The 17 Most Expensive Bourbons You Need To Try Before You Die

Bourbon collectors are now willing to pay over $10,000 for the good stuff. On the surface, it's not hard to see how the market end up this way. Ever since 1964, when Congress declared bourbon "a distinctive product of the United States," the drink can only legally be produced here (via Slate). Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak barrels, and bottled with an ABV of at least 40%. This all gives bourbon a sweeter and more full-bodied taste than other kinds of whiskey, according to Liquorama. But all this is only part of why collectable bourbon gets crazy expensive.

Another reason for the higher threshold is because it costs around $1,000 to produce a single barrel of bourbon, per Daily Beast. Factor in aging and rarity, and bourbon bottles get progressively more expensive from there. When limited bourbons get released by well-known brands, prices are often set in the triple digits — but that's before collectors and investors get their hands on them. On the secondary market, that bottle originally sold for $300 could fetch several times that. As that bottle gets resold, the price continues to rise, explains Alcohol Professor. The more time that passes, the more that costs have the potential to grow even more. In case you're interested in joining the world of these outrageously-priced bottles, here are the most expensive bourbons you need to try before you die.

Old Rip Van Winkle, 25 Year

While any bottle that bears the Van Winkle name is going to fetch a pretty penny, this release is particularly coveted. While Old Rip Van 25 Year Old originally retailed for $1,800 when it was released (with a fancy wooden box and decanter) in 2017, it now fetches as much as $70,000 (via Cask Cartel).

Old Rip Van Winkle's most expensive bourbon is that way for a few reasons. For one, the bourbon was aged for 25 years, which is a long time in the bourbon world. The spirit was distilled in 1989 and aged until 2014. Production was extremely limited with only 710 bottles produced (via Men's Journal). Considering the combination of age, rarity, name recognition, and quality, it's no wonder these bottles fetch an astronomical sum.

According to Bourbon Banter, the flavor is oak-forward, with notes of sweetness to balance it out. The reviewer adds, "I recommend trying this on the occasion of your very wealthy uncle's death after the reading of the will." The Bourbon Concierge's review agreed this drink is "very nice," writing, "Predominant oak stands out but not overpowering as you would expect in a 25-year old bourbon." If you don't have several thousands of dollars to spend on a bottle of whiskey, find a restaurant or bar that serves it and ask for a pour. Be warned — you may still be spending hundreds of dollars, since rarity doesn't come cheap.  

Black Maple Hill, 21 Year

There are a few things that make Black Maple Hill 21 Year Old iconic. According to The Whiskey Wash, these bourbons have been released since 2000. While the current bottles are sourced from Oregon (that's been the case since 2014), producer CVI Brands used Kentucky bourbon for its earlier releases. While the exact source remains a mystery, the speculation is that the bourbon is of Stizel-Weller in origin and may have even been bottle by Julian Van Winkle III. When you combine the supposed Van Winkle pedigree, scarcity, and a 21-year age statement, it's no wonder a bottle is currently listed for over $15,000

Aside from the mythology, the flavors alone of Black Maple Hill 21 Year Old should convince you to make sampling this pricey bourbon a priority. The Whiskey Jug described "a palate that's a tornado of dark rich fruits, woods and sweets dancing with a summer breeze of lighter brighter notes and a finish that's like the tail end of a good conversation," adding "I loved every second of it." Wine Enthusiast called the bourbon "superb," explaining that the tastes of "maple sugar and roasted grain converge to make a sensational taste experience."

Double Eagle Very Rare

Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, Buffalo Trace is the "oldest continuously operating distillery in America" and is home to legendary bourbon brands such as E.H. Taylor, Jr., Van Winkle, W.L. Weller, as well as Eagle Rare. 

This bourbon is called Double Eagle Very Rare due to the fact the younger version, Eagle Rare, is aged for half as long: 10 years. Buffalo Trace wasn't lying about rarity, either. For the 2021 drop (the third edition of the release) only 199 bottles were produced, with a retail price of $2,000 (via Distillery Trail). While that may invoke sticker shock, bottles currently go for over $20,000. Double Eagle Very Rare comes in a crystal decanter with a letter of authenticity and a box. There's also a glass eagle on top of each bottle. This brand is clearly embracing bourbon's patriotic reputation as "America's Native Spirit" (via Slate).

