Last year, whiskey overtook vodka as the number one selling spirit in America, so it’s no surprise that the most sought-after spirits of 2014 were whiskeys too.
These are bottles you might not easily find on the shelves of your local liquor stores, so many enthusiasts turned to Caskers, an online marketplace offering a variety of artisanal and rare liquors, to find these bottles.
Caskers, in turn, put together a list of the bottles customers hunted down the most using data from product page views, purchases and inquiries, and nearly 2 million search queries.
This is what they found: Pappy Van Winkle’s reserve bourbon tops the list — it has been the most sought-after whiskey for years — but each bottle is unique and awesome. Give it a read.
Distillery: Buffalo Trace (Kentucky)
This bourbon is in such high demand that some people apparently resorted to crime to get their hands on it. Seriously, in late 2013 the distillery had a break in and 73 cases were stolen. But that only made it more popular, and since the distillery limits production, bourbon enthusiasts are always on the lookout for it.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, Pappy Van Winkle has an aroma of caramel, soft cream and honeyed oak, with notes of vanilla, maple syrup, and roasted nuts on the palate. A long, woody finish is accented with citrus and spice.
Price: N/A. 'These bottles so often go on the secondary market that it's hard to get a true price,' says Caskers cofounder Steven Abt. He recommends the 1792 ($US29.99) as an alternative.
Distillery: Suntory (Japan)
This bottle isn't available in the U.S., despite being in seriously high demand here. And it just won Whisky of the Year in the 2015 Whisky Bible, which will only make it more desirable. So if you ever set eyes on this guy... just buy it.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Yamazaki has a sweet, thick, nutty aroma, with dark spices, plum, nuts, and a pinch of honey and fruit cake on the palate. The finish is 'long, light and full of fruit, with a hint of spice.'
Price: Around $US160. 'Hard to be exact since it's not available in the U.S.,' says Abt, who suggests the Yamazaki 12 ($US73.99) or Yamazaki 18 ($US209.99) as alternatives.
Distillery: New Midleton (Ireland)
The Green Spot was recently likened to the highly sought-after Pappy Van Winkle, dubbed the 'Pappy of Irish Whiskies.' Except getting hold of it is even harder because it was just released the U.S. in 2014 and there is limited distribution throughout the country.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, Green Spot has an aroma of butterscotch, caramel, honeyed oak, pine, and orange. It has notes of citrus, tart apples, plums and apricots on the palate, and the finish is smooth yet spicy, with a touch of cinnamon and ginger.
Distillery: High West Distillery (Utah)
Though the Son is less rare than its predecessor, the original Bourye from High West, it's still a quality bottle and made the Top 50 Spirits list in 2012. No surprise that connoisseurs are turning to Caskers to get their hands on it.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, this spirit's rye is present on the nose but is tempered by sweet and oaky notes. There is a long, sweet and spicy finish, 'making for a whiskey that can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and also mixes incredibly well.'
Distillery: Glenmorangie (Scotland)
All of Glenmorangie's bottles were in high demand last year, after their Ealanta was named Whisky of the Year in 2013. This one in particular has scored Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits competition three times as well as a whole slew of other awards. So, although it's not the rarest of Glenmorangie's liquors, it's certainly one of the best.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Glenmorangie has an aroma of mocha, milk chocolate and tiramisu. On the palate, it has notes of coffee, almonds, biscotti, ginger, cinnamon, and orange, and it finishes with 'waves' of creamy vanilla.
Distillery: Macallan (Scotland)
This Macallan was just released in the U.S. last year, hence the excitement around it. Only 355 bottles were imported. Also, it's aged for up to 73 years, which is pretty cool.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Macallan has a deep copper colour and an aroma of dried fruits, vanilla, green apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. On the palate are rich, viscous wood spices, complemented by undertones of leather, cedar and violets. The finish is 'gorgeous and lush, with a touch of fresh tobacco.'
Distillery: Blanton's Distilling Co. (Kentucky)
You've probably heard the rumours of a bourbon shortage coming, so it's not surprising that any good quality bourbon would be highly sought after last year. This one scores extra points for ranking three points higher than Pappy Van Winkle at the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and enthusiasts have been chasing after it ever since.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Blanton has a nose of apple and cinnamon, with hints of vanilla and caramel. The initial flavour is sweet, with notes of peaches, pears and dried apricots. Then, flavours fade to a touch of cinnamon and baking spices and finish with notes of maple syrup and molasses.
Distillery: Breckenridge (Colorado)
You don't have to go to Kentucky to get great quality bourbon. Breckenridge also scored higher than Pappy Van Winkle at the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge -- one point higher than Pappy's 23 year old, to be precise. Plus, bourbon in general is becoming more popular.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Breckenridge has notes of banana, brown sugar, and toasted sesame, with a light body, warm texture, and a long, vanilla finish.
Distillery: Cooper Spirits (Pennsylvania)
'Hochstadter's was the most surprising (on this list) as it was an underdog that made its way to the top,' says Caskers cofounder Steven Abt.
Hochstadter's is a 'cocktail in a bottle' -- matured to taste like an old fashioned. It has benefited from the cocktail-in-a-bottle concept's recent comeback, despite crafter Robert Cooper being a third-generation distiller, and the drink's inspiration from traditional Rock & Rye recipes.
This bottle has garnered a lot of media attention, and had the largest year-on-year search growth.
Tasting Notes: According to Caskers, the Hochstadter's has a slightly hot and peppery initial flavour, which quickly gives way to a mellow, smooth sweetness, with subtle hints of rock candy, honey and citrus. The finish is long and sweet.
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