We’ve already covered the best bourbon whiskeys under $50 and $100 to give as a gift this holiday season. Now we’re getting into the “wow” bottles. The impact players, sure to please even the true aficionados on your list.
The 10 bottles below range in price from about $130 to $1,400. So while these are definitely expensive bottles of bourbon, we’re not getting into unicorn bottle territory. These all should be fairly easy to find, too (depending on which state you’re in).
Beyond the price points, this really is about cool bottles that taste good. What more do you really need when you’re picking out the perfect bottle of bourbon to give as a gift? Let’s dive in!
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Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
Average Price: $240
Cowboy Bourbon has become Garrison Brother’s signature bottle of whiskey. The juice from Texas is from barrels that are hand-selected for their depth and deliciousness and then aged for a few more years before being small-batched. The whiskey is then bottled as-is — with no filtering or cutting — leaving you with the purest essence of what great Texas bourbon can be in every single sip.
There’s a rush of very sharp cinnamon sticks next to a pile of wet cedar shingles and an almost Chinese hot mustard spice and miso edge that’s as baffling as it’s enticing. That spicy/umami nose makes you want to dive into this sip. Once you do, you’re greeted with an apple pie overflowing with walnuts, spices, and syrupy brown sugar encased in a flaky lard pie crust as spicy plum puddings sit next to more cedar and a throughline of caramel. The end turns to velvet as a vanilla tobacco vibe arrives to calm everything down and numb your tongue with a buzz.
This is one of the ultimate high-end bottles from Texas. It’s big, brash, and 100 percent unique. Though you might want to consider some ice cube trays as a side gift since this whiskey does need a rock or two to cool it down and open it up.
Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon
Average Price: $200
Michter’s originally dropped this back in 2014. The juice is standard bourbon that’s then finished in a toasted barrel from the famed Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. They build these barrels by hand from 18-month air-dried white oak and then lightly toast the inside before the aged whiskey goes in.
This opens with a pecan pie vibe that’s nutty, dry, and full of dark Caro syrup sweetness with a hint of candied orange peels with a touch of cinnamon and cedar bark. The palate holds onto the sweetness as it leans towards a campfire roasted marshmallow, a touch of saffron and clove-stewed pears, a pile of sappy firewood, and creamy nuances of vanilla pudding all meander through your senses. The end has a light savory nature that leads back to the pear, vanilla, and marshmallow on a very slow fade.
This is a great mid-way Michter’s buy. It’s not a standard bottle but it’s also not a crazy bottle that reaches into the thousands of dollars. All of that aside, the juice in this bottle is actually pretty damn delicious and unique, making it the perfect gift bottle.
John E. Fitzgerald Very Special 20 Year
Average Price: $400 (half bottle)
This Heaven Hill release is an orphan barrel from Old Fitzgerald’s nearly extinct stocks. The juice is a blend of 12 barrels (from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery) that Heaven Hill inherited when they bought Old Fitz. They aged the whiskey for 20 years, vatted the barrels, cut the juice down to proof, and then bottled it in a unique decanter. Only 3,000 bottles were made.
There’s an almost sherry vibe to the sip, with stewed plums swimming in dark holiday spices next to a lightly salted caramel note with a creamy vanilla base. The taste leans into the dried fruit and eggnog spices as a touch of bitter dark chocolate arrives with a hint of almost smoked plums nestled in cedar boxes full of brittle, dried tobacco. The end is long yet very silky with a mild dry nuttiness and a slight return to the stewed plums and savory caramel.
If someone gave this to me for Christmas, I’d be shocked. These are so rare and special — plus the whiskey is excellent. Gifting this bottle proves you know your shit and really care about someone’s whiskey journey.
Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece
Average Price: $207
The whiskey in the bottle is an exclusive selection of barrels that were looked after by bourbon legend Fred Noe himself. The bourbon is “extra aged” in very particular spots in the Beam rickhouses. Noe transfers that whiskey into Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for a finishing touch. The juice is then touched with that soft Kentucky limestone water to bring it down to a very manageable 100 proof before it’s bottled in a bespoke and hefty decanter.
The nose feels like a sweet honeyed scotch by way of Kentucky’s woodlands as moments of marzipan, cedar boxes full of dried tobacco, and sweet yet earthy dates roll across your olfactories. The taste highlights Beam’s signature cherry vibe while taking it towards dark chocolate and brandy-filled candy depths, while old leather, spicy plum pudding dripping with rich vanilla cream, and more of that cedar humidor dance on your palate. The end is long, spicy, full of those dates, earthy, and as soft as a silk billowing on a clothesline.
Everyone knows Jim Beam in one way or another. It’s the biggest selling bourbon on the planet after all. This expression will dispel any preconceived notion about the brand. It’s nuanced, truly special, and rare.
Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon Aged 15 Years
Average Price: $250
Barrell Craft Spirits is another craft blendery that’s sourcing some of the best barrels in the game and expertly marrying those barrels. This expression blends 15-year-old bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennesse into a final product that reaches new heights for blended bourbon.
