is nothing short of a phenomenon. An iconic brand that pioneered the world’s first commercially sold single barrel, ’s brainchild was once exclusively reserved for esteemed dignitaries or friends of Colonel Albert B. Blanton (in other words, individuals who were either well connected or elite members of high society).
Today, Blanton’s is available en masse to the public, produced at very high volumes for an ever-growing number of bourbon collectors and connoisseurs keen to accumulate the famous horse-stopper brand.
While this may be a far cry from the tight-knit exclusivity that Blanton’s bourbon was once known for (before it was named Blanton’s), there is no denying that Blanton’s is exceptional bourbon. All it takes is an astute palate to decipher as much, but does this legendary distiller warrant the almost otherworldly cult-following that it possesses? To answer that question we must first dive into the history of Blanton’s whiskey and the milestones that have culminated in its status as one of the most sought-after, coveted and collected American whiskeys in history.
Following the repeal of prohibition with the 21st amendment in 1933, liquor production across the United States skyrocketed, with the distilleries that survived the arduous 13-year dry spell that began in 1920 seeing a meteoric rise in demand for their spirits.
Blanton’s distillery (at the time known as Distillery following the acquisition of Distillery in 1878 by and subsequently renamed in 1904), was immediately faced with a problem that it would need to overcome to satisfy the almost unquenchable thirst and appetite for their products - storage space. The distillery had quickly run out of space to store barrels, with Colonel Blanton’s solution of a metal warehouse thought to be the fastest way to navigate this issue and create more room.
At the time, warehouses were almost exclusively made of timber, and the metal used by Blanton had a noticeably different effect on the bourbon that he was producing at the distillery. The metal walls of Warehouse H were thinner, with the climate inside much closer to the outside temperature. This essentially exposed the bourbon barrels to the true elements of Kentucky and all four seasons, meaning the liquor interacted with the oak of the barrels at a higher frequency, translating to more rapid ageing of the whiskey and thus creating a greater depth of flavor and a heightened degree of complexity that is still found in Blanton’s bourbon today.
The unique qualities of Warehouse H caused several distilleries to depart from the favored timber warehouse template, preferring to embrace a truer climate-focused approach. In 1984 when Elmer T. Lee launched the brand, all of Blanton’s ageing was moved to the esteemed Warehouse H, where all of Blanton’s premium bourbon barrels are stored and matured.
It’s a common misconception that Blanton’s was founded by its namesake and bourbon forefather, Colonel B. Blanton. It was another seminal figure in the fledgling bourbon industry that created the world’s first single-barrel bourbon, Elmer T. Lee (a happy coincidence that Lee now has a bourbon named after him which is similarly produced by ).
Inspired by his mentor Colonel Albert B. Blanton, Elmer T. Lee drew inspiration from Colonel Blanton’s handpicking of what he called “honey barrels” from the center of Warehouse H when entertaining esteemed guests in the 1940s. This bourbon was bottled painstakingly one barrel at a time, with Lee later defining this process as single-barrel bourbon making.
Blanton’s Single Barrel was formally named as such in 1984, one year before Elmer T. Lee retired as Master Distiller at George T. Stagg Distillery, and in doing so, effectively reinvented and reimagined the bourbon industry. The world’s first single barrel bourbon was the first foray by any distiller to genuinely push the limits of bourbon, redefining what high-quality whiskey was and expanding on this by creating what Lee called a ‘premium’ category - which was effectively Blanton’s Original single barrel.
would become the benchmark for premium bourbon whiskey across the globe, bottled at 93 proof, aged between 6 and 8 years in the center of Warehouse H, and composed of a mash bill believed to sit between 12-15% rye (this is the modern mash bill).
Many distilleries soon tried to replicate what Elmer T. Lee had created in his humble Kentucky distillery. Despite their attempts, none were able to produce a bourbon of the same caliber and quality, and with the reputation of Blanton’s Original very quickly becoming something akin to myth, the need for expansion and diversification was soon realised - with breakoff iterations of the Original becoming popular in their own right.
As Blanton’s bourbon grew throughout the late 80s and early 90s as a powerhouse of single barrel whiskey distilling, it soon began to realize there was an appetite for its premium wares outside of the native U.S.
Several export-only releases soon followed, tailored for the specific tastes and interests of different markets. The , otherwise known as Blanton’s Green, is still an international-only release, bottled at 80-proof and an altogether more approachable single barrel than its punchier 93-proof counterpart, the Original.
