Is expensive whiskey ever worth it?
I mean … that’s a loaded question. If you’re an investor, then yes. Whiskey is a better investment right now than cars or art — any of it. If you’re looking for a good whiskey to drink, then the answer is a lot closer to “no” — but not never. Astronomically priced whiskeys bottles are often the best of the best and the rarest of the rare. That means that they’re usually delicious (the irony being most people will never get to taste any of them, ever). But if you do get to drink them… well, it’s a moment.
To really end the year with a bang, I grabbed some of the most expensive bottles from my shelf and put them to a big ol’ holiday blind taste test. $52,465. That’s how much these 10 bottles will cost if you buy them in retail right now. That’s patently absurd. The cheapest bottle on this list is $500. You could easily buy 10 $50 bottles of really good bourbon for that one bottle alone. There’s no question of that. But this is about more than just “really good” anything.
This is about finding something truly special. Our star-studded lineup today is:
- Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond Fall 2022 Edition 19-Year-Old
- A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2
- Yamazaki Mizunara Japense Single Malt 2022 Edition
- George T. Stagg Uncut/Unfiltered BTAC 2022
- The Balvenie The Tale of the Dog Aged 42 Years
- Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Dovetail
- Michter’s Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon 20 Years Old
- Talisker Forests of the Deep Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 44 Years
- Mortlach Midnight Malt Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged for 30 Years
- FUJI Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Aged 30 Years
When it comes to ranking these bottles, I’m going on taste alone. There’s no sense looking at anything else. All of these whiskeys — from regions all over — are all some of the best of the best from their brands. We already know they taste great. But which one is truly the most embracing and delicious? Let’s find out!
- The 100 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2022, Ranked
- We Put A Whole Bunch Of Bourbons To A Giant Blind Test And Discovered Some Absolute Gems
- The Affordable Vs Expensive Blind Bourbon Bottle Battle
- The Best-Known Basic Bottles Of Bourbon, Blind Tasted And Ranked
- The 30 Best Bourbon Whiskeys For Fall, Blind Tasted & Ranked
Part 1: The Tasting
Nose: Deep leather, oily vanilla pods, dark chocolate-covered cherries dusted with salt and nutmeg, and a mild sense of really fancy Almond Joy with this faintest whisper of singed marshmallow and smoldering apple wood.
Palate: Woody spices with black licorice and spearmint candy blend into mint chocolate chip ice cream and root beer spiked with cherry syrup topped with creamy vanilla and dusted with cinnamon, clove, and dark cacao powder.
Finish: The end has a long and supple sense of those woody spices before delivering into soft Black Forest cake with a brandied cherry vibe and a hint of star anise-infused apple-berry cider.
Nose: There’s a leathery nature on the nose with classic bourbon deep flourishes of very black cherry, salted caramel, cinnamon toast with cream butter and old vanilla pods, a touch of orange oil, and woody spice berries and barks.
Palate: Apple orchards and cherry pies open the sweet palate toward a massive heat from the ABVs that eventually fades towards creamed soft nut butter, vanilla cake, and apple cider spiked with spiced cherry tobacco.
Finish: The heat comes roaring back on the finish with brash woody winter spice and burnt orange with a touch of vanilla trying to find a counterbalance to all the heat.
Nose: There’s a sense of winter spice that meanders from woody cinnamon bark toward cloves, allspice, anise, cardamon, and even some soft nutmeg before light yet. creamy vanilla custard leads to a thin whisper of sandalwood and lavender.
Palate: The palate hints at agarwood with a dash of old potpourri next to sweet cinnamon and allspice in a slightly sour mulled wine with a bit of brown sugar lurking in the background.
Finish: The end leans into the woodiness of the spices with a bit more floral incense burning beneath it all.
Nose: Your nose is met with buttery pecan waffles loaded with dark salted chocolate chips and dripping with maple syrup that feels expensive next to darkly roasted espresso beans, singed vanilla husks, and dried sour cherries next to a medley of holiday spices.
Palate: The palate leans into those spices with a clear sense of sharp cinnamon, old clove buds, allspice berries, and whole nutmeg bulbs next to a hint of star anise and maybe some cardamom before that darkly roasted coffee jumps back in with a deeply stewed cherry in a dark treacle syrup before the ABVs buzz hard on the mid-palate.
Finish: The end amps up the woodiness with the spices and adds in a sense of old cedar bark, dark chocolate nibs, and a cherry-tobacco buzziness.
Nose: There’s a classic sense of old and sweet malts on the nose that leads you to sweet and floral perfume that’s so subtle and enticing before a hint of sticky toffee pudding and geranium bound toward old mint rolled into chocolate malts.