There’s a lot to draw you in with this nose of rich tobacco spiciness next to soft cedar, tart cherry pie filling, saffron stewed pears, salted toffee, and what almost feels like the salted water left after boiling artichokes (seriously). The fruitiness really builds as the cherry leads towards a bowl full of ripe raspberries swimming in cream with a dusting of dark spices and brown sugar that’s countered by a dose of floral tea leaves culminating with a mildly bitter coffee bean. The end is long and really holds onto the cherry and raspberry fruit while a note of that soft cedar dips back in with a hint of menthol tobacco buzz.
These rare yearly drops are another example of a gift that shows how much you care. These special Barrell drops tend to lean into whiskey nerd-dom and haven’t hit the mainstream quite yet, so get in on the ground floor.
Eagle Rare 17
Average Price: $1,400
This whiskey was produced in the spring of 2003. Since then, it lost 73 percent of its volume to the angels as it rested in warehouses C, K, M, and Q on various floors. The barrels were then vatted, proofed down, and bottled.
The nose has this matrix of dark holiday spices that layer into a Black Forest cake with the finest stewed cherries, the moistest chocolate sponge cake, and the richest cream with a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate shavings and a whisper of pink finishing salt. The palate really leans into the cherry with a bright but saucy vibe that’s spiked with nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon (and maybe a hint of ground ginger) while little firecrackers full of salted black licorice, dry cedar bark, and Cherry Coke fill in the background. The finish takes its time as the mid-palate cherry sweetness slowly dissolves into an old wooden garden box full of fresh dark potting soil bursting with fresh mint and spicy nasturtiums.
This is the ultimate gift for any bourbon lover. They’ll be eternally grateful for a bottle of this caliber and rarity.
Peerless Double Oak Bourbon
Average Price: $134
The whiskey is around five to six years old and comes from one barrel that lets the grains shine through before it goes into another barrel that lets the oak shine through. That final barrel is bottled at cask strength, as is.
This opens with a nose full of salted butter next to hints of very soft leather, light notes of vanilla bean, a touch of toffee sweetness, and freshly cracked walnuts with a dry edge. The taste leans into that oak barrel with dashes of woody spices (think allspice berries, star anise, and cinnamon sticks), dry cherry tobacco leaves, salted caramel, and more of that super soft leather. That leads towards a mid-palate of dark red fruits stewed in mulled wine spices and cut with a dollop of fresh honey before the (long) finish dries out towards an old wicker chair, a very distinct hint of a cellar funk, and a touch of dried mint.
This is another whiskey distillery for the hardcore whiskey nerds out there. It’s a stellar operation that puts out amazing bottles like this that are both a little hard to get but also deliver on every level once you get one in your hands.
Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof
Average Price: $350
This special release from Old Forester celebrates 150 years of whisky making by the brand with “150” at the core of the line. Master Taster Jackie Zykan created three batches of this limited release from 150 barrels that were specifically selected by Master Distiller Chris Morris. Once these bottles are gone, there won’t be a whisky like this from Old Forester again.
Based on Batch no. 1, you’ll be greeted with a mingling of menthol and anise with rich and buttery caramel next to a hint of holiday spices and a touch of sweet fruit. The palate embraces the holiday spice and adds in a peppery edge while the sweetness leans towards pancake syrup with a hint of dark chocolate and old wood beams lurking in the background. The finish marries the dark chocolate to the almost chili pepper spice on the medium-length finish as flourishes of orange oils, wet leather, and salted caramel kettle corn linger on your nicely warmed senses.
Old Forester is pretty well-known these days. So finding a special one-off bottle from the brand is the play for any high-end bourbon gift needs you might have.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 8 Years Aged, Spring 2021
Average Price: $294
This year’s spring release is a marriage of eight-year-old whiskeys produced in the spring of 2013. That distilled juice rested in barrels spread throughout three warehouses on several different floors. In spring of this year, those barrels were vatted and whiskey was proofed down to 100 (per bottled-in-bond law). Then the whiskey was filled into Old Fitzgerald’s signature decanters and sent out into the world.
Goddamn! This is gorgeous. The nose draws you in with warming eggnog spice, creamy vanilla pudding, rich toffee, mild fruit, and a hint of wet cedar and very muted citrus. To say this is “smooth” would be an understatement. The silky taste dances around oven-hot pans of pecan and maple-glazed sticky buns with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg next to caramelized orange peel vibes and lightness that’s almost hard to believe. The finish is long, effervescent, and leaves you with this soft sense of having just eaten the best oatmeal raisin cookie of your life with just the right amounts of oats, spice, raisins, brown sugar, and crumble.
This was one of my favorite bourbons of the year — seriously, it’s delicious. That aside, this is another rare release that hardcore bourbon fans stand in lines for hours for. So finding one under the tree would be a delight.
Average Price: $440
This single barrel masterpiece was made for the international market but is now available widely in the U.S., albeit for a hefty price. The juice is all about the refinement of the single barrel aging process, with masterful finishing to bring this down to a very drinkable 102 proof.
There’s a big greeting on the nose with notes of spicy tobacco leaves next to honey, dark berries, and orange oils. The palate carries those notes forward while leaning into the tobacco and amping up the rye pepperiness then balancing it with a bit more honey and caramel. The finish takes its time fading out as notes of vanilla, spice, and oak linger — with a final billow of pipe tobacco popping at the very end.
Never underestimate the power of Blanton’s as a gift. While the standard bottle is pretty great, this special release is a little bit more refined. That refinement is what makes this bottle special enough to give as a gift this year.