A lot of beloved distilleries are releasing some of the most coveted bottles of the year right now as fall begins. Depending on state distribution, that means that a lot of great whiskeys are available now, or about to be on shelves for a short time. From well-known staples like Old Forester Birthday Bourbon to some relative newcomers like the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing series, it’s a packed field every fall. What’s more, some bourbons like Blade and Bow 22 (which was previously released annually in the spring) have entered the game. Here’s a breakdown of what’s out and upcoming this month. It might take you months (and thousands of dollars) to track everything down, but the resulting collection would make for a year of incredible drinking.
Old Fitzgerald 14 Bottled in Bond
The Fall 2020 release of one of the best new Bottled in Bond Rarities is a big ticket this year. Heaven Hill arguably does one thing better than any other Kentucky distillery: bottled-in-bond bourbon. And With Old Fitz 14, they’ve really nailed another batch. The Old Fitzgerald decanters come out twice a year in the classic spring-and-fall Bottled in Bond seasons, and the ages so far have varied from 9 to 15 years. This batch is particularly nice, showing more developed intonations of oak but still demonstrating a lively caramel-and-malt sweetness. Definitely for the more developed oak lovers out there, but a gem within their quarry, to be sure.
King of Kentucky Batch 3
King of Kentucky is making its debut beyond the Kentucky borders this year. Just under 2,000 bottles of this specially distilled bourbon from the Brown-Forman folks were made available this season. Distilled June 27, 2006, the 14-year-old bourbon represents just 32 barrels, and taste will vary among the single barrels. Still, it shows familiar flavors: dried cherries on the nose, with caramel and maple syrup on the palate, before a sweet and earthy finish. It’s worth the hunt.
Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon
One of the most findable whiskeys on this list, the toasted barrel release of Elijah Craig was a surprise addition to a portfolio known for the basics. It’s a slightly smoky variation on the core whiskey, showing milk chocolate and more baking spices, and in our opinion a creamier mouth feel. We’ll chalk this one up to the most exciting dessert whiskey release of the season, and suggest having it alongside some vanilla ice cream.
Blade and Bow 22 Year Bourbon
The price has steadily ticked up on Blade and Bow 22. When this bourbon first came out, it was about half the current price (and well worth it). At $450, it’s trending toward iffy, as a bourbon hitting just over 90 proof isn’t everyone’s idea of top shelf. Still, it’s hard to argue with the quality of the liquid: vanilla bean and luscious caramel, baking spices and honey—a classic, well-aged bourbon we look forward to every year.
William Larue Weller Bourbon 2020
Larue Weller, the most important Weller bottle in the whole portfolio, is beloved for its year-to-year variations. This year’s release was distilled in winter 2008, aged in warehouses I and C of Buffalo Trace’s storage houses, and is bottled at a numbing 134.5 proof. It presents its trademark spearmint intonations along with cinnamon and caramel candy. It’s one of the few wheated bourbons we can say with certainty is often better than Pappy.
Remus Repeal Reserve IV
The Remus Repeal series has been a little best-kept secret in the bourbon world. It’s MGP sourced liquid, except unlike the hundreds of other bourbons on the market from that origin, this one is blended by the folks at MGP for their in-house label. Remus Repeal IV is a 100 proof blend of two 2008 vintages of two different mashbills, but the profoundly affordable $85 price tag and the bold, candied fruit and toasted oak character are a match made in heaven—for taste buds and wallets alike. It’s unclear if this series has secondary value yet, but it definitely has drinking value in spades.
Parker’s Heritage 14th Edition
Parker’s Heritage is an annual release of whiskey from Heaven Hill honoring the late Parker Beam, who sadly passed away from ALS in 2017. This year’s release is a 10-year heavy char barrel bourbon, exhibiting increased caramel and maple sweetness and a tantalizing hint of smoke. Sales of this bourbon series have raised more than $1 million for ALS research. This year’s release is a must-buy for any lover of classic bourbons.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2020
A second, impressive batch of the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series follows 2019’s edition with another winner. Director of Innovation Jane Bowie said this year’s release was designed to use their stave finishing program to “boost” Maker’s Mark’s core flavors of caramel and vanilla. The whiskey is a dead ringer for butter pecan, and so, so creamy. Maker’s Mark’s Wood Finishing Series may be the best new collection to watch for the foreseeable future—starting with this bottle.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2020
As one of our favorite Kentucky bourbon distilleries, Four Roses is typically a shoe-in to make this list. They always make good whiskey, and they frequently make great whiskey. What we didn’t expect from this year’s limited edition was exactly how far they would push the limits of that bullseyeing whiskey making. With a blend of bourbons ranging from 12 to 19 years of age, Four Roses 2020 edges right up to the cliff on deep, resiny wood flavors, but it pulls it back with controlled, youthful notes of fruit and buttery vanilla cream. Master Distiller Brent Elliott has really outdone himself this time.
Bardstown Copper and Kings Curacao Barrel
In a cool little innovation project from Bardstown, the distillery sourced 9-year Tennessee bourbon and finished it for 18 months in Destillaré Orange Curaçao barrels for a one-time release. We’ve seen a couple similar projects in the last few years, but the execution on this one is impressive. The resulting whiskey is bright and citrusty, with a restrained sweetness, giving it a sort-of old fashioned finish. Definitely weird, definitely tasty.
George T. Stagg Bourbon 2020
As one of the most coveted bourbons within a group of coveted bourbons, George T. Stagg is arguably the most famous member of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Stagg is presented uncut, unfiltered every year, with 2020 delivering a staggering 130.4 proof, heavy cinnamon and cherries on the nose. On the palate, it’s creamy and smoky, leading into an herbal, dark coffee finish.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release traditionally takes place on September 2, on the birthday of founder George Garvin Brown. Birthday Bourbon is a variable treat within the Old Forester whiskeys; the small batch is typically between 10 and 12 years of age, and every drop is from barrels filled on the same day a decade or more earlier. The 2020 batch is a 10-year-old, 98 proof, and skews sweet, nutty, and soft with a long finish—a real crowd pleaser.
Eagle Rare 17-Year Bourbon 2020
The 17-year-old expression of Eagle Rare for 2017 follows in the footsteps of last year’s release, upping the proof to 101 and showing ripe cherries and vanilla on the nose, caramel, and coffee on the palate, and a spicy oak finish. All of the barrels used for this batch come from the first floor of Warehouse P. Even without context, we can tell there must be something special about that floor of Warehouse P.