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Woodford Reserve Goes Rye
Woodford Reserve announced last year that they would expand their product line with a rye offering. The company experimented with rye making and aging with their 2011 Master’s Collection, which featured one aged in new casks and the other in aged casks. It will be available in select markets in February. You can read our thoughts about the new product in our review. Also expect to find out in early fall what the 2015’s Master’s Collection will be. No two years have ever been the same. Here at Breaking Bourbon we’d most like to see a barrel proof or single barrel offering from the company.
More Orphan Barrels Incoming
The much talked and argued about bourbon releases of 2014 came from the Orphan Barrel series. 2015 will see another set of releases from the Diageo brand. “Lost Prophet,” a $120 - 22-year-old bourbon made at the George T. Stagg distillery in 1991 should find its way to more shelves in early 2015. You can read our review for our thoughts on it. Next up is “Forged Oak,” a 15-year-old bourbon has a target date of February/March (our Review). Diageo said in 2014 that another release of “Barterhouse” would be coming, along with a 21 year old version of “Rhetoric” in 2015. There still is no word about “Strongbox,” a proposed 15 year old bourbon that the company announced a year ago. Sipp’n Corn asked at a recent Orphan Barrel tasting the status of it, and was told the name “Strongbox” was only a working title. Also don’t be too surprised if another new Orphan Barrel pops at the end of the year.
Jack Daniels Steps it Up
The Tennessee whiskey maker has some big plans for 2015. We know of three new products hitting this year. Jack Daniel’s Gold is a double barrel whiskey that is finished in maple casks. JD is also expanding their rye line with a single barrel version. Most interesting, the company is also going to release a single barrel, barrel proof version of their flagship product. This is a trend we’d like to see more of major companies: releasing true uncut versions of their major product.
Old Forester’s Whiskey Row
This new collection from Old Forester takes inspiration from the company's original recipe, which was made on Whiskey Row beginning in the 1870s. The first release, “1870: Original Batch” (already available in seven major markets at the end of 2014), the company is echoing their founder's original batching process. You can read our review for our thoughts on it. The second, “1897,” is a bottled in bond version. “1910” [was 1917] will follow which is a double barreled whiskey. Finally, “1923” is a 125 proof version of that original recipe. Also in 2015, as has been tradition for the company, they will release another version in the Birthday Bourbon line celebrating the birthday of one of their founders George Gavan Brown.
Sazerac 18 Year: Last of the Old Batch
It’s well known that Buffalo Trace finished aging Sazerac 18 Year in 2003. They took the entire batch and put it into stainless steel tanks to prevent further aging. Since then, Buffalo Trace has been drawing down from this supply while waiting for a new batch to come of age. According to Amy Preske, PR Manager for Sazerac, 2015 will be the last year of the old batch and 2016 will be the new batch that was put in barrels in 1998. If you thought Sazerac 18 Year was hard to get last year, wait till more people learn this will be the last year of what will most likely be known as the "classic" batch.
Pappy 23 Year: The Year of the BT Juice?
2015 could be the first year Pappy 23 Year is entirely BT made bourbon. The last batch of Pappy 23 Year is said to have been made at the Stitzel-Weller distillery in 1991, which would have put 2014 as the potential end of the old stuff. Preston Van Winkle has said 2015's batch of 23 Year will be a blend of BT/SW bourbon. According to Amy Preske, PR Manager for Sazerac, "we have not kept it a secret that we were one of a few distilleries producing for Stitzel Weller in the early 90’s prior to our joint venture with the Van Winkles, so it’s entirely probable fans have been sipping our BT made version of PVW 23 for several years."
All of the other Pappy and Van Winkle line have already made the changeover, with little detriment to the overall quality. This changeover to BT bourbon could mean everything to a seasoned Pappy drinker, but to all of the bandwagoners and flippers, it means more in theory (and potential aftermarket asking price) than it does to the overall quality. Noted bourbon historian, Mike Veach, said last year, “I actually expect the Buffalo Trace–distilled Pappy will be better than the older, Stitzel-Weller stuff."
