There are thoughtful whiskeys to gift, then there are f**k you whiskeys to gift. The 20 on this list are the latter. From a 42-year-old Canadian whisky that you might be able to find to experimental Maker’s Mark, these are the whiskeys you get when you’re trying to flex.
1. Heaven’s Door Bootleg Series
Price: $500 SRP
Bob Dylan’s whiskey label launched a series named after some of his music, and its first entry is a 26-year-old American whiskey finished in Japanese Mizunara casks, the likes of which are used by famed Japanese whisky brands like Yamazaki and Hibiki. The bottle is decorated with Dylan’s Train Tracks painting.
2. Ardbeg Supernova
Price: $180 SRP
A peat bomb among peat bombs. Ardbeg’s Supernova has a good backstory — it was launched in celebration of the brand sending whiskey to outer space and shows off what its master distillers are capable of — but this year’s release is a bit simpler: it takes Ardbeg’s classically Islay peat levels to new heights.
3. Maker’s Mark RC6
Maker’s Mark is finally getting into the limited release whiskey game. The RC6 expression is the first in its annual limited run bottlings, and it was built from the ground up to show off an oft-forgot part of whiskey making: yeast. Maker’s longtime yeast is remarkably fruity, and RC6 is too. It’s made with Maker’s standard wheated bourbon mashbill but finished for its final nine weeks with proprietary “RC6” staves shoved in the barrel to inflect a fruitier flavor. The result is a bourbon that tastes a bit like apple pie.
4. El Tesoro Extra Añejo
No, it’s not whiskey, but it’s as close as an agave spirit gets to it. Crafted by Carlos Camarena, one of Mexico’s most legendary spirits makers, El Tesoro’s Extra Añejo is aged four to five years in American ex-bourbon barrels. This is not margarita tequila — this is sipping tequila.
5. Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel
This is a multi-layered flex gift. Blanton’s is already a great bourbon to gift someone — the weird shape, case and bottle stopper guarantee that much — but its best offerings are only available overseas. Straight From the Barrel is your standard, spicy Blanton’s bottled at barrel proof — 130 proof in this case — and it is hot. This is not a purchase for the whiskey newcomer, this is a purchase for your friend with an overflowing cabinet.
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6. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye
Price: $175 SRP
Master’s Keep is Wild Turkey’s annual, highest-end whiskey release. Cornerstone Rye is the first rye in the series and the most mature rye whiskey Wild Turkey has ever released (a mix of barrels aged 9 to 11 years). This should be drank with a couple drops of water on a cold night. Bonus points for the highly wrappable rectangular box.
7. Whistlepig The Boss Hog “Samurai Scientist”
Price: $500 SRP
Canadian whisky sourcing experts WhistlePig went in another direction with this year’s Boss Hog release. “Samurai Scientist” is an American whiskey made through koji fermentation and finished using umeshu. The goal was to create a whiskey with true umami. You’ll have to pay up to find out if they succeeded.
8. Tyrconnell 16-year-old Oloroso & Moscatel Cask-Finished
Price: $100 SRP
Rest assured that whoever you buy this for has never had a whiskey like this. Tyrconnell’s one-off release is aged in American ex-bourbon barrels and finished twice — once in sherry casks and again in moscatel barrels. This is an Irish whiskey like no other.
9. Little Book Chapter 03 “The Road Home”
Price: $125 SRP
Who to get this for: your buddy who likes Jim Beam. A lot. The third release under Freddie Noe’s whiskey blending line is comprised of 9-year-old Knob Creek, 9-year-old Basil Hayden’s, 11-year-old Booker’s and 12-year-old Baker’s — all barrel proof.
10. George T. Stagg
Price: $99 SRP
The Allfather of high proof bourbon. Part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, George T. Stagg is a flavor nuke of a whiskey. If you can get your hands on a bottle below $500, I compell you to buy it. Few whiskeys demand as much attention from the award-givers and the whiskey cognoscenti.
11. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram
Price: $90 SRP
High West’s weird and wonderful annual release is a blend of high rye whiskeys finished in French oak and port barrels. The French oak gives the whiskey a firm tannic backbone while the port barrels add rich sweetness on top of the rye’s natural spice. It is among the most unique American whiskeys one can buy, and hardly anybody talks about it.
12. Michter’s 20-Year
Price: $700 SRP
Two-decade-old barrels are selected by Michter’s master distiller Dan McKee and master of maturation Andrea Wilson and are available in “extremely limited quantities.” Since the Michter’s brand resurgence, many of its expressions with age statements have become unobtanium, but the 20-year has suffered the most. If you find it, great; if you don’t, try and find either the 10-year Single Barrel Bourbon or 10-Year Single Barrel Rye.
13. Kentucky Owl Straight Rye #3
Price: $200 SRP
Love it or hate it, Kentucky Owl is a brand built on hype. Its third rye release (the first of which netted a sky-high 95 out of 100 score on Whisky Advocate) is an unshy 114 proof mouth punch of a whiskey. It’s nearly an investment piece.
14. Red Spot
Price: $130 SRP
Off shelves since the 1960s, Red Spot Irish whiskey reemerged last fall with a bang. The eldest of the Spot whiskeys (Green and Yellow are 7- and 12-years-old), the 15-year-old Red Spot isn’t cheap, but it is easier to find than most whiskeys on this list. If your giftee likes their whiskeys nice, old and easy to drink, your search is over.
15. Angel’s Envy Cask Strength
Price: $200 SRP
The folks behind Angel’s Envy Cask Strength have nearly perfected barrel finishing their whiskey. Cask Strength, finished in port barrels, is comprised of 6-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 13-, 14- and 15-year-old bourbons, and, because Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson doesn’t care for convention, its nothing like previous years.
16. Canadian Club “The Dock Man”
Price: $300 SRP
The first of Canadian Club’s Chronicles series won 2018’s Jim Murray Canadian Whisky of the Year. The Dock Man, the brand’s second go, is a 42-year-old followup is the probably the most mature whisky you will every drink. And because Canadian whisky isn’t as tortured by speculators and BST-ers, you might have a chance of finding it.
17. Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt “The Peated”
This wouldn’t be so expensive if you lived in Japan. Chichibu is an infant distillery compared to Suntory and Nikka, the two brands that have dominated Japanese whisky since the middle of the 20th century. Founded in 2004, the distillery employs less than ten people and makes very little whisky but is situated in a perfect spot for whisky production. The Peated is an annual limited edition release.
18. Hakushu 12
Hakushu 12 wasn’t always considered an “over-the-top” buy. You could’ve bought bought bottles for $50 before Japanese whisky started crushing international award shows. But today, thanks to an eruption of demand and limited supply, Hakushu 12 shipments have been discontinued by Suntory, the brand’s parent company. Thankfully, there’s still bottles scattered around liquor stores across the US; the only problem is store owners know it was discontinued. Expect to pay between $120 and $200.
19. Weller Full Proof
Price: $50 SRP
One of the most anticipated whiskey releases of the year. Weller Full Proof is the closest thing to getting a bottle of another famous bottle of Weller called William Larue Weller (WL Weller). Part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, WL Weller is a barrel proof, extra-aged variant on the standard wheated bourbon. Wheathed bourbon, we might add, that shared DNA with none other than Pappy Van Winkle.
20. Four Roses 2019 Small Batch
If you know whiskey, you know Four Roses’ annual limited edition bottle is reliably one of the best drops of the year. This year’s includes whiskey up to 21-years-old, which is the most mature whiskey Four Roses has ever bottled. If you can’t find it (or don’t want to pay for it), get Small Batch Select.