Each year we like to look ahead at what new and exciting bourbon and American Whiskey releases might be in store for the upcoming year. This requires digging through TTB records for approved labels, tapping distillery and producer contacts to pull together every tidbit of information they’ll provide, and doing some ear to the ground investigative research to pin down potential new and exciting releases that just may or may not make it past the possibility stage. What follows is a combination of confirmed new releases, some updates to existing annual releases, and a few that may not make an official release this year - though we would sure love it if they did. As the year unfolds be sure to follow our always up-to-date Bourbon & American Whiskey Release Calendar and sign up for our monthly email newsletter to stay ahead of all the new releases in 2018. Enjoy!
Texas Rye 100 / Texas Rye Cask Strength & More
2018 marks Balcones’ 10th Anniversary and the company is planning to celebrate it in a big way. First up in March they will launch two new releases that are part of their limited edition expression series with Texas Rye 100 and Texas Rye Cask Strength. Both are scheduled for release at the distillery March 10th. Texas Rye 100 is also receiving distribution in Texas around the same time and could potentially be distributed into more states later in the year. According to the company, the rye was distilled from a 100% rye mash, including 80% Elbon rye from North Texas, and the remaining 20% consisting of chocolate, roasted, and crystal rye. Everything was distilled in copper pots, like all Balcones' whiskeys, and then aged purely in 60-gallon new charred American oak barrels.
The company also has more special release planned to celebrate their anniversary throughout the rest of the year in the form of a Texas Single Malt Rum Cask Finished in April, a Peated Single Malt, French Oak Single Malt, a High Rye Bourbon, and a Wheated Bourbon. All of these whiskeys will likely be small releases and some will only be available at the distillery. Finally, they have a few surprises in store in the form of “weird blends” and possibly some single barrels too.
Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel Project
It’s not unusual for whiskey drinkers to start what’s called an infinity bottle, or solera bottle - one that contains whiskey upon whiskey fractionally blended to become a one of a kind whiskey. To whiskey every geeks’ delight, in 2018 Barrell Craft Spirits plans to take this obsession to a new level. According to Joe Beatrice, the company’s founder, “Our Infinite Barrel Project is a constantly evolving whiskey. We selected and blended barrels of whiskey to create the first Infinite barrel. Periodically, we will bottle a portion of the Infinite barrel and replace it with mature whiskeys from the U.S. and around the world. The result is an ever changing and increasingly complex cask strength whiskey.”
Barrell "Special Release Bourbon"
Each batch of Barrell bourbon is unique - a unique blend always released at barrel proof - as a result each could be considered special in its own right. But Barrell has bigger plans for this year. Currently scheduled for June, 2018, Barrell plans to release a “Special Release Bourbon” (its real name is yet to be disclosed), that will be a cut above the rest. According to Beatrice, “The ‘Special Release Bourbon’ will be an older bourbon that we selected from our inventory and will only release a limited number of cases. We will only bottle those rare barrels that we think are truly exceptional on their own in this line.”
Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye
Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye
It looks like Knob Creek will receive more love in 2018 if recently label approvals come to fruition. First, the company has confirmed that a single barrel version of their Knob Creek Straight Rye clocking in at 115 proof will be offered as part of Beam’s Single Barrel Program in the spring. We awarded the company’s small batch rye as one of the best ryes in its price range and are looking forward to what a single barrel version of it will bring to the brand. Second, it appears that Beam will forgo a limited edition Knob Creek bourbon for a rye this year. Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey looks to be clocking in at 118 proof and was barreled in 2009, so it’s likely to be aged around 8-9 years. The approved label could be a first draft of sorts as it’s plainer in design than their other offerings and most noticeably lacks “straight” on its label. If the past two limited edition Knob Creek bourbons are anything to go by, this could be priced in the $125+ range.
Old Overholt Bonded
Are you sick of reading about whiskeys that aren’t coming out until later this year? Old Overholt Bonded is out now. Released in late January in some markets, this permanent expression is a bottled-in-bond version of many people’s favorite mixing rye. Beam has been decidedly silent on this release despite whiskey drinkers’ love for anything with “bottled-in-bond” on its label. The standard Old Overholt already sports a 3 year age statement so an additional year might not bring drastic changes to the whiskey, but its 20 extra proof points is where the excitement lies. Used primarily as a mixing rye in both bars and homes alike, the 100 proof will make a big difference in cocktails. With its price hovering around $25, it will put it in contention with other great value ryes, so it will be interesting to see how it well it does against its stiff competition.
