Any collector worth their salt has waited in line in the cold, rain or snow, trying to score the perfect bottle.

The question is, what is collectible and what is just overhyped? Does price equal collectible?

Not necessarily. Because of the location, some bourbons are priced well above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). In Kentucky, we tend to have higher prices on ordinary bottles such as W. L. Weller’s and Eagle Rare. The store will sometimes mark these up by 50% to 100%. Yet if you cross the river into Ohio, each bourbon is priced at MSRP or slightly above.


Because liquor stores in Kentucky believe they are far superior to stores in other states. I get it. Buying bourbon in Kentucky is a treat, and since most out-of-state visitors know that The Bluegrass State is synonymous with bourbon, they are willing to pay the inflated prices. I don’t fault them, but it does give off the vibe that price equals collectability. explains, “Collectible bourbons are rare bottlings that can be sold for thousands of dollars per bottle, usually at auctions. Currently, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve dominates the category. Also, some collectibles are those bourbon bottlings pre-Prohibition (before 1920).”

Here at The Bourbon Flight, we try to sort through all the over-hyped bourbons and nail down what is collectible and what’s not.


Pappy Van Winkle

Anything Pappy is collectible nowadays. Increased demand and lack of inventory have skyrocketed this brand into the stratosphere. A “wheated” bourbon makes Pappy very easy to drink, and since no Pappy is aged less than 10 years, the bourbon has a rich and more complex flavor profile. The longer the bourbon is aged, the higher the price.

To be fair, the demand for bourbon recently hit an all-time high but remember, when this whiskey was barreled—ten, 15, 20 or 23 years ago—the need wasn’t where it is today. Scarcity plays a big part in collectability and price. Also, throw a scandal like “Pappygate” and watch the collectability soar.

E.H. Taylor Jr. Warehouse C Tornado Surviving

Well, it is in the title, “Tornado Surviving.” This bourbon has a great story and the rarity of the tale. On April 2, 2006, a tornado ripped through the Buffalo Trace Distillery, tearing the top off Warehouse C. As the story goes, the warehouse was waiting for the roof to be replaced, and the barrels were exposed to Kentucky’s natural climate while waiting.

That summer was hot, to put it mildly, and the increase in sunlight, cool nights and natural breezes helped develop a unique flavor profile sought after by bourbon enthusiasts everywhere. With only 24,000 barrels surviving, this bourbon rates high in taste and collectability.

Michter’s 25-Year Single Barrel

Long-aged bourbons typically taste like bark, but there are rare exceptions. And that is why this release ranks high on our list. Michter’s 25-year-old tastes superb. The distillery doesn’t bring out this run every year. In fact, the last run of 348 bottles was back in 2022. So, rarity is a factor in this unicorn bourbon.

Also, word of mouth about the flavors has propelled this bourbon to new heights on the secondary market. The words used most when describing the 25-year-old release are pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. Now, who wouldn’t want to own a bottle of that?

Buffalo Trace OFC Bourbon

The OFC stands for Old Fashioned Copper. I know the distilling process was revolutionary then, but there must be more, right?

The inlaid copper bottle with a wooden presentation box is more like a piece of art than a bottle of bourbon. The distinctiveness of the presentation has gotten bourbon seekers to spend a fortune to own a bottle. Some even say that these bottles are harder to find than Pappy.

Double Eagle Very Rare 20-Year-Old

Okay, just because you use the words Double and Very does not make your bourbon collectible. However, in this case, it does. Double in years of the popular Eagle Rare 10-year, the 20-year crushes its younger brother.

Here is another excellent presentation: The 20-year is shown in a silver display case with two sliding doors imprinted with eagle feathers. But the pièce de résistance is the hand-blown crystal decanter with two sculpted crystal glass eagles as stoppers. This bottle is truly a work of art, and with only 199 bottles in the market, how can it not be collectible?

The Last Drops 1980 Buffalo Trace

We all know the ‘80s were rad, but this bourbon is crazy rare: Just 240 bottles were released worldwide. If you do the math, you have a 0.00000303% chance of owning this bottle. Found in 2000, this whiskey stayed dormant in virgin oak barrels for 20 years.

Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley of Buffalo Trace has discovered that this ultra-rare bourbon is a showpiece for anyone serious about collecting. This is a showstopper. Other rare bourbons are scarce, but none like this bottle. You have a better chance of winning the lottery seven times than owning this bourbon bottle.



