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The Best Really Expensive Bottles Of Bourbon Worth Splurging On Right Now

With nearly two weeks of self-isolation, quarantine, and now almost full-on lockdowns behind many of us, cabin fever is probably setting in. Hell, even if our president gets his way and opens up shop again by Easter, that’s still two long weeks to go. With so much time on our hands, it’s understandable that we all might go a little stir crazy.

Our advice? Find something to indulge in to keep the sanity. Maybe it’s time to finally try a really expensive bottle of bourbon.

Okay, wait, hear us out! We’re not saying you should spend $1,000 from your much-needed stimulus check on a single bottle of the good stuff. But assuming you have the means, why not take that final step into the world of bourbon? Hasn’t the quarantine taught us all to carpe the damn diem? (At the very least, maybe it’s time to learn what all the fuss is about by living vicariously through this list.)

The ten bottles below are definitely pricey, but we didn’t go too crazy here. The first five of these bottles are in the $100 to $300 range, which isn’t too expensive in the grand scheme of things. The next five are in the $300 to $1,500 range. Are they worth it? Yes. Should you actually buy one? That’s up to you and your accountant.

(Spoiler: If you don’t have an accountant, the answer is probably “no, don’t buy one.”)

Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Texas Bourbon

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Garrison Brothers Distillery, Hye, TX
Average Price: $119.99

The Whiskey:

Garrison Brothers Single Barrel program was so popular that they expanded the access to these unique bottles beyond their Texas distillery. The juice of this Texan bourbon is made with a mash bill of 74 percent white corn grown in Texas, 15 percent soft red winter wheat, and eleven percent Canadian malted barley. The whiskey is then aged three to five years, or until just right before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is a marrying of classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak with a clear essence of wheat spices and aged leather and whispers of high-desert smoke. The sweetness leans into wet and dark brown sugar as the spice lurks in the background. The vanilla carries on with a nice sense of dried grass and deep earthiness on the warm and almost chewy finish.

Kentucky Owl Confiscated Bourbon

ABV: 48.2%
Distillery: Kentucky Owl, Bardstown, KY (Sourced)
Average Price: $144.99

The Whiskey:

This recently resurrected brand from the 1800s is making a lot of waves for being a great bottle from a small-time blender (their parent company is Stoli, for what it’s worth). This bottle is the brainchild of master blender Dixon Dedman who aimed to recreate the barrels of Kentucky Owl that the U.S. government confiscated as Prohibition began, thus shuttering the distillery.

Tasting Notes:

Crisp red apple dances with crusty notes of freshly baked sourdough bread, buttery banana bread, and an echo of blooming spring flowers. The taste runs deep with rich toffee cut by hints of citrus with light touches of cinnamon and chili pepper arriving late with a whisper of vinous grapes and malted crackers. Finally, that spice draws the sip to a warm and lingering close.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival

ABV: 50.5%
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $149.99

The Whiskey:

The Russells really outdid themselves with this masterful expression. The whiskey is a blend of standard Wild Turkey bourbon that’s aged for 12 to 15 years that’s then finished in 20-year-old Olorosso sherry casks that were hand-selected by Eddie Russell. This is a one-of-a-kind bottle that’s so well-crafted that the price will become a non-issue.

Tasting Notes:

Cherry pie with a buttery and malty crust leads the way with oak carrying notes of bright citrus, sun-kissed raisins, and fatty roasted nuts. The taste carries this dichotomy of the creaminess of vanilla and tropical fruits with more citrus all underpinned by clear spice. That spiciness carries on to a velvet finish with a fleeting sense of apricot jam and fresh honey.

Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon

ABV: 47.2%
Distillery: Michter’s Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $209.99

The Whiskey:

If you dig Michter’s standard bourbon offerings, then this is the bottle that’ll take your love to the next level. The bourbon is mellowed in new American oak for ten long years until it hits a perfect balance of classic bourbon and well-aged notes. Then single barrels are chosen from the rickhouse to be bottled into this masterpiece expression.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a classic bourbon sense at play that’s been dialed-in to clear notes of rich vanilla next to corn-fused caramel. Rye spice lingers in the background as a sweetness arrives that’s reminiscent of rich maple syrup alongside a dark toffee. The oak and spice peak near the warm end as this one lingers on the senses.