The company has confirmed that Little Book will indeed be an annual release and will introduce another new, limited batch this year. Presumably, Freddie Now is still working on this year’s batch, so details are scarce at the moment, but the company says they plan to release details in the coming months. With 2017’s Little Book being a very unique tasting blend, it will be interesting to see if Noe continues down a similar path or will develop a more traditional blend this year.
All of Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection expressions have received attention in the form of new releases over the past few years except one: Baker’s. When asked if Beam would shine the spotlight on Baker’s in 2018 we received, “We're looking forward to all that's in store for our small batch bourbons in 2018, and that includes Baker's Bourbon. We'll have more to share on that front later this year.”
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection
It’s no secret that Woodford master distiller Chris Morris likes to experiment with different whiskeys with their annual limited edition Master’s Collection release. While nothing is confirmed, rumors around the distillery suggest a number of potential options. We know there are Cognac finished barrels aging at the distillery, that initial samples of them were stated to be well received, and that they are coming up on two years of finishing - the anticipated peak of maturation. We also know that there are rumors of single malt and different rye products. If these rumors are true and they have enough barrels, it’s possible any of them could be the next Master’s Collection release. Maybe most likely is a barrel proof product, or “Batch Proof” as Woodford calls it, as Woodford cleared a label for “Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof” in November of 2017. But then again, maybe it will be deemed not exotic enough for a Master’s Collection release and will become an everyday release.
Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked
Last year, Woodford released a Double Double Oaked bourbon as part of their Distillery Series. The process involves aging their Double Oaked product, a standard product, in the second charred oak barrel for an additional year. Thus it is aged about twice as long in the second barrel as Double Oaked, making it Double Double Oaked. Generally speaking, the product has been well received by consumers at the distillery. Considering the limited number of standard products in Woodford’s lineup, some rumors suggest Double Double Oaked could become an ongoing standard product with more widespread distribution.
E.H. Taylor Four Grain
Buffalo Trace said in 2017 that E.H. Taylor Four Grain would see another release in 2018. The company confirms that is still the case, but remains mum if it’s the same batch as last year. We gave it a good review awarding it 3.5 barrels out of 5, calling it “a sweet and gentle affair, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in enjoyability.” Whiskey writer Jim Murray even awarded it his whiskey of the year in 2017, which must have delighted Buffalo Trace as they prepare for a second release of it. It still remains unclear if there will be a new release in the E.H. Taylor line this year, but keeping with past release schedules, whiskey drinkers could expect Four Grain to release sometime in March/April.
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
This rye missed its release in 2017 saddening many, as it’s infamously one of the hardest releases to procure each year. According to Buffalo Trace, the release is back on schedule this year. For years the release was pulled from a steel tank batch and as that supply dwindled in 2016, the new batch wasn’t a full 13 years old yet and the company decided to forgo a release in 2017 and wait till the distillate came of age.
Sazerac 18 Year
2017’s Sazerac 18 Year was suppose to be stock pulled from new barrels, but the company decided to use the same stock from 2016. The additional year of oxidation seemed to help it as reviews for it were more positive, but were far from the acclaimed levels the brand saw before 2016. That is why whiskey drinkers are so eager to taste new batches in hopes of reclaiming the brand’s former glory. The company won’t confirm yet if 2018’s Sazerac 18 Year will be a new batch, but check back here as we will update this article to reflect that news when it becomes available.
George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish
It appears that Diageo has a George Dickel Tabasco Finish in the works. Excluding flavored whiskeys, there really isn’t a truly spicy bourbon on the market. Maybe that is for good reason, or maybe it’s because no one has wanted to gamble with it. It has the chance to appeal to a wide range of consumers: cinnamon whiskey fans, Tabasco fans, spicy fans, and adventurous drinkers willing to take a chance on a truly unique product. Diageo hasn’t confirmed with us that this will see store shelves just yet, but based on the Tabasco branding, there’s a good chance it will.
Rhetoric 24 Year
It’s very likely Diageo has another new Orphan Barrel release in the works for 2018, but they aren’t budging on it just yet. The company announced four years ago that they would continually age their Rhetoric stock and release one year older versions each year for five years. The company has confirmed with us that that will continue in 2018 with Rhetoric 24 Year. While the product has been met with mixed reviews, it is one of the more fascinating releases each year as no one else is doing a similar style release. We expect the 24 Year version to release in the similar timeframe of past releases: April-June.