Many higher proof iterations also exist, with the 103 proof and Cask Strength (~125-130 proof), two additional export-only releases from the ‘core’ collection, made available ubiquitously in 2020 when Sazerac finally caved to U.S. demand for stronger, punchier Blanton’s varieties.
Beyond this, Japanese exclusive releases, , and are aged for an additional two years, making them slightly more complex, oak-forward and smooth. In Poland, there is an , generally restricted to 4 barrels or between 800-1000 bottles, varying in proof but usually closer to the cask strength SFTB, but with an air of refinement and exclusivity that’s more aligned with the ‘dignitary’ heritage for which Blanton’s is known. The French whiskey institution similarly produces a remarkably exclusive single barrel release, with countless high-proof iterations that are exceptionally rare and highly coveted.
Though there is a genuine appetite for Blanton’s across the world, it has never strayed from its roots in Kentucky and remains a proud part of the Kentucky whiskey landscape. Many will note the horse-stopper referencing the Kentucky Derby, and this is yet another nod to Blanton’s place as a Kentucky icon, firmly ingrained in the state’s folklore.
Up until 1999, the horse-stopper was the same for every bottle of Blanton’s bourbon, with this year the first significant update to the brand’s bottling. Now with 8 different variations, all of which combine to spell out B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S, the horse-stoppers frame the stages of a racehorse in motion, another nod to the local Kentucky Derby and Blanton’s inherent relation to its state.
In today’s bourbon scene, Blanton’s represents the same thing it did in the 1940s when it was being hand-selected in minute quantities from the “honey barrels” of Warehouse H -. The caveat to this is that it’s a different type of status symbol in modern whiskey collecting. In the 1940s it was a gift bestowed unto those deemed worthy by Colonel Blanton himself, whereas nowadays it’s an indicator of someone’s position as a collector of rare and premium bourbon.
Regardless of the semantics around status, it remains an outstanding single barrel bourbon and a whiskey of the highest order. Thousands upon thousands of whiskey drinkers, bourbon enthusiasts and collectors pursue the elusive Blanton’s bourbon, and while it may not hold the same exclusivity and aura that it was once associated with, it remains an integral part of the Kentucky whiskey scene and is a coveted collectible for good reason.
So, is it deserving of the status it holds in today’s bourbon scene? Given its place in history and the innovation and quality that Blanton’s brought to the whiskey industry, we have to say yes - it’s an important milestone in the development of American whiskey and it’s still a damn fine sipping bourbon.
It’s a contentious topic in the whisky community and one that has sparked widespread debate about what truly makes a whisky a whisky. Is chill-filtered whisky acceptable?
For ultra-purists, chill filtering whisky is a blasphemous practice that represents a complete departure from responsible whiskymaking and lowers the quality and complexity of good whisky. The use of color enhancers and accelerators is met with the same sentiment, and distillers who use e150a or plain caramel to make their whisky appear darker and richer are similarly judged.
Novice whisky drinkers will have absolutely no inclination one way or the other, though many will have encountered a whisky that becomes ‘cloudy’ when the temperature drops, so are loosely aware of the phenomenon. Despite this indifference among the majority, there exists a staunch cult within the whisky community that swears by the non-chill filtered naturalist philosophy, and as such it’s important to understand the techniques and methods used by distilleries that make a natural whisky (non chill filtered and uncolored whisky) as opposed to a chill-filtered, and sometimes mechanically influenced/colored whisky.
A largely ‘cosmetic’ process that seeks to improve the clarity and hue of single malt scotch under 47% ABV, chill filtration is what distilleries do to make their wares more palatable to the layman, however, numerous scotch powerhouses are beginning to abandon this practice in favor of returning to more ‘natural’ non-chill filtered single malts.
After distillation and dilution to drinking strength, chill-filtered whiskies are cooled to temperatures around or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees celsius) and then finely filtered with pressure, so as to remove tiny particles or impurities - generally chemicals and residuals that build up throughout the maturation process, such as fatty acids that condense when whisky is stored at lower temperatures causing it to cloud or go hazy. Following this filtration, they are bottled and labeled as chill-filtered spirits.
For non-chill filtered whisky, this process does not occur, with the natural alcohol from the cask diluted with water and then bottled, meaning all chemicals and fatty acids remain. Simply put, chill-filtering is a sort of sanitization that aims to remove these components that may compromise the ‘aesthetics’ of a whisky, however, this ‘looks’ over ‘substance’ approach has resulted in widespread debate and polarized the whisky industry since becoming a popular method.