Palate: The palate has a soft and salted toffee with honey nut cluster dusted with light notes of sweet winter spice and floral orchard blossoms before a hint more of honey and sweet old oak arrives.
Finish: That sweet oak drives the finish toward nutty creaminess, old orchard wood, and a sense of soft summer flowers with a hint of malt cookies cut with raisin and cinnamon.
Nose: The nose opens with a sense of tart red currants and old red wine barrels with a sharp grapefruit pith balancing things out before spearmint and raspberry jam lean the nose toward creamy and sour espresso with a hint of root beer cut with cherry syrup.
Palate: The palate leans into orange and lime leaves with a twinge of strawberry and rhubarb next to sage, mint, and parsley tied up with pine resin burned to toast marshmallows.
Finish: The end has a ginger vibe with a touch of spicy rum, cran-apple cider, wet wicker, old boots, and grilled pineapple drizzled with rummy toffee.
Nose: A sense of dark cherry with deep rummy molasses, dried rose petals, old almond shells, and cedar bark mingle with a fresh pipe tobacco leaf just kissed with apple and pear essence with a hint of vanilla oils and old wintry wine spices.
Palate: The taste leans into smoldering vanilla pods with a sense of old oak staves from a dusty old cellar next to sweet cinnamon and cherry over dried sage and sharp spearmint with a clove syrup base and a dash of toasted marshmallow sweetness.
Finish: The end is full of dark cherry and woody spice with moist marzipan, burnt orange oils, and chewy fresh tobacco wrapped up in old leather and cedar bark with a hint more of that old cellar sneaking in.
Nose: There’s a sense of classic fruit orchards with a hint of blossom next to briny smokiness from a distance that slowly fades in toasted seaweed salad tossed with roasted sesame seeds and chili oil with a fleeting sense of mild soy sauce lurking way in the background.
Palate: The taste leans into orange zest and maybe even lime leaves with a twinge of old and sweet oak before a twinge of soft rope dipped in seawater leads to a thin line of a beach campfire surrounds by grey stones and spitting rain.
Finish: A mild note of chili pepper arrives late with a mild waxiness tied to chocolate, plum, and pear with a final flourish of a fruit orchard in full bloom.
Nose: There’s a lovely hint of malt dipped in honey with a touch of apple stewed with cinnamon and saffron that leads to roasted pork skin and fat cut with a sense of rosemary and singed sage before a honeyed oaked sweetness arrives again
Palate: The taste is like a creamy, apple-forward, malty lush elixir cut with hints of black pepper, burnt orange, and marzipan that leads to a sense of honey-soaked cinnamon sticks floating in apple cider.
Finish: There’s another rush of that black pepper late that leads to woody apple cores and wintry barks that eventually fade towards a mildly spiced apple-cinnamon tobacco leaf packing into an old cedar box.
Nose: The nose is full of marzipan and nutty berry cobbler with a hint of orchard fruits, mulled wine, dark chocolate touched with very light spice, and a sweet and soft brown sugar vibe.
Palate: The palate opens with an old honey pot next to dark nut clusters with a pecan/dark chocolate/raisin vibe over malted cookies dipped in black currant compote and dusted with soft and powdery white pepper.
Finish: The end is lush and silky with a slight sense of wet reeds and cedar bark braided with faint tobacco kissed with dried red berries and soft toffee.
Part 2: The Ranking
10. A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2 — Taste 2
Average Price: Lottery Only
This new batch from Sazerac’s Virginia distillery is all about upping the ante on last year’s bold ABV release. This year, Batch #2 takes the ABVs even higher in this cask-strength bourbon bomb thanks to the careful selection of old barrels that are batched and left completely uncut and non-chill-filtered.
This was so hot it burnt. That’s the point as it’s a hazmat whiskey. Still, wow, it’s a lot. That said, there’s a well-balanced and deep flavor profile under all that heat, you just need a firehose of ice to find it.
Also worth noting, these tend to top $3,000 easily once they hit the aftermarket — but will only cost $99 via the lottery.
9. George T. Stagg Uncut/Unfiltered BTAC 2022 — Taste 4
Average Price: $2,999
This year’s return of the Stagg is hewn from whiskey distilled all the way back in 2007 with Kentucky corn, Minnesota rye, and North Dakota barley. The juice was filled into new white oak from Independent Stave from Missouri with a #4 char level (55 seconds). Those barrels were then stored in the famed Warehouse K on the first and fifth floors over 15 years, wherein 75% of the liquid was lost to the angels. Finally, the barrels were batched and bottled as-is.
