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One of the benefits of actually going on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, aside from the scenery, the people and running up a bar tab trying to taste the every bourbon you see, is getting ahold of bottles you can’t get anywhere else. There are the sought-after bottles that barely touch liquor store shelves before they get snatched up, like anything from Willett‘s Family Estate collection or Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection — but then there are also bottles that you can’t get from anywhere but the distillery gift shop, intentionally; the distillers want you to come hear their story and see their facility, after all. These were the exclusive bottles we found in the dozen or so distilleries we visited. Taste aside, they will be a tough find for any collectors without a drivers license and a roadmap of Kentucky.
Master-Distiller Selected, Single Barrel: Master Distiller Jim Rutlege hand selected a 10 year, 4 month old barrel of Four Roses’ OESQ (20 percent rye mash bill) bourbon for their gift shop. According to Rutlege, it has light floral and wild honey on the nose, a creamy honey butter note on the pallet and a long finish with hints of mint and roses. Single Barrel bottles from the nine other barrels Four Roses distills (two mash bills and five yeast strains) are also available.
William Heavenhill Small Batch (left): This is the third edition of the extremely rare William Heavenhill bottlings available only at the Heaven Hill gift shop. It’s made from 10- to 11-year-old-barrels inside the Heaven Hill Bottled In Bond warehouses that are hand selected and blended by Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam.
William Heavenhill Cask Strength (right): This is a brand new addition to the William Heavenhill lineup. Increasing the proof from the Small Batch, this cask strength is 135.6 proof and aged 15 years.
American Stillhouse Clermont Limited Edition (left): The Stillhouse sports a label made of barrel wood and is numbered and signed by Fred Noe. There’s no age statement or mash bill information available for this one.
Distiller’s Masterpiece Finished in PX Sherry Casks (middle): The first Distiller’s Masterpiece release from Jim Beam was finished in cognac barrels. The second was port barrels. Third was sherry cask — and this one, the fourth, continues the trend. The bottle is 100 proof and comes with its own case (pictured).
Old Tub (right): This sour mash Jim Beam whiskey is bottled in bond and served in a prohibition-style bottle as a tribute to the first distillery, called Old Tub, where Jacob Beam sold his barrels of corn whiskey around 1795.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength: When faced with low supply and high demand, at first, Maker’s Mark wanted to drop the proof of their bourbon to augment their stocks. But after a general uproar of fans and requests by bartenders for proofs to go higher, not lower, Maker’s Mark released a cask-strength offering. Rougher than their typical bourbon, the 375ml bottles (this one is 113.3 proof) are only found in the gift shop or bars, for now.
Evan Williams 23 Years Old: This is the oldest offering under the Evan Williams name, and one of the oldest whiskeys you’ll find in a bottle. At $400, this isn’t a steal, but it’s the smoothest and oakiest bourbon served up by Artisan Distiller Charlie Downs at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.