By legal definition from the United States government, bourbon can be made in any U.S. state. But there’s a good reason why 95% of it is produced in Kentucky. Some call it tradition, while others surmise it’s just the “magic” of the bluegrass state.
If you really want to break it down, notable factors that make Kentucky the ideal place to distill and age bourbon include its rich and purifying limestone water, its seasonal temperatures and its generations of skilled distillers who have passed their knowledge on down the line.
That’s not to say bourbon can’t be made well in other states. It is and will continue to do so. Craft distillers all throughout the U.S. are exploring some interesting concepts when it comes to mash bills, aging and finishing, and the good news is there’s always room on the shelf for new products.
Bourbon, after all, is enjoying continued growth and interest by consumers all over the world.
The focus of this piece is on Kentucky and, more specifically, the craftmanship of distillers that can be found in their limited-edition offerings. Here are six products worth searching for, if you don’t already have them in your collection.
Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series #4 — Bardstown Bourbon Co.
115 Proof, $129.99
Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Discovery Series is a unique blend of sourced bourbons, and this latest release — No. 4 — features three Kentucky bourbons of varying ages and mash bills.
Each release has been a shining example of the art of blending, and this latest is no exception. BBCo is very transparent about their processes, so we know this release contains 55% of a 13-year Kentucky bourbon, 37% of a 15-year bourbon and 8% of a 10-year bourbon.
All three bourbons have a traditional mash bill of corn, rye and malted barley. Heaven in a glass, indeed.
Woodford Reserve Batch Proof — Woodford Reserve
128.3 proof, $129.99
Released once a year as part of the Master’s Collection, this Woodford Reserve Batch Proof is a hot commodity for collectors and bourbon aficionados alike.
The 2021 release came in at a stout 128.3 proof, which showcases Woodford’s proprietary process of blending barrels into small batches and then bottling at proof.
The higher ABV allows deeper and richer flavors to emerge and is a delight neat or on the rocks.
Jefferson’s Grand Selection Chateau Pichon Baron — Jefferson’s Bourbon
90 proof, $134.99
Jefferson’s Bourbon, whose home base is at the Kentucky Artisan Distillery, often has experimented with barrel finishes, and this one is quite superb.
The fully mature Kentucky-aged bourbon was finished in Chateau Pichon Baron French Bordeaux casks, an homage to Thomas Jefferson’s love of French wine.
This one will be hard to find as it is long gone off the shelves, but with lovely notes of chocolate, coffee and fruit, it’s worth the search.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond — Heaven Hill
100 proof, $149.99
Each spring and fall, Heaven Hill releases a new Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond, the only difference being the ages.
Packaged in a collectible decanter, the highly sought-after wheated bourbon is a treat for fans of the old-time label. The last release came out in the fall of 2020 and was 14 years old.
Of course these bottles sell out quickly, and eager anticipation for the spring 2021 release* can be felt all throughout Kentucky and beyond.
*The announcement on the spring release just came out. It’ll be an 8-year-old bourbon and will retail for a suggested price of $85.
King of Kentucky — Brown-Forman
125+ proof, $249.99
In 2018, Brown-Forman — makers of Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Jack Daniel’s, to name a few — revived a long-forgotten brand called King of Kentucky and has released an expression each year since.
The single-barrel bourbon is old for a heat-cycled rick house (which results in more evaporation than normal), and the 2020 release clocked in at 14 years old, 125+ proof (proof varies between barrels).
While these go for about $250 on the shelf (if you’re lucky to find one), the secondary market has them going for more than $1,200. It’s definitely worth the time and money to add to your collection.
Angle’s Envy Mizunara Cask Finish Bourbon — Angel’s Envy
97.8 proof, $349.99
In 2020, Angel’s Envy celebrated its 10th anniversary with a legendary release: the Mizunara Cask Finish.
The distillers took a blend of their 4- and 9-year-old bourbon and then finished it in rare Japanese Mizunara oak casks for two more years. The result is this delectable and highly coveted release that quickly sold for more than $1,500 on secondary markets soon after its launch.
Only 1,200 bottles were released, so it is a rare and solid find if you can nab one.