It would make sense to assume that every bottle of bourbon made in the U.S. would be available in the U.S., but sadly, that is not the case. Several bourbons, including some fantastic whiskies, are only available overseas. This includes Blanton's Bourbon, which became a hit in Japan before the U.S. and is still popular among consumers today. But it's not just Japan that gets to enjoy exclusive bourbons like the prized Blanton's -- many of the spirits are also popular in Europe, Asia, and, of course, the United States.
If you are hoping to know all about these bourbons, we're here to help. As bourbon connoisseurs, we have tasting experience with all of these brands and have even sampled some of these exclusive bottles. While these whiskeys are considered exclusive, some have been sold directly at distilleries or secondary markets. Regardless of where you buy them, the bottles are usually significantly more expensive in the States than overseas. Here are some of the most exclusive bourbons that are worth tracking down.
Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked
Evan Williams 12-Year
For many people, the journey through bourbon could well start with Evan Williams, considering it is one of the best bourbon brands and the greatest budget whiskeys. In contrast, Evan Williams's 12-year, otherwise known as the Red Label, is one of the toughest bourbons to acquire. This Evan Williams bottle comes in at 101 proof, which, for many people, gives the perfect balance to depth without being too overpowering.
As is almost always the case with bourbon, if the nose is great, the whiskey is great -- and this 12-year is no exception. The smell of this bourbon is a delightful mix of different notes. Although the wood influence from the extended aging is expected, there are surprising hints of cinnamon, orchard fruits, and toffee. Some of these overseas whiskeys aren't particularly special in terms of flavor, but this one is worth trying. The most distinctive flavor is that of chocolate, and it's made even more delicious by the creamy mouthfeel. When you add a range of berries to the classical bourbon notes, it makes for a delightful whiskey. Plus, the finish isn't incredibly long, but it's satisfying enough with a spicy edge.
The Evan Williams 12-year was exclusive to Japan for a long time, but has recently been made available at the Heaven Hill Distillery. Sadly, it's almost four times more expensive than it is in Japan, but many will still see it as a worthy investment.
Wild Turkey 12-Year
You'll see a few brands in this list that create overseas exclusive bourbons, including Wild Turkey. As with Evan Williams, this is another whiskey that any bourbon lover should be desperate to get their hands on. The Wild Turkey 12-year has an interesting history, as it was sold in Japan for many years before being discontinued in 2012. It was then replaced by the Wild Turkey 13-year, before being revived in 2022. Despite its turbulent timeline, Wild Turkey picked up where it left off in 2012. It's a brilliant bourbon worth bringing back from its retail regions of South Korea, Japan, and Australia.
If you've tried Wild Turkey 101, you will already understand its tasting notes well. However, the Wild Turkey 12-year is a vast improvement from the former. You get the familiar caramel and spice flavor taken to a new level. Sippers can also discern notes of brown sugar, fudge, dark chocolate, and a hint of zest. When added to the excellent nose, it equals a highly impressive tasting experience. The finish is very warm, and if you went to great lengths to acquire this whiskey, you'll soon find it was all worth it. 12-year whiskeys don't get any better than this.
If there were one whiskey brand most closely associated with the Japanese market, it would be Blanton's Black. Part of the reason why Blanton's Bourbon is so difficult to find outside of the country, as well as its affiliation with Japan, is due to its ownership and manufacturing. Blanton's is produced and marketed by the Sazerac Company, which owns the Buffalo Trace Distillery and has exclusive rights to produce Blanton's. However, the mashbill is owned by a Japanese parent company, Takara Shuzo Co., which, along with its subsidiaries, is responsible for distributing it to Japanese markets.
But what about the whiskey? As with all Blanton's, it's made with Buffalo Trace's Mash Bill No. 2, which has a 15% rye percentage. This helps to give it that famous Blanton's taste, but at just 80 proof, those flavors are a little muted here. On the nose, you'll enjoy some oaky notes, a range of fresh fruit and herbs, and mild spice that carries over to the palate. The most interesting notes are sweet cherry and brown sugar, making a highly enjoyable spirit. Undoubtedly, its flavor is impressive, but there are better Blanton's on this list. It's not worth the secondary value if you try and buy it outside of Japan.
Four Roses Super Premium
Four Roses is a brand with a fascinating, seemingly quintessentially American history but is actually under foreign ownership. After aging, distillation, and dumping in Kentucky, this whiskey is sent to the Japanese Kirin Brewery Company to be bottled and distributed. It's one of only two Four Roses bottles exclusively sold in Japan, which makes it a highly sought-after bourbon.
