Iconic bourbon brands use special releases to avoid drinking doldrums

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 124.7, photo provided by Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 124.7, photo provided by Woodford Reserve /

Iconic bourbon brands fill the bar shelf. Whether drunk neat or shaken into a cocktail, the classic American spirit is often poured into the glass. While some drinkers might never stray from Woodford Reserve or will always ask for a bottle of Old Forester, the brands’ master distillers sometimes push the boundaries of the craft. These special releases are more than just coveted bottles for that celebratory moment. It is an opportunity to reexamine while that luscious liquor enticed the first sip. Often it brings drinkers back for more.

Some bourbon drinkers covet those limited edition, rare bottles. While the price tag for some offerings might exceed cost for the normal drinker, the reality is that these special releases are valuable to the iconic bourbon brands. Even if the masses might not get to enjoy that special pour, it invites a conversation about a particular distiller, its methodology, and the nuance that bourbon offers.

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 124.7
Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 124.7, photo provided by Woodford Reserve /

For example, Woodford Reserve has a Master’s Collection series and it recently released its Batch Proof 124.7. Although many people associate this particular bourbon with the Kentucky Derby and the classic mint julep, these particular releases allow the brand to explore intricacies within the liquor.

By blending particular batches there is a celebration of the similarities in aroma, citrus notes, and even wood influences. More importantly, the bourbon’s flavor does not assimilate nor lose each unique character. It is a way to really contemplate the distiller’s art form.

In a different way, Old Forester balances the tradition with innovation. While its annual Birthday Bourbon is a highly coveted bottle, last year’s release of the King Ranch collaboration highlighted innovation. The use of the King Ranch mesquite word to offer that smoke influence opened a different conversation beyond wood charring.

Bib & Tucker Double Char Bourbon
Bib & Tucker Double Char Bourbon, photo provided by Big & Tucker /

A more recent example of the smoked influence can be seen in the Bib & Tucker Double Char Bourbon. Filtered through sugar maple charcoal, this offering could be highly sought after by the aspiring pitmaster. Just like the low and slow cooking method imparts flavor to meat, this twice aged bourbon has had the time embrace the savory, smoky qualities. Hopefully, drinkers allow plenty of time to linger as they experience this sipping enjoyment.

Even the Michelin Guide has embraced the elevated appeal of bourbon with its Basil Hayden Bourbon partnership. As the official whiskey of the MICHELIN Guide US, the brand is showcasing how bourbon and elevated food pairings can go hand in hand. Even though this type of food and beverage pairing might need to be sipped cautiously, it brings another conversation to the table. A special release in conjunction with a food trend, food company, or other suggestion could open the door a new group of drinkers.

In the end, the iconic bourbon brands will always be front and center on the shelf and poured in the glass. But, opening a special release could reinvigorate that love affair with America’s spirit all over again.