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12 Discontinued Bourbon Bottles Due For A Comeback

In World
May 13, 2024

The world of bourbon is ever-changing. New distilleries pop up, established brands bring out new expressions, and old labels come back to life. However, along the way, countless bottles are retired. This can be due to many reasons, including distilleries shutting down, series ending, or brands replacing older expressions with new ones. Some of these changes can be for the better, but many brilliant bourbons have been left behind in the process.

All is not lost for lovers of these bottles. After all, there are plenty of instances of a once-discontinued bottle being revived, including the Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 or the Wild Turkey 12-year. We want to highlight some of the bottles that deserve to be brought back into circulation. Many of these expressions are still available for high secondary prices, but none are currently being produced. But, for now, let’s check out these historic whiskeys and hope that they will be resurrected soon.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series

Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series

Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series – makersmark/X, formerly known as Twitter

The Wood Finishing Series, which ceased production in 2023, was a great addition to a strong range of Maker’s Mark bourbons. Each year, the distillery would finish its regular Maker’s Mark with different types of oak staves to create a unique expression. Not every release was amazing, but the 2023 BEP (barrel entry proof) release was impressive. Following its release, the distillery kept to its plan of retiring the series. In many ways, it was nice for the series to end on a high, but it has left many bourbon lovers wanting more.

The tasting notes of the series changed slightly from one year to the next. However, they were often characterized by a beautiful mouthfeel and a dark, sweet depth intermingled with baking spices. We can now only hope that Maker’s Mark does one of three things. The first is to reverse its decision on this series and give us a great 2024 bottle. Another, more likely, course of action is for the distillery to create an exciting new series. However, it could also make the 2023 BEP bottle a part of its core lineup. Whichever decision it makes, we hope we haven’t seen the last of the Wood Finishing Series.

Elijah Craig 12-Year Small Batch

Elijah Craig 12-Year Small Batch

Elijah Craig 12-Year Small Batch – pamdothall/X, formerly known as Twitter

In 2016, the Heaven Hill distillery decided to drop the age statement on its Small Batch bourbon. The brand still produces an impressive small-batch bottle but with younger whiskey than was previously used. The exact reason for this decision can only be speculated on, but distilleries face notable challenges when it comes to conforming to an age statement. Dropping the age statement no doubt allowed Heaven Hill to create a more accessible and affordable bourbon, along with its more expensive releases, including the famed 18-year expression.

The 12-year was celebrated for both its quality and consistency. It has many of the tasting notes you can find in its current Small Batch bottle but with a richer and deeper flavor profile. The nose was excellent, with its most distinctive notes centered around caramelized sugar and dark fruit. It had a robust oakiness on the palate that you’d expect from its extended aging, along with sweet undertones of butterscotch and honey. The finish didn’t disappoint either. It offered a lingering and warm ending with plenty of spice on your tongue. The Elijah Craig lineup is impressive, but with the only age statement in its collection being the aforementioned 18-year, it does feel as though there’s room for the return of the 12-year.

Early Times 354

Bottle of Early Times 354

Bottle of Early Times 354 – sakasyu/X, formerly known as Twitter

Early Times 354 sadly didn’t have a long run. It was first introduced in 2011 and was discontinued a mere three years later. Early Times whiskey is known as a budget brand, and the 354 was an attempt to improve its image with a higher-quality, aged bourbon. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Casual consumers didn’t take to the bottle, and sales weren’t as good as expected. This could have only been a marketing issue, as the bourbon itself was delicious. It had a smooth and approachable flavor that was far superior to that of its more affordable sibling. The bottle was named after the distillery’s federal permit, which was perhaps part of the problem; there was nothing identifiable on the bottle to suggest what made it unique.

It was a gentle whiskey that had a well-rounded character. The nose didn’t wow you, but it had a pleasant sweetness that complemented many of the expected bourbon notes. There was a nice interplay of sweetness and spice on the palate, with honey being the most prevalent tasting note. Since it was discontinued, the brand has changed hands and is now owned by the huge spirit company Sazerac. There are no signs that Sazerac will expand the brand, but hopefully that will change.

Old Ezra 101 7-Year

Old Ezra 101 7 Year bottle

Old Ezra 101 7 Year bottle – shibasommelier/X, formerly known as Twitter

As seen with Early Times 354, bottles can disappear completely without anything to replace them. More commonly, brands will retire an expression to introduce something similar. That’s exactly what happened with Old Ezra 101 7-year. In this instance, the brand replaced a 7-year-old bourbon with — well — a 7-year-old bourbon. The key difference here is the proof. The 101 was, unsurprisingly, bottled at 101 proof. Its replacement is a barrel-strength bourbon with a proof of 117. While that may not sound a lot, the two whiskeys ended up being fundamentally different. And merely adding a splash of water to the barrel-proof version doesn’t bring the 101 back.

