Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon, a distinctly American spirit, has a rich history that traces its roots back to the late 18th century. The evolution of bourbon is intertwined with the history of Kentucky, where settlers, primarily of Scotch and Irish descent, began distilling corn-based spirits. The term bourbon is believed to have originated in Kentucky, and the spirit became synonymous with the region. The production of bourbon was officially recognized in the United States in 1964 when Congress declared it "America's Native Spirit." To be classified as bourbon, a whiskey must adhere to specific regulations, such as being made from at least 51% corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and aged in new-charred oak barrels. 

Over the years, the bourbon industry has evolved from small, family-run operations to a global phenomenon. In the 19th century, bourbon gained popularity due to its smooth, sweet flavor and the convenience of aging it in charred oak barrels, which facilitated transportation. The Prohibition era dealt a blow to the bourbon industry, but it rebounded in the mid-20th century as consumers rediscovered the allure of this uniquely American spirit. 

Today, the bourbon landscape is marked by a diverse range of expressions, from traditional small-batch and single-barrel offerings to innovative experimental releases. The value of bourbon has experienced a remarkable surge in recent decades. Once considered a blue-collar spirit, bourbon has undergone a renaissance, with enthusiasts and collectors driving demand for rare and limited editions. Iconic brands like Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and rare releases from distilleries like Michter’s and A.H. Hirsch have achieved cult status. The scarcity of well-aged expressions, coupled with the craftsmanship and heritage associated with Bourbon production, has elevated its value and cemented its status as a globally celebrated spirit.

The Winkle Distillery
Eagle Rare, 17-Year-Old Bourbon, 2021 Release
Michter's, 20-Year-Old Bourbon, 2021 Release
A.H. Hirsch, 1974 16-Year-Old Bourbon, Gold Wax
Orphan Barrel, Old Blowhard 26-Year-Old Bourbon
The Winkle Distillery

Winkle is a name synonymous with rare and highly coveted bourbon, and its history is intertwined with the broader narrative of American whiskey. The story begins with Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, a veteran of the bourbon industry with a deep passion for crafting exceptional spirits. In 1935, Pappy co-founded the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, a facility that would go on to produce iconic bourbons. Among them was the Old Rip Van Winkle brand, named after Pappy's grandfather. The Stitzel-Weller Distillery gained fame for its wheated bourbon recipes, which used a higher proportion of wheat in the mash bill instead of rye. 

In 1972, after Pappy's death, the distillery faced financial challenges and the family had to sell. It wasn't until the 1990s, under the guidance of Julian Van Winkle III, Pappy's grandson, that the brand regained prominence. Julian III began aging whiskies longer, often well beyond the industry standard, creating a now cult-like following for the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. 

The 10, 12, 13, 15, 20 and 23-Year releases comprise the core line that is released annually.

Eagle Rare, 17-Year-Old Bourbon, 2021 Release

Eagle Rare Bourbon has its roots deeply embedded in the history of the Buffalo Trace Distillery, possibly the most important distillery of American Whiskey and one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in the United States. The origins of this iconic bourbon trace back to the early 20th century when the distillery was known as the George T. Stagg Distillery. Over the years it underwent several name changes and ownership transitions, eventually becoming the Buffalo Trace Distillery. In the late 1980s Buffalo Trace launched the Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old as part of the Antique Collection. This expression, showcasing the distillery's commitment to aging and craftsmanship, quickly gained a reputation for its exceptional character and became a sought-after collector's item.

Michter's, 20-Year-Old Bourbon, 2021 Release

Michter's is a storied American whiskey brand with a rich history dating back to the 18th century. The brand's origins can be traced to the Shenk family, who began distilling whiskey in Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Over the years, the distillery changed hands and names, eventually becoming Michter's in the 20th century under the ownership of Louis Forman. Michter's gained a reputation for producing high-quality bourbon and rye, but like many other American whiskey producers, it faced challenges during the mid-20th century due to economic downturns and changing consumer preferences. In the 1990s, Michter's experienced a revival when it was acquired by Joseph Magliocco. Under his stewardship, the brand shifted its production to Kentucky. Michter's 20-Year-Old Bourbon is released in extremely limited quantities. In 2021 only 678 bottles were produced.

A.H. Hirsch, 1974 16-Year-Old Bourbon, Gold Wax

A.H. Hirsch was founded by Adolph Hirsch, a spirits industry veteran, who acquired a substantial amount of bourbon distilled at Michter’s Distillery in Pennsylvania in the 1970s. This bourbon was laid down to age in barrels, and the result would later become the A.H. Hirsch Reserve. Distilled in 1974 and bottled in the 1990s, A.H. Hirsch Reserve gained fame for its exceptional quality and complexity. The 16-Year-Old expression became a cult favorite among bourbon enthusiasts and collectors. It gained further recognition when it was awarded the "World's Best Bourbon" title at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in 1993.

Orphan Barrel, Old Blowhard 26-Year-Old Bourbon

The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Company is a unique venture within the spirits industry, known for discovering and releasing rare, aged whiskies that have been "orphaned" or left behind in the archives of various distilleries. Established by Diageo, one of the world's leading spirits companies, Orphan Barrel seeks out forgotten barrels of whiskey, often found in disused corners of aging warehouses, and brings them to light for enthusiasts to savor. The concept behind Orphan Barrel is to give these hidden gems a second chance to be appreciated by whiskey connoisseurs. Old Blowhard is the oldest bourbon in the series, with the whiskey coming from the Old Bernheim distillery which was torn down in 1991.