This was too hot too. Again, there’s a perfectly well-hewn flavor profile underneath all of that heat, you’ll just need some serious proofing in the glass to get there.
8. FUJI Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Aged 30 Years — Taste 10
Average Price: $4,190
This whisky is made just seven miles from the base of Mt Fuji. The whisky in the bottle is a blend of whiskies made in a “Canadian grain whisky style.” The whiskies for this release were aged in used American oak for at least 30 years with some of the barrels in the blend hitting 40 years old. Then Master Blender Jota Tanaka selects the barrels that hit the exact right notes and meticulously blends this whisky with a touch of local mountain spring water.
This was really, really good. The only reason it’s a little lower is that it had the weakest finish of all of these pours. That said, I didn’t need a fire extinguisher on my tongue after I took a sip, so there’s that.
7. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond Fall 2022 Edition 19-Year-Old — Taste 1
Average Price: $1,299
The latest decanter release from Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond series was made back in September 2003. Those barrels rested on three floors of rickhouse F and one floor of rickhouse X on the main Heaven Hill campus until October of 2023. They were then batched and proofed down to 100-proof for bottling.
This is pretty much a perfect bourbon. And it’s ranked seventh today. That’s kind of crazy.
6. Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Dovetail — Taste 6
Average Price: $499
This ultimate edition of Barrell Craft Spirit’s beloved Dovetail Whiskey feels genre-defining. The whiskey in the blend is made from Indiana, Tennesee, and Canadian whiskeys that are up to 25 years old that were finished in rum, port, and Dunn Vineyards Cabernet wine barrels. Finally, those barrels are batched and bottled 100% as-is in Kentucky.
This is one of those whiskeys that just keep going, making it so much fun to return to over and over again. Still, that could be conveyed as meandering and not as concise as some of the next whiskeys ranked below. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still delicious.
5. Mortlach Midnight Malt Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged for 30 Years — Taste 9
Average Price: $4,799
This is 30-year-old Mortlach from a couple of barrels that actually made it that long without drying out or becoming undrinkable — it’s kind of a miracle in that sense. The vatted whisky was finished in a trio of barrels — Bordeaux wine, Calvados, and Guatemalan rum — before bottling completely as-is.
This is a super rare Mortlach that also happens to have a once-in-a-lifetime finishing. Add in that there are only 350 bottles of this in the world, and you have something to cherish for life. If you’re looking for a slow sipper, it’s also amazing. As you sip it, it feels your soul with joy and then a little moment of sadness knowing that you’re drinking something we’ll never see again.
4. The Balvenie The Tale of the Dog Aged 42 Years — Taste 5
Average Price: $18,799
This whisky was named after a famed whisky thief — or “dog” — that was flattened to stop too much whisky being thieved back in the day. The actual whisky in the bottle is from two casks that were put on the racks in 1974 and 1978 and left alone.
Two casks from the 1970s (!) were married to create this one-of-a-kind whisky. And while the price is colossal, this is a stunning pour of whisky that everyone should try once in their lifetime.
3. Michter’s Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon 20 Years Old — Taste 7
Average Price: $4,989
Master Distiller Dan McKee personally selects these (at least) 20-year-old barrels from the Michter’s rickhouses based on… I guess just “pure excellence” would be the right phrase. The bourbon is bottled as-is — no cutting with water.
This is a perfect bourbon.
2. Talisker Forests of the Deep Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 44 Years — Taste 8
Average Price: $4,892
This is one of the more unique Taliskers to hit shelves. The 40-plus-year-old juice is made finished in casks made with staves that were charred with Scottish sea kelp and stave wood shavings. The staves are then used to finish the whiskey before it’s vatted and bottled 100% as-is.
Only 1,997 bottles were made this year and only 102 made it to the U.S. It’s worth tracking down one of those 102 if you can. This is a one-of-a-kind Talisker that’ll take your love of the brand even deeper thanks to a phenomenal whisky with an extraordinary finish.
1. Yamazaki Mizunara Japense Single Malt 2022 Edition — Taste 3
Average Price: $6,999
This is one of the most sought-after whiskies from Yamazaki. The juice spends over 12 years maturing in Mizunara casks only — this isn’t some whisky that’s “finished” in old Mizurana casks for a few months. After over a decade of mellowing, the casks are hand-picked for their excellence, vatted, and just proofed before bottling.
This whisky is so freaking good. It’s just excellent.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Yes, all of these are superior whiskies both in price and flavor profile. Ranking them is kind of stupid when you take a step back. How to rank perfection next to perfection? Alas, I did my best and here we are.
One thing we can take away from this exercise is that the most expensive bottle doesn’t always mean the best though. That’s something. Right? Right?!