15 Most Expensive Bourbons In The World Ranked

Bourbon is so closely linked to Kentucky that it's easy to assume it can only be called a bourbon when it comes from there. The bourbon purists amongst us might vehemently argue this, and it wouldn't be too far a cry from the truth. Because although a qualifying criteria is that bourbons are only deemed so if they are produced in the U.S., 95% of the world's bourbon supply is still manufactured in Kentucky (via World Whisky Day). There are several other factors that distinguish bourbon from other whiskeys, the three major ones being the recipe of the grains used to produce it (otherwise known as the mashbill) needs to consist of at least 51% corn, it can only be aged in new charred oak barrels, and the mash can't exceed 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume) prior to aging. 

Otherwise known as American Whiskey, bourbon dates as far back as the late 1700s to European settlers who farmed in the American South. By the mid 1800s, it became increasingly popular as it was cheaper than imported liquor and reasonably easy to distill with so much corn available (via The Manual). Today, the demand for bourbon remains high across the world. This has made bourbon expensive, and exceptionally so for vintage and limited editions. Keep reading to see how some of the most expensive bourbons in the world right now are ranked, regardless of their price tags.

15. Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Family Reserve 16 Year Old

The lowest ranking bourbon here has just simply run out. The Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Family Reserve 16 Year Old is a real unicorn. It was originally bottled from the family's personal reserve in 1990 by Julian Van Winkle III, after he had taken over the family business from his father Julian Jr. in 1981. He continued to release limited numbers of the prized 90-proof bourbon until it was depleted during the 2000s (via The Bourbon Concierge). 

Before Stitzel-Weller Distillery was acquired by Buffalo Trace, it was Julian Sr. "Pappy" Van Winkle — popularly known as Pappy Van Winkle — who founded the distillery and created the first line of Van Winkle whiskies in 1931 at the age of 61. Over the years following, the brand contended with periodic declines in bourbon consumption and family disputes about the business after his passing in 1965. When Stitzel-Weller was eventually sold along with all the rights to its various brands, Pappy's son, Julian Jr. preserved only the Old Rip Van Winkle name. For those who do somehow manage to hunt down a bottle of this Family Reserve (on the secondary market), you can currently expect to pay a very sturdy $19,463, and that's just the average, so you could very well pay several thousands more.

14. Double Eagle Very Rare

Bottled in a lush pure crystal decanter and held in a gorgeous silver box with patterned eagle feathers, the Double Eagle Very Rare is a limited release that first arrived on the market in 2019. Since then, a limited number of between 200 to 400 bottles have been released, each with its own numbered letter of authenticity. At 20 years old, it matured for double the length of the Eagle Rare Bourbon, and has a 101 proof, which is similar to that of the Eagle Rare Bourbon when it was released for the first time 1975. 

Like several other bourbons on this list, Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon is also distilled and bottled at Buffalo Trace Distillery. It's currently priced at an average of $16,267. While it comes in beautiful packaging and is indeed, as its name suggests, very rare, it's unfortunately "made for collectors and bragging rights, regardless of how the whiskey in the bottle may actually taste" (via Whisky Advocate).

13. Willett Family Estate Bottled Single-Barrel 21 Year Old

With a stiff average price tag of $14,001, the Bottled Single-Barrel 21 Year Old, part of the Willett Family Estate line, is a coveted collectible that's released quite sporadically. Interestingly, the Willet Family Estate Bottled Bourbon label was specifically created for the family's Private Barrel Selection program, which offers "an unfiltered, barrel proof, straight Bourbon Whiskey of unusual depth and complexity." 

If you're able to locate a bottle during the next unexpected bottling and release, or you manage to land one on the secondary market, note that each release tends to be around 100 bottles (sometimes less). One bottle currently being sold by Flask Fine Wine & Whiskey for $25,000 was originally released by California retailer K&L and is alleged to contain bourbon from the last Stitzel-Weller barrel. A Reddit user, reviewing the "Eagle" version of the 21 Year Old (it was allocated to Chicago bar Longman and Eagle), wrote "Interesting stuff. Tastes like a bygone era. Really hard to describe and even harder to rate." 

