Bourbons To Try Before You Die
But You Probably Won’t…
Yesterday, I found a cool new app called The List App. The List App is basically twitter but for lists. After signing up and browsing for a while, I decided to create my own list.
Of course, my first list had to be bourbon related. This isn’t a list of hard to find bourbons. These bourbons are the impossible to find bourbons. They range from “you’ll never find” to “maybe a handful of bars in the country have a bottle”
We talk enough about good available bourbons on Bourbonr so I thought it would be fun to talk holy grail bourbon. Yes, people quip Pappy and BTAC as rare or hard to find. Remember those releases are available every year with bottle counts in the thousands. If you want to see pictures of these bottles you can check (most of) them out at WhiskeyID
How many have you tried? What would you add to the list?
What about the Willet 25 yo rye?
Parkers heritage numbered editions? Totally agree with the black maple hill, pre Oregon. Stuff is amazing. And what??? Rittenhouse 25? Yes please.
Rittenhouse 25, is the equivalent of Crystal champagne except unavailable in US unless u want to buy my bottle. I was fortunate to obtain one in England for about 365.00 us . I tasted a drop in Las Vegas from a collector who manages over 700 bottles. I consider myself extremely lucky to own 8 on the list including the rare sazerac 18, and PVw, but the rittenhouse is the crown jewel.
I know you will find Pappy Van Winkle 23, 20, 15 and the BTAC at the the Rickhouse in Bardstown Kentucky.
It’s great that Pappy 20 is on the top of the list, but finding that unicorn is something entirely different. I’ve been trying for a number of years only to go home empty handed each year. Any ideas on scoring a bottle and I’m all ears…excluding paying through the nose on ebay of course.
Strong list! Have tried 8 of the above. My favorite taste to this day came from Elijah Craig 18 about 5 years ago. I heard HH is bringing it back to market, but will most likely be out of my price range.
EC18 is back on the market.
I got a bottle for around 140-150 retail I believe. Totally worth it. Fantastic if you like the HH flavor profile an don’t mind spending a little extra money. I’m still on the hunt for a EC23, but the price is steep on that one.
Lots of oak on that EC23. At the $200 mark, I expected something… different. Most bourbons, in my opinion, just don’t age well past 12 – 15 yrs. There are exceptions of course, but, they tend to get too woody. I assume one of the main reasons for that is that most bourbon is aged in new first-fill barrels.
I agree on the Elijah Craig 23!
There is a good number of Bourbons (much younger) I would rather drink!
I guess in this case older is not necessarily better!
Well, ALL bourbon is aged in new first-fill barrels (otherwise it wouldn’t be bourbon), but you are correct that you are going to get very strong oak in the EC23. I’ve tasted it, and it’s exactly what I prefer. Obviously, you like less. That’s what’s great about a spirit like whiskey – so much variation – and something for everyone!
If you visit Heaven Hill Distillery they offer a premium tasting tour which includes the EC18 and EC23 along wth a rotating William Heaven Hill selection. Definitely worth the $25 if you are ever in the area…
I picked up EC18 before Thanksgiving and was a bit disappointed. It tasted a little thin so I’ll have to revisit soon to reassess. EC12 is one of my favorites and was able to acquire the ECBP this year which I haven’t yet opened. I still have a good volume of the ‘hazmat’ release and I totally enjoy that.
It will be back at 79.99 in Illinois. Thank god I grabbed some while they were still at 49. 12yr will be going up as well so grab some as well.
Having had many of these, I’m at the place now where EC12, Four Roses Single and EV Single Barrel are fantastic and basically all I drink.
I have spent more than enough @ Jack Rose as well as Longman & Eagle and while it was a fantastic day of drinking, I really can’t seek out everything on that list nor does the taste ever match what you’d pay in resale value for them.
Of that list, the only ones that felt “worth it” to pay for a pour were FR 125th, Maple Hill (age statement) and Jefferson 17 year.
Sazerac 18 is fantastic but I’ve been lucky to win it 3 years in a row at my local lottery and wouldn’t pay resale prices.
Adam, care to compare your stance on bourbon with your obviously different view on beer? Either around different taste or collecting. Enjoyed your website for years and glad to see your name pop up on here.