Russell’s Reserve 1998 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV: 51.1%
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $269.99

The Whiskey:

This bourbon was originally conceived by Eddie Russell to celebrate his father’s (Jimmy Russell) retirement from Wild Turkey. The juice was distilled in 1998 from a classic mash bill 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, 12 percent malted barley. When Eddie Russell checked in on the specialty barrels in 2014, he found that they were evaporating at an accelerated pace. To save the juice, they were transferred to steel tanks and bottled at 15 years old, before Jimmy Russell’s then-planned retirement.

Tasting Notes:

Dark spices mix with dusty leather and oak with a nice dose of dark and sweet cherries, vanilla, and fatty nuts. Christmas spices mingle boldly with more leather, pipe tobacco smoke, candied cherry, caramel kettle corn, and a hint of brine. Finally, the taste peaks with a nice rush of dark spices, charred oak, and the feel of a freshly chopped woodpile.

Four Roses 130th Anniversary Bourbon

ABV: 54.2%
Distillery: Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $355

The Whiskey:

This expression from master distiller Brent Elliott is made from a blend of Four Roses bourbons that have aged anywhere from ten to 16 years. The bourbons used range from high-rye mash bills to specialty yeast strains that lean into florals or spices to very high-corn mash bills.

This is a highwater mark of how great a blend of masterfully crafted bourbons can be.

Tasting Notes:

Crème brûlée topped with fresh raspberries leads the way with a clear note of rich and oily vanilla pods. Apples stewed with cinnamon sticks mingle with a sense of fresh apricot, sprigs of mint, and oaky depth. That cinnamon and fruit carry on to a spicy end that lingers on the palate for a while and fades into velvet vanilla.

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 23 Years Old

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ABV: 45%
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $399.99

The Whiskey:

Heaven Hill purposefully places these barrels on the lower levels of their rickhouses to ensure a slowed down aging process. Over the years, they do tasting checks to ensure quality. Then finally, after 23 years, they pull the best barrels for this single barrel expression.

Tasting Notes:

Freshly popped popcorn with plenty of butter and salt is cut by a citrus note. Sweet pipe tobacco arrives with a sense of buttered toast dripping with honey and a hint of cacao. A note of oak spice comes in as rushes of freshly picked mint arrive on the brisk end.

John E. Fitzgerald Very Special 20 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV: 45%
Distillery: Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Shively, KY (Bottled by Heaven Hill)
Average Price: $400 (half-bottle)

The Whiskey:

This whiskey has an interesting story. The wheated bourbon (masterminded by “Pappy” Van Winkle) was produced in 1992 and barreled at Stitzel-Weller of Old Fitzgerald and Pappy fame. Then, 12 years later, Heaven Hill ended up acquiring the 12 barrels to carry on the tradition of this masterful spirit. They then waited another eight years before bottling 3,000 bottles of this for the public. And those aren’t even full bottles, they’re half-bottles, making this expression even rarer.

Tasting Notes:

Dark and ripe figs and rich vanilla bean pods lead the way. There’s a dry nature at play with a matrix of spices that leans towards cloves while cocoa powder and red fruits carry the taste back towards figs and vanilla. The spice kicks up and brings about a warm end with a counterpoint of red berries, cloves, and ultra velvet texture.

Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Antique Collection

ABV: 50.5%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY
Average Price: $1,147.97

The Whiskey:

Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection are yearly releases of five of their strongest brands. Each is an old-school bourbon that has spent a long time mellowing in Buffalo Trace’s rickhouses until perfection is achieved. This expression is a small-quantity release that drops every fall.

Tasting Notes:

Vinous notes marry with billows of fresh tobacco, marzipan, and sharp cinnamon. That tobacco carries through with a dry nature as vanilla kicks in with a clear sense of old library leather. That leather is met by dark and buttery toffee on the spiced and warming end.

Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve

ABV: 53.5%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY
Average Price: $1,399.99

The Whiskey:

Sure, you can spend more on an older bottle of Pappy. But, why not start here? This expression uses the classic Van Winkle wheated-bourbon mash bill. The juice is then barreled and aged in the very heart of the rickhouse for 15 years in heavily charred barrels that are never touched by human hands. That means these barrels are left untouched for 15 years with no meddling.

Tasting Notes:

Balls of caramel corn sit next to long, oily vanilla beans. Ripe, red, and slightly tart berries arrive with a nice dose of well-oiled leather and a hint of oak char. Wisps of smoke underpin the oak as a clear-but-mild spice brings warmth to the end that feels like a warm blanket on a cold night next to a fireplace.

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