12. Buffalo Trace O.F.C. 1994

The Buffalo Trace O.F.C. Bourbon is a collector's bottle whose release comes as a nod to its distillers. The O.F.C. Distillery is a National Historic Landmark now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery. First launched in 2016, the 25-year-old 1994 edition is the fourth release in the OFC Bourbon vintage line. Others — the 1980, 1982 and 1983 — have never been placed on the retail market as they were exclusively released to non-profit organizations who raised nearly $1.2 million for various causes. Some of these causes included children's rights, cancer services, and creative arts foundations, amongst many others. 

At the time of release, the vintage Buffalo Trace O.F.C. Bourbon retailed at $2,500. Currently, you can expect to fork out an average of $7,222 for a bottle. With tasting notes that center scents of cherries, cinnamon and oak on the palate and a herby coffee finish, this bourbon comes in a crystal bottle with hand applied labels and copper lettering. It's encased within a wooden display box, and contains a provenance card that outlines the year's notable milestones (via Bourbon Lens). This is a well-packaged do-gooder bourbon whose contributions to major causes are priceless, but the quality of the drink seems to be more suited to just "a chill evening" (via It's Bourbon Night).  

11. A.H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon 16-Year Old

Originally commissioned by Adolph Hirsch and distilled at Michter's Distillery in 1974, the A.H Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon seems to garner much of its popularity from the collaborative process of its creation. In a conversation with Jake Emen of The Whiskey Wash, Chuck Cowdery says: "It was a serendipity in the sense that a lot of people that didn't necessarily have anything to do with each other came together and created it ... It was just some bourbon that they made, but the fact that the guy that they made it for didn't really have anything to do with it was why it sat for so long." 

Well-known as it is among bourbon lovers, it's no wonder that this 16 year old reserve is now a rare collectible with a current average price tag of $7,524. If you manage to locate a bottle, you can expect hints of caramel, vanilla, oak and toffee to the nose, a complex balance of sweet richness on the palate, and a peppery dry finish. According to Smoky Beast, "Rarely in life has anything so completely lived up to this ridiculous a level of anticipation."

10. Black Maple Hill 16 Year Old Premium Small Batch Bourbon

Of all the bourbons listed here, this is probably the most curious. It's not entirely clear where it really comes from but according to The Whiskey Wash, Black Maple Hill was initially launched in 2000 by CVI Brands. With their headquarters based in California, rather than function as a distiller, CVI Brands imports and bottles a range of spirits including cognac, rum, and grappa. Black Maple Hill's first releases were supposedly sourced from Stizel-Weller Distillery, where they were bottled by Julian Van Winkle III, and later by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, with whiskey that was supposedly sourced from Heaven Hill.

A bottle of Black Maple Hill 16 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon cost $125 when it was released in 2010, per L.A. Whisk(e)y Society. Currently, it's a collectors item priced at an average of $8,483 on the secondary market. An L.A. Whisk(e)y Society reviewer asserts that the flavor is "[n]ot too sweet, not too dry, just right" and overall its a "very well rounded and balanced bourbon."

9. John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve

Mentions of highly coveted wheated bourbons are usually connected to Pappy Van Winkle, however John E. Fitzgerald can be referenced along this similar line. Made using the Stitzel-Weller Distillery's 12 original barrels of wheat bourbon, the John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve is a collectors item that celebrates its history. According to The Whiskey Wash, when Stitzel-Weller Distillery closed its doors, Heaven Hill Distillery acquired the Old Fitzgerald line of bourbons, and went on to transfer and age the 12 barrels for 20 years at the distillery's Warehouse Y. After a carefully tended maturation process, aging was stopped in 2013 until the bourbon was ready to be bottled. 

Today, this rare release goes for an average of $5,789. The 90-proof bourbon comes wrapped in an attractive handmade box with die cut keyholes and magnetized hinged doors. Inside, the cut glass crystal 375-milliliter bottle has the bourbon's label information engraved onto the glass, with a key graphic made of gold and platinum. The key is a pointed nod to the Larceny logo and to Fitzgerald, who served as the treasury agent to the warehouse. Per Wine Enthusiast, this bourbon boasts "a very dark, ruddy hue and complex, sweet aroma that suggests dried figs and vanilla bean" and is "drying on the palate, with caramel chased by dusty cocoa and clove, finishing long and spiced, with hints of red fruit and figs."

