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In late summer and early fall, distilleries often release limited-edition bourbons. Some are designed to accompany the upcoming onslaught of spiced holiday specialties, while others are unique blends of whiskies from different years. Bourbon lovers look forward to these releases every year as the days grow shorter and temperatures start to drop.
To help celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month, VinePair reached out to bartenders around the country to get their takes on which seasonal bourbon releases should make every bourbon aficionado’s wishlist. Keep reading to find out which bottles experts are currently pining for.
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“Four Roses never disappoints with their Limited [Edition] small-batch releases. The 2020 is no exception, with one bottle holding together a blend of four separate recipes from the Kentucky distillery, ranging in age from 12 to 19 years. All this adds up to what will no doubt be a very complex spirit, with various notes and influences from the different years, from dried fruits, to baking spices, to tongue-tingling aged oak.” — Maureen Shannon, Head Bartender, In the Valley, Philadelphia
“The seasonal releases I look forward to are the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Eagle Rare 17 Year is a particular favorite. Those are very popular pour[s] around the holidays, when guests are looking to treat themselves or educate their companions.” — David A. Roth, Former Head Bartender, Covina, NYC
“The Parker’s Heritage 14th Edition is probably the one I’m most excited about. Parker’s always delivers a really special product, and it’s still able to stay reasonably priced! I’m sure this year will be as delicious as the past ones!” — Gavin Humes, Bartender, Scratch | Bar & Kitchen, Los Angeles
“I am most excited about the Belle Meade Honey Cask. I think Belle Meade kills it with their Craftsmen Collection, and I am sure this one will be no exception. Usually, I am quick to hate on honey and whiskey together, but I think [Belle Meade] found a way to incorporate honey flavor without adding much sweetness.” — Tim Wiggins, Co-owner/Bar Manager, Yellowbelly and Retreat Gastropub, St. Louis
“The big release I think we all want most is the president’s tax returns, but while we continue holding our breath on that, we will settle for anything Westland Distillery does. It’s one of the few craft whiskies that actually stands [on] its own against the tried- and-true, generations-deep distilleries of Kentucky and Scotland. They do awesome core releases, and awesome one-offs, including the rare Peat Week.’” — Jeremy Allen, Beverage Director, MiniBar Hollywood, Los Angeles
“I am always looking forward to the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch that they release every year. They blend several of their 10 different whiskey recipes to create a delicious, one-off small batch.” — Zach Cable, Bartender, Leon’s Full Service, Decatur, Ga.
“In the world of tiresome annual whiskey releases, Parker’s Heritage Collection has been a breath of fresh air. Their releases are always unique and delicious. This year’s release has not been revealed, but I have heard rumors circulating that they will be capitalizing on the ‘heavy char’ release from last year that saw so much success, except this time, it will be bourbon instead of rye. Extended-age American whiskies are known for being astringent, and usually the sweet spot is between 6 and 10 years old. Wild Turkey has had great success for their extended-age releases under the Master’s Keep label, which also utilize a high-level char. I have high hopes that the PHC release will have similar complexity of flavor.” — Andrew Nichols, Head of Mixology, Atlas Restaurant Group, Fla./D.C./Md./Texas
“I love the new seasonal Knob Creek 12 Year. It’s my very favorite bourbon right now. If I had to rate it, I would give it an Italian chef kissing his hand — ‘Mwah!’ It has a rich depth of flavor that takes all of the caramel, vanilla, wood, and pepper notes of the traditional 9 Year Knob Creek to the next level. It’s exciting to have right now because it only comes out once a year, and while it’s superb neat or on the rocks, it also makes spectacular stirred cocktails.” — Jessica Schmidt, General Manager, Little Dom’s, Los Angeles
“I am looking forward to sampling Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection 2020 and Elijah Craig’s Toasted Barrel. I personally like to collect smoky whiskies. Elijah Craig will release this product which is double-barreled, and the second barrel is specifically charred. Again this year, there are [several] limited-release whiskies of various ages, recipes, and proofs to drool over and covet. Eagle Rare 17, George T. Stagg, and William Larue Weller are all unique, delicious, and very limited. It’s a group of spirits that collectors like myself love to indulge [in]. These are moderately priced and give great value.” — Louis Andia, General Manager, Chikarashi Isso and Nakaji, NYC