Bourbons And Ryes Priced At Over $1000 A Bottle
By Richard Thomas
In the world of Scotch whiskies, prices of over $1,000 a bottle are not only nothing new, but not even that remarkable. At the auctions where truly rare single malts are bought and sold, bids must cross into five digit territory before an eyebrow might rise, and the most expensive whiskies ever sold were above the $50,000 mark.
Across the Atlantic, however, paying such dear prices for a bottle of bourbon or rye whiskey is still unheard of. Indeed, before this decade it was a rarity for any American whiskey to fetch a thousand-dollar price. Now demand for the hottest, above-the-top-shelf bourbons and interest from speculators have driven a basket of whiskeys above the $1,000 mark.
Here we list them all* and explain why these whiskeys in particular are so prized. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the painful pricing has to do with the words “Van Winkle.”
1. Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey ($3,619): Age plus rarity make this 2013 limited edition the most expensive bourbon around. Only 273 bottles were made, drawing on a blend of 20 and 30 year old bourbon stocks, plus other barrels chosen by Michter’s maestro Willie Pratt.
2. Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Bourbon ($2,433): Pappy Van Winkle is the hottest ticket in bourbon and the 23 Year Old is the oldest expression, making it the most sought-after bottle for those with plenty of money and only a basic understanding of American whiskeys.
3. A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old Bourbon ($1,812): Why is this bourbon commanding almost two grand, you ask? Because it was made at a now defunct distillery and dubbed by Chuck Cowdery as “the best bourbon you’ll never taste” in a small book by the same name.
4. Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old Bourbon ($1,576): In the opinions of some experts, this whiskey is better than its older sibling. In the minds of the general public, 20 years old isn’t as valuable as 23, hence the almost $900 discount. Even so, it is one of a handful of 20 year old bourbons and has the magic Van Winkle name.
5. Rittenhouse Very Rare Single Barrel 25 Year Old Rye ($1,502): The fifth-most expensive whiskey in American today is also the first entry for rye. Released in 2009, this was the last and oldest of Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse Very Rare Single Barrel line, and is now very much a pricey collectible.
6. Pappy Van Winkle 13 Year Old Rye ($1,358): Pappy + rye + age in the low teens = price tag of over $1,000.
7. Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old Bourbon ($1,106): It says a lot about the cachet carried by the name “Pappy” that this bourbon, one that I once thought of as a nicely priced bottle to trot out on special occasions, now costs over a grand.
8. Very Old St. Nick 18 Year Old Ancient Rye Whiskey ($1,001): Reportedly this is the cream of the crop for a brand that consisted of whiskeys drawn from the best sources and bottled for the Japanese market.
Honorable Mentions: The eight bourbon and rye whiskeys listed about have average prices above $1,000, so they routinely command such princely sums. However, a couple of others have commanded a brand record price above that mark, even if the normal going rate is still counted in the hundreds of dollars.
These two are the William Larue Weller Bourbon of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Van Winkle Reserve Lot B 12 Year Old Bourbon. The latter is a Van Winkle, while the former is the limited edition version of a bourbon, W.L. Weller 12 Year Old, that was dubbed as a Pappy Van Winkle substitute by Esquire magazine. That article sparked a run on any and all whiskeys named “Weller.”
*All pricing data provided by Wine Searcher.