As for the taste, The Bourbon Finder describes the 2021 release as containing tasting notes of "a nose of dark cherries and creamy caramel, on the palate, dark chocolate, smoked oak and dates, followed by a long, complex finish of cinnamon, anise and oak." 

Last Drop 1980

Last Drop 1980 is another bourbon produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. It is also a product of Sazerac (which in fact owns Buffalo Trace), as well as British spirits company The Last Drop Distillers (via Robb Report). A bottle currently has an average price of nearly $17,000. Per Robb Report, the Last Drop was distilled in 1980 and aged until 2000. The makers of this product believe this bourbon continued achieving complexity in flavor after leaving the aging process — as other bourbon experts sometimes believe as well. After leaving the oak barrels of the aging period, bourbon is typically transferred to stainless steel tanks. These metal tanks are meant to stop bourbon from continuing to develop, but aren't believed to be able to stop time completely. That means the Last Drop 1980 had two additional decades to mature in flavor before hitting the shelves. The bourbon wasn't bottled and sold until November 2020. That's nearly 40 years after the initial drink was distilled.

According to Breaking Bourbon, even before the price was inflated, the 240 bottles of Last Drop 1980 were each priced at $4,600. Trying to get a taste — even now — may be worth the effort, because bourbon fanatics love it. Bourbon Paddy called it "a virtual symphony on your palate. This vintage bourbon is unforgettable." 

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., Tornado Surviving

This bourbon is expensive due to extremely unique production circumstances. In 2006, a tornado struck Warehouse C of Buffalo Trace Distillery, where 24,000 bottles of this bourbon were aging. The warehouse — which had stood there since 1881 — was destroyed. But none of the bourbon barrels were damaged. As the building was reconstructed around the bourbon throughout the following months, the barrels were exposed to the extreme Kentucky heat. According to The Bourbon Concierge, this caused a larger portion of the bourbon to evaporate. This evaporation amount — a.k.a. the "angel's share," per Distillery Trail — was abnormally large, due to the summer heat. This heat ultimately impacted the flavor complexities of the resulting bourbon, in what was viewed as a positive way. Drink Hacker called it one of the best bourbons from this historic company.

Released in 2011, a bottle currently averages over $12,000. Each bottle of liquor is 100 proof, meaning it has an ABV of 50%. This is not out of the ordinary — bourbons are usually between 80 and 100 proof, reports Lux Row Distillers. What is slightly unusual, however, is that this bourbon didn't follow the normal aging process. According to Caskers, the bourbon in these bottles was aged between nine and 12 years, but due to the heat, the maturation process was sped up. That's just a secondary element to what makes this bourbon (that survived a natural disaster) so unique, expensive, and something you should definitely attempt to try before you die. 

W. L. Weller, 19 Year

A bottle of this bourbon can go for nearly $10,000. The cost comes mostly from the aging period. Rarity is also a factor. W.L. Weller only released this bourbon in the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, as part of the company's Antique Collection. As a result, it's very hard to find. Frootbat called this spirit "one of the most sought-after bourbons in the world — an investment-grade whiskey that will only accumulate value as the years go by."

The company name is also a factor. W.L. Weller is one of the oldest names in bourbon. According to Thirty-One Whiskey, the brand helped to found the famous Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1935, along with "Pappy" of the Old Van Winkle bourbon company. Together, both companies revolutionized the bourbon-making process. Instead of adding rye, they added wheat. Instead of using commercial-grade yeast, they used a locally-grown one. Instead of bottling whiskey at the highest possible proof, they bottled it at a lower ABV to improve the flavor. Weller's place at the start of whiskey making in the 1930s (post-Prohibition) gives it — and their W. L. Weller 19 Year bourbon — a great respect. That respect encourages some people to reach for this bourbon before they kick the bucket. 

