An ever-growing trend in the bourbon and rye whiskey space is the hunt for Single Barrel Select picks of favorite bourbons. In a whiskey world full of allocated bottles and secondary prices, many collectors are looking toward unique, one-of-a-kind barrels they can snag a bottle or two from. Bonus points if they have a cool sticker.
What is a Single Barrel Select?
A single barrel select, or store pick, is an expression of whiskey (usually bourbon or rye) that is siphoned from only one barrel. They are selected specifically by a liquor store, bourbon group, or Master Distiller. Distilleries offer whiskey enthusiasts the opportunity to taste whiskey from multiple barrels, then buy one the one they most prefer. Their group or store will get all the bottles that are produced from this barrel.
For example, Buffalo Trace is typically a batched bourbon, meaning potentially dozens of barrels are all mixed together and watered down to bottling proof. A Buffalo Trace Single Barrel Select doesn’t go through this batching process, though (in this case) it does get watered down to bottling proof.
Some other brands will offer barrel strength versions for their Single Barrel Selects as well, but these will often return fewer bottles.
Bourbon Enthusiast x Maker's Mark Private Select Bourbon
Mash and Grape
Is Single Barrel Bourbon Better Than Small Batch?
Not necessarily. Non-select Single Barrels, like the standard Blanton’s offering, are often hit or miss. Small Batch bourbons have the benefit of consistency, so the less desirable barrels are mixed with some great barrels (and everything in between). Single Barrel whiskey runs the risk of a “bad” barrel, with nothing to make it better. But with high risk comes high reward. You may also get a stellar, very unique barrel!
Single Barrel Selections, however, tend to favor the “stellar”… or at least the very good. When a group of whiskey tasters gets to sample the barrels first, most bad barrels will get chucked. So these specific Barrel Picks are generally better than small batch bourbons.
Which Distilleries Offer Store Picks?
The short answer here is that most major distilleries offer single barrel store picks, though the quantity can be quite limited. For instance, Buffalo Trace Distillery opened their online portal for Single Barrel Picks back in December 2020, but only a few hundred barrels were available. Heaven Hill, Barton 1792, and Dickel are some other large, well known bourbon brands that offer Single Barrel Selections. High West, Knob Creek, Elijah Craig, and Smooth Ambler are also on this list.
Other than the obvious big distilleries, smaller operations have also found Single Barrel Selections to be a lucrative business. A few of big names in small distillery store picks include Smoke Wagon, New Riff, Nulu, and Good Times.
Are Store Picks Available in North Carolina?
Absolutely! Store picks are everywhere in North Carolina. The ABC system can make it a bit difficult, but plenty of groups like to make bourbon picks. Some local ABC boards are better than others. A trip to Angier or Durham County almost always results in a single barrel selection find. Chatham, Mecklenburg, and other counties usually have something floating around as well. Sometimes these picks are done by the ABC Board themselves. Other times local groups will do the pick, and work with an ABC board for distribution. Two of the most prolific single barrel selection groups in North Carolina are Raleigh Bourbon and Banter and North Carolina Bourbon Society.
It’s pretty easy for most of these groups to get certain unallocated barrel picks, like Elijah Craig, Woodinville, or Maker’s Mark picks. The more heavily allocated bourbons like Buffalo Trace and Weller are still difficult to come by. North Carolina may only get one pick of something like this for the entire year. There’s also not necessarily great announcements for when the State pick will drop, but if you follow the pick groups you can get some information on the private selections.
You can also find great Private Select Store picks online if you know where to look. Here are some we recommend that are available right now: