Tracking down a limited edition bourbon should feel fun, not like some sort of military strike. We respect collectors but it’s a shame when the really exciting limited expressions get snatched up to be profited off of rather than enjoyed. Bourbon is made for drinking, after all, and these limited editions are often tasty as f*ck. Buying them up for resale on the aftermarket keeps anyone but the 1% from savoring these special drams.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t collect limited edition bottles, of course. Each one of the expressions below can easily be squirreled away and opened at a later date. But with the world seeming like it might end any minute now, it’s tough to find the motivation to wait. If you score a gem this year, maybe you want to find a reason to celebrate sooner rather than later.
The 10 bottles below are the 2020 limited edition releases that caught our attention. Some of these bottles are easy to find. Some definitely aren’t. The throughline is that they’re all delicious and worth a try, even if only at a tasting.
Michter’s 10-Year-Old Bourbon
Average Price: $200
Michter’s makes fine whisky full stop. Their varieties hit high marks among casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike. They take risks with Unblended American Whiskey, toasted barrels, and long-form aging. That last realm is best enjoyed by grabbing a bottle of this year’s 10-year-old release of single barrel Kentucky juice.
Maple syrup sweetness and oak dance on the nose. The palate hints at creamy vanilla, butter toffee, and charred oak, giving this bourbon a classic and well-rounded vibe. The maple sweetness, oak, and toffee bring around a slow, warming finish, as you’re left with a heated embrace and a hint of leather and spicy tobacco smoke.
This is a nice sipping bourbon with a little water or a rock. I do love it on its own but, wow, does this make a mean Manhattan — an expensive cocktail, sure, but a stellar one.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch
Average Price: $320
Four Roses yearly Limited Edition Small Batch release is an event — one of the most sought after limited editions in bourbon. This year’s juice married four whiskeys from the Four Roses cellars with a lean toward spice and fruit in the base.
The nose greets you with a creamy butterscotch mingling with cinnamon, ripe cherry, and a good dose of oak. The sip expands to a full-on Christmas spice cake flavor — with plenty of vanilla and caramel and more of that cherry, plus a hint of dried fruit. As the sip fades, the spice leans peppery while maintaining its fruity nature.
This is meant to be sipped slowly with water to really let those spicy, fruity, and woody notes bloom. I added a rock and it was a delight for the senses that left me wanting more.
Eagle Rare 17
Average Price: $1,200
This bottle from Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection roll out gets a lot of attention. Deservedly so. The whiskey spends 18 years and three months aging in a specific location in a specific warehouse. Over half of the juice is lost to the angels over all those years, leaving behind this nectar of the whiskey gods.
There’s a mesh of cherry, oak, and vanilla on the nose that draws you in with its subtlty. The taste revels in those notes while building a tower of taste with rich caramel, woody spice leaning towards fresh tobacco, and a wisp of bitterness (especially with some water added). The gently peppery spice and woody notes slowly fade away as the cherry makes a sweet late appearance.
This is a lovely bourbon. But it wasn’t my favorite of this year’s Antique Collection (more on that later). Still, this 100-percent lives up to the hype — even if the $99 MSRP is almost impossible to find in retail.
Give it a try with a little water to see what all the fuss is about and go from there.
Pinhook High-Proof Bohemian Bourbon
Average Price: $52
Pinhook Bourbon marries fine winemaking with Kentucky whiskey. This year’s “crop,” as Pinhook calls it, is a low-rye bourbon that’s blended for maximum approachability while also remaining very affordable.
There’s a minerality that’s met with orange oils, plenty of Christmas spices, and an almost pecan pie nature. The sip delivers on those promises with the addition of caramel sweetness and a wave of tropical fruits. Finally, the nuttiness returns on the mellow and warming end as the spices slowly fade.
This is a very fine sipper at this price point. But the higher ABVs and (relatively) inexpensive price make this a cracking cocktail base. Whip up an old fashioned, boulevardier, or Manhattan and enjoy.
Average Price: $90
Barrell Whiskey is all about creating the perfect bourbon experience in the glass through blending the best of the best. This year’s Dovetail release marries whiskey from American oak, Dunn Cabernet barrels, toasted French oak, vintage port pipes, and blackstrap molasses casks.
The result is another multi-award-winning masterpiece.
This dram draws you in with notes of creamy vanilla pudding spiked with walnuts next to well-oiled saddle leather, smoked stone fruits, huckleberry jam, and a hint of wildflowers. The taste brings a spicy nature, counterpointed by campfire roasted marshmallow with a herbaceous underbelly. The end leans into the more vinous nature of the oak, with a candied citrus feel as the fade accelerates towards fatty nuts and whispers of fresh mint.