Buffalo Trace’s New Products
Buffalo Trace always has new products up their sleeve. Last year we heard rumblings of two new E.H. Taylor Jr products: “17-year-old Cured Oak” (due late March) and “Seasoned Wood.” (Check out our review of Seasoned Wood for our thoughts on this limited release.) There’s also mounting evidence that BT is experimenting with Taylor’s original recipe of white corn under the codename “O.F.C.” “Spirit by Canton” is another rumored product that might hit shelves in 2015. This is BT’s mash #1 finished in wine barrels. We also caught wind in mid-2014 of “Walking Stick,” a single barrel bourbon. According to Amy Preske, PR Manager for Sazerac, "Walking Stick" is made at 1792 distillery and is entirely their bourbon. It's currently available in select markets and should see a wider release in this year.
1792’s Big Expansion
Really big things look to be coming to Sazerac's 1792 line in 2015. The small batch version will continue (most likely without the 8 year age statement), but joining it will possibly be a single barrel expression, barrel proof expression, a sweet wheat version, along with high rye version. Saz is investing heavily in their not-talked-about-enough 1792 product line. That looks to change this year.
The Return of Elijah Craig 18 Year?
After years of creeping up in age (and price), the rumor is Heaven Hill is capping it off after last year’s 23 Year, and returning the line to where it started. The old EC 18 Year is almost the stuff of legend nowadays. The high quality and high aged bottle could once be found on shelves year-round at a price of $45. Of course that was before the bourbon boom hit. If the rumors are true and we’ll again see the 18 Year old on shelves at the end of the year, expect to pay $100 or more. That’s our guess. We also heard at Whiskyfest that Heaven Hill plans on keeping the 23 Year around as an alternative to that other 23 -year-old bourbon on the market that you might have heard of.
Evan Williams’ Red Label
This has been an export only bottle for years, but a recent re-listing on TTB’s website might hint at a wider stateside release in 2015. This is a 12 year, 101 proof, charcoal filtered version of Heaven Hill’s mass produced bourbon. It’s generally priced in foreign markets in the $20 range if you can find it without a crazy markup or getting hosed in foreign currency. Expect it to have similar and more year-to-year flavor profile consistency of the company’s single barrel version they currently sell in the U.S. It goes onsale at the Evan Williams Experience in February.
Diageo’s Blade & Bow
Little is know about this new product coming from Diageo this year. The company originally said it was going to hit in 2014, but never did. Diageo doesn’t own a working bourbon distillery, so they’re sourcing it from somewhere. Whiskey Advocate’s John Hansell tasted the product a year ago, which was the last we heard about this mysterious product. Hansell didn’t offer tasting notes, but stated, “This is a younger, more standard offering that will be a regular stock item, bottled at 45% and sold for around $40.” A 22 year old version is also planned.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Harvest Collection & More
Beam is continuing their Signature Craft Harvest Collection this year with two new entries: Rolled Oat and High Rye. This year the company also has plans to release a bottled in bond version of their flagship brand in February, a 90 proof pre-prohibition style rye in January and another Distiller’s Masterpiece bottle finished in PX Sherry casks. They have yet to release any plans regarding their line of small-batch bourbons.
Jefferson’s Reserve Goes Experimental
When a company doesn’t distill their own bourbon they often times have to think creatively in order to release new products. We saw two new versions of their “Aged At Sea” line in 2014 and more are expected. It seems they plan on tripling the number of new products this year. Their “Jefferson’s The Manhattan” should see a wider release in April. This is their standard bourbon re-barreled in sweet & dry vermouth barrels with black cherry bitters. A new version of their “Chef Collaboration” is due in March that consists of two bourbons and a rye this time around. They have two barrel finishes in the works: “Groth Cask Finish” (due in April) and “Old Rum Cask Finish.” The company has also been experimenting with different aging/barrel finishes/flavor altering effects and plans to showcase the best ones in 2 part, 5 pack sets of 200 ml bottles.
This article is a culmination of independent research, TTB label information and direct contact with producers. While we believe the information contained in this article is accurate, it does not mean all of these will become actual releases. This article will be updated throughout the year as new information is made available. Please contact us with any additional information or clarifications on any of the potential products listed in this article. All images should be considered concept art.