As for the taste of the W.L. Weller 19 Year, a Redditor raves, "This is an elegant and incredible whiskey. A classic representation of bourbon that was from long ago, a period where whiskey wasn't produced to satisfy demand."

Booker's 25th Anniversary

The Kentucky bourbon brand Booker's was founded in 1988 (via Connosr), and the distillery's slightly belated 25th Anniversary bourbon (released in 2014) was limited to 1000 cases and each bottle is a hefty 130.8 proof (via Breaking Bourbon). While it had an initial MSRP of $100, today, 25th Anniversary runs an average of over $2,600. In addition to rarity, the aging of this bourbon explains the increased price. According to The Bourbon Concierge, the bourbon was aged between nine and 11 years. By Booker's word, that's the oldest bourbon ever bottled for the brand. 

Additionally, the bourbon that comprises the 25th Anniversary has a special connection to Booker's famous founder. It comes from some of the last barrels that the celebrated distiller Booker Noe helped to create before his passing (via The Whiskey Jug). Noe was a significant figure in the bourbon world who is sure to create excitement around barrels he looked over. As the grandson of Jim Beam, Booker was a sixth generation Master Distiller (via The Whiskey Wash).

The taste isn't bad, either. A reviewer for Connosr notes the 25th Anniversary is "complex" yet "powerful," adding, "This incredible (and incredibly rare) bourbon will be very hard to find now, but if you do — grab it." We hope you took his advice.  

O.F.C. 1980

A bottle of Old Fashioned Copper (O.F.C.) 1980 currently sells for an average of over $31,000. Barreled in 1980 and released in 2016, it is the oldest bourbon from the O.F.C. vintage collection. Per Thirsty South, the year 1980 can be misleading. Although bottles were distilled over 30 years ago, they were not aged for three decades (bottles don't have an official age statement).

To maker matters worse, only 100 bottles were released, per parent company Sazerac. Other O.F.C. Vintages, like the 1994 and 1995, were initially priced at around $2,500 (via Bourbon Lens). This particular bottle, however, was never sold through retail. As The Whiskey Wash explains, every bottle of O.F.C. 1980, along with two other vintages from the label, were donated to charities in 2016 to help them with funding. The charities were able to raise nearly $1.2 million for causes like autism, veterans, animal rights, the arts, cancer, and more. 

According to Frootbat, tasting notes include "cherry and butterscotch with subtle, nuanced allusions to brown sugar and oak." But overall, this bourbon is so expensive that it is first and foremost a collector's item, or perhaps, an investment piece. Some would argue that's all the more reason to try to get your hands on it. 

A.H. Hirsch Finest Reserve, 16 Year

A.H. Hirsch's Finest Reserve, 16 Year was distilled in 1974 and has an ABV of 45.6%. This birth date means it was distilled before many other bourbons on this list. However, it wasn't aged the longest. You can find bottles of A.H. Hirsch's 16 Year for up to $20,000.

While each bottle is a straight bourbon whiskey, this drink doesn't qualify as a Kentucky bourbon. That is because the Finest Reserve was distilled and aged at the Pennco Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, according to Flask Fine Wines. This distillery would eventually be known as Bomberger's, and then serve as the home of Michter's, before closing in 1988. The bourbon brand itself was eventually bought by Gordon Hue of the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon company, per The Whiskey Wash. That's how the bourbon came to be bottled in Kentucky. 

This backstory is what draws bourbon fanatics to splurge. Caskers agrees, writing of the 16 Year that its "considered by many to be one of the best [bourbons] in existence. This unique whiskey has a complex history, a legendary origin of near mythic status." The Whiskey Wash writes it is an "'A' grade bourbon," but not worth buying based on flavor alone. They add, "story and background add to the pleasure of trying a rare dram such as this, turning the process not merely into a tasting, but an entire experience."

Four Roses Small Batch, 50th Anniversary

Four Roses 50th Anniversary bourbon is not something you can get just anywhere. Initially released in 2017, this bourbon now sells for an average of $2,765. Its release was meant to coincide with 50 years since the hiring of Al Young, an employee of Four Roses who joined the company in 1967. Young passed away in 2019, but his career within the bourbon world remains legendary. Per Four Roses, Young was a member of both the Whiskey Magazine Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Distillers' Association Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. 