All Blanton’s is vastly overpriced. The mystery is one reason the brand is overvalued: it carries no age statement. Another reason is its international releases that are not sold domestically.

Blanton’s branding is far better than most brands, as each bottle has a stopper designed as a jockey and horse with a letter carved out on each. The letters spell B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S, so the popularity and cost come from collectors trying to complete the collection. Newbies in the whiskey game pay top dollar for this brand because 1) they do not know any better and 2) most newbies turn to social media first when starting a collection, and like other overhyped brands, Blanton’s is what they see first.

William Larue Weller

This bourbon is overhyped for a different reason: mistaken identity. For some reason, buyers believe Weller is a Pappy Van Winkle alternative. Both are wheated bourbons, but Pappy is the best of the best. While Weller does have the same mash bill, barrel specs and entry proof, it’s just not Pappy’s quality. When Pappy became popular in the early 2000s, stores and bourbon experts started pushing Weller because it was available and cheap, around $40.

These comparisons to Pappy on websites have caused the Weller brand to rise by 300% to 400% on the secondary market. Furthermore, the new interest in the brand has caused a drop in supply, contributing to astronomical prices. I am not saying it is a lousy bourbon, just not collectible and highly hyped.

A.H. Hirsch

A. H. Hirsch was one of the first brands to benefit from internet enthusiast sites. Word of mouth through these sites has increased the myth of this bourbon. Once again, the name Van Winkle pops up in an unpretentious whiskey. In 1989, Gordon Hue acquired the brand and had Julian Van Winkle III bottle the brand. This led to an increase in sales, especially in the secondary market. The moniker “The best bourbon you’ll never taste” started to accompany the bourbon.

Once word got out that the bourbon was good quality, the sense of having missed the party began manifesting in the community, and bottles started disappearing. International releases have also become sought after as the myth grows. Scarcity and greed have driven this bourbon way above its ceiling.

Elmer T. Lee

When Elmer T. Lee died in 2013 at 93, the bourbon community lost its mind and catapulted Lee’s single barrel to unicorn status. The community bought every bottle they could find, which led to shortages. The shortages caused a drastic price increase. For bourbon dummies, a higher price must mean collectability.

ETL falls in with Blanton’s as the same company owns it. The bourbon is solid, but the name is what boosts the price. It’s a solid pick for sipping, but not at a 400% markup. Unfortunately, most bourbon drinkers cannot find a bottle on liquor store shelves and need to venture to secondary-selling websites.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Nothing gets bourbon hunters in a frenzy more than a celebration, especially a birthday celebration of the founder of Old Forester, George Garvin Brown. Old Forester’s marketing department hit it out of the ballpark last year when it introduced its first-ever Birthday Bourbon sweepstakes. In the past, people lined up for days to get a bottle from the distillery. Last year that changed as everyone had a chance to buy bourbon.

How does that build collectability? Bringing rarity to the masses and giving poor slobs a chance to win a coveted bottle. How can a bottle that is released annually be collectible? I am not sure. Maybe it is like collecting yearly holiday ornaments; every year is a must-have for your collection. We personally know someone who paid eight times over retail just to continue their collection.

Willett Family Estate

Like Blanton’s, Willett’s bottle tops enhance its legacy. Green, purple or white wax—along with the brand’s stark-white family crest—puts fanatics in hysteria for this bourbon. Simply put, this private selection is hard to find. The lack of inventory creates its own hype—it’s supply versus demand.

Willett releases approximately 20 times fewer bottles than Pappy Van Winkle, which adds to the illusion. Willett sources barrels from other distilleries, meaning each release varies in taste and complexity. In 2015, Willett only released 95 bottles of the 24-year-old bourbon in its gift shop. That small, location-only release is another way of enhancing collectability.

We fear that the vast increases in the price of ordinary bottles may harm the industry. Don’t just listen to the so-called experts. Try similar mash bills for yourself. Bourbon is meant to be enjoyed, not idolized or bought and sold like a commodity.

Please remember liquor stores will continue marking up bottles 500 to 1,000% as long as we keep buying from them. You are not supporting the brand. You are helping the greedy owners of the store.

Get out and start visiting the beautiful bourbon distilleries around your state. We promise it will be more rewarding than sitting at home refreshing a computer screen to score an alleged unicorn bourbon.

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COO/CFO Creator of The Bourbon Flight | + posts