New whiskey is released throughout the year, but SOND – September, October, November and December – is the high season. The run-up to the holidays sees a large number of limited editions and special bottles Hitting the shelves, brands are vying for the most attention and causing a sensation. But whiskey hunters shouldn’t take summer vacation. There are plenty of new and rare bourbons and other American whiskeys available now – before the leaves start to turn. The calendar release date makes no difference to collectability or enjoyment.
Watch out for these rare bourbons and botanicals, which range from very ripe to barrel-resistant with some unusual barrel finishes thrown into the mix. They can be hard to find, but the thrill of hunting is half the fun.
10 Rare Bourbon and Rye Worth Hunting
1. 13-year-old Russell Reserve
Russell’s Regular Reserve, 10 years old and about $35 off the shelf, is one of the best deals going on; When the Russell’s Reserve’s special picks the barrel, it’s even better. This limited-edition expression, chosen as always by Wild Turkey master distiller Eddie Russell, delivers more love, with an extra three-year life and no cold filter. This means that all natural bourbon oils, fatty acids, and other compounds are left in the bottle, amplifying its flavor and mouthfeel. At proof barrel at 57.4 percent ABV, it’s a robust bourbon yet maintains a perfect balance.
[$70; try your luck at drizly.com]
2. Old single barrel forester rye
When Old Forester first launched straight rye in 2019, it represented a massive evolution for the 150-plus-year-old brand. Now this single-barrel iteration, packaged in barrel proof, adds another dimension. Although fans could once have found the Old Forester Single Barrel rye at the Louisville, Kentucky distillery, it’s now being rolled out across the country—more is available, but it’s still not the easiest whiskey to find. If you find one, though, take it: There are a few barrel-resistant cocoas out there, especially those with this flavor.
[$80; locate a bottle nearest you at oldforester.com]
3. Finish Angels Envy Madeira
Angel’s Envy has written a book on bourbon finished with barrels, with its base expression displaying the port’s barrel finish in beautiful effect. This limited edition, released in June 2021, selects another fortified Portuguese wine: Madeira. Drier and more expensive than regular bourbon, Angel’s Envy Madeira Finish spent a year in finishing barrels for added complexity. Only 3,360 bottles of it have been released to the distillery’s member club and retailers in a few states, so if you come across a bottle consider yourself blessed by the angels.
[$230; in stores and at 500main.angelsenvy.com]
4. Blue Run 14 years old
Distiller Jim Routledge retired from Four Roses in 2015, but he has not retired from whiskey. In the years that followed, he would raise funds to open JW Rutledge Distillery and lend his expertise to a number of new brands, including Blue Run. The company, which launched in 2020 with 13-year-old bourbon, seeks to attract the “modern whiskey fan.” Its latest release is 14 years old and 56.5 percent ABV, succeeding a 13-and-a-half-year-old bourbon that sold out within minutes. A special backup for this 14-year-old has already been sold online, but the regular small batch should still be available at retail stores in select markets.
5. Orphan barrel copper tongue
The Orphan Barrel series has featured a range of ultra-ripe whiskeys over the years, including Rhetoric (22), Forager’s Keep (26), and Whoop & Holler (28). Its latest release comes from Cascade Hollow Distilling Company, the home of George Dickle, and has been assembled by general manager and distiller Nicole Austin. Although it’s barrel-resistant, this 16-year-old straight bourbon has just 44.9 percent ABV—its nice strength comes from long aging and lots of evaporation. The name copper tongue refers to copper snakes, a venomous species that inhabits the spring-fed creek at the distillery.
6. Heaven’s Door Master Blender Edition, Redbreast
Heaven’s Door powered by Bob Dylan has launched a number of innovative whiskeys in the past few years, including Jamaican Tennessee rum and Canadian oak Misonara whiskey. But the Master Blenders release marks a first for the brand: 10-year-old bourbon finished in single-bowl Redbreast remains 15-month Irish whiskey casks. The two brands’ main blenders, American Ryan Perry and Irish Billy Leighton, collaborated for more than two years to create this final product. It’s already sold out online, but keep a close eye on it and you might spot it on the store shelf. Act fast if you do: Rare bourbons don’t last long.
7. Colonel EH Taylor Jr. Warehouse C
Made at Buffalo Trace Distillery and named after pioneering bourbon maker Colonel Edmund H. Taylor, even regular versions of this brand are in high demand. It’s practically impossible to get limited editions, although if you do, you’re sure to get a treat. The 10-year-old bottled bourbon in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse C, which Taylor built in 1885 as a signature warehouse in his “model distillery”, is famous for producing “Tornado Surviving” brand bourbon that goes for astronomical sums in the secondary market . Barrels were drawn from the second floor – using tight sediments, and the reduced airflow making it ideal for long-term aging – and the fifth floor, which has windows on all sides, allowing sunlight to heat the area and air to circulate freely. The combination of the two barrel groups aims to produce a balanced and delicious whiskey that embodies the EH Taylor brand.
[$70, in stores]
8. Milam & Greene 13-Year-Old The Castle Hill Series
During the long period of pandemic isolation in 2020, master mixer Heather Green has holed up in the Citadel, the historic building of the Texas Military Institute in Austin, to delicately craft this vintage bourbon blend. It contains 20 barrels, chosen for their balance of sweet vanilla, chocolate, citrus and almond, along with a strong base of spice, tannin and oak front. Bottled at 54.25 percent ABV proof, the bourbon is the first in a planned series that will join Milam & Green’s lineup of other whiskeys, which Green makes alongside master distiller Marilyn Holmes.
[$120; find a local retailer at milamandgreenewhiskey.com]
9. Sweet Cove
Whiskey and golf go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that this brand takes its name from the legendary Tennessee golf course. What may be a revelation is that the partners who founded Sweetens Cove Spirits are football legend Peyton Manning and tennis superstar Andy Roddick. They called on the expertise of master mixer and distiller Marianne Ives to make the liquid. In 2020, Sweetens Cove showed up with five 13-year-old batches pulled from 100 barrels from a single undisclosed distillery. But this year, the larger version includes 42,000 bottles of 4-, 6- and 16-year-old barrels sourced from multiple distilleries, blended by Eaves and proven at 56.85 percent ABV.
10. Blue Note 17 years
Blue Note was produced in Memphis by B.R. Distilling Company and named after the musical genre popularized in the Mississippi Delta, and offers many rare bourbons in its lineup. This 17-year-old Limited Edition is the oldest and hardest-to-get: Only 50 barrels were fired producing 6,000 bottles, all of which are barrel-packed. Straight Tennessee Bourbon goes fast online, but is also available in stores across 13 states.
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