What Constitutes A 'Unicorn' Bottle Of Whiskey?

You might very well be content with simply enjoying your favorite foods in perpetuity. However, it's possible that some of you are interested in sampling more highfalutin and less easily-accessible flavors.

Some foods are incredibly rare. For example, Restaurant Clicks tells us about Almas caviar, which is only harvested from the rare albino Iranian Beluga, as well as the Yubari King melon, a Japanese cantaloupe that is grown using a fickle 100-day process.

On the drink side of things, there are certain alcoholic beverages that are only available in limited supply, which often earns them a hefty price tag. The French winemaking company Gérard Bertrand offers a selection of decades-old sweet wines, the oldest of which will run you around $1000 per bottle, and each year, Glenfiddich releases only fifty bottles of a 50-year-aged scotch blend — these will cost you tens of thousands of dollars (via Saveur). When a bottle of whiskey, by virtue of its age and availability, reaches a certain status, it earns a mythological moniker.

Unicorn whiskey can be tough to come by

If you ever find yourself in possession of a bottle of "unicorn" whiskey, you shouldn't use it to make an old fashioned, no matter how tempting it may be. Given their rarity, you should probably just sip the spirit straight. According to VinePair, the term unicorn refers to a bottle of bourbon that, much like the mythical creature from which its name is derived, is very rarely spotted. Unlike unicorns, these uncommon whiskies are, in fact, real.

VinePair goes on to explain that the unicorn label has been slapped on a number of bourbons by collectors. One of the first recipients of the whiskey community's honorific was Frankfort, Kentucky's Pappy Van Winkle. Later, it was given to a number of Buffalo Trace Distillery offerings. It has also been applied to bottles of whiskey from Eagle Rare and Sazerac Rye. Due to the keen eye of bourbon enthusiasts everywhere, it is increasingly difficult to find a unicorn whiskey sitting on the shelves of your local liquor store.

What whiskeys should collectors keep an eye on

There is a way for whiskey collectors to get ahead of their peers — they need to buy a bottle before it ascends to unicorn status. The whims of whiskey connoisseurs are ever-changing, but the internet has still speculated which spirits will become rarities.

In 2020, Punch Drink attempted to tell its readership about the various classifications of unicorn whiskey and listed several examples of each variety. Older unicorns, which are referred to as "dusty," include decade-old Wild Turkey 101 and bottles of Old Grand-Dad from the '80s. VinePair published a list of what they thought were upcoming unicorns in 2021. It included bottles of Maker's Mark Wood Finishing Series and Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered. According to Uproxx, unicorn whiskeys that were released between 2021 and 2022 include the thousand-dollar Birthday Bourbon, Old Forester's annual release that commemorates their 152-year-old distillery. There's also the third edition of Double Eagle Very Rare, a bottle of Buffalo Trace distillery whiskey that has been aged for 20 years and will run you, on average, over $20,000!

If hunting for unicorns sounds like too much work for you and you're looking to stock your liquor cabinet with some more accessible bottles, these are the most underrated bourbons of 2022.