Exclusivity is knowledge, knowledge is passion, passion is dedication. While this may seem purposefully abstract on its own, this mantra – more or less – pertains to the ability to get your hands on highly sought-after and rare products in this world. Whether it be automobiles, rare vintage watches, or – in this case – bourbon, accessing rare iterations or varieties within these categories requires the same level of passion towards the subject at hand. It’s from here, along with the recent uptick in prized bourbon consumption, that the more one-off and rare forms of this classic American spirit have become desirable to a greater number of individuals. In fact, it was only 10 years ago in 2007 when Congress declared September as our nation’s National Bourbon Heritage month.
Clearly, we’ve revitalized the spirit. So much so that previously archaic brands like Old Rip Van Winkle have quickly become household names by which most born-again bourbon connoisseurs measure a dram’s worth. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. For there are plenty of other equally enjoyable – if not better – rare bourbons out there for the taking. You just have to know where to look, when to look, and how to get your hands on a bottle when the time comes – which shouldn’t be too difficult if you are indeed passionate enough on the subject.
Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
As a yearly tradition, famed distillery Buffalo Trace releases limited edition variants for our enjoyment. Here, we have a miniature collection of five different whiskeys from Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and his team at Buffalo Trace. They include a limited edition George T. Stagg, William Laure Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, Eagle Rare, and a Sazerac Rye. And while two of there offerings are indeed rye whiskeys, we stand behind the rare and desirable nature in which these whiskeys exist.
Elijah Craig 18 Year
What makes this 18-year vintage so special is that it’s isn’t a blended from different barrels. Instead, this single barrel straight bourbon whiskey comes from one barrel – making it the source of some of the oldest bourbon barrels in the state of Kentucky. On the nose are aromas of aged oak, mint, and chocolate; the pale is rich – complete with notes of honey, toasted wood, and char; the finish also lingers with vanilla and pepper for an enjoyable experience unlike any other. Enjoy it neat in a classic rocks glass on a cool fall night.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2017
Every now and again the Master Distiller over at Four Roses hand selects a few premier barrels from their 10 bourbon recipes for special releases such as this batch for 2017. And if it’s anything like their previous award-winning 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch you’re in for a real treat, given it’s still available at the local package store or watering hole of course. Tasting notes include aromas of allspice, vanilla and fruit, a palate of bright raspberry, cherry and light oak, and a finish that’s rich with brown sugar and a little bit of cinnamon.
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength
As a formidable whiskey, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength was at one time ranked the “Best Spirit in the World” by Spirit Journal. Now, it remains one of the premier rare whiskeys out there with fewer than 8,000 bottles released each year. Finished in port barrels, this 124.6 proof cask strength bourbon is unlike any other options around, and with each pour, the nose here features allusions to rose petals, fruitcake, peppercorns, and clove; each sip reveals tasting notes of caramel coffee, dried fig, and tobacco; and the finish is one that’s both rich and buttery smooth with a slight burn from the high cask strength ABV.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017
Each year Old Forester releases a special batch of birthday bourbon for our enjoyment. This year, the 2017 batch was drawn from 120 12-year-old barrels that when combined, yielded a seriously spice forward expression to be savored. The nose here is rich and complex with notes of cinnamon, nutty chocolate, caramel, and citrus fruit; a palate complete with spicy sweetness and citrus peel; and a finish boasting a long and mulled character that lingers quite nicely.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year
What’s probably the most coveted rare bourbon around, Pappy Van Winkle 20 year is one of those drams that every true bourbon drinker should try at least once. It has witnessed a bit of a price surge in recent years due to increased levels of demand but if it’s all the same to us they certainly know how to make one damn-fine bourbon that’s for sure.
Parker’s Heritage Collection 10th Edition
As part of their annual release, Parker’s Heritage is a special treat from Heaven Hill. Named after Parker Beam, their Master Distiller Emeritus, this special 10th edition – released in 2016 – is a 24-year bottled-in-bond bourbon. Here, the 10th Edition boasts two separate versions of the Bottled-In-Bond product and is supposedly the oldest one in the world. Needless to say, the demand here is hight for a bottle. And with a limited number out there, you may have to resort to your local watering hole to snag a taste for yourself.
Willet Family Estate Bottled Bourbon
As a mysterious option for the curious whiskey drinker, the Willett Family Estate bourbon sources their whiskey from an unknown third party – seeing how there’s no way a five-year-old distillery could produce a 12-year vintage. Whatever the case, the results speak for themselves – where notes of cinnamon and cocoa dominate the nose, sweet fruity notes take hold of the palate, and butterscotch, baking spices, and cocoa are found in the syrupy sweet finish.
A.H. Hirsh Reserve
As an ultra rare find, there’s rumor that this 16-year vintage is one of the best bourbons around. Hands down. Though, you’ll have to try some for yourself first – that is if you can ever get your hands on a bottle. The tasting notes are nothing short of spectacular as well, complete with a nose full of rich sweetness, vanilla, caramel and oak; a palate opening softly with toffee and vanilla; and a smooth finish with dry oak, baking spices, and black pepper.
How to Smoke A Cigar
Nothing pairs with a rare bourbon quite like a cigar. So whether it’s been awhile since your last stick or your looking to pick up another vice-fueled hobby, be sure to check out this primer on how to smoke a cigar.