Every few months, a new special release whiskey hits the shelves from big name brands with prices that often range into the hundreds and an elusiveness that gets people foaming at the mouth. Mostly, these releases are limited edition because they actually come from a set number of barrels as opposed to blending liquid from throughout the warehouse. So when the whiskey is gone, it’s gone for good. Here’s a list of some of the best new limited-edition whiskey out there, what you can expect to pay, and where you can find it… if you can actually find it.
Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition
Regular Knob Creek, a small batch brand from the decidedly large batch Jim Beam distillery, is aged for nine years. This batch, barreled by the late, great master distiller Booker Noe in 2001 and now overseen by his son Fred, is 14 years old, deep, and intensely flavorful. Three distinctive releases are arriving with about 12,000 bottles each – I got to sample the first, and it’s a hearty 100 proof, creamy, and delicious. Bottles are priced at $129.99 and available nationwide.
Crown Royal Noble Collection Cornerstone Blend
Crown Royal has been on a roll this past year, winning accolades for its Northern Harvest Rye, and impressing enthusiasts with its Hand Selected Single Barrel expression. Canadian whisky has been around forever (it’s still one of the best selling spirits categories in America), but it’s finally earning some deserved respect from whiskey nerds. Enter Cornerstone Blend, a mixture of Canadian rye, Coffey Still whisky, and bourbon barrel-aged whisky distilled by the massive Crown Royal operation. Only 10,000 cases were produced, with bottles priced at 60 bucks, but the trademark purple bag and pretty crystal-cut bottle makes it look much more expensive.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Beam master distiller and distinct Kentucky character Fred Noe and taste the aforementioned Knob Creek 2001. When I mentioned how much I like cask strength spirits, he casually pulled out an unmarked bottle of the brand-new Booker’s Rye, named for his father. I tasted it, and it was big, bold, burning, and beautiful. It’s an uncut, unfiltered, 136.2 proof rye whiskey that’s just over 13 years old. Booker’s Rye has just been released, and if you can find it (less than 100 barrels were bottled), it will cost you - $299.99 to be exact. But for fans of the Noe legacy, and barrel-proof rye whiskey, it just might be worth the effort and expense.
Ardbeg Dark Cove
Peaty single malt lovers celebrated Ardbeg Day (actually, Ardbeg Night for the first time this year) on May 28th, and in honor of this made-up holiday, the smoky sister company to Glenmorangie released 1,100 cases of a new expression, Dark Cove. This is the darkest of all the Ardbeg offerings, aged both in ex-bourbon barrels and what they refer to as “dark sherry” casks. The smoke jumps out at you, naturally, but other flavors pop out like candied fruit, caramelized burnt ends, and what head of distilling Dr. Bill Lumsden refers to as “squid ink noodles.” Bottles are priced at $110.
Four Roses Elliott’s Select
If you want a good, cheap, reliable bottle of bourbon, look no further than Four Roses Yellow Label. This blend of ten distinct recipes usually goes for about 20 bucks, and never lets you down. If you want to spend slightly more, try the Single Barrel or Small Batch expressions. Now, in honor of new master distiller Brent Elliott, Four Roses has released this single barrel, cask-strength, 14-year-old bourbon, and it’s worth every dollar of the $125 price tag. About 8,000 bottles will be made available, which is smooth, rich, and creamy, despite its high alcohol content.
The Glenlivet Pullman Train Collection
The Glenlivet single malt scotch had a partnership with the Pullman Company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which mini bottles were served in dining cars, and first-class passengers got tipsy. To celebrate this drunken history, The Glenlivet has released three single cask expressions, available only in the U.S. in very limited quantities, each personally selected by master distiller Alan Winchester. The Pullman Club Car (618 bottles) is an 18-year-old whisky aged in sherry butts, the Pullman Twentieth Century Limited (588 bottles) is a 14-year-old aged in European Oak Butts, and the Pullman Water Level Route (321 bottles) is a 14-year-old aged in American oak hogsheads. Bottles go for $349.99 each and are available at Caskers.com or in select stores in Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and California.
Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Year Straight Rye Whiskey
Last year, this non-distiller producer released a 13-year-old version of this 100 percent rye whiskey, which it sourced from undisclosed locations. This year, the company has released a 16-year-old version of spicy and fruity rye that will make a mean cocktail, but seems like a waste not to drink on its own. 3,000 cases were made available of this 107-proof whiskey, sold in handsome jet-black bottles. The Cooper Spirits Co. founder Robert J. Cooper sadly passed away this past April, but this was a release he was surely proud of. Bottles go for $149.99 at select retailers nationwide.
Blade and Bow 22 Year
The folks behind Blade and Bow 22-year-old Kentucky Bourbon are pretty tight-lipped about just how much is actually out there to purchase. Apparently, Diageo’s policy is to release no numbers in this case. But they will tell you that the next release won’t arrive until next spring, it will only be available in nine markets, and stores are often selling the current batch for double the suggested price of $149.99. Though it’s unclear exactly where the liquid comes from, it was “most recently aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller,” according to the press release. Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it’s pretty damn good, and pretty damn hard to find – at least until next spring, when the rush to get a bottle of new release Blade and Bow will begin all over again.