Ken Gargett

high roller bourbons

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been doing quite a bit of work on bourbons of late so very interesting to see what made this list. and what didn't.

i do love the blantons. and the jeffersons at sea. 

prices american. 

Slide 1(illustration: Elizabeth Reyes)
 

You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.

Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.

Slide 2

1: ANGEL’S ENVY ($60)

 

“It has one of the smoothest yet complex flavor notes for a bourbon—classic corn flavor with baking spices and wood. The kicker is that there's a tropical note of bananas, sweet pineapple and mango flavors that really creates a truly interesting experience.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey

BUY ANGEL’S ENVY ONLINE

 

 

 

 
 
Slide 3

2: BARRELL BATCH 002 ($145)

 

“This is a uniquely fragrant sherry-finished bourbon.”—David Y. Dong, bartender at New York City's North End Grill

BUY BARRELL BATCH 002 ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 4

3: BELLE MEADE MADEIRA CASK ($70)

 

“Belle Meade is a bourbon made in Tennessee that’s just simply perfect. It’s smooth sipping with all the right notes of sweet, spice and everything nice. But this new experiment of casks is coloring outside the box. There’s a sherry, cognac and now this Madeira cask. And this Madeira cask just blew my taste buds. It’s just heaven.”—Kang

BUY BELLE MEADE MADEIRA CASK ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 5

4: BLANTON'S ($59)

 

“It’s a single-barrel bourbon (that claims to be the first). Besides the bourbon being very good for the price, this is an awesome gift. The bottle is beautiful, and the corks are meant to be collected so you can use it as repeat gift.”—Tomas van den Boomgaard, beverage manager at The Langham, Chicago

BUY BLANTON'S ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 6

5: BOOKER’S ($72)

 

“It is a intense cask-strength, non-chill-filtered balance of leather and oak and opens up with dark cherry.”—Karen Fu, former bar director at New York City's Donna

BUY BOOKER’S ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 7

6: ELIJAH CRAIG 18 YEAR ($325)

 

“It has classic oak with a balance of orchard fruits and soft caramel.”—Fu

BUY ELIJAH CRAIG 18 YEAR OLD ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 8

7: ELMER T. LEE ($130)

 

“Year in and year out, it’s one of the most satisfying, affordable bourbons you can find. You can tell how beloved Elmer was, because this bottle has all of the quality of much more expensive bourbons at a fraction of the cost.”—Neal Bodenheimer, owner and bartender at New Orleans' Cane & Table and Cure

BUY ELMER T. LEE ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 9

8: GEORGE T. STAGG ($800)

 

“It’s hearty, uncut and unfiltered, with rye spice, clove and smoke.”—Fu

BUY GEORGE T. STAGG ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 10

9: I.W. HARPER 15 YEAR ($90)

 

“Ridiculously smooth, this bottle is the ultimate crowd pleaser for bourbon drinkers of all stripes—light and fruity but exceedingly flavorful.”—Bodenheimer

BUY I.W. HARPER 15 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 11

10: JEFFERSON'S OCEAN ($80)

 

“This whiskey has a great flavor that pairs well with a fun story of its aging process, where it spends its life in a barrel at sea with the natural agitation of the waves instead of turning barrels.”—Gil Izaguirre, beverage director at Chicago's Honey's

BUY JEFFERSON'S OCEAN ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 12

“Everyone is so quick to dismiss a product with ‘Jim Beam’ on the label. This is a limited-production 12-year-old bourbon finished in PX sherry casks that will change your mind about that. It’s an excellent after-dinner sipper.”—Michael Lazar, whiskey concierge and lead bartender at San Francisco's Hard Water

BUY JIM BEAM DISTILLER’S MASTERPIECE ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 13

12: NOAH’S MILL ($67)

 

“It’s actually a pretty affordable, smooth bourbon, especially when it’s set at around 114 proof. It has nutty core fruit notes from scent to taste—a high-proof bourbon that’s balanced, smooth and at the right price tag.”—Kang

BUY NOAH’S MILL ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 14

“I'm not a huge fan of the Orphan Barrel series, but this is my favorite. Creamy orange and peach are nice backbones to classic bourbon notes.”—H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco's Elixir

