The Best Luxury Whiskey Offerings of 2023
The sheer breadth of innovative, full-flavored, extra-aged whiskey offerings on shelf has never been more robust.Read More
“May you live in interesting times,” is a well-known quote of indeterminate origin. If you’re a fan of good whiskey—and you’re not afraid to spend a great sum of cash—these are quite interesting times, indeed. More accurately, it’s something of a Golden Age.
It’s actually almost paradoxical. The sheer breadth of innovative, full-flavored, extra-aged offerings on shelf has never been more robust. And yet there’s frustratingly scant allocation of each. That’s because whiskey takes time to mature in the barrel—often decades. It’s not something you can rush to market overnight.
Decades ago, however, whiskey makers didn’t anticipate the demand for their liquids to reach such soaring heights. They didn’t lay down enough into barrel to accommodate contemporary consumption. That consumption isn’t slowing, and the supply is dwindling, so there’s only one direction in which the price can move. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, more than 60 percent of the spirits sector’s total revenue last year came from sales of high-end and super-premium spirits.
And this particular part of the calendar year is when many super-premium brands tend to unveil their most exclusive releases of the year—just before the holidays. It can all be a bit overwhelming, so let us help you shop the shelves with the best high-end options of the season. They won’t come cheap—but get your hands on one of the whiskeys below, and you’re guaranteed to uncork something quite interesting.
Rare Character, Single Barrel Series
Rare Character is exactly as advertised: a series of single barrel American whiskeys, hand selected for their precious nature. Company founder Pablo Moix doesn’t operate an actual distillery; he merely owns one of the most respected palates in the industry. He traverses the nation, sampling casks and bringing to bottle liquid of unique quality. If you’re a fan of assertive, high-octane bourbon and rye, in Pablo you can trust. You really can’t go wrong with any of these wax-dipped, colorfully-labeled expressions. You just have to find them. They’re bottled in supremely limited quantities and have become increasingly popular over the past year, as word has seeped out. We’re choosing this one, bottled for a particular bottle shop, because it’s still available for purchase online.
Old Overholt, Extra Aged Cask Strength Rye
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when $20 bottles of this historic brand of rye would collect dust on the shelf. But the modern rye renaissance has kicked those memories to the curb, and inspired its distillery, James B. Beam in Clermont, Kentucky, to introduce extra strength, extra-aged variants into the lineup. The latest example is the best one yet. It was laid down in a special warehouse in autumn of 2012, and over a decade later, it emerges at 121-proof, demonstrating immense complexity. The copper-hued juice tugs at the tongue in alternating turns of sweetly satisfying vanilla and savory caraway and mint.
Bardstown Bourbon Company, Goose Island Collaborative Series
It’s been over 30 years since Goose Island Brewery in Chicago first introduced its Bourbon County Brand Stout. The series paved the way for the enduring trend of whiskey-barrel aged craft beer. It remains one of the most hotly-anticipated releases of the year when it arrives on shelves each November. But now, thanks to a partnership with the eponymous, award-winning distillery of Bardstown, Kentucky, the roles are getting reversed. Behold: beer barrel-aged craft whiskey. More specifically, this limited release features a blend of six- and seven-year-old bourbon, which was finished for an additional year in casks which contained the famed stout. What emerged was something wearing the sumptuous aromas and tongue-tingling tonalities of dark chocolate and molasses.
The GlenDronach, Grandeur Batch 12
Since 2010, The GlenDronach has been making single malt enthusiasts swoon with this annual release. Grandeur combines some of the legendary Highland malt maker’s most precious (read: oldest) stock, shaped in Oloroso sherry casks over decades. The latest edition arrives in the glass at an exacting 49.2 percent ABV. It carries all the characteristics of an unapologetic sherry bomb. Mahogany in hue, plummy in the nose, pleasantly nutty in mouthfeel, coating the tongue with tobacco leaf, raisins and treacle. Stunning from start to finish.
The GlenRothes, 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
The GlenRothes has been a powerhouse of Speyside, Scotland since 1879. But its 25-year-old single malt has just undergone a complete overhaul for the modern era. It makes for a dram of desirable dichotomy. Deep and spicy in the nose and palate, it remains entirely quaffable at 86-proof. Rich in mouthfeel, it still finishes light and floral. These complexities are dialed in by way of a precise combination of American and European oak casks used in maturation.
The Last Drop, 32 Year Old Irish Single Malt Whiskey
It is not everyday that you come across single malt from Ireland matured upwards of 30 years. But The Last Drop specializes in finding stuff seldom seen; stuff you won’t ever see again. This release marks the first time that the independent bottler has worked with liquid from the Emerald Isle. It involved the help of industry icons Louise McGuane and Helen Mulholland. Together they opted to take several casks worth of the well-aged liquid gold and combine it into a finishing vessel seasoned with Oloroso sherry. The result is a 92.8-proof rounded malt, which enters the palate with earthiness and retreats in a menagerie of marzipan, milk chocolate and creamy breakfast cereal. Only 663 bottles are available worldwide.
Michter's 25 Year Old Bourbon
There is an easy answer as to why Michter’s has assumed a position atop the pyramid of premium American whiskey: it crafts an exceptional array of limited releases, doing so only when the time is right. Point in case, this brand new expression of quarter-century old bourbon, which the distillery hasn’t offered in over three years. This iteration is awash in dark-chocolate covered berry fruit. It’s sweet yet soulful, with an impossibly lengthy finish. Nevertheless, there’s no sense in sugarcoating it—finding it at retail would be something of a Christmas miracle. The previous release from late 2020 currently fetches around $10,000 on the secondary market.
House of Hazelwood, The Old Confectioner's 44 Year Old Blended Scotch
William Grant & Sons is one of the largest family-run whiskey companies on earth. Its namesake founder kicked things off 137 years ago with the founding of The Glenfiddich distillery. Apparently, his kin have been doing an enviable job of holding on to precious stock ever since. Evidence of such arrived last year, with the launch of House of Hazelwood—a range of painfully scarce blended scotches, blended grains and blended malts, named after the family’s estate in Dufftown, Scotland. The first two drops have come in collector-friendly sets of eight. But you are able to procure individual bottles from within, as you like. And you ought to particularly like this butterscotch-blasted blend of malt meant to carry you back to the candy shops of yore.