Wl Weller Special Reserve Bourbon
As the Weller name has grown in popularity over the years, so too has the price on the bottle, making the Antique 107 and 12-year varieties virtually impossible to find for under $100. Thankfully, the Special Reserve expression can still be readily had for around 50 bucks, and while some may discount it as the next best thing, its very much a respectable whiskey in its own right. Think plenty of sweetness throughout, with just the slightest bit of heat for the finish.
Best Value: Old Forester 100 Proof
Courtesy of Wine.com
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Apple, Spice, Oak
Old Forester must be the best bang for your buck, so if it turns out bourbon is not your thing its no big deal, says Chris Keller, bartender at Osaka Ramen in Denver. Its an authentic bourbon with excellent flavor. Take a sip, then add an ice cube to feel the flavor develop. There are a variety of expressions with different ABVs, but the 100 proof version is one of the best.
Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Heaven’s Door is a Tennessee-based bourbon created by none other than music legend Bob Dylan, with its namesake inspired by his song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” per Whiskey Rocks. The distillery first opened in 2018, offering a handful of master-crafted bourbons to try. The brand’s straight bourbon whiskey will cost you about $50, but it’s not a bad price for an award-winning spirit with a major celebrity attached to it .
Heaven’s Door bourbon is aged for a minimum of six years and has an all-around warm appeal, evocative of a firm handshake. It’s smooth and sweet, with an extended finish that leaves lingering flavors of vanilla, dried fruits, and various spices. It’s an all-around great bourbon to have on-hand, so whiskey aficionados likely won’t regret purchasing a bottle once to try out. If they also happened to be fans of the iconic singer-songwriter, there’s double the reason to try it out.
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What’s The Best Way To Drink Bourbon
The knee-jerk response is “however you most enjoy it.” There are no rules to bourbon drinking, but the most common ways are neat , on the rocks , and with a bit of water.
I recommend first trying a bourbon neat. From there, you can decide how you want it. A little water, just a few drops, will unlock new flavors, especially in higher-proof bourbons. A large ice cube will cool the bourbon and melt slowly to avoid diluting it too much.
Generally, though, bourbon drinkers frown upon shooting bourbon or mixing it with soda.
The Best $200 Bourbon*
Yes, that’s an asterisk. We’ll explain in a minute.
W.L. Weller, made by Buffalo Trace, is a wheated bourbonmeaning that in addition to the 51 percent required corn, youll find wheat on the mash bill instead of the more typical rye. The 12-year used to be easy to find, laments Susan Reigler, but then Julian Van Winkle let slip that he chooses barrels of Weller to make Pappy Van Winkle.” If you’ve been drinking whiskey at all in the last 15 years or so, you know Pappy as the once-cult, now-impossible-to-find status bourbon.
The Flatiron Room’s Young Kim agrees that W.L. Weller is a solid fallback if you want Pappy flavors but don’t have an in with a distributor who gets an allocation . Pappy Van Winkle and W.L. Weller are the same liquid with the same mash bill, Kim adds. Of course theyre different if you try them side-by-side, but they have a similar flavor profile.
Now, technically Weller 12-year has a list price of only $40but the association with Pappy means it’s impossible to find anywhere near that number. If that means the W.L. Weller 12 is too rich for your blood, then Weller’s Special Reserve, available for around $50 bottle, is a worthwhile consolation prize.
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Best Overall: Knob Creek
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Corn, Fruit
Knob Creek is part of Jim Beams Small Batch Collection. This 9-year-old bourbon is a great place to start for anyone interested in the category. You will get a bit of oak on the palate here, but nothing that overpowers the classic flavors of vanilla, caramel and dried fruit. This bourbon works as well in a cocktail as it does sipped in a glass neat.
Best Single Barrel: Four Roses Single Barrel
Courtesy of Wine.com
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Spice, Cherry, Chocolate
Carlos Lopez, bar manager of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami Beach, recommends trying Four Roses Single Barrel expression. It has a smooth and long finish, which provides the perfect entrance to anyone knocking on the Bourbon Trails front door, he says. While bottles will vary based on what barrel they come from, Four Roses is consistently a good choice.
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Russells Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon
Arriving at 55 percent ABV, this single-barrel bourbon is complex and expressive, making each glass an enjoyable journey. Banana, crème brûlée, and stone fruit jam aromas kick off the experience, while the palate begins bright and fruity. Decadent caramel and further fruit notes emerge on the finish, along with the influences of oak and maturation. Given the price, availability, and sheer quality, this should be a staple on your bar cart or whiskey shelf. Average price: $63.
