First, thank you for all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those of you who serve or have served in the military. We raise a glass of our best to you this Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day weekend typically marks the transition to the Summer months when many of us slow down a little bit, spend more time with our families and friends, and savor life. With that in mind, we've provided you a list if some great-tasting barrel-proof bourbons to seek and try this summer, as well as some tips if you plan to take a trip to the Bourbon mecca of Louisville, Kentucky during your time off.
Also, if you've ever wondered who is churning out all this bourbon read Chuck Cowdery's blog post below. There's also a nifty bourbon tasting guide used by the guys at breakingbourbon.com to guide you through your future tasting adventures.
Finally, if you bought 3-for-1 tickets for the next Pappy 15 drawing (June 15), you will get your extra ticket numbers by May 30.
Also, if you have a chance honor all vets and current service members by giving them a top-shelf glass or bottle of the good stuff this Memorial Day.
For many whiskey lovers, there’s nothing better than the taste of bourbon straight from the barrel: unfiltered and uncut, and as close to untouched as you can get at retail. While 80 proof (40% ABV) is the lowest legally allowed alcohol level for bourbon, and many releases are less than 100 proof, barrel-proof or cask-strength bourbon is typically in the range of 110 proof and higher. Some bottles, like certain bottlings of George T. Stagg, even soar above so-called hazmat levels—140 proof, which legally can’t be brought on an airplane (even in your checked luggage).
Many of the top barrel proof bourbons are highly acclaimed limited releases—meaning they can be tough to find and cost a pretty penny. But luckily, a few distilleries offer a widely-available taste of their full-strength products at a reasonable price.
Yes, $75 may seem a tad high for an everyday whiskey, but remember, you’re getting more bang for your buck. Few folks want to drink a barrel-proof bourbon as-is; the point is that you can add water to proof it down to your own taste. If you use our handy calculator to determine exactly how much water to add, you’ll be able to stretch your bottle and ensure you’re getting the perfect pour every time.
Note: As barrel-proof offerings will naturally vary from barrel-to-barrel and batch-to-batch, the below list represents the most recent reviews from our Buying Guide. Generally, newer or older batches will have a fairly similar ABV, flavor profile, and price.
In 2014's Bourbon, Strange, I wrote, "the industry is very concentrated, with just eight companies distilling all of America’s whiskey at thirteen distilleries."
When the question was revisited in 2016, it was ten companies and 15 distilleries.
In both cases, the list was limited to distilleries that produce at least 500,000 proof gallons of whiskey per year, about 10,000 barrels. Yes, there are hundreds of smaller distilleries that make whiskey, so it can't be 100 percent, but it is at least 99.
In 2016, the newcomers were Michter's and New Riff. Since then Bardstown Bourbon Company, Lux Row, O. Z. Tyler, Bulleit, Angel's Envy, Willett, Rabbit Hole, and Castle & Key have joined the club. Coming soon are Old Forester and Wilderness Trail. All are in Kentucky.
That makes 18 companies and 25 distilleries.
Those numbers are misleading. All of the new plants are at the small end of the range. Most of them have the ability to produce about one million proof gallons per year. Meanwhile, producers at the top have been expanding on a grand scale.
Cheers and Enjoy the Chase!