Value Proposition of Higher Proof US Whiskies

Whiskey geeks love higher proof whiskies.  We tend to like sipping whiskey neat at higher proof and the flexibility to add our own water to our desired proof.  In the heat of Houston summers, I often drink bourbon with a few ice cubes. Higher proof bourbon can hold up to ice without becoming too diluted.  In recent years the US distilleries and NDP’s have responded with expanded offerings at higher proof.

These higher proof offerings often come at significantly higher prices. The reality is you are paying a premium for something that simply has less water added to it.  It’s generally the same whiskey just bottled at a different proof. Knowing that, it becomes a math calculation to determine the premium you are paying for a more concentrated version.  It’s true that these versions often come in more fancy packaging. Some are not necessarily bottled at barrel proof, but perhaps at a marketing term of ‘Full Proof’ or just at a higher proof.  This is often done so they can have 1 label that covers all the possible proofs that will come out of any barrel or batch of barrels. Considering that I get my own water for virtually free, I decided to break some bottles down for price comparison.  This shows how much premium these higher proof bourbons carry. The chart below is based on pricing in my local market Houston for 750ml bottles; pricing varies some by region.

Barrel Proof premium rev 1

link to above – Barrel Proof spreadsheet

I’m sure I’ll get some feedback of my pairings. I’m not saying these are exact but I am saying they are close.  Is Stagg Jr really a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace? They are the same mashbill and around the same age with just a difference in proof.  WP Boss Hog V is a 13 year MGPi Rye finished in secondary casks. WP Old World is 1 year off at 12 years and is MGPi Rye finished in secondary casks at a lower proof.  Blanton’s SFTB is EU’s current pricing converted to USD, but you still have to get it to the States.

As you can see the range is from an extremely reasonable zero % increase to a whopping 399% increase.  Overall we are paying significantly more for higher proof US whiskies. Are they worth this extra cost?  That always comes down to an individual’s personal preference. For me, I’m going to start drinking more OGD 114 and I need to go purchase some WT Rare Breed.

Next in this series I’ll look at how much premium producers are charging for finishing whiskey for a short period in secondary casks.

Proof Calculations computed using this calculator –