There’s a whole world of ultra-premium and extremely expensive spirits out there, and for those who can afford these bottles the holiday season is a great time to go hunting. There are really rare luxury releases in most spirits categories, including cognac, scotch, bourbon, tequila and even rum. What makes these bottles so pricey? It’s often due to how limited the releases are. Perhaps it’s the literal last drops from a single vintage, or maybe the liquid consists of a blend that includes liquid that was distilled decades ago. And sometimes the packaging plays a big part, from hand-crafted ceramic bottles to exquisite crystal decanters housed in fetching wooden boxes. Sure, there are plenty of great spirits to be had for less you can give, but if you’re looking for some truly over-the-top bottles to gift this year, we’ve got you covered with this curation of classics and new releases.
Louis XIII Cognac
Louis XIII is produced by the Remy Martin cognac house, but this luxury spirit soars far beyond the regular lineup, which is already quite good. Over 1,200 eaux-de-vis from Grande Champagne are blended together in a bottle of Louis XIII, all of which have been aged in French limousin oak. The brand’s focus is more on the legacy of its cellar masters than an age statement, but the cognac in the blend is typically said to be somewhere between 40 and 100 years old. The resulting spirit is luscious, with notes of ripe fruit, candied citrus, vanilla, oak and spice. A special cognac like this surely should come in a decanter that lives up to the quality of the liquid within, so the bottle is made of hand-crafted crystal. The neck contains 20-karat gold and the stopper is embedded with a chip that gives you access to the Louis XIII Society where you’ll find exclusive content online. Louis XIII is truly a classic in the world of luxury spirits.
Pappy Van Winkle 15
By now you are certainly well aware of the legendary Pappy Van Winkle. This wheated bourbon, distilled at Buffalo Trace (although the older bottles out there may still contain Stitzel-Weller produced whiskey), is as well known for its fame as it is for its quality. Of course, you can find cheaper bottles out there that have a similar flavor profile, like WL Weller (although this isn’t so cheap anymore) or even, arguably, Maker’s Mark. But these are much younger bourbons, so for those who insist on the real deal be prepared to pay a premium. There are expressions ranging from 10 to 23 years of age, the latter of which has as many fans as it does detractors because of how oaky it is. The best bottle in the lineup is probably Pappy 15, which hits the sweet spot as far as aging and combines intensely fruity notes with sweet flavors of caramel and vanilla into an excellent (and expensive) drinking experience. Any of the Pappy expressions can be tough to find online, but if you’re in New York, you can currently get the 15 and Old Rip 10 Year delivered to your door same day.
Black Bowmore DB5 1964
Classic whisky and vintage cars have come together for this latest release in the Black Bowmore series of ultra-aged, ultra-expensive single malt whisky. Distilled in 1964, the whisky was aged for 31 years in a first-fill Oloroso sherry butt. It’s full of tropical fruit, maraschino cherry, chocolate and spice notes, but is not overly oaky for a whisky this old. Aston Martin launched its DB5 the year before this whisky was born and it has become an iconic automobile in the years following, even appearing in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Each bottle (there are only 25) was hand-made by a Scottish glass studio, includes a real Aston Martin piston in the design and comes housed in a bespoke case made from calfskin. This is one of the most expensive bottles of whisky you can find right now, so interested parties should contact the distillery directly.
Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2
Patrón is known as one of the world’s best-selling ultra-premium tequila brands, but there are some expressions available that put an even higher premium on that premium. Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2 is a decadent extra-anejo tequila meant for contemplative sipping. It’s aged for eight years in a combination of French oak casks, sherry butts and American oak barrels. This extended maturation period in different types of wood puts this tequila on par with a fine single malt or cognac. While the earthy notes of agave are still present, a myriad of rich, syrupy, chocolatey flavors mingle together into a completely unique flavor profile. The bottle is made of beautiful Lalique crystal and comes housed inside a wooden box that spins open, ensuring a showstopping presentation.