Those who argue that non-chill filtered whisky is the only acceptable way to bottle and drink whisky will tell you that the removal of these particles through the chilling filtration process results in a loss of flavor and a reduction in the integrity and quality of the whisky. They might be right, but that is the beauty of whisky, everyone is free to choose their own path and preference. So if you’d rather drink a bottle that doesn’t have the full character of the spirit that came out of the cask directly but won’t go cloudy or show some slight sediment over time and storage, then chill-filtered might be for you.
If not, then a ‘natural’ whisky that is non-chill filtered and full-bodied in its flavor will be music to your ears and perfect for your discerning palate.
That's the question. A number of large Scottish distillers are beginning to revert back to traditional methods, preferring to avoid the filtration process and bottle directly from the cask with the exception of dilution to their desired proof. Glendronach’s removal of the non-chill filtered label on their bottles was recently met with widespread backlash from their fans who believe there was a noticeable drop off in the quality of their offerings.
Big names such as the Campbeltown powerhouse Springbank, the peaty smoke of Islay’s Ardbeg, and Speyside’s formidable Glenallachie are but a few of the large single malt producers who are embracing a natural whisky approach and releasing exceptionally high-quality non-chill filtered scotch.
Matured in 100% sherry barrels for one and a half decades, this 15-year-old single malt scotch is part of Springbank’s core collection and is distilled two and half times before being bottled without any coloration or chill-filtration. A stunning natural whisky option.
Aged in Ex-Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Ex-Oloroso Sherry, Virgin Oak, and Ex-Riojo casks, this 10-year-old single malt is a powerful and potent cask strength single malt, bottled at 57.8% ABV, and non-chill filtered to maximize the flavor profile for a stunning yet serious sip.
One of the most complex offerings from the famed Islay distiller, Ardbeg’s Ten is a peaty, smoky phenomenon that brings non-chill filtered excellence to an entry-level pricepoint - proof that ‘natural’ whisky doesn’t need to break the bank as it’s effectively removing an additional step in the process!
With so many new and exciting whiskeys being released each month, often it’s difficult to drown out the noise and identify which bottles are worth pursuing. Here, we’ve tried to narrow it down for you with a handpicked selection of bourbon and single malt scotch that we’re most excited about in 2022 (and very keen to get our hands on!)
What will become of 18? A full rebrand? Slight tweaks? It’s anyone’s guess at the moment as to what Stagg ‘Jr’ Batch 18 will look like, but we can say with confidence that whatever the release is named and however it is presented, it will do well to keep the same quality, consistency and punchiness that the brand became synonymous with from Batch 17 and below.
It makes sense that Sazerac feel the need to jettison the ‘Jr’ labelling associated with Stagg, particularly given this silo’s big energetic proof and bold flavor profile. Naming a bourbon of this caliber and quality 'junior' is counterproductive and rather misleading. In reality, there is nothing junior about Stagg Jr Batch 1 through 17, so Stagg 18 is a logical step and will no doubt have an even bigger impact on the appetite and demand for the line.
Some may think it a happy coincidence that there will be no release in this year’s BTAC and a new, rebranded Stagg Batch 18 is planned to take its place, but we think it’s rather noble of Buffalo Trace Distillery to place such high-quality benchmarks and standards on its flagship limited-edition collection - at the end of the day, you would rather wait for the 2023 GTS than receive a subpar 2022 George T Stagg…
Stagg 18 will undoubtedly become one of the most talked-about releases of 2022, and we can't wait to see what all the hype is about.
It’s the investment opportunity of a lifetime… a celebration of The Macallan’s rise to fame and the advertising campaigns that gave birth to a legend. The Archival Series is a scarily exclusive collection made available in eye-wateringly small quantities. Let’s be honest… 99% of buyers and collectors who have been waiting for Folio 7 aren’t even planning on drinking the whisky. There’s little chance of that for us purists, with the Archival Series so ridiculously coveted that ownership is nothing more than a pipe dream.
A ballot draw release, direct from The Macallan, for the lucky few who are selected they will be the new owners of what is quite possibly the most anticipated whisky of the last 2 years. With Folio 6 released way back in December 2020 and the hotly anticipated Folio 7 not reaching the public in 2021, this year is the year!
