Friday, July 12, 2024

What Is The Best Top Shelf Whiskey

Tullamore Dew Phoenix Irish Whiskey

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Inspired by the Irish town of Tullamores rebirth in the 18th Century and subsequent founding of the distillery this is an Irish whiskey you should do your damnedest to find. Next time you seek out whiskey from the Emerald Isle, forgo famous staples like Jameson and sling back some fine sips of Tullamore D.E.W. By blending golden grain, malt, and pure pot still whiskey, then letting it rest in sherry casks, a whiff of Phoenix hits you like freshly picked autumn apple dipped in caramel to match .

Heavens Door Tennessee Bourbon

Co-created by iconic American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, this Tennessee bourbon spends eight years harmonizing in oak before release. Vibrant red fruits lead its nose, followed by spicy cloves and black pepper aromas. The palate is equally fruity and spiced, with dried berry flavors adding sweetness. Average price: $50.

Best Grain Scotch: Compass Box Hedonism

Region: Scotland | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Coconut, Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla

A century ago, many Scottish whiskies were made with grains, including corn and wheat, but declined in popularity as big producers started focusing on single malt whiskies. Maverick whisky maker John Glaser rehabilitated it, searching out old grain barrels and blending them together in making Compass Box Hedonism.

H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Franciscos Elixir Saloon and co-founder of Fresh Victor, calls it a head-turner that can open your eyes to the pleasures of grain whisky. With its coconut and caramel notes, it tastes fun, says Tardie. Glasers doing a wonderful service for blended scotch.

Region: Highlands | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Coffee, Espresso, Raisins, Cinnamon

did something innovative, says Tardie. They toasted the barley so much that they call it a chocolate malt.

Just as in beer making, where a chocolate malt adds mocha flavor to a porter or stout, this Highland scotch is rich in cocoa and espresso notes that only deepen over time. Its made from the distillerys oldest whisky35- to 40-year-old scotch, aged in American white oakwhich gives it a gravitas that Tardie appreciates. As you sip it, and as the alcohol burns off, he says, theres a strong characteristic of dark chocolate and coffee grinds.

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What Is Irish Whiskey Made From

Barley is commonly used to produce a classic style of Irish whiskey. Many distilleries use unmalted barley, some incorporate a portion of malted barley or other cereal grains, and single malt Irish whiskey is made entirely of malted barley. Grain Irish whiskey has a lighter flavor and is distilled from other cereal grains, such as corn or wheat, using column stills. Its also often used when blending Irish whiskey after aging. Single grain Irish whiskey uses just one type of grain.

Very Old Fitzgerald 8 Year Old

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Distilled in the early 1950s and bottled in the late 1950s to early 1960s, this bottle may be the hardest one to find on this list simply due to its date of origin. Bottled at 50% ABV, I recently saw this for an astronomical price of £4,000 on The Whisky Exchange, which wasn’t even the highest price I’ve seen on it. This is a must-have for any true American bourbon diehard collector.

Nate Ganapathi is on Instagram at @singlemaltdaily.

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Henry Mckenna Single Barrel 10

Bourbon doesnt get much better than this Henry Mckenna Single Barrel. It won Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, which is one of the highest honors for any brand. Plus, this bottle is only the second bourbon to get the award.

Henry Mckenna is part of the Kentucky-based Heaven Hill Distillery, which is known for other award-winning whiskeys such as Elijah Craig Bourbon, Larceny Bourbon and Pikesville Rye Whiskey. This specific bottle of Mckenna comes from a single barrel of bourbon thats been aged 10 years, but despite that prestigious number, the whiskey isnt too expensive at all.


Powers Gold Label $3199 At Flaviar

Voted by 200+ people at 7.5/10-stars on average, Powers Gold Label is a high-quality Irish Whiskey that has been distilled for nearly 230 years. With notes of cinnamon, white pepper, honey, and cloves, plus an underlying scent of toasted oak, sweet fruit, butterscotch and orange zest, this Irish whiskey appeals to a lot of different palettes and is pretty versatile. A great choice for beginners, this renowned whiskey comes from Powers, one of the first distilleries in the world and is a good choice for new whiskey drinkers. She liked the sweeter taste, a reviewer says about his wifes experience trying the whiskey. Very smooth and complex favor.

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Old Forester 86 Proof

Its hard to pick out a favorite from Old Foresters lineup each is thoroughly enjoyable in its own unique way. And while all offer great value for money, its the 86 Proof that makes it onto the list for the sheer quality it offers for $20. Lighter on the nose than many bourbons, the palate has great body, a gentle spice, and a well-balanced finish. Average price: $20.

Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Bourbon

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Blantons Original Single Barrel Bourbon is damn tough to outshine. The whiskey bleeds of satisfying orange and vanilla notes, and comes in one of the single most iconic bottles seen behind a bar. When booze meets lip, it coats your mouth with caramel and citrus, leaving just a slight burn in the back of your throat.

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Best Under $: Buffalo Trace Bourbon


Region: Kentucky | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Anise, Oak.

Buffalo Traces eponymous bourbon really stands out from the pack in terms of flavor and price. If youre looking for a dependable bourbon for less than $50, give this one a try. Its unpretentious and flavorful, with an ABV that makes it stand up to being used in any cocktail. There are so many good bourbons from the distillery that are expensive and hard to find, and thats great for collectors. But for the average drinker, stick with this workhorse that is vibrant and bold.

