It's tough enough to get your hands on Van Winkle bourbons, and the latest, and oldest release from the Pappy distillers promises to be even more exclusive. Old Rip Van Winkle 25-Year-Old Bourbon was distilled in the spring and fall of 1989 and stored on lower levels of a metal warehouse built in 1935 at the Van Winkle family distillery. In 2002 the barrels found a new home at Buffalo Trace and in 2014 the juice was dumped into stainless steel tanks to halt the aging process. And now, it's ready for release. But only 11 barrels made the full trip, resulting in a mere 710 bottles. Each one is housed in a handmade glass decanter with bottle information, individual numbering, and a hand finished silver stopper. The special bottles reside in a handmade wooden box that comes with a bourbon certificate of authenticity, numbered and signed by Julian Van Winkle himself.
It should be no surprise that one of the rarest bourbons ever released comes from the fine folks at Buffalo Trace. Buffalo Trace O.F.C. Bourbon has been generously offered exclusively to non-profit organizations at no charge to help raise money for their causes. Out of the first release comes this bottle — one of only 100 — from 1980. Named after the O.F.C. Distillery christened by Colonel E.H. Taylor back in 1870, this nearly 40-year-old bourbon is not only special juice, but it also gets special packaging. The lead-free crystal bottle is a replica of an O.F.C. decanter dating back to the early 1900s and features detailed fluting engraved into the mold. Then shoulder facets are cut by glass artisans, and then the bottle is manually polished before inlaying cut copper lettering. This bottle is up for auction from Living Jazz, launched in 1984 with a mission to empower children and adults, inspire creative growth, and unite diverse communities through music.
As the bourbon renaissance continues, more and more forgotten brands are being dusted off and revived. The latest is Old Ripy Bourbon, a brand created by Irish immigrant James Ripy that was made in Lawrenceburg, KY up until 1950. The new iteration of Old Ripy is distilled at Wild Turkey, which just happens to be the same location of the former Old Ripy distillery. It's a combination of 8-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon with other whiskeys of varying ages, up to 12 years old. It's bottled at 104 proof in smaller than normal 375ml bottles, which is a nod to the pre-Prohibition period of bourbon making. Old Ripy is also one of two new releases in the Whiskey Barons collection, which was established to honor and recreate historically significant Bourbons lost after Prohibition.
The third release in the Whiskey Row series from Old Forester is the best of the bunch. Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon pays tribute to a period in American history where the only distilleries licensed to produce bourbon did it for medicinal purposes, and had to have a federal license. Brown-Forman, owner of the Old Forester brand, was one of the few making bourbon during Prohibition, and this release reflects the style that would have been distilled and bottled during the era. Bourbon distilled during Prohibition was required to be bottled at 100 proof, but 1920 arrives at 115 proof to account for the angel's share that an aged bourbon from the time period would represent.
We can't think of a better way to kick 2016 out the door than by sipping on some cask strength bourbon. And New Year from Barrell Bourbon might be the most appropriate spirit to have on hand to help usher in 2017. 5, 7, 8, 9, and 13-year old Straight Bourbons from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee were blended to make this limited edition release that clocks in at 117 proof. Of course, all of the releases in the Barrell line are bottled at cask strength, but this special blend provides loads of flavor and a long finish to enjoy before, during, and after the new year begins.
Fall is a great season for bourbon releases, and one of the standouts this year might be Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon. This year's batch combines a 12-year-old bourbon with a 7-year — each of which was hand-selected and finished in new toasted wine barrels. Around 7,000 bottles are available, and it's made available at 101 proof from the folks at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, KY.