Blade & Bow 22 Year
High aged whiskey always garners a lot of interest and then quickly disappears from store shelves upon release. That was what a lot of people found when hunting for Blade and Bow 22 Year in 2016 and 2017. For those who missed out, they will get yet another chance in 2018 with release of another batch right around Kentucky Derby time.
Four Roses 130th Anniversary
Four Roses was trademarked in 1888, which means they will celebrate their 130th Anniversary in 2018. Looking back, Four Roses 120th Anniversary was a Limited Edition Single Barrel, while their 125th Anniversary bottling was a Limited Edition Small Batch...so what could this year bring? Four Roses master distiller Brent Elliott confirmed with us that we can expect a 2018 Limited Edition Small Batch, though the final blend is still in the works. Elliott noted Four Roses likes to highlight their anniversaries with limited edition bottlings, and it’s possible 2018’s Limited Edition Small Batch may commemorate their 130th anniversary. Elliott also suggested that, while an ongoing annual Limited Edition Single Barrel release probably won’t be coming back anytime soon, it is possible to see a one-off Limited Edition Single Barrel release - not unlike 2016’s Elliott’s Select. Considering the market’s demand for limited edition bourbons, along with Four Roses’ recent streak of releasing two limited edition bourbons each year, it’s possible we could see a Limited Edition Single Barrel commemorating Four Roses’ 130th Anniversary in addition to their annual Limited Edition Small Batch offering.
Taking a cue from their Ocean Aged at Sea series, Jefferson’s founder Trey Zoeller is at it again except this time, aging two barrels on board a 23 foot motorboat cruising America’s great rivers and the East Coast. According to Zoeller in an article he did with Forbes, the purpose of this voyage is to recreate how bourbon was transported from Kentucky to New York City in the 19th and 20th centuries. The boat traveled down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, into the Gulf Of Mexico, and finally up the east coast to New York City. Zoeller is targeting $100 for a package of two 150 ml bottles; one from the journey and the other of the standard Jefferson’s “Kentucky Aged” bourbon for comparison purposes. It’s possible Zoeller followed up on our suggestion to offer before and after ocean aging bourbons in a 2-pack, offering fans the chance to directly compare the impact of aging bourbon on a boat versus on land. This product was slated for late 2017 release and it’s unclear if it made that date.
Jefferson’s Tabasco Finish
Wheated Ocean: Aged at Sea
Zoeller loves to experiment with barrel finishes and there’s one that seems to pop up more than others: a Tabasco finished bourbon. He has talked about this one as far back as 2016, so if he’s perfected it, it could see a release in 2018. With George Dickel also having a Tabasco finish in the works, Zoeller may have already missed his chance to be the first to market. Jefferson’s also looks to be expanding their Ocean: Aged at Sea line with a wheat whiskey (possibly a wheated bourbon) in 2018. After a dozen Voyage releases and even a cask strength version, expanding to a wheat whiskey could help drum up some renewed attention to the brand. It will be interesting to see if the time on the boat has any new effects to a wheat whiskey that the rye based bourbons didn’t exhibit. The company also is expected to continue to roll out their wine finished bourbons in 2018.
Tequila-Finished Smoked Malt Whiskey
Mezcal-Finished Rye & More
2017 saw Wigle Whiskey Quaker Strength as capturing our attention for its unique six malt mash bill, and ended up being named one of our favorite whiskeys of the year. While Quaker Strength won’t be coming back in 2018, this established Pittsburgh distillery will continue to innovate this year with a number of unique barrel finished whiskeys. These include a Tequila-Finished Smoked Malt Whiskey in May, along with a Mezcal-Finished Rye and Laphroaig-Finished Malted Rye in December. Additionally, 2018 will see the return of past popular releases including Northern Exposure II (December), which is whiskey finished in maple syrup barrels for almost a year and O’Zapft is (September), which is an Oktoberfest-themed collaboration with Penn Brewery. O’Zapft is sees Wigle distilling their Oktoberfest beer into a high-proof spirit, before transferring it to used whiskey casks for around 20 months of aging.
Will 2018 be the year that Wigle moves away from aging in smaller barrels? Currently they are filling both 25 and 53 gallon barrels for aging purposes. When asked, they stated that while they are in the process of transitioning exclusively to 53 gallon casks they still anticipate to continue to fill both sizes in 2018.
