© Buffalo Trace |
There aren’t many lists on the internet where the wines of the Pacific Northwest are usurped by the state of Kentucky, but we’ve managed to find one right here at Wine-Searcher.
Today being Independence Day, we thought we’d wind up our series of most wanted wines with a look at the list of most searched-for US wines, only to find a state of almost complete dependence – on Napa.
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The sheer number of Napa wines on the list is impressive. Of the top 25 wines, only two are not from Napa – the Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello from the Santa Cruz Mountains weighs in at #8 and Wycliff California «Champagne» Brut slides in somehow at #25. Every other wine is from Napa, in as stark an illustration of dominance as you could imagine.
And that’s pretty much the sad story of searches for US wines; almost. There is one thing that sticks out on the list and that is the second most searched-for category – Bourbon. While Sonoma, Paso Robles, Willamette Valley and Finger Lakes all get shined on, but Bourbon is really feeling the love, with four entries in the top 25 and 12 in the top 50.
It’s fitting, then, that Bourbon is the drink we celebrate on Independence Day – after all, it is officially America’s native spirit, with the seal of approval from Congress to prove it.
The top 10 is intriguing in that only three distilleries are represented, but that says a lot about how Bourbon is made these days – it’s not necessarily a series of discrete, boutique distilleries producing a single spirit any more. Operations like Buffalo Trace produce a dizzying number of labels and expressions, while even many of the small, «craft» Bourbons are produced in massive, industrial distilling complexes that churn out millions of gallons of assorted spirits a week.
Regardless of the production methods, Bourbon is a booming industry and consumers are getting really excited by what’s on offer – and they aren’t afraid to pay for it. Some of the whiskeys in the top 10 make the top Bordeaux wines look cheap by comparison.
Bourbon’s popularity is such that there are 11 Bourbons ahead of Meiomi Pinot Noir on the list of most searched-for American wines, which gives you some idea of how far Bourbon has come in the past five years, as searches have increased and the whole world seems to be getting a taste for the spirit of America.
© Beam Suntory | 1. WL Weller 12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Life really got good for this whiskey from the endlessly fertile Sazerac Company’s Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2015, when Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named it the second best whiskey in the world in its annual roundup. Interest skyrocketed and then steadily increased, as the price tripled in the space of a year. Easily the most popular Bourbon, it is the 95th most searched-for product on Wine-Searcher.
2. Elmer T Lee Single Barrel Sour Mash Bourbon Another expression from the Buffalo Trace stable, this was named after one of the establishment’s master distillers, who spent 36 years making whiskey there and invented Blanton’s Single Barrel whiskey. A high-scoring whiskey (91 points average) that you can pick up for a song if you’re careful. It’s #113 on the overall list of products on Wine-Searcher.
3. Old Weller Antique Original 107 Brand Straight Wheated Bourbon Another «wheated» Bourbon, meaning the second most prominent grain in the mash bill is wheat rather than rye. Yet again from Buffalo Trace and a relative of the WL Weller whiskey , this is a particularly good entry-level whiskey.
4. Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Named for «Colonel» Albert Blanton, a former owner of Buffalo Trace distillery, this has been a go-to Bourbon for many consumers for some years. Relatively inexpensive ($56 average) with a 90-point score, it has seen a surge in interest over the past five years.
5. George T Stagg Straight Bourbon Yep, it’s that distillery again, this time with a cask-strength Bourbon of great finesse and one that sparks a lot of interest. Search figures have risen in recent years, as has the price – more than quintupling in five years, from an average of $151 to $777.
6. Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year Old Possibly the most famous Bourbon of them all, thanks to its rarity and consequently stratospheric price. Interest peaks towards the end of each year as the whiskey is released, but the price has only gone up since a massive jump back in 2013 saw it leap from $353 a bottle on average to $1500 in the space of a month. Its current average price is $2763. And yes, it’s from Buffalo Trace.
7. Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade 10-Year-Old Straight Bourbon Five years ago a bottle of this cost an average of $70. Today, it’s $541, reflecting the collectability of the Van Winkle label. This is available in 107-proof and 90-proof versions, so choose carefully.
8. Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old The «other» Pappy, and much the same as its big brother, its price just keeps climbing, currently sitting at an average of $1331. Interest is strong and steady, but it peaks at the end of each year, when it regularly gets into the overall top 100; it’s currently at #288 among all products on Wine-Searcher.
9. Four Roses Small Batch Barrel Strength Bourbon Finally, a brand that doesn’t come from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Four Roses was once the leading Bourbon in the US until it was discontinued in the late 1950s. Resurrected as a straight Bourbon in 2002, it has since flourished, leading to limited edition bottling like this. One of Keith Richards’ favorite tipples, apparently. Sits at #292 on the overall list.
10. Orphan Barrel Barterhouse 20-Year-Old Bourbon Orphan Barrel is a means of bottling and selling odd parcels of Bourbon acquired by Diageo during its ownership of various distilleries down the years. It has an average score of $122, a critic rating of 90 and an overall search rank of 303.