Old Forester 150th Anniversary Bourbon
Liquor lore has it that George Garvin Brown revolutionized the whiskey business in 1870, when he started selling his Old Forrester bourbon in sealed glass bottles instead of the barrels and jugs that were the norm back then. Fifteen decades and a discarded r later, ol Georges hooch is still going strong, as evidenced by this estimable expression, which is available in three batches in very limited quantities. Batch 01/03 is a 125.6 proof fruit bomb with a graham cracker finish. Batch 02/03 weighs in at 126.4 proof and is sweet and spry as the day is long. Last but not least, Batch 03/03126.8 proof and brimming with spice and citrus.
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Woodford Reserve Masters Collection 2009 Seasoned Oak Finish
In the early 1800s, Woodford County Distillery owner Oscar Pepper and master distiller James Crow pioneered key bourbon-making processes such as sour mashing, copper pot distillation, and charred oak cask maturation. Woodford Reserves Masters Collection is the belated thanks they get. Were either still around to sample this rich amber-colored delectation, surely theyd revel in the 2009 Seasoned Oak Finishs robust oakiness and spice, as well as the keen notes of fruit jam, toasted almond, and dark chocolate. The homestretch lolls pleasantly, offering sweet butter and a hint of cool lemon custard. Be forewarnedfinding a bottle is darn near a mission impossible.
Eagle Rare Antique Collection 2021
Somehow we were lucky enough to get our greedy paws on samplers of each of Buffalo Traces Antique Collection, and every year the package beams golden rays like that scene in Pulp Fiction where Vinnie Vega opens Wallaces stolen briefcase.
Arguably the most coveted American whiskey collection every year, you could easily name all the Antique Collection on this list: William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old, and Sazerac 18-Year-Old Rye .
But after sampling all four well select our favorite: the Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old.Allegedly losing 73% angels share and bottled at 101-proof, you can imagine how rare this expression is all but guaranteeing you wont find it anywhere at its $99 SRP. Aromas of spearmint and red cherry are fortified with tasting notes of cedar, tobacco and more cherry. A truly wonderous spirit. $2,000 / 50.5% ABV
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What About Barrel Picks
Barrel picks are awesome, but they werent included in the list above because the specifics will vary so widely.
That doesnt mean you shouldnt consider them, though.
Stores often offer barrel picks from great brands like Four Roses and Makers Mark that are single barrel and barrel strength .
And depending on the price and proof, they could be a great buy.
Parkers Heritage Collection Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This whiskey was created in tribute to Heaven Hills longtime master distiller, Parker Beam. Beam himself personally selected the barrels that were used for the Heritage Collection Cask Strengths first edition, released in 2007. Beam, who passed away in January 2017, endeavored to make classic Kentucky bourbon. Theres no better example of stellar old-school hooch than this. Its full-bodied, brimming with dried fruit flavor and possessing ample oak and tannins. Originally priced at $80, a bottle can now go for several thousand dollars on the secondary market.
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Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey Taste 9
This whiskey is built from a batch of barrels that are a minimum of seven years old. Nearests master blender, Victoria Eady-Butler, builds the blend according to classic flavor notes first put into Tennessee whiskey by her ancestor, Nearest Green, back in the 1800s.
I want this at barrel proof. Uncle Nearest 1854 is at least at 100 proof, which is a big step up.
Best Outside Of Kentucky: Woodinville Whiskey
Region: Washington | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Crème brûlée, Tropical fruit
Beyond Kentucky, you can find distilleries making bourbon in nearly every state nowadays, from tiny craft operations to larger upstart facilities. One notable distillery is Woodinville Whiskey. Its flagship straight bourbon is aged for five years in central Washington warehouses after being distilled just outside of Seattle. The rich palate of buttery caramel, sweet vanilla and ripe fruits can compete with any bourbon made in Kentucky. Its bottled at 90 proof, but if youre looking for something stronger, there’s a barrel-proof version offered at the distillery as well.
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Caramel, Stone fruit
Wheated bourbons are defined as having a mash bill that uses wheat as the secondary flavoring grain instead of the usual rye . This imbues the bourbon with a softer, slightly sweeter flavor profile, minus the trademark spice notes of rye. If you have not tried a wheated bourbon before, pick up a bottle of Larceny: made by Heaven Hill, this bourbon uses one-third more wheat than other similar bourbons, according to the distillery. Its aged for six years and has notes of honey, caramel and even some stone fruits.
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Knob Creek 12 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon
Billing itself as “an honest pre-prohibition style bourbon,” this 100 proof, full-bodied and nuanced bourbon is made by none other than Jim Beam. Knob Creek 12 Year, which was released in 2020, is one of the few bourbon offerings of that age that can be found for under $100 . The small-batch bourbon has been rated more generously than its cousin Knob Creek 9 Year bourbon. Said to be a more elegant whiskey than its nine-year-old counterpart, the pour builds on the Jim Beam experience with notes of vanilla, fruit, tobacco, chocolate, and toasted sugar .