Another spectacular limited-edition release from The Macallan that will likely become more myth than reality, the Folio 7 is absolutely essential whisky in 2022 for any high-end collector of the finest and rarest single malt scotch whisky.
While it mightn’t hold the same allure as the Archival Series and Folio 7 (what with the market’s pure obsession, lust and appreciation for the Folios), The Macallan’s Harmony Collection is another piece of very hot property, with the 2nd instalment in what is likely a 6 bottle series set to be released imminently.
The Macallan Intense Arabica extends on the , with the same eco-conscious ethos as the inaugural release. The Harmony Collection appears to represent the Speyside powerhouse’s adoption of a more sustainable and ethical approach, with innovative techniques and natural materials becoming the primary focus of this series.
The whisky itself is believed to have been aged in European and American sherry seasoned oak casks, and bottled at 88 proof or 44% ABV, the same concentration at which the Rich Cacao was bottled - a nice piece of consistency. In keeping with the theme set by the Rich Cacao, Intense Arabica is a collaboration with another one of the world’s foremost masters in the world of coffee, and as such, the profile will reflect a rich, intense espresso flavor.
Demand is swarming for the Harmony Collection with many predicting that this range has the same potential trajectory as the Editions, with the Edition 1 and 2 now worth a very pretty penny at auction. If this speculation is true, then the Intense Arabica is a must-buy and an essential addition to any scotch collection in 2022.
The first-ever barrel finished Blanton's release, the 'Honey Barrel' is going to be a ridiculously rare Kentucky whiskey release, and is believed to be limited to just 5 barrels. We’re currently unsure as to whether or not this is the long-awaited M&P Festival 2021 Polish Edition, but what we’re certain of is that the Blanton's 2021 'Honey Barrel' Single Barrel Bourbon is possibly set to become the most coveted and collectible single barrel bourbon in the world.
Never before has Blanton's released a 'finished' spirit, with its variations always previously based on age and proof. The 2021 Honey Barrel Blanton's will break this mould and is interestingly a nod to Colonel Blanton’s use of Honey Barrels at the brand’s early inception. Buffalo Trace still sells honey directly from the Distillery, and the Honey Barrel Finish will likely be beset with a remarkably sweet, honey inspired profile and a lush, viscous mouthfeel.
A stunning collector's item and a bottle deserving of a place on any connoisseur's top shelf, Blanton's Honey Barrel Special Release is a guaranteed must-have for bourbon whiskey collectors the world over.
It’s no secret that Don Julio 1942 is the most iconic luxury tequila of all time, with the acclaimed agave spirit coveted around the world for its sophisticated detailing and exceptional drinkability. While the product may have sold itself based on quality alone, ’s marketing of the 1942 Anejo tequila has intentionally created an air of exclusivity around the product, with the Mexican tequila house using this ‘luxury’ perception as a mechanism for building market demand and an insatiable buyer appetite.
Don Julio 1942 is a hyper-premium Anejo tequila that was introduced as a commemorative release in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Don Julio opening his first distillery. Today, a can fetch anywhere in the vicinity of $200-$250 USD, depending on whom you know, and the ’ is at least triple the price with most retailers and will set you back around $550-$600 USD. The question of whether this cost is justified comes down to how we judge the quality of the tequila.
When we assess 1942 Don Julio objectively from a purist’s standpoint, the spirit itself is one of elite caliber and formidable sophistication. When we take a look at the pillars that define luxury spirits, we're presented with an extremely limited, super small-batch tequila that’s crafted by hand in an ‘artisanal’ fashion - though it’s not branded as artisanal in the conventional sense. On top of this niche exclusivity, the 1942 is an unbelievably complex and well balanced Anejo tequila, and quite possibly the best in its class. Characterized by a silky-smooth, velvet-like mouthfeel, the 1942 is defined by a bouquet of flavors that range from creamy vanilla to rich, natural Anejo and onwards to a subtle oakiness imparted by the 2 to 2.5 years of ageing that this type of tequila must undergo. Before the marketing does its work we’re already bearing witness to an exceptional piece of tequila making.
From the 1942’s inception, the ploy from Don Julio was ingenious. The best way to create demand is to shorten supply, and that’s exactly what they did to build hype and create this aura of exclusivity around the bottle. Don Julio 1942 soon became an enigma that was only accessible in high-end restaurants, nightclubs and bars. Today, there is still a sense that the 1942 is reserved for the ‘elite’, and it remains the tequila of choice for many socialites and celebrities.