The Whiskey Wash summed up why this makes it a bourbon worth buying, writing, "Most whiskies are blended for optimal quality and flavor consistency. When blending is used to achieve something more heady, like to celebrate one of the most important figures in whiskey today, the creation of a unique expression of a much-loved bourbon stock is something that bourbon enthusiasts should certainly get excited about." According to the distillery, the 50th anniversary is comprised of four different Four Roses bourbons ranging in age from 12 to 23-years old. The ABV is 53.8%, and there were 10,000 bottles released.

Very Old Fitzgerald

Very Old Fitzgerald is a line of bourbons that definitely lives up to its name. Take the Very Old Fitzgerald 8 Year bourbon which was distilled in 1949. That vintage currently goes for around $6,000. It's no surprise that the time of distillation, more than the aging period, makes these bourbons so coveted. Not many bourbon makers can say their bottle was distilled in the 1940s. Additionally, the source of production adds to its pedigree. These bottles were distilled and bottled at the Stitzel-Weller distillery, the Kentucky bourbon landmark (via The Whiskey Auctioneer). Even more significant, these bottles of Very Old Fitzgerald were made during a period when Julian P. "Pappy" Van Winkle — that name should ring a bell — was still working there, (via Buffalo Trace Distillery). Both the age, and the association with Pappy, should encourage you to seek this bourbon. 

As the L.A. Whiskey Society notes, Very Old Fitzgerald is "one of the rare instances where something labeled 'A Collector's Item' actually did become a collector's item.'" That should be enough to convince you to try this historic bourbon. 

John E. Fitzgerald, Very Special Reserve

This impressive package averages for around $6,000. The bourbon used was collected from just 12 barrels and aged for 20 years. Each 375 milliliter bottle of this bourbon is 90 proof. The bourbon is produced by Heaven Hill, a company that acquired the Old Fitzgerald name in 1999, according to The Whiskey Jug. The bourbon itself was distilled in 1992 — meaning before Old Fitzgerald was acquired — at the Stitzel-Weller distillery. In 1999, Heaven Hill moved them to their own distillery: the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery (which today is one of the largest in the world). In 2013, the bourbon was transferred to stainless steel tanks (as is done to stop the aging process). 

Each bottle, which is housed in a fancy collectable box, was initially priced at $300 each, but good luck finding one that is that "affordable." The unique batch process, and connection to multiple legendary bourbon names, makes it worth trying. 

Michter's 20 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Michter's 20 Year bourbon is trying to earn its price tag. You will see bottles of this bourbon going for an average of nearly $8,000. The brand name of Michter's adds a little prestige, as well. Michter's is the oldest whiskey company in the United States. The original distillery opened in Pennsylvania in 1753 (the same one that began as Pennco, before becoming Bomberger's). Prohibition and other setbacks eventually led to the closure of that location. But around 200 years later, during the 1990s, Michter's was reborn, this time, in Kentucky. 

Barrels used for Michter's 20 Year bourbon were chosen by Master Distiller Dan McKee. The first batch of 20 Year bourbons was released in 2019, and more were released in 2021, reports Men's Journal. Bottles of the 2019 version, which are 114.2 proof, retailed for approximately $700, according to The Whiskey Wash. However, it's no surprise that bottles now go for significantly more, especially considering the rave reviews for the bourbon. The Whiskey Wash gave it five out of five stars, calling it "an absolutely fantastic bourbon from start to finish."

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester's Birthday Bourbon is a series of bourbons released annually on September 2 to honor the birthday of the distillery's founder George Garvin. According to the company website, the 21st edition was released in 2021, has a proof of 104, and came from 119 different barrels. That may seem like a lot of barrels for the price, but at least the bourbon in those barrels was aged for over a decade — 12 years to be exact.

