Welcome to Shelf Sleepers, our semi-regular guide to the best booze nobody is buying. This time: Hancock's President's Reserve, Blanton's red-headed little brother.
Dozens of Facebook groups dedicate their members to canvassing the U.S. for Blanton's Bourbon sold at retail, with some groups (and even entire websites) going as far as recording "dump dates" for those looking for a bottle to commemorate an anniversary of some kind. It's among the most-searched-for whiskeys on sites like Drizly and Wine-Searcher. There are even sub-communities of Blanton's obsessives collecting every one-off release ever bottled under the brand name. As with most of its bourbons, Buffalo Trace Distillery can't keep up with the hype. The bottle that's meant to retail for about $60 usually costs twice that or more.
So, uh, why?
Blanton's is a middle-aged, middle-proofed single barrel bourbon with some nice (but historically questionable) history behind it. Its grenade-shaped bottle stands out on a bar cart. The label is cool. But these features aren't unique to Blanton's. If you want a taste of Blanton's but can't find it (or are appalled by the markups), try Hancock's President's Reserve Single Barrel.
Hancock's is a Sazerac product distilled at Buffalo Trace. This whiskey's age is rumored to be right around Blanton's age, it's proofed just 4 points less (89 vs. 93), both are made with the same Buffalo Trace high-rye #2 mash (more on that here) and it's also a single barrel product. Comparing stats, the biggest difference is aging location; Blanton's is always aged in the distillery's Warehouse H, a nearly 100-year-old metal-clad aging facility.
In better news, Hancock's retails for $50 and, because no one really gives a damn about it, is usually available for that figure if you run into it. The downside is it's carried in far fewer states. Basically, Hancock's is Diet Blanton's that you'll never have to wrestle another whiskey shopper for. Along with the slightly pricier and also relatively unknown Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel (which we'll call Blanton's Lite for symmetry), it offers the easiest path to trying Blanton's without actually trying Blanton's. So while Buffalo Trace sends collectors sprinting from one "new" bottle of Blanton's to the next, you can sit on your high horse knowing you're drinking what is nearly the same thing for a fraction of the cost.