8. E.H. Taylor, Jr. Old Fashioned Sour Mash

A recipient of the 2019 Silver Medal at the New York World Spirit Competition as well as the 2019 Whiskies of the World Silver Outstanding Medal, the E.H. Taylor, Jr. Old Fashioned Sour Mash is an honorary tribute to an old souring method. Per Connosr, during the late 19th century, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. became known for making sour mash bourbon by holding cooked mash in a "drop tub" for about three to five days. This allowed the pH in the mash to naturally decrease, hence preparing it for fermentation and distillation. Interestingly, Taylor not only spearheaded this souring method, his legacy also lies in his fight for the 1987 Bottled-in-Bond Act which continues to assure bourbons' authenticity to this day (via Sipping History). 

In 2002, Buffalo Trace Distillery used this technique to create a bourbon that is, according to Drinkhacker, "a ruddy orange color, rich with the nose of a traditional, old-school bourbon," whose "sweet and woody aromas give way to a whiskey with moderate body and a rich complexity." It was released in 2011 as a limited edition, one so rare that when it does show up on the market, you'll have to part with a hefty $25,961 (the current average price of a bottle) before your palate gets to relish a drop. It's a classic bourbon that's executed well, but with that price tag, you're likely paying more for the historic significance.

7. E.H. Taylor, Jr. Warehouse C Tornado Surviving

As it turns out, the E.H. Taylor, Jr. Warehouse C Tornado Surviving is not just a strange name, rather, it's one that celebrates the stunning story of how one of the most expensive bourbons in the world came to be. According to Buffalo Trace Distillery, when a tornado ripped through Central Kentucky in April, 2006, it left two distillery warehouses damaged in its wake. One of those was the roof and northern brick wall of Warehouse C, which had been built in 1885 by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. 

The damage left several barrels exposed to the open climate while the warehouse was being fixed. Years later, when the distillers tasted these surviving barrels, they found that the bourbon's exposure to the hot climate had created rich, unique flavors. They went on to bottle this special bourbon and released it in 2011. Today, a bottle of the Warehouse C Surviving Tornado is priced at an average of $12,243 on the secondary market. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Warehouse C has now also become a popular landmark of the distillery, and houses more than 24,000 barrels. Apart from its legendary origin story though, this bourbon seems to impress. According to Whiskey Raiders, "Tornado Surviving is a great pour, and a damn good bourbon. Novelty aside, the quality is there and this drinks really nicely." It fares better than other Taylor releases and if it was alone in its league (and price point), it could be exceptional, but it pales in the shadow of other bourbons on this list.

6. Parker's Heritage Collection 2nd Edition Small Batch Bourbon 27-Year Old

Since 2007, Heaven Hill Distillery selects a specialty bourbon every fall to be released as part of the their limited-edition Parker's Heritage Collection. Marked as an annual tribute to Master Distiller Parker Beam who passed away in 2017 at the age of 75, each release is coveted by collectors, some more than others.  

Priced at an average of $4,788 on the secondary market, the Parker Heritage Collection 2nd Edition Small Batch Bourbon is the collection's most aged whiskey at 27 years old, and can hardly be found on auction. It's a 96 proof, deep amber bourbon whose notes include the sweetness of mangoes and peaches, complemented by exotic spices, chalky corn, and tobacco. With 15 editions to date and superior ratings from Whisky Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, this bottle is a particularly difficult one to get your hands on though well worth its comparatively modest price tag.

5. Michter's Celebration Sour Mash 2019

The 2019 edition of Michter's Celebration Sour Mash is a 115.6 proof bourbon that is bottled by hand and labeled with 18-carat gold lettering. Dan McKee collaborated with the distillery's Master of Maturation, Andrea Wilson, to make this his first release as Master Distiller. Together, they made their selections from six barrels to create this limited release blend. Of the barrels selected, two were Kentucky straight bourbons, and four Kentucky straight rye whiskies, each of them aged between 10 and 30 years.  