Ferrand Cognac Legendaire
This new cognac from French producer Maison Ferrand is special in a few regards. First of all, this limited release (500 bottles annually) is made up of a blend of eaux-de-vis, some of which date back nearly 100 years aging in the cellars beneath the manor. The blend is then finished in what is called a Zebra barrel, in which some oak staves have been replaced with new ones to impart a dose of tannins and other flavors to the cognac that would not ordinarily be there. As expected with a luxury spirit like this, the presentation is stunning. The decanter was made by French crystal maker Waltersperger and it comes housed in a wooden box with a whimsical hand door knocker springing from the front. Look for notes of baking spice, blackberry, anise, cocoa and vanilla in every sip.
Fettercairn 46 Year Old
Fettercairn is a Highland distillery with a long history dating back to the first half of the 19th century, though the general public might not be so familiar with the name. The core lineup consists of whiskies aging from 12 to 50 years old, but now a 46-year-old whisky has joined the family. It was distilled on May 8th, 1973 and aged for most of its time in ex-bourbon barrels, with four years spent in 40-year-old Tawny port pipes as well. This infused the vanilla and oak top flavors with notes of tropical fruit, coffee and a touch of licorice on the palate. The whisky was bottled at 42.5 percent ABV with no chill filtration or color added.
Black Tot British Last Consignment
Rum does not generally achieve the same soaring price range as whiskey or cognac, even when it’s been aged for decades. There are exceptions, however, like this rare expression from Black Tot. What makes this rum so unique is that it’s an historical artifact of sorts, the last available liquid from the British Royal Navy’s stocks that remained untouched for 40 years in stone flagons. Since then, it has occasionally seen the inside of a glass for royal occasions, but Black Tot has obtained this storied liquid and bottled it at 95 proof, which the brand says is very close to “the original Navy issuing strength.” Take a sip and let this rummy time machine transport you back to the days of British naval bicorn hats.
The Dalmore Rare and Aged
The Dalmore is no stranger to expensive whisky releases, but this trio of ultra-aged single malts truly lives up to the name Rare & Aged—it’s released in very limited quantities and it’s really old. The collection is as follows: a 35-year-old aged in bourbon, sherry and port barrels; a 40-year-old aged in bourbon, sherry and first-fill bourbon barrels; and a 45-year-old aged in bourbon, vintage port pipes and first-fill bourbon barrels. These are all delicious whiskies with varying degrees of tropical fruits, cinnamon and vanilla on the palate. The best thing about them is that, surprisingly given their age, they do not taste overly tannic or oaky.
Clase Azul Ultra
As the tequila category continues to grow, especially in the ultra-premium sector, luxury brands continue to pop up. One of the first to claim this ground is Clase Azul, which launched in the late ‘90s and hit its stride as a luxury release a decade later. What makes this tequila so expensive? The packaging definitely plays a big role here, as each expression comes in a handmade painted ceramic decanter. The Ultra expression bottle includes platinum, sterling silver and 24-carat gold as well, making this a great choice to upcycle for another use such as a lamp (something the brand strongly encourages). As for the liquid, this extra-anejo tequila is aged for five years in ex-sherry casks, infusing the earthy, vegetal agave notes with layers of fig, dried cherry and spice.
The Macallan Fine & Rare: 1993 Edition
The Macallan’s Fine & Rare collection contains some of the most expensive vintage-dated single malts you can find that are not for sale at auction. These whiskies are hard to obtain and coveted by collectors when they do manage to score a bottle. The most recent release is the 1993 edition, aged in sherry casks (as nearly all Macallan is) for 27 years and is bottled at 50.2 percent ABV. Expect to find notes of chocolate, cinnamon, ginger and leather. And yes, expensive whisky like this is bound to sit on a collector’s shelf for many years, but if you have the means why not buy one bottle to save and one to sip. After all, you can’t enjoy whisky unless you actually pour a dram. Interested buyers should contact the distillery at email@example.com.