Not much has changed when it comes to seeking out limited edition whiskeys over the last decade. Everyone wants the latest allocated releases from Kentucky’s big distilleries, such as Old Forester’s Birthday Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection releases, Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, Little Book, and so on. But there are plenty of great whiskeys that fly under the radar every year that can be just as good as the whiskeys that everyone goes nuts trying to get their hands on. That’s why we compiled a list of six whiskeys that we feel confident you’ll just be as satisfied buying if you don’t happen to find any of the high demand limited releases this fall. And just as important, they should be much more readily available for most. While some may call them runner ups, we certainly wouldn’t, and the reason we’d like to shine an extra light on these eight special whiskeys.
Discovery Series #11 gets the fundamentals right, and as a result, bourbon drinkers are offered a wonderfully crafted blended bourbon.
What it Tastes Like: Toffee | Cinnamon spice | Nutmeg | Vanilla | Raisin | French oak | Bourbon-soaked cherries | White pepper | Leather
Why it Made the List: This probably isn’t mentioned enough, but the team at Bardstown Bourbon Company is becoming something of very effective blenders, as exemplified by the greatness of the Discovery #11 blend. Bardstown Bourbon Company definitely simplifies things this time out, by blending only three base bourbons: 73% 13 year Kentucky bourbon, 21% 10 year Kentucky bourbon, 6 year Kentucky bourbon distilled at Bardstown Bourbon Co. and then aged in French oak. Sure the 13 year old bourbon is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but it's how Bardstown is able to inject the 10 year old bourbon and the 6 year old French oak bourbon to successful results. Discovery #11 flavors are rich, layered, and well balanced. Its asking price may be high, but you’re getting a bourbon that’s not only much more available, it’s also downright better than many of the limited releases that are on shelves this fall.
Barrell Bourbon Cask Finished Series: Amburana offers a finely-tuned sip that highlights the flavors they’ve already become familiar with while still maintaining its core bourbon structure.
What it Tastes Like: Honey | Graham cracker | Gingerbread | Cinnamon | Baking spices | Clove | Light charred oak | Honey | Allspice
Why it Made the List: Although more toasted barrel finished whiskeys hit the market in 2023, it was Amburana finished whiskeys that garnered more excitement. There’s nothing quite like an Amburana barrel finish and the very specific flavors it imparts in a whiskey. A whiskey that features a big uniqueness factor can be polarizing, and Amburana finished whiskeys are no different, which is what makes Barrell Amburana stand out the most. It’s more approachable than any other Amburana finished whiskey on the market, and like many Barrell Craft Spirits products, it features impeccable balance. If you’re looking for a bold, high flavor bourbon from 2023, Barrell Amburana is at the top of the list.
There is just something different about this bourbon that makes you want to keep coming back for more.
What it Tastes Like: Light tobacco | Caramel | Baking spices | Summer fruits | Cinnamon | Nutmeg | Allspice | Savory tobacco
Why it Made the List: Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity takes the company’s aging condition experimentation to a new level, and the results speak for themselves. Ultimately, as with any bourbon, the combination of base bourbon, aging conditions, and final blending is what makes a bourbon what it is. For Tropics Aged in Humidity, those factors resulted in a really well done bourbon that’s highly approachable, immediately enjoyable, and just has a unique but subtle X factor going on with its flavor profile that makes it noteworthy.
A surprise in a bottle in every sense of the word.
What it Tastes Like: Milk chocolate | Graham cracker | Marshmallow | Honey | Pepper | Green tea | Peat |
Why it Made the List: You never know what you’re going to get from a Lost Lantern release that features Balcones Distillery, and Lost Lantern 2023 Single Cask No.11 Balcones Distillery is a perfect example of checking your assumptions at the door. It’s an incredibly unique and inventive whiskey. You can fight over all of the Kentucky limited releases you want this fall, but it’s hidden gems like this that truly impress whiskey drinkers looking to expand their horizons. And since this is a single barrel, it will certainly run out. But when it does, take a moment to explore the other unique offerings Lost Lantern continues to highlight.
For the second release in their Decade Series, Heaven’s Door highlights why the combination of sweet and spice works so well in aged rye whiskey.
What it Tastes Like: Summer fruits | Vanilla cinnamon powder | Light charred oak | Subtle syrup | Rye spice | Cinnamon spice | Rye bread | Leather
Why it Made the List: A common thread with many highly sought after limited releases is their balance. Finding balance in rye whiskeys isn’t always an easy thing to do as the grain often features an inherent sharpness to it. Age can be a rye’s best friend and spending 10 years in barrels, as Heaven’s Door Decade Series Release #02 did, resulting in a whiskey that offers depth, complexity, and balance. Being able to balance sweet summer fruits, vanilla, cinnamon, rye spice, oak, rye bread, and peppercorn heat is no small task. Heaven’s Door whiskeys can often fly under the radar, but this is one rye you don’t want to miss.
Jack Daniel’s Bonded Rye is bold, unique tasting, and versatile rye whiskey that celebrates a milestone in American whiskey’s history.
What it Tastes Like: Rye spice | Mint | Barrel char | Black pepper, | Cinnamon | Maple sugar candy | Molasses | Vanilla custard | Burnt brown sugar
Why it Made the List: Bonded Rye is a bold, unique tasting rye that offers a ton of value at its affordable price point. But rye is not as popular as bourbon, or Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey (though it meets the requirement to be called bourbon), for that matter. Those unfamiliar with rye whiskey might be surprised by its spiciness, and those who have preconceived notions of what ryes generally taste like might be surprised by what they find with Bonded Rye. But those are the things that are most enjoyable about it. It’s not a limited edition, it’s not super high proof, and it doesn’t rely on an age statement to draw attention (though master distiller Chris Fletcher disclosed that it is 7 years old). But it is accessible, affordable, and helps break new ground when it comes to rye whiskey flavor profiles. For these reasons, it may prove to be one of the most exciting new releases of 2023.
MSRP: $32 / 700mL, $50 / 1L
As their first major release since being acquired, Penelope Barrel Strength 9 Year Private Select Bourbon showcases how this new relationship will evolve the Penelope Bourbon brand.
What it Tastes Like: Royalty raspberries | Cinnamon sugar | Vanilla | Cherrywood | Pepper | Dry spiced oak | Leather | Cinnamon
Why it Made the List: The increase in age has an immediate impact on Penelope’s flavor profile compared to their previous barrel strength releases. There is far less immediate grain on its onset, and the brighter fruity notes are also tempered as a result. The bourbon’s color is also far darker, and as you’d expect, its flavor profile is much more oak-heavy, with vanilla and caramel playing a more prominent role. As the first major release from Peleople since their buyout, it largely plays it safe, but the result is a classic style bourbon through and through that many will thoroughly enjoy for its exquisite balance.
Full of rich delicious flavors, Hirsch The Cask Strength produces a memorable sip thanks to its utilization of very well aged Hine Cognac XO barrels.
What it Tastes Like: Dry leather | Sweet cinnamon stick | Dark fruits | Chocolate malt | Aged oak | Rye spice | Baking spices
Why it Made the List: The extended time spent finishing in the Hine Cognac XO barrels is quite evident throughout Hirsch The Cask Strength’s sip. Taken as a whole, the sip is very well composed and does a great job of utilizing the finishing barrel choice to enhance the base bourbon. It’s also easy to forget that proof of this whiskey, as it tends to drink a lot lower than its 127 proof point. Though its asking price is high, it tends to have good availability and will be a treat for those willing to pay it.