Hi Shane. This is the only Bourbon site I read so my knowledge is pretty lacking.
Bourbon and Beer compared..from a collector / taste standpoint? Well, I think a lot of people like to compare the two in that if you get gift shop only releases, you can pay your mortgage for a few months and that’s pretty similar to standing in line for a beer release I guess but I love Bourbon because Four Roses Single Barrel is great and is available nearly everywhere I go. The same can’t be said for my favorite beers like Heady Topper or Bourbon County Stout.
I collect Bourbon as much as I do beer, less so than I used to but that’s because when I see something on a shelf, I may not be very fiscally responsible to buy the bottle when I have 30+ bottles in the bunker but in the case of BTAC and Elijah Craig 18, I have limited hope of ever seeing it again so I buy a bottle. Lately, I’ve learned to love Eagle Rare and EC12. If you drink every day, you can’t only drink the whales.
I lost 50 pounds this year so far by reducing my beer consumption to special events & weekends. On weekdays, I sip bourbon. I initially took it up to lose weight and it worked. Don’t think I could ever fully give up beer and I do prefer it to everything else except for Champagne….can’t afford to drink champagne every day 🙁
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to any (literal) consumable. The less I know about something, the more I save and enjoy the “shelf-turds”. I’ve been getting into Armagnac lately and want to remain as ignorant as possible because I know what a financial hole it can be to learn anything about it beyond “this shelf stuff tastes good” LOL.
Thanks for asking and drop me an email if you’re ever in Vermont!
I have had six, own two. I remember when Black Maple Hill was not so hard to come by and I kept a small inventory because of the available supply. No more….
One not listed is the original version of Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve “perfect 10”. Clear bottle with gold lettering and a gold turkey. Smells like heaven and tastes as good too. Near George Stagg levels in my ratings. There is a huge difference between that and the current Russell’s Reserve!!! I am sitting on two bottles that I think I will save for retirement.
I should have bought all I could find until the mortgage check bounced on that brand. Today’s version is “B-” whiskey, but the original is still in my top ten. And one brand few of my top whiskey friends knew about when it was “live”.
Yes lots of regrets that I did not buy more of this or buy more of that, but the “WTRR perfect 10” is one I still kick myself over.
Agree about Black Maple Hill. I used to buy it off the shelf and occasionally use it as a mixer without feeling too bad about it. Now it’s so hard to find and overpriced. It was always a nice daily driver in my cabinet…
bin rath – you have one FS Blake? 🙂
Great list. To those, I’d a couple dozen WFE (everything Doug P, Ledroit, etc.) My bucket list wouldn’t be complete without adding all KBD 4/10/84 Bernhiem ryes – alas a couple (LeNell’s, Glen Fahrn) will never pass my lips.
Pretty much any 70’s BiB should be experienced at least once as well.
Blake, you can find most of the Pappy and Jefferson at Mojo Kitchen BBQ Pit & Blues Bar in Jax Beach on Beach Blvd. They’ve got some stuff they don’t even realize they have!
We’ve got a couple of these at Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville, VA. Come check out our list and try some great bourbons!
13/16 and agree with all. There are a few I would certainly add to the list though… 1930’s Maryland or Pennsylvania rye (k&L or golden wedding are two) very very old Fitzgerald (vxof,vof ie foil tops), 1970’s makers mark, 1970’s Heaven hill bonded, old Fitzgerald bonded 60’s, 80’s old rip van winkle…. There are many others but most of them need dusted.
Old Weller Original 107 is my favorite of the ones I have tried on your list. Of course, I tend to prefer a wheated bourbon for whatever reason… That’s probably why Maker’ s Mark is my mainstay.
I saw 3 or 4 bottles of that last week on the shelf of my local packy
I would say that Four Roses 2011 and 2012 LE Small Batches are just as good if not better than the 125th release. Also, the AH Hirsch 16yr really needs to be a waxed release as the foil and humidor versions didn’t have the same magic. I haven’t had Evan Williams 23yr, but I cannot imagine it being better than anything else on that list. Heaven Hill has made better products like the Elijah Craig 18yr referenced above. I would even say one of their barrel proof offerings belongs on your list. And I agree that a Willett of some kind belongs here as well. My pick would be the 17yr, barrel #58 for Mike’s Whiskey Handel. Pure magic. 2005 or 2009 WL Weller both hold special places in my heart too, but your Weller 19 may be even better.
