Unicorn Whiskey Can Cost a Fortune: Here’s Why It’s So Expensive

by Amy Myers
(Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

No, they don’t come with a horn. Unicorn whiskeys are rare bottles of hard-to-find bourbons. These could be special editions or small batches that are only on shelves for a short time. Regardless of their claim to fame, though, whiskey aficionados aren’t afraid to scour every mom-and-pop liquor store and pay a pretty penny to bring home these one-of-a-kind treasures.

What to Know

  • Most unicorn whiskies are Kentucky bourbon and rye
  • Scarcity and individuality are behind the bourbons’ high prices
  • Lotteries and raffles are common ways to score a bottle

Unicorn Whiskey Collectors Strive to Find Those Rare Gems

There’s a good reason why unicorn whiskeys have earned their names. Much like spotting the actual mythical creature, the experience of sipping from one of these bottles is nothing short of magical. Usually, a Kentucky bourbon or rye, unicorn whiskies are special partly because they are so rare. Of course, the more sought-after a product is, the higher the price. But this isn’t the only reason these spirits rack up such a high price at check out.

The other part of the price tag is the individual experience that each unicorn whiskey promises.

Sometimes, you’ll find those experimental batches where the head distiller gets to play with new and strange ingredients. Other times, these varieties will be a part of some special promotion, like distillery anniversaries or other big events. These batches will often be very small in size, often placed behind the counter in a special spot of its own. So, if you’re lucky enough to find one on your own, you’ll be one of the few to taste the batch – perhaps forever.

If you’re new to the unicorn whiskey hunt, the first brands you’ll want to look into are Old Forester’s, Four Roses, Buffalo Trace Distillery’s W. L. Weller, Henry McKenna and, of course, Pappy Van Winkle. But American whiskies aren’t the only ones that qualify as unicorns. According to Punch, some Japanese whiskies from Suntory and even a few Scotches fall under the category.

So, Where Do You Find These Special Spirits?

If you don’t have a finger on the pulse of the dark spirit industry, it can be hard to track down your very own unicorn whiskey. So, the best way to catch one of these rare bottles is to keep a sharp eye out for raffles and lotteries that distilleries host.

Alternatively, you could also register for online bids on sites like Unicorn Auctions, although you should probably keep your checkbook close by if you decide to enter. Not to mention, the site charges an additional 15 percent if you win the bid.

For those on a budget, VinePair recommends looking into brands like Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey which have options from $40 and $175. According to the outlet, these will likely be the future of unicorn whiskeys.