Goddamn, this is tasty. Add in some water or a rock and really let this dram shine. The water brings around the creamy vanilla pudding back with an addition of tropical fruits, leaning towards banana.
Belle Meade Honey Cask Bourbon
Average Price: $125
Belle Meade (the bourbon wing of Tennessee Whiskey powerhouse Nelson’s Green Brier) does some of the best cask finishings in the game. This year’s Honey Cask proved just how special great cask finishing can be, by utilizing real honey barrels and not just honey “seasoning.”
(On the flip side, you can buy the honey that was aged in the eleven-year-old bourbon barrels, which would later go on to finish this whiskey.)
Floral honey notes greet you, with support from cedarwood, plenty of cinnamon Red Hots, and nice caramel sweetness. The sip carries on the cinnamon path and adds in honey-glazed doughnuts next to butter toffee.
Orange zest arrives to usher in the long, honeyed, and spicy end.
This stuff sold out almost immediately. That means you’re going to have to pay a pretty penny on the secondary market for a bottle, if you can find one at all. If you do get your hands on one, drink this with a few rocks to help it shine. Then try it as a cocktail base and jettison the sugary syrups.
Blanton’s Gold Edition
Average Price: $350
This single barrel masterpiece is made for the international market but now available widely in the U.S., albeit for a hefty price. The juice is all about the refinement of the single barrel aging process, with masterful finishing to bring this down to a very drinkable 102 proof.
There’s a big greeting on the nose with notes of spicy tobacco leaves next to honey, dark berries, and orange oils. The palate carries those notes forward, while leaning into the tobacco and amping up the rye pepperiness then balancing it with a bit more honey and caramel.
This whiskey takes its time fading out as notes of vanilla, spice, and oak linger — with a final billow of pipe tobacco popping on the very end.
This is the ultimate slow sipping whiskey that really needs some time and water to fully bloom. Take your time with this one. It’ll be worth it.
Knob Creek 15
Average Price: $116
This bourbon does a balancing act of showing its age while not overdoing the oakiness that often comes with these older bourbons. The juice is aged in very deeply charred oak barrels which are stored in specific locations in the warehouse to minimize temperature variations throughout the years. The final product marries those barrels into this crowd-pleasing whiskey.
The oak greets you first, with a billow of tobacco smoke underpinned with dark berries, worn leather, and mild Christmas spice. Rye pepper and oak follow on the palate — with a rich and sweet Christmas cake, full of dried and candied stone and citrus fruits, spice, and molasses sweetness.
The slow finish leans into malt, with a dry edge featuring notes of fruit, tobacco, and wood.
This really is a slow-sipping bourbon that needs water to help it step into its full beauty. That being said, I also made a Manhattan with this and it was f*cking amazing.
Woodford Reserve Distillery Series Double Double Oaked
Average Price: $50
This very limited release only comes in half-bottles. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying what’s inside. The whiskey is made from the standard and stellar Woodford Double Oak that’s then transferred to a finishing barrel for another year. That last barrel is an outdoor toasted and very lightly charred new oak barrel. That may sound like putting a hat on a hat but that finishing barrel adds a marvelous depth to the bourbon.
You’re transported to a backyard campfire with a roasted marshmallow on a stick in your hand, caramel dipping sauce at the ready, and plenty of maple syrup wafting through. The sip leans into rich Christmas spices, as a fruity undertow brings you into a fruit orchard overflowing with cherry, cranberry, and blackberry. The end is long with plenty of that oak and spice leaving you warmed to your core.
You really want to add some water or a rock to this one to let it open up. Best savored outside, next to a campfire, bundled up in some flannel.
William Larue Weller
Average Price: $700
This wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection is a masterpiece. The wheated juice is stored in two different warehouses where 73 percent of the whiskey is lost to the angels. That’s a lot. The remaining bourbon is something that lives up to every accolade ever bestowed upon it.
Creamy vanilla mixes with rich caramel, oak, and a clear nutty nature on the nose. That vanilla meets cherry on the tongue. A little water brings about a dark, almost espresso bitterness. The oak and cherry come back into play as the sip takes its time fading away — with a final whisper of dark chocolate depth.
This is probably my favorite bourbon of 2020 and certainly a top-five whiskey overall. The sip really deserves a little time and water so that you can get the full experience. It’s an easy-sipper that keeps calling you back, again and again.