Autumn is generally thought of as the most important time of year for whiskey releases, with all the hotly anticipated annuals from Heaven Hill, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace coming out in a window just a couple of months wide. Summer, on the other hand, is often associated with the doldrums of the annual summer shutdown, when most distilleries in Kentucky go offline for maintenance.
Not this year. The summer shutdown will take place as usual, but in terms of new releases of American whiskey, summer is turning out to be anything but sleepy. Keep an eye on The Whiskey Reviewer, because we will be covering all six of these summer whiskeys in June!
Booker’s Rye should have just reached some store and bar shelves by the time of publication, in what will probably go down as the most talked about rye whiskey release of 2016. This is both because of what Booker’s Rye is and because of the hefty price tag attached to it.
Whiskey companies like to weave stories replete with personal history around their products, and Booker’s Rye is a prime example. Laid down by namesake Booker Noe and bottled by his son Fred Noe, this is a 13 year old, high octane rye whiskey made with a mashbill other than that of Beam’s usual Kentucky, 51% rye style.
Booker’s Rye has set off a stir among rye whiskey diehards, but it has also drawn fire from critics who bemoan the $300 price tag and ruminate about where it is taking American whiskey. Yet compared against the market value of, say, Thomas H. Handy Rye, asking $300 seems merely realistic. Booker’s Rye isn’t taking American whiskey anywhere, for American whiskey is already there.
Lower profile, but perhaps more significant, than Booker’s Rye is Cooper’s Craft, the first new regular release from Brown-Forman in two decades. The new bourbon is intended as an upscale, but nonetheless fundamentally entry-level whiskey (82.2 proof), and at a price point that just slightly undercuts comparable products ($28). The last time Brown-Forman did something like this, it was Woodford Reserve, so Cooper’s Craft may very well become one of those staples of affordable, premium bourbon in the years to come.
Four Roses “Elliott’s Select” Single Barrel
When Four Roses discontinued their annual single barrel series, pleading stock shortages, the company indicated single barrel limited edition bourbons would continue to appear on a periodic basis. The last edition of the Four Roses Single Barrel LE was 2014, but the actual period between announcing the discontinuation and the release of the first periodic single barrel bourbon turned out to be not much more than just one year. Contrary to the naysayers, the wait turned out to not be so long after all.
Four Roses is commemorating their new master distiller, Brent Elliott, with this release of a 14 year old bourbon drawn from OESK and OBSK stock originally intended for a Small Batch Limited Edition meant to mark his predecessor Jim Rutledge’s 50th anniversary. This means there will be two distinct versions of Elliott’s Select, one high rye and one standard, in an 8,000 bottle production run. Four Roses Elliott’s Select Single Barrel Bourbon should retail for $125.
Jack Daniels’ Single Barrel Barrel Proof
For those who look at Jack Daniels’ and yawn, focus on these two phrases: cask strength and single barrel. Those are features whiskey enthusiasts love, and it’s far past time that they came together down in Lynchburg. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett has been pushing Jack Daniels’ outside its tried and true envelope recently with the release of first Jack Daniels’ Rye and now this high octane single barrel Tennessee Whiskey, and for that reason it’s high time for a lot of people to give JD a second look.
Knob Creek 15 Year Old
Rumors of an extra old Knob Creek release have flown about whiskey forums for roughly a year now, but it’s finally here. Just as with Booker’s Rye, bottles of Knob Creek 2001 should just be reaching store and bar shelves by the time this sees posting. The 2001 vintage dating of this limited edition bourbon is meant to mark current Master Distiller Fred Noe’s first assignment from his Dad, the legendary Booker Noe. What is in the bottle is a 14 year old small batch bourbon bottled at the customary 100 proof, and retailing for $129.99.
Wild Turkey Decades
This is the third extra aged, limited edition bourbon from Wild Turkey, following Diamond Edition and Master’s Keep. It’s known to be non-chill filtered, aged 10 to 20 years, and bottled at 104 proof.