While Four Roses fans may lament missing out on one of the brand's expressions, this isn't in the same class as some other exports. The nose is quite fruity, with cinnamon and a mild nuttiness dominating the aroma. Moreover, the 86 proof makes this an approachable bourbon, but one that can taste a little thin. That being said, there is a surprisingly significant oak and spice influence. The Super Premium ends with a light mouthfeel and a satisfyingly smooth finish.
If you're in Japan, the Four Roses Super Premium is good bourbon with a mid-level price point. However, those looking for a lovely floral whiskey have many other options closer to home.
We mentioned how Blanton's Black isn't an amazing whiskey, but Blanton's Red certainly is. With a 93 proof, the Red has more depth than the Black. In essence, this is the same original single barrel Blanton's that Americans know and love but with extra aging. There is no official age statement, but it's thought to have matured for around eight years. That extra aging helps to give it an incredible nose. You get some lovely, sugary fruits, a hint of smoke, and beautiful classic aromas of honey and vanilla. It draws you into the tasting experience, which doesn't disappoint either.
The Blanton's Red is a bit bolder than you may expect, with notable influences of cinnamon and clove. You get all the notes we mentioned with the nose and an even greater range of fruits joining them. It has an incredible depth, and you'll enjoy being able to pick out your own notes. Plus, the rich mouthfeel confirms this as a premium bourbon. Its finish is warm, with the sweetness and smoke continuing to the end. If you love the taste of Blanton's, then this is a bourbon that you must try at some point, even if that means taking a trip over to Japan!
Wild Turkey 13-Year
The Wild Turkey 13-year was brought to replace its 12-year expression, but now both are on the market. Aside from the year of extra aging, the most significant difference is that the 13-year is bottled at 91 proof compared to the 12-year's 101 proof. It means the 13-year isn't quite as robust as its younger brother and may be a turn-off for many bourbon connoisseurs looking to get their hands on a bottle of Wild Turkey. At 91 proof, it still has plenty of punch and a great nose. The expected notes of vanilla and caramel are rich and aromatic, but there is plenty of spice like nutmeg and cinnamon in there, too. More subtle notes include that of orange, herbs, and honey. A medium-long finish pleasantly finishes the tasting experience as the flavors gently fade.
The taste is delicate and will be loved by anyone who isn't overly keen on higher-proof expressions. All of the notes on the nose develop perfectly on the palate and allow you to enjoy the depth of this whiskey. It may not have the same complexity as other Wild Turkey offerings, but it is still impressive. It may be younger; the 12-year-old is probably a little better, but this is still a delicious bourbon.
Ancient Ancient Age 8-Year
Ancient Ancient Age 8-year is another bourbon from the Buffalo Trace distillery that produces Blanton's. And no, its name isn't a typing error -- which is why you may also hear it referred to as 3A. Interestingly, this 8-year bourbon uses the same No.2 mashbill as the Blanton's, similar to the Blanton's Red. One significant difference is that while Blanton's celebrates its single-barrel status, 3A is a small-batch whiskey. The 80 proof for the 3A is also slightly lower than the 93 proof Blanton's Red, which is why some bourbon connoisseurs often label 3A as a cheap Blanton's alternative. Moreover, the $30 price tag in Japan reflects these differences.
For Japanese consumers, Ancient Ancient Age represents a brilliant way to taste high-quality bourbon at a low cost. The aromas are rich, but the barrel influence is evident, with hints of oak and char. There are also more subtle influences of spice and fruits that you'd usually expect from much more expensive bourbons. The richness of the product continues onto the palate, where vanilla plays the biggest role in the taste profile. Cinnamon and oak give it a lovely warmth and add to an impressive balance with a pleasing mouthfeel. The only letdown here is the finish, which is on the shorter side. It doesn't have the complexity of more premium bourbons, but for its price tag, it's quite impressive.
There are two versions of Blanton's Gold, one sold in Japan and the other sold in Europe. One way to easily distinguish them is the units in which they are sold. European bottles are 700 milliliters, while Japanese Gold is 750 milliliters. The European bottle is sold at 103 proof and has been aged for six years. The influence of rye is notable on the nose, but there are also earthy aromas of wood, floral, and smoke. That smokiness develops into charred oak and tobacco on the palate before the sweeter, honey-like taste emerges. The finish is long and lingers beautifully in the mouth, proving this bottle has incredible balance and complexity.
