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Mar 7, 2013 11:29 AM

The search for Barrel Proof/Strength Bourbon and Whiskeys

I have spent the winter tracking down this rare and difficult breed of Bourbons/ whiskeys. What I have found is that if you can find them, in most cases the quality will blow you away. Below are some of my preliminary findings. Happy hunting.

Hall of fame - The best Bourbon/ whiskeys I have had in my life

George T. Stagg Bourbon
William Larue Weller Bourbon (wheat)
Thomas Handy Rye

All stars - If you can find them, they are worth the extra bucks

Colonel EH Taylor Barrel Proof
Willet Family Estate Barrel Proof

Great Value propositions - Almost the quality of the above two groups but at a much smaller tariff.

Bookers (I was buying it this winter on sale for $35.99)
Old Granddad 114
Knob creek Reserve

Great for mixing and sipping - These Bourbons/whiskeys are great for mixing but good enough to be quality sippers.

Rittenhouse Rye 100
Wild Turkey Rye 101 (hard to find these days)
Old Granddad 100 Bottled In Bond
Knob Creek


I know there are many I have not tried yet. At the high end, I have not had the Parkers Heritage Collection Barrel Proof. I have also not purchased a bottle the 107 proof Wellers or the Wild Turkey Rare BReed. If there are some major gaps, let me know. I am always looking for new quality items to try.

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  1. I'm open to correction if I'm wrong, but parts of this list make no sense to me. I am under the impression that terms like "barrel proof" or "cask strength," etc. mean the whiskey is not diluted prior to bottling.

    For example, whiskies like Wild Turkey 101 (Rye or Bourbon -- it's irrelevant for the point I'm making), Rittenhouse 100, Old Grand-Dad 114 and 100 B-in-B, Weller Antique 107, etc. -- these bottlings have ALWAYS been 101, 100, 114, 100, and 107 proof respectively. This tells me that -- just like whiskies which are 80 proof, 86 proof, 86.4 proof -- these are not "cask strength," nor "barrel proof," but rather are cut with water to achieve a "standardized" abv at bottling.

    This would be in sharp contrast to a single barrel bottling like Bookers' where the proof varies.

    3 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Fine, we can call it high proof if you prefer.

      1. re: Latinpig

        Well, since "barrel proof" means something quite specific, I think that makes more sense, don't you?

        1. re: zin1953

          Yes. I originally intended only to include barrel proof offerings but then I wanted to add the last category to show some options at a more reasonable price which are not BP. FYI OGD 114 is considered barrel proof.

    2. Not labelled as such but Noahs Mill is a good one.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MOREKASHA

        I nearly purchased a bottle of Noah's Mill in a recent internet order but then I read some reviews on the LA Whiskey Society site (Sku's among them) that said, being a sourced Bourbon, there is a lot of variance in batches and the most recent one was not nearly up to the standard of the older ones.

        1. re: ncyankee101

          Been drinking it for about 5 years and haven't noticed that. But it is sourced so there is the possibility. The folks behind it (Willet) have just reopened their distillery, small though.

          1. re: MOREKASHA

            Batch 11-121 is the one that several LAWS members noted was not as good as usual.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              Now I have to go home and check my current bottle. Damn you.

      2. I recently put together a list of all of the high proof (110 +) American whiskeys that are currently available. You might find it helpful in your pursuit: http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2013/0...

        2 Replies
        1. re: sku

          Of course you did. ;) And useful as always. Thanks.

          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

          1. Russell's Reserve just released one, as did Elijah Craig (at 134.2 proof!), according to Camper English.


            1. I have 8 to 10 good bourbons on the shelf and Bookers at about 125 proof is straight from the barrel (I believe) and down right serious stuff. I think you will be hard pressed to find a production bourbon stronger.