This Was the Rarest Whiskey of 2020 (and There’s Only One Barrel)

Heaven Hill's 85th anniversary limited-edition whiskey release
Heaven Hill's 85th anniversary limited-edition whiskey releaseCourtesy Image

Legendary Kentucky bourbon distillery Heaven Hill really put the “limited” in their limited-edition 85th Anniversary Bourbon. They only released a single barrel’s worth of whiskey. It was the latest rare release from the distillery, and likely the rarest whiskey of 2020. In short: It’s a one-time-only release with a very limited volume of liquid to go around.

Behind the Scenes of This Rare Release

The 13-year-old single-barrel bourbon was filled on December 13, 2006—an important date. December 13 commemorates when the distillery first filled a barrel back in 1935. Heaven Hill did not state how many bottles of this liquid will be released, but the standard barrel at that age has less than 100 bottles worth of liquid. The best case scenario would be about 110 bottles.

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The company says the barrel came from Warehouse G, second floor, and was cut to 107 proof—the original barrel entry proof from the 1930s—before bottling. It’s non-chill filtered.

This release follows the 2018 release of a similarly rare (and significantly older) limited edition from the distillery: Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Barrel Proof. But 27-Year was composed of more than 40 barrels of whiskey distilled between 1989 and 1990, and had a price tag of $400, whereas this 85th Anniversary is considerably cheaper, and represents a considerably smaller total volume of liquid.

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Why Anniversary Anticipation Is Worth the Hype

Anniversary bottlings can be incredible opportunities for investment and enjoyment alike. Some of the most coveted Four Roses releases, for example, mark the 125th and 130th anniversaries—and the 50th anniversary of longtime employee Al Young, who passed away in 2019. Booker’s 25 and 30 respectively are some of the rarest things produced by Jim Beam—and some of the most delicious. They also happen to be worth three times what they initially retailed for.

These older Heaven Hill releases can be hit or miss—the 27-year was over-oaked, in our opinion—but 13 years is an incredible sweet spot for most Kentucky bourbons. Each bottle is hand numbered, and presented in a custom wooden box, satin-lined and magnetically closed.

For $300, it’s among the most expensive retail prices for a single barrel bourbon we’ve seen in recent years (before after market inflation is factored in), and the distillery shared no tasting notes yet.

The bottle started trickling into market around December 13, but as retailers around the country push into the resale market, you’ve actually got a better chance of finding it in store than you might have in a previous year—at a considerably higher price.

If you’re looking for something more affordable and easier to find, consider tracking down a bottle of this bourbon, which is no slouch at a fraction of the price. It was only released initially at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center and select Kentucky liquor stores, but thanks to a growing (legal) resale market, it’ll likely find its way around the country in the coming months—at higher prices, of course.

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