If you had a spare $750 lying around, what would you be inclined to spend it on? It’s enough to cover a return flight to Bali, that pair of RM Williams boots you’ve been eyeing off or a new designer frock guaranteed to boost your Instagram likes. So what makes someone want to spend that much on a single shot of whiskey when they could buy about 20 bottles of Jim Bean instead? After all, it works out to be just over the weekly take-home pay of someone on $45,000 a year. Or the weekly rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Bondi. But for those who prize premium booze and quality over quantity, the juice is worth the (very expensive) squeeze.
Assistant bar manager at Nola Smokehouse and Bar in Barangaroo, Ben Ingall, said it comes down to rarity, exclusivity and a taste of “history”. A 30ml nip of the 1990 O. F. C from Buffalo Trace will set you back $750 because it is the only bottle available in the southern hemisphere. Nola wanted to offer bourbon aficionados something spectacular, so they jumped at the opportunity to stock one of America’s most expensive, and rare, bourbon whiskeys. “We specialise in American whiskey, our collection tips just over 600 bottles, and we wanted to offer something that just isn’t available anywhere else,” Mr Ingall said. The O. F. C isn’t something you can just order from Dan Murphy’s. It has a very limited production run and, up until now, was only available through charity auctions. This is the first commercially available bottle in Australia.
“For people that know what it is, they understand the price point,” Mr Ingall said. “A couple of regular customers who are big bourbon heads have shown a little interest, but no one has ordered it as yet. We have a lot around the $500 mark and have sold a few, but this is the next step.”
Named after the distillery’s old-fashioned copper still, the 1990 vintage was aged for 28 years. Being the world’s oldest continual distillery gives Buffalo Trace an advantage, as 65 per cent of bourbon’s flavour comes from the barrel itself. “Normally, a 20-plus year bourbon tends to be over-oaked, too tannic and bitter. This is incredibly well balanced, with a little bite of rye spiciness,” Mr Ingall said. “It’s made from 51 per cent corn, a little rye and malted barely. It’s really smooth and really rich.”
The expense also comes down to US taxes on bourbon. “Unlike a lot of spirit production in the US, you pay tax on what goes in, not what comes out. So if 250 litres goes in and five litres comes out, you pay tax on 250,” Mr Ingall said.
“They released 63 bottles and put roughly around 360 bottles in the barrel. Due to evaporation in Kentucky, when it comes to these kinds of product you’re tasting a little piece of history.”
FANCY SPENDING UP ON A SHOT? TRY THESE
BAR PATRÓN, NSW
Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2, $990 per 30ml
Aged for eight years in a combination of American oak, French oak and sherry barrels, only 299 bottles of this rare aged tequila were produced. The handmade Lalique crystal decanter alone costs over $10,000.
VUE DE MONDE, VIC
Louis XIII cognac, $550 per 30ml
It’s made by blending and ageing Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie, some of which can be over 100 years old. It was enjoyed by Winston Churchill on his election win in 1951 and by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 during her visit to Versailles.
Ichiro’s Malt 23yo Madeira Cask #1386, Hanyu 1991-2014, $299 per 30ml
Hanyu distillery that produced the Ichiro range is now defunct. When the ageing spirits produced prior to the reopening were slowly released, they saw an almost cult-like following.
ATRIUM BAR, BANKSTOWN SPORTS CLUB, NSW
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23yo, $280 per 30ml
In 1996, the Beverage Testing Institute rated it a 99 out of 100 — the highest rating ever given. Competition for a bottle is so fierce the Ohio government holds a lottery to see who gets one.
SANDBAR, MINDIL BEACH CASINO RESORT, NT
Glenfiddich 40-year-old limited edition single malt, $280 per 30ml
It’s made using a ‘remnant vatting’ process, where some of the previous batch is carried over each time. Like expensive kombucha.
EVOLVE SPIRITS BAR, TAS
Laphroaig 2016, $250 per 30ml
30-year-old, cask strength, Islay single malt Scotch whisky.
VARNISH ON KING, WA
Limeburners heavy peat whisky, $139.50 per 30ml
Limeburners was the first distillery to legally make single malt whisky in WA.
Suntory whisky “Hibiki 21 years old”, $120 per 30ml
Sold in limited quantities, Hibiki 21 was named the Supreme Champion Spirit at International Spirits Challenge 2017.
Renata Gortan is a freelance writer who has been telling stories professionally for the last 12 years but asking people questions all her life. she writes about a variety of lifestyle topics, including food, travel and culture. Continue the conversation on Twitter or Instagram