The Japanese version has all of the same specifications, including the 103 proof, but it's aged for two years longer. The tasting notes are very similar to those above, but there is a more notable, berry-like fruit influence on the nose. The spices are also more notable on the palate than in the European version, and the extra two years of aging seem to improve all of the flavors. A long-lasting finish is highly satisfying and perfectly showcases the notes in the nose and palate. Both are great whiskeys, but if you're on the lookout for a bottle of Blanton's Gold, make sure you know which one you're buying.
Four Roses Black Label
The Black Label is the other Four Roses bourbon exclusively sold outside the U.S.. As with the Super Premium, this is a good whiskey, but one that isn't worth searching high and low for. It has the most floral aroma of any bourbon on this list, with a supporting charred taste and a burst of citrus to give it plenty of depth. Since it's only 80 proof, the mouthfeel is a bit thin while still having an interesting interplay of flavors.
As you may expect, the palate has a buttery presence and plenty of sweetness. One of the more interesting tasting notes is that of chocolate, along with some subtle fruits and baking spices. There is plenty of flavor to enjoy with a pleasurable tasting experience. On the finish, char comes to the fore and with being medium in length, it doesn't disappoint. It feels as though this was created to satisfy Japanese demand for a quality yet affordable bourbon. It ticks those boxes, but it's probably best to look elsewhere if you're heading to the country to bring back some whiskey bottles.
Blanton's Special Reserve Green Label
A common theme with most of these whiskeys is they are exclusive to Japan. As we've seen, a big reason for that is many bourbon companies have Japanese ownership. However, the Special Reserve is an exception, as this was bottled for the European market. Despite this regional marketing, the Special Reserve has many similarities to Blanton's Black Label. That includes the 80 proof and its more approachable profile. The nose is notably mild, but you get a few nice earthy aromas to keep it interesting. There is some fruit, but it's not the most beautiful bourbon smell you'll ever enjoy.
The palate isn't as complex as the Single Barrel Blanton's you can buy in America, but it is still enjoyable enough. It still has balance, some fruit notes, and the classic Blanton's taste. The finish is medium in length with some gentle warmth, giving you a satisfying conclusion. It's still a great whiskey, but it's not the best when looking at value for money. If you're saving up your money to get a special overseas Blanton's, it's probably better to look at either the Red or Gold versions of this iconic brand.
Wild Turkey 101 8-Year
The Wild Turkey 101 8-year is the one Americans have the most cause to be jealous of. Of course, the U.S. enjoys its own Wild Turkey 101, but it doesn't have an age statement. This exclusive 101 has matured for at least eight years, and that extra maturation greatly impacts its aroma and flavors. The nose is delightful for an 8-year, and the common sweetness you get is more developed with some toffee and honey notes. Along with that are earthy nuttiness, oak aromas, and a dash of cinnamon. These aromas transfer beautifully to the palate, where fruity notes of citrus and cherry join them. A short finish can ruin a good whiskey, but you don't have to worry about that here. It lingers on the tongue, with a surprisingly high level of sweetness, along with some pepper.
Is it the greatest whiskey of all time? No, it's far from it, and frankly, it's not as good as the 12-year. But it's incredibly impressive for an everyday bourbon with a medium-length maturation process. With it being a few steps up from the regular Wild Turkey 101 and only slightly more expensive, it does make you wish this would be a worldwide release.
Evan Williams 23-Year
The Evan Williams 23-year is one of the most impressive exclusive bourbons on the market. It's extremely rare to find bourbons at this age, and that's for good reason. Aging bourbon for too long in new oak barrels can impart undesirable flavors and do more harm than good. As a result, bourbon distilleries must be very careful when maturing their bourbon, but there are a few great older bottles out there. The Evan Williams 23-year is proof of this.
Bottled at 107 proof, the nose is expressive with many fruity, herbal, and sweet notes. As you can expect with such an old whiskey, there is plenty to explore. The presence of oak on the palate is evident, but there are plenty of other subtle tastes to enjoy, such as pepper, citrus, and a range of stone fruits. Overall, it's a delicious whiskey that is extremely expensive, even in Japan. The deep and complex taste justifies the extended maturation, and it doesn't have the overwhelming oak taste you may expect. While Evan Williams may be known for its budget bourbon, it has created something special at the other end of the spectrum.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.