Barrel-proof bourbon can be fantastic, but different palates and moods can dictate what proof you want to drink. The 101 7-year had a simple flavor profile but did the basics extremely well. On the palate, it offered a beautifully deep caramel flavor complemented by some oak and spice. The extended aging helped to give it a smoothness that was loved by its fans. Considering the lack of other age statement bottles in its lineup, there is a strong case for bringing back the 101 7-year while still keeping its barrel-strength expression. It was a unique bourbon and deserves to be showcased again to a new audience.

Jim Beam Bonded

Bottle of Jim Beam Bonded

Bottle of Jim Beam Bonded – helzer/Instagram

Big-name brands, like Jim Beam, often cycle through different expressions. From the looks of it, this 100-proof bonded whiskey was discontinued because Jim Beam didn’t want to compete with itself and its Old Tub. Old Tub is a good whiskey, but we’d still like to see a bonded bottle under the Jim Beam lineup. This 100-proof bonded bourbon paid homage to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, which guaranteed high standards when adulterated and low-quality whiskey was rife. A part of that act meant Jim Beam Bonded had to be aged for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof.

This whiskey delivered a robust flavor profile and was loved by seasoned drinkers. Its full-bodied character offered some charred oak on the nose along with a powerful sweetness. The palate dazzled with a blend of toffee, dark fruit, and a lingering spicy warmth that continued to the finish. It was everything you’d expect from a bonded whiskey and came at a great price. While the Jim Beam lineup may still be large, it feels like a bonded whiskey is a notable absentee. For now, we have to settle for the next best thing: a bottle of Old Tub.

Weller 10-Year Centennial

Weller 10-year Centennial bottle

Weller 10-year Centennial bottle – signde/X, formerly known as Twitter

Weller Centennial was released in 1996 as part of the Bourbon Heritage Collection under the then-ownership of United Distillers & Vintners. In 1999, the brand changed hands after it was bought by Sazerac. Weller Centennial went on for a while before the expression was eventually discontinued. It’s unclear why it was cut, but the brand currently has a strong range of expressions, including a 12-year.

Weller Centennial was known for its complex taste, the most notable influence being that of toasted oak. It had that beautiful smell you’d expect from a modern-day Weller and the elegant sweetness of a maturely aged wheated bourbon. A beautifully smooth profile allowed the warm and lingering finish to leave a lasting impression on your palate. It would be fantastic to see it return, as there is now a generation of bourbon lovers who never had the pleasure of tasting it. This is a legendary expression that already has a great history. We can only hope that its story isn’t over quite yet.

Old Charter 10-Year

Old Charter 10 Year bottle

Old Charter 10 Year bottle – morgan_f_weber/Instagram

Old Charter has many similarities to the Early Times bottle. Both have tried to be more than just a budget bourbon brand, but ultimately, that’s what they are known as now. Old Charter is another brand under the Buffalo Trace umbrella — but it’s probably its weakest. The distillery has so many prestigious brands that it will likely keep selling Old Charter as a budget option. This wasn’t always the case, as it used to produce a much-loved 10-year bottle, which was sadly discontinued in 2013. The 10-year’s nuanced taste separated it from many of its similarly-aged rivals.

There were many fruity and spicy notes on the nose — none of which were overpowering. The flavor on the palate met with an initial, powerful hit of spice before all the other flavors were introduced. There, you’d get hints of fruity sweetness from apples and oranges. There was also a nice oaky element to the whiskey and a smooth mouthfeel that came from its lower proof of 86. It was an excellent addition to the Old Charter brand and one that is sadly missed. Buffalo Trace has recently shown interest in expanding the Old Charter brand with a range of unique oak finishes. We can only hope that interest in the brand continues to grow with the eventual comeback of its 10-year expression.

Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut

Jim Beam Distiller's Cut bottle

Jim Beam Distiller’s Cut bottle – roscoe/X, formerly known as Twitter

Here, we have another expression from the Jim Beam brand. This time, it’s the Distiller’s Cut, which was one of the best bottles of Jim Beam ever made. Although we tried to avoid limited releases for this article, as they can come and go quickly, the Distiller’s Cut is worth highlighting. This 2017 release was a well-aged bourbon with a fantastic price tag. Although it only retailed around $20, you wouldn’t be disappointed paying double that for this bottle. Jim Beam specializes in high-quality, yet affordable, whiskey, and the Distiller’s Cut perfectly fits into its portfolio. This budget bourbon may not blow you away, but it would make for an excellent everyday whiskey.

