These days, it seems like limited-edition bourbons and whiskeys practically outnumber regular products. They certainly get most of the attention, as eager whiskey fans scrabble for their chance at a rare, allocated, or unicorn bottle. There’s no denying George T. Stagg, Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and their ilk are incredible whiskeys. But not everyone has the time—or budget—to track one down. Happily, these aren’t the only special releases on the shelf. There are several limited-edition bourbons and whiskeys that fly under the radar, underappreciated by the trophy-boasting masses.
Forget the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and other bottles that are impossible to find at retail. These limited-edition bourbons and whiskeys are accessible, affordable, and always satisfying.
1. Remus Repeal Reserve
Countless whiskey brands source juice from Indiana mega-producer MGP. But the distillery markets a number of its own labels, including George Remus bourbon. With access to the best barrels, including aged whiskeys that are becoming more and more scarce these days, Remus picks the cream of the crop for this annual limited edition. Each year’s bottling blends two different high-rye mashbills—21 percent and 36 percent rye—and a number of ages, typically in the 10- to 12-year-old range. Though its price has risen steadily over the years, the bourbon inside the bottle seems to be continuously refined, too.
2. George Dickel 15-Year-Old Single Barrel
Stocks of well-aged whiskey at the Cascade Hollow Distilling Company must be nearly endless. Not only does George Dickel release a hotly anticipated and double-digit-age Bottled in Bond Tennessee whiskey every spring, the brand also rolled out a single barrel program in late 2020 with every barrel aged a full 15 years. Available to bars and restaurants in over 20 states and growing—each of which can choose its desired bottling proof—the 15-year-old single barrels will, by definition, vary. But with a shelf price few other extra-mature bourbons can match, and the distillery’s reputation for quality as assurance, it’s a small risk to try out one—or several.[$60; georgedickel.com]
3. Barrell Dovetail
Since its founding in 2012, Barrell Craft Spirits has been quietly revolutionizing the popular perception of blended whiskey. The company’s team of blenders takes weeks and sometimes months to create each product. They narrow down the flavor through a meticulous “microblending” process. Dovetail took almost a year to perfect, featuring a blend of bourbon and whiskey finished in several cask types: French oak, late bottled vintage port, blackstrap molasses, and also Dunn Vineyards cabernet sauvignon. Proof varies by batch but is always cask strength, and while it’s popular enough never to collect dust on shelves, tracking down a bottle is pretty straightforward.[$90; mashandgrape.com]
4. Yellowstone Limited Edition
Named for the national park, with which it shares the birth year of 1872, this bourbon has been made at several different distilleries over time—its flavor profile and character changing with each iteration. The current version is produced at Limestone Branch Distillery under the careful hand of master distiller Stephen Beam, whose ancestor J.W. Dant created the original Yellowstone. Each year’s release varies in composition, with past versions featuring barrel finishes including red wine and armagnac. Bottled at 101 proof, Yellowstone Limited Edition offers a memorable tasting experience. It deserves to be more appreciated than it is.[$100; curiada.com]
Although it’s regularly available, Booker’s is technically a series of limited editions. Each batch comprises a unique bourbon, never to be repeated. Chosen to fit a certain profile—intensely flavored, aged 6 to 7 years, always bottled without chill filtration at barrel proof—individual Booker’s batches show enough variation to attract both collectors and die-hard fans who want to taste comparatively. Batches come out a few times a year, usually once per quarter. However, in 2020 there were three releases as master distiller Fred Noe couldn’t find sufficient barrels to meet his standards. Each batch is coded with the year, sequence of release, and also a name that nods to the brand’s namesake. For example, Booker’s 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch” was the second release of 2021. The name refers to the way Booker Noe “tagged along” with his grandfather, Jim Beam, to learn the distilling ropes. The price has gone up over the years but with consistently high quality and proofs regularly topping 120, Booker’s remains one of the best deals on the shelf.[$90; bookersbourbon.com]
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