Possessing a bottle of 1942 is not only a statement but a feat of being in the know and knowing the right people. You have to be well connected to get your hands on a bottle that is so hard to come by. From flashy awards ceremonies to being the ‘go to’ for high profile, pop culture families, Don Julio 1942 is truly a cultural phenomenon that has redefined and reinvented the meaning of ‘luxury’ in the spirits world. Not only is the taste and flavor of this elegant Anejo tequila sophisticated, but the bottle’s shape is iconically refined, and its place in pop culture mimics this trajectory as well.
Several brands have since tried using this formula as a model for their high-end offerings, but none have been able to drive success in the way that Don Julio has. It’s well known that when you’re the first to do something and execute it well, imitators will flock in droves - but this hasn’t deterred fans of the 1942, who continue to support and elevate its status as one of the finest tequilas in circulation.
When it comes to whisky, generally we think of classic American bourbon, deep complex single malt Scotch or the sweet smoothness of Irish whisky. Australia isn’t normally associated with distilling fine whisky, renowned more for its viticulture and the excellent red and white wines that come out of a number of esteemed vineyards. While this is the assumption, it isn’t necessarily true. Whisky is a budding industry down under, with a number of small distilleries gaining worldwide recognition for their craftsmanship and ability to engineer complex, exciting and interesting single malt and blended whiskies from the unique terra of Australia.
Oft inspired by local surroundings and the natural landscape, Australian whiskies are imbued with an innate and remarkable earthiness. Be it the offerings of the country’s southern-most island, Tasmania, or the considered and cultured wares of inner-city micro-distilleries and whisky houses, Australia boasts a phenomenal and fearsome array of whiskies that cater to all tastes and preferences. The best Australian whiskies are those that don’t apologize for their rawness and embrace the eclectic and unusual aspects and challenges of making whisky in the country.
So, for the uninitiated, here are the best Australian whisky distillers and a few of the best Australian whiskies that typify the classic and crafty Australian approach to the world’s favourite spirit.
The pride of Australian-grown whisky, Lark is home to some of the finest and most beautifully appointed whisky in Australia. An innovator and a true icon in Australian spirit distilling, Lark has achieved nothing short of greatness since producing the country’s first Tasmanian single malt whisky (distilled in 1893), becoming the front runner in Australian whisky craftsmanship and building a catalogue that has captured the hearts and attention of whisky fans across the globe.
Defying tradition, rewriting definitions, Lark pushes the envelope when it comes to the unique and interesting finishing touches it puts on its single malt whisky, and has solidified a reputation as one of the most innovative and exciting distillers in Australia and also the world.
Notable not just for the quality of its staple collection and the elegant flavors imparted in each batch, Lark is revered for its limited-edition cask finished whiskies, from Australian , a single malt finished in to a finished whisky, Lark have shattered the confines of conventional whisky making with the result being some of the most interesting and exciting whisky available on the market.
Arguably Australia’s most renowned craft spirit distiller, Archie Rose distillery is based in Sydney and is home to some of the country’s best, award-winning gins, whiskies and niche, tailored spirits.
Critically acclaimed and named as one of the world’s best distillery experiences, Archie Rose combines pride and passion to produce a magnificent array of character-rich and charismatic drinking spirits.
Awarded the world’s best rye whisky at the World Whisky Awards in 2020, the speaks to the caliber and quality of Australian whisky distillers and is proof that this lesser-known producer of the world’s favorite spirit can more than hold its own against the biggest powerhouses in the world.
The South Island’s star distillery, Nant is one of the most popular producers of whisky in the Tasmanian Highlands and is responsible for some of the most elegantly crafted and exquisitely flavoured sipping spirits in the country.
Subtly layered and remarkably complex, Nant uses traditional methods and techniques for distilling their award-winning whiskies, producing them in smaller batches and volume than some of the country’s larger facilities. A passion for natural whisky and high-proof is also a defining feature of Nant, with a number of their cask strength whiskies weighing in at over 120 proof.
Taking cues from the natural environment and local Tasmanian ingredients, whether it’s the or the - Nant has something for everyone and is a must-have for purveyors of fine Australian whisky.
An eco-conscious distillery whose focus revolves around sustainability and ethical whisky production, is a phenomenon when it comes to Australian whisky with an American inspired vein.
The non-chill filtered 100% rye whisky produced by Belgrove is arguably the closest thing to an American whisky that you will find Down Under, produced at the home of the only bio-diesel powered still in the world using peat sourced from Brown Marsh Bog in Tasmania.
