In 2014, the craze over exclusive bourbons reached a fever pitch. Rumors of a whiskey shortage are flying. People all over the world are paying out of the nose to taste new releases. Pappy Van Winkle has become a household name, and its release inspires hundreds of people to line up for the chance at scoring a single bottle.
As the all-American spirit, bourbon is regulated heavily by the feds. It must be distilled from at least 51% corn, and it must rest in new charred American white oak barrels. There are limits on its barrel proof and bottling proof, and must be produced within the U.S.
We’ve put together a list of bourbons that you should put on your bucket list. This is New Year’s Resolution territory here. Do what you have to do to seek these bottles out in 2015.
As the subject of Chuck Cowdery’s book The Best Bourbon You’ll Never Taste, this bourbon is a thing of myth. The whiskey was distilled in 1974 near Schaefferstown, Penn. and purchased by Adolph Hirsch when the distillery went belly up. Expect a delicate nose and subtle flavor profile that lives up to the hype.
Out of all of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection releases from this year, the Stagg has been widely reported as the best. But enthusiasts will go out of their way to track down any and all vintages of this bourbon. This year’s is hot, balanced, and has a lot of caramel, vanilla and oak.
Not to be confused with Old Rip Van Winkle, the Pappy line has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years. It’s bottled at 15, 20 and 23 year increments, and people rave over it. Each age statement is completely different (and varies from year to year). It’s worth tasting, if not just for the bragging rights.
This is a wheated bourbon, which means the distiller substituted wheat for rye in the spirit’s mash bill. In terms of rarity, the Very Very Old Fitzgerald is difficult enough to find that few images exist on Google.
This is another member of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s a wheated bourbon, so most years tend to be very soft, smooth bourbons. This year’s falls a bit flat next to the Stagg, but is still luxuriously hot with strong oak and vanilla notes.