According to The Bourbon Review, 277 bottles of the Celebration Sour Mash made it to the market with a retail price of $5,000. Today, the average price you can expect to pay for this collectible is $16,511. On the other side of that price tag, your palate can savor notes of honeycomb, chocolate truffles and spices, with a smooth finish of cherries and caramel. Per The Whiskey Wash, you'll be hard-pressed to find this flavor and scent profile in other bourbons.

4. Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23 Year

As we previously noted, when Stitzel-Weller was eventually sold along with all the rights to its various brands, Pappy Van Winkle's son, Julian Jr. preserved only the Old Rip Van Winkle name. This means the older bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve are more and more difficult to come by. The 23 Year Old is no exception. 

As the oldest of the Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserves, and unlike the floral and fruity notes of its 15- and 20 year old predecessors, the 96 proof 23 year old is a "woody powerhouse" with a potent dry finish, per Smoky Beast. Given the evolution of this brand's partnerships, who makes the whiskey inside any one bottle of Pappy Van Winkle remains a hotly contested question among bourbon enthusiasts to this day. The current $7,018 average price tag on the other hand, is not as contested. Perhaps because this is, as Smoky Beast aptly puts it, " a victory drink if you won a Nobel Prize or just made your first million."

3. The Last Drop 1980 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey

Before Buffalo Trace Distillery acquired its new name in 1999, it was the George T. Stagg Distillery. This is where The Last Drop Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey was originally distilled by Gary Gayheart who left it to age in a nook around the warehouse in 1980. When the distillery was acquired in 1992, those barrels were left behind and the bourbon continued to mature uninterrupted. It was eventually discovered by Gayheart's apprentice, Harlan Wheatley, who halted the aging process in 2000. When it was later released, only 240 bottles of the Last Drop Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon were made available across the globe, making this another exceptionally rare find. 

Priced at a brawny $21,154 on average, this is a 20 Year Old, 90 proof bourbon that is "almost perfume-like and carries all the hallmarks of a 'dusty' bourbon. It has butterscotch funk, minty oak, dark chocolate, dried red and dark fruit, and a little barrel spice to boot" (via Bourbon Paddy). With tasting notes that read like a song, those lucky enough to locate one of these are bound to sing this bourbon's praises. There's history here, but per Breaking Bourbon, it's also an "unequivocally, insanely good" bourbon that captivates like a classic whiskey, while layered with distinct bourbon features.

2. Michter's 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Michter's Distillery's second appearance on this list arrives on the wings of the highly coveted 25 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Originally founded by John Shenk in 1753, Michter's Distillery was closed in 1919, passed through many hands that acquired it, and was eventually resurrected in 1990 by Joseph J. Magliocco who partnered with his mentor Richard "Dick" Newman. According to Whiskey Culture, this ultra limited bourbon boasts "[b]old vanilla, mild orange citrus, and hints of wood" on the nose, heavy oak on the palette and a "long and spicy finish."

This particular bourbon was released for the first time in 2008, and Michter's has since only bottled it intermittently. Currently, a bottle of Michter's 25 Year will set you back about $12,865 on the secondary market, otherwise, you'd have to hope that the distiller releases more in the near future. Should the opportunity ever arise, this is a "whiskey lover's dream dram" whose tasting you should never miss even if you haven't the bank to purchase a bottle, because ultimately "it's hard to imagine a bourbon more complex, more interesting or more satisfying" (via The Whiskey Wash).

1. Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old

Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old is the most expensive bourbon in the world as of 2021, per Wine-Searcher. The average price for a bottle has gone up since then — it's currently an astronomical $53,165. According to Whisky Advocate, this bourbon was distilled in 1989 at Stitzel-Weller Distillery, moved to Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2002, and then later moved from barrels to stainless steel tanks in 2014. The latter of these moves was to ensure it didn't over-age. 

When it was released in 2017, a handcrafted glass decanter of Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old carried a recommended retail price of $1,800. Each of these decanters is made by Glencairn Crystal Studio and comes with a certificate of authenticity that is signed by Julian Van Winkle III. The decanter is then encased in a wooden box with a lid made of staves from the eleven oak barrels in which the bourbon was originally held. With only 710 placed on the market this bourbon has become an extremely rare and coveted find. It's described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is, according to The Bourbon Banter, "worth a whiff for free" if you ever find a bar that has a bottle and you can't afford the price of a single pour. If this doesn't say it all, who knows what else could?