The Kentuck Derby may very well be the strangest continuously-relevant cultural moment in the U.S. The single day out of any given year when most people pay horse racing any mind is also marked by excessive gambling, enormous hats, way too much seersucker and, of course, so… much… bourbon.
For the rest of the country, it is this and this alone that redeems it. Drink it straight. Shoot it. Mix it with ginger ale. Or even make a Mint Julep and pretend you’re enjoying it; whatever you do, these five bourbons new to 2018 deserve a shot at filling your cup come this weekend. Drink, and bet, responsibly.
Maker’s Mark Seared Bu 1-3
Before the release of Maker 46 in 2010, Maker’s Mark hadn’t sold a bottle different from their signature for 50 years. The 46 release signalled the beginning of serious experimentation for the brand, and the latest (and rarest) product of that is the Seared Bu 1-3. It’s made by aging sous vide-cooked and seared French oak staves, and only 1,400 bottles (three barrels worth) were made. Availability, if you can call it that, is limited to Maker’s in-house gift shop and a handful of unnamed retailers in Kentucky. It may be listed at a $40 MSRP, but we don’t expect many will be that lucky.
Booker’s Bourbon, Kathleen’s Batch
Veteran of Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s and Booker’s, Kathleen DiBenedetto isn’t getting her own batch of Booker’s just out of the blue. DiBenedeto helped Booker Noe get his eponymous single batch off the ground some 25 years ago, and with the aide of Fred Noe (Booker’s son) and “Booker’s Bourbon Roundtable,” released a blended bourbon unlike any other. The final product is a mix of seven different barrels with different aging sites and ages. It iss, according to DiBenedetto, “strong, sweet, rich and delightful.” Cheers to that.
Barrel Bourbon Batch 014
This batch of Barrel’s bourbon mixes the remainder of its last batch with a 14-year high rye. Aged in American white oak barrels, the result (109 proof) is a bourbon spicy enough to wake you up in the hours leading up to the Derby and smooth enough to sip all day.
Garrison Brother’s Small Batch Bourbon
Garrison Brothers Distillery is serious about its whiskey. One of its mottos is “Life is simply too short to waste on inferior whiskey.” At around 60,000 bottle in all, the Small Batch 2018 Vintage is the distillery’s biggest release ever — every white oak barrel for the release held bourbon for at least four years, creating a fire-powered 94 proof that’s ripe for an afternoon on the porch.
Blood Oath Pact No. 4
“That every batch of Blood Oath is the undertaking of one man — a student of both bourbon and science.” That is the eponymous blood oath. Blending unknown 12-, 10- and 9-year bourbons, creator John E. Rempe releases one “pact” (bourbon) a year and no one but him gets to know what’s in them. Aged in toasted and charred barrels, the fourth pact is sweet, smokey and spicy.