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What Makes Redemption 36-Year-old Bourbon Worth $18K

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A single decanter of Redemption 36-Year-Old Bourbon just sold at Sotheby’s auction for a staggering $18,000. That same amount of cash could have been used to buy about 600 bottles worth of Maker’s Mark—enough to fill three barrels with pretty dang good American whiskey. So what was this winning bidder actually acquiring by allocating funds in such a seemingly foolhardy manner?

In a word: rarity.

Only 18 bottles of the liquid exist in total. It was initially released back in 2017 as part of Redemption’s Ancients Collection. The 97.6-proof bourbon was sourced from the legendary MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, IN. If you were lucky enough to nab one then, at retail, it would have only set you back a measly $1,200. Not a bad return for whoever put it under the hammer this week. 

Though, perhaps they could have fetched even more, as we’re seeing the same bottle currently on sale here for $42,000 (assuming it isn’t some early April Fool’s Day joke).

Related: How to Get Your Hands on The Glenturret Prowess, One of the Rarest Scotch Releases of the Year

To this day, the lengthily aged Redemption is among the oldest commercially available bourbons ever brought to market. And there’s a fairly good reason why: American whiskey tends to suck at that age. 

“I once drank a bourbon so old, the tannins stripped the tastebuds from my tongue,” recalls Aaron Goldfarb, Kentucky Colonel and author of the book Hacking Whiskey. “Not advised.”

Redemption 36-Year-Old Bourbon in carrying box

His experience was with a 45-year-old pour of James Thompson & Brother Final Reserve, billed as the oldest bourbon ever. It wasn’t great—unless you like the taste of stale varnish. The real hack to remember here is that the requirements of bourbon-making simply don’t lend themselves to extended aging as they do in Scotland, Ireland, and Japan. The liquid matures in new barrels of charred American oak, often in parts of the country with wild swings in temperature and humidity between summer and winter. That’s why most distillers in Kentucky and Indiana tell you their beloved beverage hits its sweet spot somewhere around a dozen years in the cask.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course (like Michter’s 20-Year). And some skirt the laws of Bluegrass physics by making use of temperature-controlled warehouses. 

Related: 10 Rare Bourbons and Ryes Worth Hunting Down

In the case of Redemption 36-Year-Old, by most accounts, it drinks less like chomping into an oak tree than you might suspect. The auction winner wouldn’t share any of their largess with us (hey, it was worth the ask) but those who have sampled the goods say it brings a unique sort of smoky, barbecue sauce to the palate. It also remains particularly punchy for a whiskey that was laid down during the Carter administration.

Tasting notes are almost beside the point, however. This is much more about owning something to which only 17 other humans on Earth can lay claim. If that’s what you prize, perhaps $18,000 is a bargain.

“I will say, that 45-year-old juice we drank was something I will never forget,” admits Goldfarb. “Though it’s probably not the sort of memory its maker was intending to inspire.” 

In other words, if you’re doing it simply for the story, audaciously aged bourbons are a juice worth the squeeze.

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