The Bourbon industry has been seeing tremendous growth and expansion over the last few years…far beyond what industry professionals could even predict. A somewhat small in overall dollars but huge for generating interest in a bourbon is the process of selecting a private bottling for your store, restaurant, or organization. These selections may be bottled at cask strength or proofed down to a level determined by the distillery. They may yield as many as 240+ bottles or as few as 18!! Either way, these bottles are the true definition of limited edition!
Here are some details on the various private selection programs out there:
Knob Creek from Jim Beam Distillery
- Typically the selections are done in one of the barrel warehouses in Clermont, KY, but they have been known to send samples to establishments to do selections off-site.
- You taste cask strength samples from 3 different barrels that are usually selected from different warehouse locations and aged a bit differently from one another.
- When you select a barrel that satisfies your palate, knowing that it will be bottled at a slightly lower proof (120) than what you have tasted, you actually get to go through the process of proofing down the bourbon and bottling it.
- Before you leave, you are often treated to lunch and may have an opportunity to buy a bottle or two of your selection through the gift ship. The barrel yield is usually between 120 and 160 bottles.
Buffalo Trace / Barton Distillery
- Like Knob Creek, the selections are usually done in a barrel warehouse at the distillery in Frankfort, KY, but they have been known to send samples to establishments for selections.
- Depending on the bourbon you are going to be given the option to select (Buffalo Trace, 1792, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, or Old Weller Antique), you will select from 3 or 4 barrels.
- The samples are provided at both cask strength and that at which it will be bottled where applicable.
- Once you find the honey barrel or barrels of your choosing, you are done there and often get to enjoy a nice lunch as well. The barrels typically yield 140 to 180 bottles depending on what is selected.
Maker’s Mark Private Select
- For now, these selections are only done in the Cellar at the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, KY. This is a very unique experience.
- Since Maker’s Mark does not vary much from barrel to barrel, you actually take part in a blending program with cask strength Maker’s Mark that has been finished in in the same manner as Maker’s 46 with 5 independent stave combinations. You get to play chemist by mixing various parts of each of the 5 stave finishes into a blend that you like best.
- When you blend is selected, you get to open a used Maker’s Mark barrel and add the appropriate staves into it that will recreate the blend you created in the Cellar. You then fill it with cask strength Maker’s Mark and it ages for 9 weeks before it goes to bottling. Typical yield is around 240 bottles.
- There is no other private selection process quite like the one at Maker’s Mark.
Four Roses Distillery
- Although samples can be sent out for selection, the best experience is to conduct it in the tasting room at the Four Roses bottling facility in Cox’s Creek, KY.
- Since Four Roses distills 10 unique recipes based on their 2 different mash bills and 5 yeast strains, you usually get to taste a barrel of each recipe…if they are available. Yup, you may get to taste from 10 different barrels that day!
- When you pick your favorite, it will be bottled at barrel proof and shipped out. The last pick I took part in selecting was a barrel with only a 54 bottle yield!
In addition to those above, you can do private selections with Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and a slew of smaller craft distilleries! Each process is a little different, but every one of them is fun to take part in. In addition to selecting your personal bourbon, every distillery offers a personalized tour of their facilities if you travel there for the selection.
The folks at Rabbit Hole will be starting a private selection program after our distillery opens. We would love to hear from you about what you would like to experience in the process. If you have ideas, let the Bourbon Curator know!
Until next time, enjoy a private selection and Cheers!!