For an authentic take of a classic rye whisky, Belgrove’s earthy excellence is not to be missed and is a formidable whisky with a profile that ranges from earthy, light peat, to allspice, cinnamon, honey and a subtle smokiness
Melbourne made, meticulously measured, marvellously mature. When it comes to crafting exceptional whisky, Starward truly reach for the stars.
A scintillating whisky brand that typifies the passion and poise of Australian spirit making, Starward is one of the foremost authorities on classy, quality whiskies. Engineered as gastronomical complements, Starward whisky is designed to be paired and enjoyed with food.
Aged in red wine barrels and inspired by the local Melburnian culture, you can’t go wrong with a dram of the , Nova or Single Malts, with each offering a slightly different take on a classic Australian whisky.
When it comes to whisky, be it scotch, bourbon, rye or moonshine, color is important. Like a red flag to a bull, the color blue to a whisky drinker can only mean one thing.
There is something truly primal about man’s connection to the deep amber hue of a well-aged 30 year old scotch, the glistening nectar that has captured the attention of countless connoisseurs and collectors, captivating every generation before the last.
This connection to color is the most important and integral facet of whisky drinking aside from the actual ritual of experiencing, tasting and drinking a glass of scotch or bourbon.
However, there is another unspoken connection to color that many have an almost otherworldly affinity for in the world of whisky; the allure of the magnetic blue label.
There are many reasons why we’re drawn to blue label scotch, not only is the exceptional quality and high caliber profile of these whiskies common knowledge but they are also shrouded in an unexplainable mystique that makes them more interesting and exciting than the ordinary bottling. They don’t have to be limited or explicitly rare, the blue label has an untapped power over whiskyphiles that places these whiskies in the upper echelons of the spectrum.
The psychology behind the blue label is well documented, with blue and navy bringing to mind a conservative calmness, stout reliability and consistent quality, important facets of a good whisky. There is a sense of power and trust in the blue label, arousing strong feelings of loyalty - once you’ve tried and enjoyed a good blue label whisky, it’s hard for you to go back…
One of the best-known examples of this phenomenon is the iconic the most celebrated blended scotch whisky in the world, synonymous with both excellence and elegance in equal measure.
Introduced in 1992 to shock and adoration, particularly the former given its $150 price tag in the early 90’s, Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label predates the single malt renaissance and is largely regarded as the whisky that reinvented ‘top-shelf’ spirits.
There is no doubt that the Blue Label is the most prestigious blended whisky in history (and continues to be the most refined blended whisky available on the market), but such is its reputation that it somehow manages to rub shoulders with the finest single malt scotch whiskies in its price range today.
A sublimely complex and altogether enveloping whisky, the Blue Label has always been defined by its sweeping vanilla and citrus forefront, with complex herbal notes and subtle smoke at the rear. An elongated finish concludes a truly robust tasting experience, with the Blue Label well established as a dynamic and distinguished piece of whisky craftsmanship.
There have been countless limited-edition Johnnie Walker’s released since its inception, but one thing has remained the same throughout 3 decades of peerless quality, a blue label. The affinity for blue label whisky could be attributed to the stature and aura that the Johnnie Walker Blue Label has cultivated, but there are other bottles that suggest this has been a trend for much longer…
There is something rather different about a vintage Macallan, an energy that vibrates through your body when in possession of such a bottle, an overwhelming sense that this particular single malt whisky is special, unusual, unique.
This feeling is amplified ten fold when presented with a blue label, an out of body experience ensues. Enter the perhaps the most eye-catching, regal bottle of Macallan outside of the Fine and Rare or Exceptional Cask Collections.
A Prussian blue, deeply royal verging on navy, iconically designed in a conventional, traditional sense, this bottle of Macallan is a bonafide collector’s item, stunningly appointed in the Sherry Oak style. The most important facet of this bottle is undeniably the dashing blue color that centres the gaze and captures the viewer immediately. This is what I mean when I speak of quantifying the unquantifiable enigma that is the blue label.
Swimming in sherry and stunning the palate into submission with an array of flavors, ranging from citrus, stone fruits and oak at the forefront, to tannins, pepper and nutmeg throughout, all tied together with a silky smooth mouthfeel and the crashing waves of the iconic sherry oak finish, there is a reason why this Blue label 30 year old whisky is so sought-after - it is the perfect storm between exceptional quality whisky and that unspoken brilliance of the ‘blue label’.