Wild Turkey "Celebration"
During a Bourbon Pursuit interview, it was revealed that Jimmy and Eddie were thinking of releasing a product in 2018 that celebrated their combined time spent in the bourbon industry (101 years). The company remains tight lipped about the release only saying, “celebrating their combined tenures certainly a consideration.” On a recent distillery tour we were told that a commemorative bottle would most likely come in the form of the next Wild Turkey Master’s Keep. The doesn’t quite line up with the label that has been approved by the TTB (see below), so changes might still be in the works.
Wild Turkey Master's Keep Revival
The company has released two Master's Keep bottles back to back and it only seems natural to expect another. Last year a label popped up for Master’s Keep 1894 and many, (including us), figured this was the next release. It was in fact the next release, but it was only for the Australian market. The company confirmed that Wild Turkey is planning on releasing a new Wild Turkey Master’s Keep in 2018 stateside, but wouldn’t clarify what it is. In 2017 a label for Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival was approved. It states that it’s a blend containing 12-15 year bourbon that’s finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks from Jerez, Spain. Based on information we received during a recent distillery tour is that the third and final Master’s Keep would be a commemorative bottle for Jimmy and Eddie, so a barrel finished bourbon seems like a strange choice for it. It’s possible change is in the works and this could become a different release. If this is in fact a real release, it begs the question, why not just release commemorative as “Wild Turkey Celebration?”
Wild Turkey Longbranch
Wild Turkey invested big in their partnership with Matthew McConaughey, making him the highest paid creative director in the ad industry according to Adweek. The company puts much trust in their relationship giving him creative freedom to write, direct and star in the company’s commercials. This would naturally spill over to new releases at some point. Based on label approval for Wild Turkey Longbranch, which McConaughey and Eddie Russell’s name both appear, it will be a bourbon filtered using oak & Texas mesquite charcoal. With no age statement on the bottle, this could be a younger bourbon that uses a unique filtering process to slightly alter the flavor. Think less barrel finish and more of a natural flavor adjustment. We expect this one to be priced more like a regular release than a limited edition.
New The Whiskey Barons Collection Releases
In 2018, Wild Turkey expanded their portfolio and introduced The Whiskey Barons Collection. The company made it a point to note that Jimmy and Eddie Russell weren’t involved in their creation, in a possible move to protect the integrity of their WT bourbon and Russell’s line if these whiskeys weren't well received. Wild Turkey values flavor consistency in their brands, and adding these two brands separate from their standard portfolio may allow the company to experiment with new flavors (although the company seems to be breaking from this in 2018). Nevertheless, Wild Turkey confirms that they are working on new releases for The Whiskey Barons Collection. Maybe we’ll see them in 2018?
Wheat Whiskey / Wheated Bourbon / XCF Version 2.0
The company has not confirmed any releases for the upcoming year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have things in the works. They were pretty quiet on their bourbon and rye fronts in 2017, so we think there’s a good chance whiskey drinkers should expect some higher age products from them this year. We know they have wheat whiskey and wheated bourbon aging in barrels. Their bourbon should also be reaching the 5-6 year old mark at this point - so if their stock is mature and they have enough, either or both could hit in 2018. Finally, the XCF Version 2.0 was briefly mentioned on Drew Kulsveen's Twitter account in 2015 and we still haven't heard a peep about it. There’s always the chance the product didn’t come together as well as they hoped, but after the fanfare Version 1.0 received and continues to receive, it seems unlikely they would drop the brand entirely. 2017 was a quiet year for Willett, here’s hoping 2018 will ramp things up.
Barrel Strength Bourbon
In 2015 Wyoming Whiskey identified two very special barrels and decided to bottle them at cask strength - a total of only 111 bottles were produced due to significant leakage. The bourbon received fanfare and critical acclaim resulting in Wyoming Whiskey’s name becoming a more familiar one to many. The company reports that they’ve located more special bourbon within their three rickhouses, and plan to do a second cask strength release in the upcoming weeks. Unfortunately the estimated yield is again very small.
This article is a culmination of independent research, TTB label information and direct contact with producers. While we believe the information contained in this article is accurate, it does not mean all of these will become actual releases. This article will be updated throughout the year as new information is made available. Please contact us with any additional information or clarifications on any of the potential products listed in this article.
All images should be considered CONCEPT ART
and NOT THE FINAL DESIGN.
Nick, Eric & jordan
Breaking Bourbon Team