So I live in a control state (Oregon). There aren't any dusties to be had around here, which in terms of quality to price, would probably be the first source of value to the bourbon enthusiast. Oregon just got our allocation of Pappy, from which I was completely excluded (through no lack of trying on my part -- I called my local liquor store at 11:30 on the day it came in, and they said that they didn't know if they got any Pappy because they hadn't unloaded the truck yet, and I called back at 1:00 and it was sold out. I did manage to snag a Stagg, though.) Which, premium bourbons like the BTAC and Pappy, in spite of their expense, might still be the number 2 source of value around, just solely due to enjoyment to price ratio (though, again, getting worse with every price increase.)
However, in the course of hunting all over town for a store that didn't sell out of the Van Winkles in the first 30 minutes, I found a store, a state store (because they're all state stores) that had participated in Buffalo Trace's Barrel Select program, and gotten a single, hand selected barrel of regular old Buffalo Trace. So I bought a bottle, and I must say, it was freaking amazing. Just a complete honey barrel. Char forward, brown sugar in the middle, and an ascendant warm rye finish. I went back for 3 more (awesomely, the OLCC has BT on sale currently for 3 bucks less than normal.) And I got to thinking, as the dusties get rarer (they aren't making any more glut era bourbon, after all), and the premium whiskeys start to command higher prices (due to either investment of money or time), maybe the next value proposition is the selected barrel. Stuff like the BT barrel that I ended up buying 4 bottles of, or a Binny's Willett, or something like that. That's what Julian does, after all. It really does seem that, for as much as distillation is a commodified, industrial process, there is still an awful lot of variation from barrel to barrel. So there are opportunities to find incredibly good bourbon by looking for hand selected, premium barrels.
All I know is, if am in a position to buy a bottle or three and I see that there's a barrel selection, from here out, I'm taking the leap and giving it a try. What do you think?