Though all of the Sherry Oak 30’s are good, this one is the best, and while it’s hard to say that the blue label is the reason why this particular bottle sits atop the pile, it cannot be coincidence.
The blue label is not just a powerful entity in scotch whisky, it has pervaded the realm of bourbon too. is an annual release designed each year for the M&P festival, with around 1000 bottles available each year. The 2019 iteration of this silo is one of the rarest and most sought-after bourbon whiskeys ever produced by Buffalo Trace, with the iconic blue label cementing the status of the 2019 Poland Edition as one of Blanton’s most visually appealing labels.
There is no doubt that some of the interest surrounding this bottle pertains to the scarcity of the bottle, as well as the bold higher proof and exceptionally refined tasting experience that this offers, but for fans of Blanton’s and indeed of the Poland Editions, the blue label stands out as an essential centerpiece in any collection. Why? Because of the unique label that this flagship bourbon whiskey is adorned with.
The fanfare to which this bottle was received is justification for the allure of the blue label, particularly given it is not too dissimilar to the standard Original single barrel or Gold Edition. The core differences being the slight changes to the palate and proof, and of course a distinctly different blue label that makes this limited edition whiskey a magnetically attractive release.
There are many other whiskies with iconic blue labels that share similar tropes, bottles that are a different shade to the run-of-the-mill offerings you pass by every day. Of course, there are many unbelievable bottles with regular labels that rival the above mentioned whiskies, but the blue label reigns supreme as a vessel for undefinable excellence.
It sounds like a stupid question, but could there be more truth in it than you think? Could the best bourbon in America really be less than $25? In actual fact, we think we might’ve found one. The best bourbon in the country, 2 bottles for a 50 dollar bill and receive a fistful of change for your troubles. Unbelievable, right?
As is the case with all bourbon drinkers, connoisseurs and collectors, however, everyone's an expert and opinion reigns supreme, varying depending on who is speaking in this hotly contested arena. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too must good taste therefore lie on their tongue.
Many of our readers will be quick to quip that nothing under $25 could ever hold a candle to a , a or an , and they’d be right to an extent. You’d be a fool to say otherwise, but there lies a caveat in wildly assuming that just because of the stature and reputation of these bourbons they somehow warrant a place on the proverbial ‘pedestal’ or that your palate would be in agreement that they are in fact the ‘best’ purely based on hype and popularity alone.
Blindfolded, with no preconceived notions or assumptions daring to skew or sway the verdict, you’d be surprised at the outcome that’s determined by your palate. That’s the fun of drinking bourbon, exploring and uncovering whiskeys that others daren’t try, discovering hidden gems based on your own tastes and preferences rather than buying into the marketing machine and the opinions of others.
Now we wrote about this bottle recently and included it in a list of the , and having tried it again and then retried it a couple more times (perhaps a bottle was killed in the process),
Now that is a loaded claim, and obviously I am not suggesting that it is in fact better than some allocated bottles, but rather that given where it is situated in the current bourbon matrix and in terms of its availability, quality and value, it might just be the ‘best’ when you consider all of these things combined.
There are a number of reasons as to why Evan Williams Bottled in Bond White Label Bourbon is a seriously good whiskey, and I’m not just talking about the price. Less than $25 is outrageously cheap in the current bourbon climate, and the profile of the White Label certainly punches well outside its weight class.
It is a truly excellent bourbon taking price out of the equation, a genuine and an honest, humble straight shooter. The nose swims with vanilla and caramel, as is the expectation with a bourbon of this caliber, while a nuttiness is prevalent on the palate verging on oaky undertones. While many will consider a 100 proof bourbon to still weigh on the more mild side given the current trend of barrel strength, full proof popularity, there is a diligent heat in Evan Williams Bottled in Bond White Label, which I found to be welcomingly opened up by a splash of water. This brings a bouquet of citrus and some faint smoke and leather, cinnamon soon comes to the fore which is the dominant tone throughout the finish, a spicy, red-hot affair.
Now, that’s my two cents on the ‘best’ bourbon, and granted, it’s a contentious call. However, I strongly believe that in the current landscape, the argument holds up. is becoming less and less available and harder to find, anything allocated is a needle in a haystack and the haystack is growing deeper and bigger every month. For an accessible, exceptional and electrifyingly good bourbon, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond White Label 100 Proof is the best around.