BUY ORPHAN BARREL BARTERHOUSE 20 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 15

“With this age statement comes long notes of cocoa backed with notes of maple sweetness and cedar wood.”—Izaguirre

BUY ORPHAN BARREL FORGED OAK 15 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 16

“It’s a unique bourbon with tropical fruit notes and hints of vanilla with a subtle spice. This is a great gift for a high price but worth it compared to the overpriced Pappy Van Winkles out there.”—Van den Boomgaard

BUY ORPHAN BARREL RHETORIC 21 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 17

“With a long sweet finish of golden raisin and sweet roasted nuts, it has great body to stand up to classic applications like an Old Fashioned or a Hot Toddy.”—Izaguirre

BUY RABBIT HOLE FINISHED IN PX SHERRY CASKS ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 18

17: WIDOW JANE 10 YEAR ($72)

 

“Known for its choice of where the water comes from, it turns making bourbon the right way into a true work of art. What’s also surprising is that it’s from New York. It’s just a great, balanced and smooth bourbon, all thanks to its limestone mineral water.”—Kang

BUY WIDOW JANE 10 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 19

“I'm not a big fan of old bourbon, but when it's done right, it’s delicious. This is one I grab for.”—Ehrmann

BUY WILD TURKEY MASTER'S KEEP 17 YEAR ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 20

19: WILLETT POT STILL RESERVE ($60)

 

“It’s a beautiful bourbon from one of my favorite distilleries and in a beautiful still-shaped bottle to boot.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner and bartender at Seattle's Canon

BUY WILLETT POT STILL RESERVE ONLINE

 

 

 

 
Slide 21

20: W.L. WELLER 12 YEAR ($170)

 

“W.L. Weller 12-year-old is the Pappy that bourbon enthusiasts are looking for. With its rich plum and caramel notes, this wheated bourbon is the most bang for your buck since dynamite.”—Max Green, senior bartender at New York City's Amor y Amargo

 

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Wish the hipsters would back off Weller 12. Darn near hyped into non existence. Belle Meade is solid and a staple in my cabinet. Agree with the Barrel bottlings, always pretty good if not overpriced. 

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4 minutes ago, Duxnutz said:

Wish the hipsters would back off Weller 12. Darn near hyped into non existence. Belle Meade is solid and a staple in my cabinet. Agree with the Barrel bottlings, always pretty good if not overpriced. 

i do hear so many good things about the weller 12 and the antique. 

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Just now, Ken Gargett said:

i do hear so many good things about the weller 12 and the antique. 

Back a few years ago I did the famed 60:40 marriage of Antique and Weller 12 as my house bourbon I offered guests. Truly great. I actually prefer the Antique 107 and am drinking it as I type this. Weller is sent to japan, amazed it’s not imported into Oz directly.

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1 minute ago, Duxnutz said:

Back a few years ago I did the famed 60:40 marriage of Antique and Weller 12 as my house bourbon I offered guests. Truly great. I actually prefer the Antique 107 and am drinking it as I type this. Weller is sent to japan, amazed it’s not imported into Oz directly.

weller is imported but the best deal is $260. a bottle. not an every day drink!

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The stagg, Elmer t Lee, and Weller 12 are not priced even close to actual price, but they are all very good and impossible to find.

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Just picked this up at retail for $35. The stuff never hits the shelf, helps to be friendly with sales guys
6BE13943-571E-4353-9959-DFD3F8A4CC76.thumb.jpeg.6bf2c184f3faaf75644067065b8cf7a7.jpeg
I hate you lol. I've never seen it, and when I ask for it, I get laughed at.

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Now I have to find some Weller....
Thanks Ken.
You won't find any, and if you do, it will 5x more expensive (or more) than the shelf price. Good luck though! I've been looking for 2 years and refuse to pay over $100 for a $35 bottle.

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I'm in Florida, so I wont likely see it anytime soon.

When I was in Texas in the late 90's it was everywhere.

Does anyone know of a trusted online vendor?