This Knob Creek bourbon’s transparency goes against the recent trend of not displaying age statements on bottles, putting the 12 right on the label. The trend has been a direct result of a recent spike in interest in bourbon. When the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand, many brands dropped age statements from their products, supplementing batches with younger drops .
Broken Barrel Small Batch Bourbon Taste 2
This Kentucky whiskey is made under contract at Owensboro Distilling Co. The mash is 70% corn, 21% rye, and nine percent malted barley. Those barrels then have oak staves put in them for a final maturation. The Oak Bill by Broken Barrel is 40% French oak, 40% ex-bourbon, and 20% sherry cask staves. That whiskey is then blended and bottled after proofing.
This was amongst the thats fine run on this tasting. It didnt jump out at me until I saw the reveal and the price. This is pretty good stuff for around $30.
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Knob Creek Small Batch 12 Year Bourbon
Lets face it with the bourbon boom back in full swing, these days, getting your hands on a quality double-digit expression for under $100 is a pretty tall order. However, Jim Beams Knob Creek Small Batch 12 Year Bourbon should do just the ticket, spending some 12 years maturing in white oak barrels for extra an extra smoky sip. It begins with a creamy bakery-heavy nose, but it quickly shows its age in the form of a refined palate rich with vanilla and white pepper. Dont sleep on this one though it was once a limited release, and who knows how long itll be part of the regular rotation.
Best Craft: Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Courtesy of Wine.com
ABV: 50% | Tasting Notes: Oak, Caramel, Toffee, Brown sugar, Cherry
One of the newer labels on the block, Town Branch launched in 2012, and was the first new distillery to open in downtown Lexington since Prohibition. The brand focuses on small batch production and emphasizes the human touch, eschewing automation in favor of manually hand-filling barrels and bottles. The bourbon is low on the rye, giving it a mellow, smooth, and sweet character.
Its medium-bodied with a subtle dry finish, says Anthony Baker of hospitality studio Cocktail Professor. It leaves just enough room for a bar spoon of maple syrup. Its surprisingly affordable, so you dont have to feel bad about experimenting with a spoonful of maple syrup like Baker, or pouring it over a big ice cube on a hot day.
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Q: Should I Keep My Bourbon In A Decanter
Sure, decanters look cool and all but after a month, its the best way to deteriorate your whiskey, says Hannah. Keep in the original bottle with the original cap for best storage and store the bottle away from a window. If you have a large collection in storage, placing saran wrap over the cap seals can be extra insurance against exposure to air.
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Pappy Van Winkles Family Reserve 20 Year
To save the best for last, Pappys 20-year-old bourbon is truly a legendary American spirit. It is considered to be the finest of the entire Pappy lineup and its easy to see why when you sip it.
Experts describe Pappys profile as Cognac-like. The aromas are intense, but the bourbon rolls down your throat in a silky-smooth way, providing you with an explosion of flavors. The notes start with spicy fruits and develop into honeyed oak with a lit of creaminess along the way.
| Check Prices For Pappy Van Winkle 20-year Bourbon
This bourbon can be really tough to find. You can to see if the 23-year version is available for shipping.
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Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon
Reactions to this whiskey are mixed they range from very, very good to absolute heaven. Some might balk at the price, but they shouldnt. The reason this whiskey is held in such high esteem is its complexity. Different tasters might find any combination of vanilla, cherry, figs, rye, cinnamon, cream and citrus in every sip. Its a great whiskey to start a conversation with, especially with scotch drinkers who normally wouldnt consider bourbon. We take ours with a splash, just to lengthen the process.
Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon
Kentucky Distillers Association Hall of Famer Al Young toiled for 50 years at Four Roses, and for his efforts, they named a whiskey after him. Beats a gold watch, right? A blend of four distinct proprietary recipes, the Al Young, as its affectionately known, exhibits aromas of sweet caramel and floral honeysuckle. The palate offers fresh peach and apricot flavors, encompassing luxurious, warm fig and rich oak, with a hint of mint on the finish. It was originally priced at $150, but expect to pay significantly more on the secondary market.
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Best For Sipping: Widow Jane 10
Region: Kentucky/Tennessee/Indiana/New York | ABV: 45.5% | Tasting Notes: Cherry, Light Char, Vanilla
Widow Jane meticulously sources its favorite bourbons from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana and blends them in five barrel batches in Brooklyn, N.Y. Its team wanted to add something that had the intense taste of New York in each sip, so it cuts that blend with limestone mineral water from the famous Rosendale Mines in upstate New York. The distillerys signature 10-year-old bourbon presents a nose of nutmeg, cream, vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon, and a palate that flirts with maple syrup, almond, cherry, and orange.
My new favorite sipper, and one of the best bourbons I have ever tasted, hands down, says Anthony Vitacca, an award-winning bartender based in California.
Region: Kentucky | ABV: 45.7% | Tasting Notes: Sweet corn, Peach, White pepper