The World’s Most Expensive Bourbons Have One Thing in Common

Rare releases from Old Rip Van Winkle, Colonel EH Taylor, Michter's and other distilleries are seeing "mind-boggling price hikes"

A stock photo of bourbon barrels from Kentucky. Rare bourbon prices have skyrocketed in the last year.
Rare bourbon prices have skyrocketed over the past year
Matthew Liteplo / Getty Images

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn’t put a dent in the price of rare bourbon.

Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old topped Wine-Searcher’s annual The World’s Most Expensive Bourbons list with an average price of $33,438. If you follow the frenzy around the annual Van Winkle releases, you’ll realize this is 1) no surprise and 2) hilariously far removed from the suggested retail price (“Unfortunately even though we suggest what we believe to be a very low and fair MSRP, we cannot control the price retailers charge, and some retailers mark it up even though we and the distributors that those retailers buy from ask them not to,” said Julian Van Winkle, president of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, during last year’s annual release.)

As Wine-Searcher’s Don Kavanugh notes about this year’s top 10 bourbon list: “The big deal here is the sheer size of the price increases these whiskeys have enjoyed. Only the Eagle Rare saw a drop in its global average retail price, down from $18,300 last year; the others have had mind-boggling price hikes.”

A few other takeaways:

  • Eight of the top 10 most expensive bourbons top $10,000 in price, while another one is $9999. Last year only two bottles topped the five-figure mark; two years ago, only three.
  • That Eagle Rare bottling mentioned above is part of a new trend of pricing bourbons at an elevated price upon release … only to see the market determine the real value. Launched at an average global retail price of $30,000, that expression is currently going for barely half of that.
  • The top whiskey on the annual list has seen a year-on-year rise in average price of 55.3% (when the list started, the top bourbon was $21,500 per bottle).
  • Looking for future bourbon investments? The E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned saw an average price increase of 246% and Colonel E.H. Taylor Warehouse C’s average price was by 210 percent.

With Europe opening up again to American whiskeys (post-tariffs), expect global interest in bourbon to continue growing. And those rare bourbon prices to keep rising.


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