Top-shelf Treasures: The whiskeys you must have in your collection (part 1)
For most new collectors, 'hype' whiskeys represent the best bourbons in 2021 and are the top priority when it comes to filling out the top shelf. Everyone wants the latest and greatest bottle from Buffalo Trace, or that bottle that was just featured on the front page of your favorite bourbon blog. But are these hype trains really the best bourbons of 2021, and what happens if you can't seem to successfully hunt down that elusive Pappy 23 or a BTAC unicorn? Where do you turn to next? If this sounds like you or someone you know, then it's time to take a look at some of bourbon's better-hidden gems. Here are some classic bourbon and rye whiskeys that you simply have to consider when building out your collection. These are the bourbon and rye whiskeys that are truly top-shelf, bottles that do more than just "talk".
Kentucky's most iconic bottled-in-bond bourbon, Heaven Hill's Old Fitzgerald has one of the most revered, rollercoaster histories in the bourbon state. Building a reputation in the late 19th century for its exceptional distilling pedigree and peerless manufacturing standards, Old Fitz was purchased by Pappy Van Winkle himself during the prohibition era - a perfect storm, that would combine Old Fitz's character and charisma with the hunger and zeal of an inspired innovative whiskey maker. Resurrected in 2018 by Heaven Hill Distillery, the Old Fitzgerald bi-annual release is one of the most anticipated and widely acclaimed in bourbon whiskey circles, and securing a Decanter should be on the list of every keen collector and connoisseur.
With 9 releases hitting shelves since the renaissance of this powerhouse bourbon, Old Fitzgerald's Bottled in Bond Decanter series has become one of the finest expressions of Kentucky whiskey available to the public. The Spring 2021 Release, aged for 8 years (the youngest bottling in the entire series thus far) and bottled at the requisite 100 proof, is the latest in this storied lineage and brings forth a vibrant and robust flavor profile with the familiar silky smooth mouthfeel and quintessential Old Fitz character. Dark auburn, full of subtle oak and sweet brown sugar which give way to toasted cereal notes, oatmeal and pecan with subtle hints of clove and delicate spice on the palate, beautifully accentuated by a long, warming finish - Old Fitzgerald's Bottled in Bond is a must-have for anyone looking to add a bottle that does more than just carry hype to their collection.
Personifying Sazerac's seemingly faultless ability to produce exceptional whiskeys, 1792's Full Proof is proof that sometimes venturing outside of the typical Buffalo Trace prototype can pay dividends. A distillery with a significant amount of history, surprisingly, it only produces two major bourbons, those being 1792 and Very Old Barton, both of which are shaped by the distillery's traditional distilling processes - outside fermenters, coal-heated boilers, and column stills to name but a few.
There are numerous iterations of 1792 that have garnered widespread critical acclaim, with the 1792 Single Barrel winning 2021's Best Single Barrel Bourbon at this year's 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. You may ask why then, have we selected the Full Proof variety as our must-have bourbon whiskey on this list? The answer is simple enough, the 1792 Full Proof was awarded World Whisky of the Year in Murray's 2020 Whisky Bible, and has received two Gold Medals (2021, 2020) and one Double Gold Medal (2019) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which make it one of the best, most-consistent barrel proof whiskeys in the world. Bottled at 125 proof, balancing sweet vanilla, caramel, alongside subtle smoke, and imbued with a depth of character that is unsurpassed at its price range, the 1792 Full Proof is an essential addition for whiskyphiles across the globe.
We previously wrote a short piece called 'Beyond Kentucky', which explored a handful of the best and brightest distilleries outside of the bourbon state. WhistePig Distillery was one of those listed, a dedicated rye distiller from Vermont that produces some of the finest and fiercest rye whiskeys in America, and the world. Though WhistlePig may not have the history that many Kentucky based distillers possess, it has experienced a rapid rise to fame since its inception in 2015, it makes up for this with the sheer inspiration and audacity of its products, along with the experience of Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, previously of Maker's Mark.
The most acclaimed and celebrated series from WhistlePig's extensively popular catalog is none other than the Boss Hog Collection, a (so far) 7 part series that explores the distillery's pursuit of the most interesting, innovative and inspired rye whiskey in the world. The latest installment, the Magellan Atlantic 7th Edition, is a testament to this ethos - paying homage to the first recorded circumnavigation of the globe by mirroring the native wood finishes of Magellan's journey. A single barrel, full-proof rye, the Boss Hog VII is aged for 17 years in American Oak, and then finished, first in Spanish stave casks and then in South American teakwood. Producing a rare balance of spice, smoothness and sophistication, expect potent power, creamy vanilla and caramel which intertwine with charred oak, baking spice and woody warmth - a must-have for collectors and connoisseurs of fine rye.
So there you have it, a few of the finer whiskeys available today that you simply must have in your collection. This list is by no means exhaustive and only scrapes the surface of the essential additions to any connoisseur's collection. Join us next week for part 2 of this list where we take a look at a few of the less talked about, non-hype whiskeys that should feature on your top-shelf. Cheers
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