Per Robb Report, this bourbon is "a unicorn bottle that commands fanatical devotion." People will travel to Old Forester's distillery in Louisville and wait in line to get this bottle. If they're lucky enough to buy it from Old Forester (which is owned by Brown-Forman), it will be around $130. But some bottles of this bourbon are being resold online for upwards of $6,000 depending on the vintage. 

Breaking Bourbon gave a positive review to the 2021 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, writing "This year's release is a crowd-pleasing bourbon that deserves to be experienced by more people than it will," adding that it's priced fairly compared to similar releases from Four Roses and Jim Beam. But the taste alone makes this bourbon worth pursuing.

Old Crow Chessman

Old Crow Chessman is rare bourbon know for its bottles. According to The Bourbon Concierge, bourbon maker National Distillers was behind it all. To help its product sell, the maker bottled its bourbon in ceramic shapes depicting different members of a chess set. They even sometimes sent certain buyers a mat (decorated to look like a chess board). Today, there's a few different shapes to come across, such as Dark Queen, Light King, Light Bishop, and  Light Pawn. Those shapes are available on The Bourbon Concierge for just over $2,000 each. It's really impressive in the vintage bourbon world to say you own the full chess set. Even more impressive if there's bourbon in each piece you own. 

ABV Network lays out a convincing argument for this collectable bourbon, writing the tasting notes have "every best part from every distillery." Also, they called Old Crow Chessman "an insanely rare bourbon that I knew I had to have in my collection if I ever got a chance." 

As for the stats, this bourbon has an ABV of 43% and a proof of 86. Each bottle contains bourbon aged around 10 years. The most coveted bourbons were produced during the 1960's and the 1970's. Per Malt, you may be able to get some chessman bourbons for around $500, each, but they warn that buying even a cheaper one comes with risks: Sometimes the unique, vintage bottles have deteriorated. 

Orphan Barrel Old Blowhard, 26 Year

Old Blowhard is a 90 proof bourbon that was aged for 26 years. It was bottled and released to the public in 2016. The name Orphan Barrel indicates that this bourbon is part of a series produced by spirits maker Diageo, in which the company uses "barrels of bourbon discovered from abandoned or forgotten rickhouses and distilleries," per The Bourbon Concierge, which called Old Blowhard the "rarest" of the Orphan Barrel series. 

In the case of Old Blowhard, those forgotten barrels were taken from the Stitzel-Weller distillery, according to Cask Cartel. The legendary Kentucky bourbon distillery famously closed during the 1990s. So the fact that Old Blowhard is made using some of the last bourbon barrels to ever be distilled at Stitzel-Weller is a big deal. That's why bottles now sell for over $1,000. The association with that distillery, along with an over-20-year aging period, is used to justify the inflated price. Initially, the asking price started around $150 (via Breaking Bourbon).

A reviewer on Distiller said of this bourbon, "Little bit of sweetness and the oak is not overpowering which is nice. Fun whiskey." Some think the taste alone is not just "fun," but exceptional. One person called it, "The best bourbon I've ever had in my life."

Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old Single Barrel

This single barrel Kentucky straight bourbon is another collectable spirit that any bourbon fan would be happy to sample. According to Breaking Bourbon, the 23 Year was first released in 2014, has a proof of 90, and initially had an asking price of $200. Now, you'll find bottles going for up to $2,000.

This bottle certainly inflated in price over time. That's because its part of an annual series of limited bourbons from Elijah Craig, which is run by the Heaven Hill distillery. Each year's release is aged one year longer than the last. The first bourbon was a 20 year released in 2012. There's even a 21 Year being sold for around $5,000. This unique look into the aging process attracts some bourbon drinkers, explains Bourbon Banter, because it allows them to compare how a bourbon's taste changes incrementally with time in the barrel.

Cask Cartel notes that the 23 Year has a nose of "[b]uttered popcorn, with light citrus notes," a palate of "[t]oasted honey, cocoa and warm, sweet pipe tobacco," and a finish that's "[l]ong, dry and satisfying with a sprig of mint." Thirsty South writes, "If you want to experience an older bourbon, this is a great place to start  — IF you can get your hands on a bottle." It's certainly a collectable single barrel series worth sipping.