The nose was quite bright with an oaky influence that showed it wasn’t an immature spirit. Caramel was the highlight of the sweeter notes, and a notable spice came from cinnamon and black pepper. Many of those notes transfer to the palate, where some more earthy, nutty notes join them. The pleasant texture and warm finish make it perhaps the best budget bourbon released in 2017. This expression would sit perfectly among other favorites like the Devil’s Cut, Double Oak, and Black. Since this brand is constantly evolving, there is a great chance of this expression making a comeback in Jim Beam’s permanent lineup.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel

Four Roses LE Single Barrel

Four Roses LE Single Barrel – pappyvan_winkle/X, formerly known as Twitter

The Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel was one bottle in a series of yearly releases. This bottle was first released in 2008 and ceased production in 2014. Each release was celebrated for its high quality and unique approach to bourbon. Thankfully, Four Roses still has a single barrel in its core bourbon lineup. This means fans of the brand can still sample a whiskey that comes from just one barrel instead of being mixed with different barrels of similarly-aged whiskey. However, the limited edition series was a great companion to the regular release and offered something a little different. Instead of being phased out for marketing or natural evolution, the series was discontinued because of stock concerns.

The brand may have been worried about having enough aged bourbon for its other products. This gives some hope that it could return in the future if the distillery manages to produce an abundance of stock. That being said, its current focus as far as limited editions go is on the yearly release of its small-batch bourbon. The tasting notes changed from one year to the next, but these are usually robust bourbons with plenty of depth. They are often sweet without being overly fruity and offer an earthy influence from nuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon. If Four Roses has the stock, it would be great to see the single-barrel bottles come back as a yearly release alongside its small-batch series.

Ancient Ancient Age 10-Year

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year – Ancient Ancient Age

Ancient Age is a curious brand. It has gone through a few iterations over the years, and while the U.S. bottle from Buffalo Trace is now sold as a budget bourbon with no age statement, an 8-year-old bottle is still exclusively sold overseas. We also have the double “Ancient” on some of its expressions, which further adds to its quirks. Some may think we’re talking about the Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star here, but we’re going further back in time than that. Before the 10 Star, the brand made a 10-year bottle, which was brilliant. It came from the same mash bill as Blanton’s, the two spirits shared similar qualities. But the 10-year was cheaper and more widely available.

This 10-year bottle had a fairly complex flavor profile and a unique nose that gave you plenty of herbal notes. On tasting, the sweeter notes, such as honey, were quite dark and joined by a few unique flavors, such as licorice, cherry, and orchard fruits. Add in some oak and cinnamon, and you get a bourbon with impressive depth. While it wasn’t quite as rich in flavor as Blanton’s, it was still a highly enjoyable pour. If Buffalo Trace wants to expand the brand in the U.S.A., bringing back the 10-year would be a brilliant way to do it.

Calumet Single Rack Black 12-Year

Calumet 12 Year bottle

Calumet 12 Year bottle – mathewpelfrey2/X, formerly known as Twitter

Adding this expression to the list seems a little greedy, as Calumet still offers a wide range of aged whiskeys. However, the 12-year bottle was one of its most affordable expressions and one of the best. It got its name from the barrels that were selected from a single rack in the warehouse when they reached the ideal maturation point. The result was a perfectly balanced whiskey, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was aged for longer than 12 years.

The expression was a delight for the senses, which even included the eyes, thanks to its beautiful bottle and warm, golden color. The nose elegantly highlighted a rich vanilla smell and oak from its more mature aging. The sensory delights continued to the palate as rich caramel danced along your tongue with a smoky influence. Where this bourbon splits opinion is with its unique candied fruit notes, which set it apart from many other offerings. Calumet still offers an 8, 10, and 14-year, so there does appear to be room to slot its 12-year back into the mix.

O.K.I. 10-Year

Bottles of O.K.I. 10-year

Bottles of O.K.I. 10-year – bigchetti/X, formerly known as Twitter

The O.K.I. brand was discontinued for reasons similar to those of the other bottles on this list. It used to be produced by New Riff Distilling. However, the bourbon brand decided to focus on its own brand name and phased out bottles of O.K.I. Thankfully, new owners picked up O.K.I., but not all the bottles stayed in the lineup. One of the best of the original bottles was the O.K.I.10-year. It was a beloved bourbon with plenty of depth that you’d expect from its extended aging.

The bottle offered a deep amber color with an aroma that elegantly highlighted the classical bourbon notes. Once tasted, the whiskey would hit you with plenty of caramel and toffee notes, which gave it a beautifully sweet flavor. You also got some undertones of dark chocolate, dried fruits, and a touch of leather. This impressive bourbon also offered a velvety mouthfeel on the finish.

We can only hope that the new custodians of the brand will bring back the 10-year along with its growing range of other bottles. However, considering the change of distillers, we may be resigned to the fact that this bourbon will not come back in its old form.

Read the original article on Tasting Table

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