Why Buy: Rare Character has been an out-of-the-gate smash — they just took home the award for Best Special Barrel-Finished Whiskey from the 2023 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco, and last year Uproxx hailed them as the #1 Rye Whiskey of 2022 — and these straight malt whiskeys (bottled in 2011 and 2014) from their Exceptional Series line are dazzling one-offs, never to be repeated. Oh, and Bourbon heads, take note: thanks to their mash bill, these drink like bourbons.

The Story: Rare Character is the brainchild of Pablo Moix, a restaurateur and mixologist behind some of the most exclusive and celebrated bars in Los Angeles and on the West Coast and, as profiled by The New York Times, a pioneer in "dusty hunting," the pursuit of dusties, or old, rare bottles in the backrooms of distilleries or languishing at estate sales. Two years ago, he joined forces with Peter Nevenglosky to create Rare Character and capitalize on the pair's extensive network of connections, deep knowledge of the industry, and keen eye for high quality. And, above all, to provide a proper home for their talent for sourcing rare and forgotten barrels of rye, bourbon, and whiskey and maturing them to create expressions of soulful character and extraordinary complexity.

Specs: The Exceptional Series was designed as a showcase for Rare Character's rarest, most character-rich casks. These Kentucky Straight Malt Whiskeys, the first offerings from that series, can be properly thought of as sour mashes with bourbon backsets. They were distilled at no more than 165 proof and went into the barrel at no more than 125 proof. Aging was done in a separate barrel. The mash bill is 65 percent malted barley (to be considered a Straight Malt, 51 percent is the minimum), 35 percent corn.

Our Tasting Notes: On both the nose and the palate, these two whiskeys could fool you into thinking they were bourbons. The sweetness is controlled, though, and the oaking subtle, keeping in check the presence of vanilla, so strong in many other bourbons or whiskeys. Character is in the name, and folks, they're not lying: this has a slowly-coaxed quality that compels you to slow down and savor it, and a rich, developed mouthfeel — enlivened by warming notes of spice and apricots — that carries you blissfully to the finish, which, unsurprisingly, takes its own sweet time. The biggest difference between the 2011 and the 2014? In a word: maturity. The 2011 is even smoother, and softer, and the weave of elements more sinuous.

Fun Fact: In a past life, Moix manned the bar at the speakeasy Old Lightning, in Venice Beach, which Punch magazine said "may have the greatest collection of vintage, limited release, discontinued or otherwise unobtainable" spirits — "a liquid Fort Knox that rivals any drinking den in the country, possibly the world."

Our Guarantee: We always buy and source direct, so you can be confident that your whiskeys will arrive in your hands with pristine provenance. Don't hesitate to secure yours today!


*Offer NOT valid in-store. This offer is made pre-arrival, with wines estimated to be delivered to your preferred store in Winter 2023 (December 21, 2023 - March 20, 2024). With the supply chain issues that we are seeing globally, there may be some unforeseen delays which could affect the ETA. All sale prices are the lowest available at Total Wine & More and ONLY valid through Concierge Sales. No further discounts or coupons may be applied. Offer only valid in AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA, NJ, NV, SC, & TX. This offer is valid for ONE WEEK, or until sold out, and will expire on Wednesday November 1, 2023.

*Due to limited storage space for pre-ordered product, we can only hold orders for 30 days from the first notification that your order is ready for pickup. If you are unable to pick up your order within 30 days, please contact Concierge Sales at (855) 841-2752 or conciergesales@totalwine.com to make an arrangement. A store associate may reach out periodically to notify you of your order. Unfortunately, if no arrangements have been made, after 30 days, the order will need to be cancelled and we will provide a full refund.  No orders will be cancelled without multiple communication attempts.