker’s, this premium whiskey is matured for a minimum of seven years in American oak casks and bottled at 126.3 proof. Released in extremely limited quantities, Booker’s Limited Edition 10th Anniversary is carefully labeled with individualized bottle and batch numbers, this rare and supremely collectible bourbon is considered by many to be one of the most mythical ‘unicorn’ whiskies the world over. Expect it to set you back a cool $5,100.
19. Heaven Hill 85th Anniversary Limited Edition
This one-time release from Heaven Hill commemorates their 85th anniversary and the family-owned distilling tradition embodied in the brand. Comprised of a single-barrel 13-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey this was a single barrel offering cut to 107 proof corresponding to the original barrel entry proof circa 1935 and non-chill filtered. Just a cool $5,500 for this little beauty.
18. A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16-Year-Old Bourbon
A legendary bottle that even served as inspiration for a book "The Best Bourbon You'll Never Taste" by Charles K. Cowdery, A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old Bourbon comes in at number 18 on our list. This bourbon was distilled in 1974 and bottled from a single 400-barrel batch set out by Adolph Hirsch and distilled under contract at Michter's. Hirsch who was believed to have been employed by Michter's briefly is thought to have commissioned the bourbon as a financial favor to Michter's, and didn't have any plans to use it. Given such, it sat in the rickhouse for some time - much longer than anticipated - before eventually finding its way to a bottle and onto grandeur. For one of the "best bourbons you'll never taste" you'll lay out a cool $5,500 for a bottle.
17. E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving
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 seventeen on our list, you can add this to your collection for a cool $5,900.
16. William LaRue Weller (2002)
For the first three years of the William Larue Weller production, Buffalo Trace released this bourbon as a 90 proof spirit, having aged 19 years - 2002 was the last of the three-year period. Nowadays you can expect a roughly 12-and-a-half-year age statement with a proof that's ranged from as high as 140.2, just over the hazmat line in 2014 to as low as 117.9 in the fall of 2007. The 2002 vintage of this particular bottling, the last of the 90 proof years, fetches $6,750.
15. Michter's 25 Year Bourbon (2017)
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 $7,600 to be lucky enough to call this juice yours!
14. Elmer T Lee 90th Birthday Edition
Obviously set forward as a way to celebrate what would have been the 90th birthday of the late Elmer T Lee, this limited edition single barrel sour mash bourbon highlights the legacy that the master distiller left at Buffalo Trace. With no age statement and released in 2009 this bourbon clocks in at 90 proof and, is not surprisingly, super rare. Average going rate in today's market is $7,700.
13. Michter's 15 Year
Micther's first and only single barrel exclusive M10 "M15" pick. Filled June 28th, 2006, and bottled July 9th, 2021, it's a 15-year bourbon, which Michter's has said is the first ever and also will be the last to ever be done. Expect this to set you back $8,750 big ones just given the uniqueness of this particular bottle. As for me, I'll just take 25 regular M10's for the same money!!!
12. Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year (1996)
What's $10,000 dollars between friends? Well, the difference is this hyped-up bottle of Pappy 20 from 1996. Just two years prior to this release, Julian Van Winkle began releasing bourbon under a new brand named, "Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year." In 1996 Pappy hysteria was born when the 20-year bottling received an astounding 99 points from Beverage Tasting Institute putting Pappy square in the sights of bourbon enthusiasts the world over.
11. The Last Drop 1980 Buffalo Trace
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, transporting Gary Gayheart to and from the distillery at the time. This very unique bottle will run you around $10,400 in today's market.
10. William Heavenhill Signature
Halftway down our list, and bottled at cask strength, only 225 bottles of William Heavenhill Signature were produced by Heaven Hill to commemorate what would have been William Heavenhill's 225th birthday. The 225 bottles were aged for 225 months and retailed for around $500 when they were released in 2008. Expect a bottle of this juice to set you back $11,250.
9. Willet Family Estate 24 Year Bourbon
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.
8. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash
Colonel E.H. 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 $13,500 price tag; I've even seen folks trade their car for this bottle!
7. Double Eagle Very Rare 20-Year-Old (2021)
One of the sexiest presentations on the market, Buffalo Trace really gives Double Eagle Very Rare a heck of a display in this pure crystal handmade decanter that comes with a 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 $13,500.
6. Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year (1998)
In 1998 the world saw the first ever release of Pappy Van Winkle 23, which at the time was adorned with gold wax, a green glass bottle and was bottled in Lawrenceburg. Rumored to be sourced from Old Boone distillate this bottle commands a hefty price tag of $15,000.
5. Michter's Celebration (2016)
The final blend of six barrels by outgoing Master Distiller Willie Pratt only 256 bottles total came to market. With its 18-carat gold lettering, very limited release, and being the swan song of Willie Pratt, you can expect this 116.8 proof bottle to fetch around $21,000 in today's market.
4. Old Rip Van Winkle 23
One of the first to be bottled at barrel strength, this bottle comes as a part of a set with two glasses and a wooden display box, with only 1,200 such sets being made. Barreled in 1986 with a zippy 114 proof this little decanter and the juice inside is highly sought after, to the tune of $24,250!!!
3. Old Fashioned Copper (1983)
In 1870 Colonel E.H. Taylor began the O.F.C Distillery, now a National Historic Landmark known as the Buffalo Trace Distillery today. The O.F.C. line of bourbon pays homage to the rich history with one of the most collectible bourbons ever released. With only 50 bottles released, the 1983 bottling has a special gravitas for collectors. Other years include 1980, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994 and 1995. Expect this short run to cost around $25,000 any day of the week.
2. Redemption 36-Year-Old
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 $36,000; perhaps consider selling a kidney on the black market?
1. Old Rip Van Winkle 25
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 $42,500 United States dollars!
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