The 5 Best Special Occasion Bourbons

Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel

We dug a fairly recent Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel, aged in a warehouse built by Taylor in 1881 and put in a barrel in early 2012. This limited release features hints of marzipan, raisin, tobacco and rye spice.

Barrell Gray Label

I already chose Batch 021 as one of the only five bourbon bottles you need, but I want to highlight their recent cask strength Gray Label releases, a 15-year old bourbon (note: a previous 15-year Gray Label won a “Best American Whiskey” designation from whiskey guru Fred Minnick in 2018) that offers up notes of everything from chalk dust and wood smoke to toasted marshmallow, cola, jasmine and pipe tobacco.

Pappy Van Winkle 23

“Duh,” you might think. But the world’s most sought-after bourbon label is, if not always worth the inflated price tag, worthy of the love afforded it by whiskey aficionados. Plus, bourbon doesn’t necessarily improve after a certain age (I’ve had distillers say anywhere from 8-12 years is a sweet spot), so the exceptional nature of the 23 is to be cherished.

George T. Stagg Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Another Buffalo Trace release (historically, BT used to be called the George T. Stagg Distillery), this is part of that distillery’s “Antique Collection” — aged over 15 years, these uncut, unfiltered and barrel-proof annual releases — well, annual with exceptions — are right up there with Pappy as far as limited supply and inflated secondary market prices.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester has been around for 150+ years and is revered as the first bourbon to be sealed in a glass bottle. The Birthday Bourbon is an annual release to celebrate founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday on September 2nd. The Birthday releases all hail from one day’s production from a particular year.

What constitutes a special occasion? A promotion? A wedding proposal? Tuesday? For bourbon drinkers, the “special occasion” bottle is probably one that’s in a three- or even four-figure price range and might not even be available anymore, outside of whiskey gray markets. So, roughly, this means a bottle that’s unique, pricey and delicious — or at least something that goes beyond “smooth.”

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