Overall, a really nice and well thought out list. Kudos…
I’ve been fortunate enough to have either tried or own nearly everything on this list. I would add almost any of the original Stitzel-Weller labels predating the closure in the 90’s. Old Charter 12 Year Black Label was one of the best bourbon’s I’ve ever tasted. And of course any of the original SW Old Weller, Old Fitzgerald or Very Old Fitzgerald bottlings are incredible and taste of a different era in whiskey making. I was lucky enough to try a 1954 Very Old Fitz recently and it was very memorable! Similar to Pappy 23 but funky and less refined, almost like an old pot still rum.
Two Bars that I would add to your list of places to try some rare bottles…
Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington, KY
(Over 1000 different bottles of bourbon to choose from including many original SW choices and rare KY only releases. They have literally everything including vertical collections of nearly all Pappy VW expressions!)
Longman & Eagle in Chicago,IL
(2nd only to Delilah’s for size of bourbon list in the windy city. They have some incredible barrel selections right now from Willet 21 & 23 YO and Four Roses barrel strength)
Had a bottle of BMH21. Still have 3oz saved for a special reminder. Best dram I’ve ever tasted. Still have ½ bottle of BMH16. Tried a 50/50 mix with Elmer T Lee and it was amazing (although 1 glass was enough for me bc don’t want to ‘waste’ anymore). Would love to get my hands on a Very Very Old Fitz duster. Deep breathe.
Its funny. I bought a BMH 21 in I think May 2007 before I was really into bourbon and then a friend bought me the BMH 16 as a gift. I paid 120 for the 21 and I think the 16 was approx 60. Wish I appreciated them more, as much as I would now. I was much younger and pretty sure I added coke to a few 🙁
Was in Louisville last year on the first anniversary of the opening of the Evan Williams experience downtown
Parker because they are dangerous and at the end instead of tasting a couple of current lesser offerings, they offered the Elijah Craig 23.
As much as I wholeheartedly appreciated the taste I can’t say that I wasn’t underwhelmed at that price and at that age!
Just not my cup of tea (Bourbon) I guess!
How about the Heaven Hill 75th Anniversary (aged 7.5 years) cask strength limited edition? Only 75 “sets” (two bottles per set) were produced. I purchased set #23 at the Heritage Center several years ago. Drank one bottle, kept the other, but may have to drink that one soon, as I’m a drinker not a collector!
I was sad yesterday. I had to deliver 5 bottles of pappy and was not allowed to buy any. 3 bottles of the 12 year and 2 bottles of the 10 year. I work for the distributor in texas. That really sucked.
The list looks so good. Sadly none of them are available in South Africa. Now I have a new goal for our next visit -Track down a few of these bourbons. 🙂
I would like to trade out my current collection . Four Roses 2015 limited, 2 20 yr very special Fitz., 2 Elmer T Lee 2015, 1 12 year lot B pappy. , 2 col Taylor small batch, 1 yellow stone.
Anyone try Blantons Gold? It’s not available in the states, but I have some friends going to France over the holidays and I know it’s available there. Just wondering if it’s as good as the reviews, and worth the price…
I enjoyed this post a lot. As i do most all posts on this forum, and especially everyones comments. So much insight, information, and many valuable opinions within the sport of “bourbon hunting”. (And consumption which is after the purpose of the sport)
Hey blake i read one of your older posts about spring releases for either 2014 or 2015. Any chance on putting a detailed list out for 2016? Spring is coming my thirsty friends! Cheers
I have a bottle of 2015 Pappy 20 year for sale with red velvet bag – $1,200. Will ship anywhere in the US.
That’s absolutely ridiculous…I know the stuff is hard to get, but PA is selling that same bottle for $149.99 each. Of course you have to get lucky to win their lottery, but if you are going to buy the stuff, drink it.
