31 Oct In Surprise Win, Best Whisky In World Accolade Goes To Limited-Edition U.S. Bottling Booker’s Rye
The “World Whisky of the Year” has been anointed in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017, and the honor goes to Booker’s Rye. This is the whiskey world’s equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, and a stunning accolade for the limited-edition bottling that, the guide said, is nothing short of a “staggering example of a magnificent rye, showing exactly what genius actually means.” It possesses “amazing depth” on the finish and aromas that achieve the level of “brain-draining, mind-blowing.”
When Larry Olmsted wrote about Booker’s Rye here at forbes.com back in May, just as it was hitting shelves across the United States, the bottling promised to be exactly the sort of whiskey that connoisseurs tend to clamor for. It’s the first rye to be released by the legendary bourbon brand, one of the final experiments of the now-deceased Booker Noe; it was bottled at a substantial 68.1% alcohol; and it’s been aged for a notably long stretch of 13 years, one month, and 12 days. All of this was sure to pique consumer interest and attention, which it certainly has done. The recent award will magnify it all a thousand-fold.
This is the second year in a row that a rye has taken home this particular accolade—the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye won the award for 2016—and an indication of the growing range of, and market for, carefully crafted rye whiskey.
In August of 2015, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) published an article online noting that, between 2009 and 2014, supplier revenue from rye climbed from approximately $15 million to more than $106 million—a gain of a staggering 609%.
What the award will do the price of this already expensive Booker’s Rye is anyone’s guess: It debuted with a suggested retail price of $299.99 per bottle, and, while it’s still available online for around $350, that promises to go up. “Barreled as a small, experimental rye whiskey of less than 100 barrels, Booker’s Rye is a one-time-only release and features a never-before-released rye mash bill, unique only to this batch,” Rob Mason, VP Bourbon for Beam Suntory, explained in an email. “Once Booker’s Rye is gone, it is gone for good.”
Flavien Desoblin, owner of New York’s Brandy Library and Copper and Oak, is bracing for the one-two punch of both elevated prices for the rye and near-instant consumer demand for it. “Now unfortunately, it’s going to be found at a very high price in liquor stores,” he said. “That’s too bad, but there was a limited quantity, so that’s how it goes.”
When Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 (also a Beam Suntory product) was named World Whisky of the Year 2014, demand was staggering. Even now, a quick online search for it found two retailers in the United States selling bottles for nearly $5,000 each. Last year’s winner, the Crown Royal, can still be found for approximately $30 per bottle, however. Desoblin thinks that this discrepancy is a result of the fact that Canadian rye is still a relatively niche product—at least compared to bourbon or American rye, for example— whose reputation as a spirit more suited to older drinkers is in the early stages of being sloughed off by a new generation of bartenders and more open-minded consumers. American rye, on the other hand, possesses “great appeal already ingrained in modern consumers’ minds,” he explained in a follow-up email.
Trying to predict what exactly will happen to the price of the Booker’s Rye, then, is anyone’s guess. It will certainly go up, but how much is still unclear. Beam Suntory’s Rob Mason noted that because of “the incredible demand for this special, rare whiskey—further driven by this prestigious honor—consumers may encounter significantly higher prices at the retail level.”
If you want a bottle, then, it’s probably best to snap it up now—if you can find one.