The $4,000 bourbon


When I heard about Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Bourbon, I thought it was a joke.

“Louisville-based Michter’s Distillery is pleased to announce a very limited release of Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey. … Master Distiller Willie Pratt hand selects sour mash whiskey from his favorite over-30-year-old barrels, his favorite over-20-year-old barrels and some other exceptional barrels, and he blends them into an extraordinary whiskey. With 18 karat gold labeling screened on the bottle, Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash comes packaged in an elegant gift box. Two hundred seventy-three bottles will comprise the total world-wide release for 2013, and the retail price is anticipated to be in the vicinity of $4,000.”

Four-thousand dollars? For one bottle???

After calling around, I determined this is not a joke. Local liquor stores are taking orders for this Celebration, and people are actually ordering it. One local merchant who is requiring a $500 deposit on each bottle said a woman came in today and put down $1,500 for three bottles. (The bottles will be delivered Dec. 1.)

Holy crap. If anyone needed proof that we are in a new age of Bourbon Madness, there you go. I can’t imagine justifying spending $4,000 on a bottle of anything, save perhaps a bottle of wine changed from water by You-Know-Who. But people are rushing to buy anything and everything bourbon-related that is termed rare or limited-edition. It’s not just your Pappy any more.

Will this Celebration be worth celebrating? Well, how does bourbon get to be 30 years old? Maybe genius planning. Or maybe it wasn’t very good when it was younger, and no one could sell it. In any case, not too much of it would be left in the barrel after 30 years, certainly not enough to mess up the juice in the “exceptional barrels.”

And honestly, it probably doesn’t matter what it tastes like, because chances are good that the buyers of these rare bottles will never open them. More and more people I talk to lately are ”collecting” bourbon – some because they hope to resell it at a profit, and some because they just like collecting things. “They don’t want to drink it,” one local seller said of these enthusiasts; “they want to worship it.”

If you are buying Michter’s Celebration, I’d love to hear from you. How do you justify spending four grand on a bottle of bourbon – and will you drink it? And if you do, is it worth the price?

I won’t be adding it to my Christmas shopping list, and so I won’t be able to speak to the quality of the bourbon. But I do salute the folks at Michter’s for some utterly brilliant marketing.  

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