He’s overpriced but only by a few hundred dollars
What makes you an authority on secondary market pricing? Is it because you post pix of fine food and drink on instagram, receive free samples from distilleries and are sponsored by sites where flippers sell their booty? You guys kill me — create a blog then suddenly you think you’re an expert on everything. Ho hum so goes the bourbon pop fad. ‘ bout them C barrels nd Pappy? Yessir they is the bomb — worth millions on the secondary market
Oh great, another “I’m ready for this fad to end” comment. Surprised you didn’t add how you’ve been drinking bourbon for 20 years or you’ve been buying pappy before everyone knew it was good and you refuse to pay any more than retail.
It has nothing to do with being an authority. It’s simply looking at what bottles sell more and subtracting what he’s asking. I don’t want people using the popularity of my posts to rip people off. On bottle-spot you can see what people are paying. That’s not the case here.
Most of the Willett C barrels that I have tasted are ok at best. Some are horrible with one that has so much char that it”s undrinkable. However, there are a few extraordinary c barrels that I have tasted. Just wondering can you tell me what c barrels you have tasted that justify being in your bucket list?
Say what you will, but you are doing your readers a disservice by trying to set market prices for popular bourbon labels. You invoke Bottlespot (the primary commercial endorser of your blog btw) to justify your pricing. There is no data available that accurately prices the bourbon black mkt. — none. Just because one person out of 2000 is dumb enough to pay 1100$ for Pappy 20, C barrels or whatever does not mean someone like you can say that’s a fair market price. You sound like that circus barker Bottlespot on Twitter pumping ever inflated price for some garbage listed for sale on his site. You say you just don’t want people to use the popularity of your posts to get ripped off. Well, guess what? That is exactly what you are doing. Every time you say that it’s okay to pay 1000s of $s for something because YOU say it’s worth 1000s of $s, some newbie who doesn’t know any better will get ripped off. Dude I think you’ve got caught up in the pretentous glitz of the pseudo hip bourbon scene and have sold out what used to be a pretty cool blog.
My prices come from actual sales on fb trading site. Not saying they’re fair but people are consistently paying them. There’s no way I would ever pay those prices but people are. You have to deal with reality the way it is not the way you want it to be.
The sell out comment is just such a cop out statement for not liking something on the blog. I’m fine if you disagree but to say that things have sold out to the hype is just stupid
I follow fb,Bottlespot, CL and know a few would-be bourbon ‘brokers’ who have no plans of quitting their day job. I’ve found that there is absolutely no consistency in secondary market sales and/or prices. CL in KY has loads of premium bourbon at prices that you and Bottlespot claim are fair market values that are not selling. Much of what’s listed on BSpot doesn’t sell either.People are not buying in droves like you claim. Like I said, there will always be one out of 2000 who will pay 1000s for an $80 bottle — those are nominal numbers. Occasional one-off sales are influencing your skewed opinion of the secondary market. Real numbers are just not there to gauge what secondary market prices should or should not be. As for saying that you are a sell out, well that’s the vibe you seem to be giving off of late. Nothing personal.
I never claimed they were buying in droves. In fact, very few people (maybe 1%) are buying at those prices and that’s causing a problem because that’s what retailers see and price their bottles at.
If you’re referring to bottle-spot as me selling out they’ve advertised on the blog since 2013 so they’re nothing new. I think you just disagree with something I’ve said which is fine. I have no one to sell out to. I write the blog in my spare time for fun. Theres not major brands throwing cash at blogs for reviews as you seem to think
I agree with Blake. If you read enough of the blogs, no one on this site is paying these prices. What it does is let us all share our knowledge of all the great bourbon out there that’s not expensive but well made.
I am surprised no one mentioned Rathskeller was bottled exclusively for The Sealbach Hilton and I was able to get a pour at their bar a few years ago. I also have an actual unopened bottle of Rathskeller that I picked up in Bardstown nearly a decade ago.
Blake – can you share your knowledge of this rare bottling?
The Old Talbot Tavern in Bardstown, around 6 years ago, had Black Maple Hill for $5/shot if you took them up on the ‘5 shots for $25’ deal.
This current craze just makes me sad that I shared my enthusiasm with others. We could have just stayed silent and enjoyed our great bottles – but then we probably would not have so many new products to try.
Would you be interested in selling your Rathskeller? You can contact me at : firstname.lastname@example.org