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Elmer T Lee is a personal favorite of mine, but just like Weller 12, its become scarce and never hits the shelves.  It used to be the best bourbon you could get for under $35, and was always available, and consistently superb.  Now its released a couple times per year, and when it hits stores (unannounced), the bourbon hipsters and ETL fans buy it by the case, leaving me none.

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Most popular bourbons never make it to Pennsylvania thanks to our state-run liquor stores. If they can’t buy in bulk, we likely never see it. So forget Blanton’s, Stagg, Elmer T. Lee. 

 

Is Widow Jane or Booker’s worth trying for $75ish or are they not worth that much? 

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$170 for the W12???? It’s good but not that good...

 

Outside of the IW Harper I’d agree with most of these being great bourbons. The Harper was well overpriced to me for a watered down and not very complex 15 yo whiskey. 

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4 hours ago, Cayman17 said:

Most popular bourbons never make it to Pennsylvania thanks to our state-run liquor stores. If they can’t buy in bulk, we likely never see it. So forget Blanton’s, Stagg, Elmer T. Lee. 

 

Is Widow Jane or Booker’s worth trying for $75ish or are they not worth that much? 

Bookers is very high proof, but well worth trying. They had a price increase last yr to compete with similar products like Stagg Jr and EC barrel proof. Ive had a hard time wanting to spend $75+ on it but delicious. 

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6 hours ago, Cayman17 said:

Is Widow Jane or Booker’s worth trying for $75ish or are they not worth that much? 

I can't speak to Widow Jane, but Booker's is my favorite bourbon and well worth $75 for the standard bottling, IMO.

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7 hours ago, tksamtec said:

Elmer T Lee is a personal favorite of mine, but just like Weller 12, its become scarce and never hits the shelves.  It used to be the best bourbon you could get for under $35, and was always available, and consistently superb.  Now its released a couple times per year, and when it hits stores (unannounced), the bourbon hipsters and ETL fans buy it by the case, leaving me none.

the elmer T Lee is $95 here - going by our major retailer which does do good pricing usually - so a bit over a third of the price of a weller. 

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Prices just 5 years ago or so:

George T. Stagg - $89 (technically still is, but stores that sell at MSRP are rare)

Weller 12 - $24

Old Weller Antique 107 - $16

Elmer T. Lee - $33

Blanton's - $40

Nowadays, the true high roller bourbons are old Stitzel Weller, National Distillers, and Kentucky Bourbon Distillers releases.  There were barrels of Willett Family Estate released 7-10 years ago that sat on the shelf at $80 that now fetch $2500.

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GTS at $800/bottle 😳😳! I’ve got a few I’d love to unload at that price lol. 

Noah’s Mill is the dark horse on that list. One of my fav’s and a bargain consider the pricing. 

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GTS at $800/bottle ! I’ve got a few I’d love to unload at that price lol. 
Noah’s Mill is the dark horse on that list. One of my fav’s and a bargain consider the pricing. 
Right? I sold 2 recently and tripled my money. Still a fraction of $800. Whoever paid that price should take the seller to court for robbery!

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7 minutes ago, prodigy said:

Right? I sold 2 recently and tripled my money. Still a fraction of $800. Whoever paid that price should take the seller to court for robbery!

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The early releases cost that much now on secondary. Some recent ones like 2014 are about $600.

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13 minutes ago, Cigarsandmalts said:

GTS at $800/bottle 😳😳! I’ve got a few I’d love to unload at that price lol. 

Noah’s Mill is the dark horse on that list. One of my fav’s and a bargain consider the pricing. 

quoted at $460 a bottle here. not often cheaper out here. 

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Surprised this isnt on the list. Whiskey Advocate’s #1 whiskey of 2017. Wife bought the last one on  shelf without knowing what it was. Had to go back and order a second bottle. So smooth for how strong it is

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Happy to see the Jefferson's Ocean get some respect.  I thought it would be a gimmick, but there's a lot of maritime notes I only get with Islays and other island scotches.  I hope it comes back here soon as it's one I keep reaching for.  I still need to grab a bottle of Bookers to round out my collection.

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