Region: Kentucky | ABV: 45.2% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Marzipan, Chocolate.

Woodford Reserve launched its Double Oaked expression in 2012. After initial aging, this bourbon is further matured in barrels that are lightly toasted and then heavily charred. This gives the whiskey a full, almost smoky flavor that brings a cocktail to another level. It’s a full-bodied whiskey with loads of vanilla, caramel, fruit and spice notes, all of which are enhanced by their inclusion in the classic Old Fashioned, says Burns. Double Oaked also has a nice rich, creamy mouthfeel that works super well with a muddled sugar cube, well soaked with bitters.

Jeffersons Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet Cask Finished

Another cask-finished bourbon, this release spends an extra 12 months resting in French oak barrels, which once held Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The red wine finish lends sweet berry aromas and an added layer of complexity to the palate. Its a little on the pricey side, but this is a well-balanced bourbon and an interesting addition to any spirits aficionados collection. Average price: $73.

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Pappy Van Winkles Family Reserve 23 Year

Experts and new drinkers alike are split right down the middle on this well-aged juice. Its long life sitting in a barrel makes some sippers lose their minds, claiming there is nothing else in the world worth drinking. Others say its too old, too bitter, and lacks the perky vanilla and caramel taste that makes younger bourbons better. Either way, you need to give this a shot, if only to join the conversation.

Best Overall: Old Grand

Image result for images of top shelf liquor

ABV: 40% | Age: No age statement | Volume: 750 milliliters, 1 liter

Old Grand-Dad is a quintessential back porch sipping whiskey and a favorite among the whiskey crowd. The original bourbon is bottled at 80 proof and has a lively spice due to the rye, which was the signature ingredient of distiller Basil Hayden. Distilled today by Jim Beam , it’s a classic whiskey you won’t want to miss.

The value of this whiskey cannot be understated, and theres a reason it has been a well bourbon in many bars for years. It is a reliable whiskey that can work in almost any mixed drink, and its pretty good on the rocks. Liters are available for just a few extra dollars, so youre sure to have whiskey around for a while. If volume isnt a concern, spend that extra cash on Old Grand-Dads 100-proof bonded bourbon.

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Best Canadian: Canadian Mist Whisky

ABV: 40% | Age: 3 years | Volume: 750 milliliters, 1 liter, 1.75 liters

When you want something that will mix perfectly into any cocktail, Canadian Mist is an excellent choice. This Canadian whisky is distilled from barley malt, rye, and corn, and then aged in white oak barrels. That base is then blended with flavoring whiskies to create an easy drink that will even appeal to people who enjoy white spirits, like rum and vodka.

Canadian Mist has a subtle and smooth profile. It pairs wonderfully with a variety of flavors, from sweets to fruits and can even handle spiced drinks. A simple whiskey highball with soda is equally pleasing. Possibly the best part of this infinitely mixable whisky is that it comes at a bottom-shelf price, but without the burn found in many of its competitors.

Best New: Torabhaig 2017 Legacy Series

Courtesy of Total Wine

Region: Isle of Skye | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Salt, Honey, Smoke, Bitter herbs

Want to get in on the ground floor with a new distillery? Only the second-ever licensed facility on the Isle of Skye, Torabhaig opened in 2017, and its first release, this single malt blended from 100 select barrels, is young but delightful. The heavy peat character is tempered by a brisk sweetness from the pure island spring water used to make it and the Kentucky bourbon barrels used to age it. The honeyed vanilla char of the wood mingles with isle seagrass and iodine for a whisky made for sipping or stirring into drinks.

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How We Decided What Made The List

This article is aimed at everyone but we didnt want to put out a list of the best bourbons in the world and for them to all be ridiculously expensive or rare to the point where youd have to sell a kidney to get hold of one.

We dont have the funds to purchase a lot of those kinds of bottles anyway and Im sure most people reading this dont either.

Some really good bourbons out there will be expensive though.

So we decided to split the list into two with the following criteria:

Is George Dickel Bottled In Bond Rare

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George Dickel Bottled in Bond 13 Year is a unique and very enjoyable whiskey. No one sells 13-year-old age-stated whiskey for under $50 these days. Even $80-100 is rare, with a few exceptions such as Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, some 14-15 year old Knob Creek Single Barrel store picks, and Bulleit 12 year rye.

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Red Spot Irish Whiskey

Before the distillerys demise in the 1960s, barrels of Mitchell & Son company whiskey were splotched with a blue, green, yellow or red paint to indicate their aging potential. Revived in 2018, the newly formed Spot Whiskeys pay tribute to the traditional Irish single pot still distilling of old. At 15 years old and bursting with fruit flavor, Red Spot is the highest-end of the lot, and represents some of the best whiskey the country has to offer.

Availability: Allocated

The Best Bottom Shelf Bourbons

And so, without wasting too much of your time, here are some of the best bottom shelf bourbons out there. Most of them are less than $30 per bottle. But they can hold their own even among premium brands today:

Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon is a good bourbon that offers a lot of value. It may be categorized as a bottom shelf spirit, but the same cannot be said about its taste. The liquor is made from the same mash bill used in producing the more high-priced Basil Haydens bourbon.

However, Old Grand-Dad Bonded bourbon has a much higher proof. This translates to a bolder and much bigger flavor. This liquor has the Bonded designation which is an indication that the alcoholic beverage is at least 4 years old and 50 percent ABV.

It also indicates that one distiller makes the bourbon at a particular distillery throughout a single distillation season. The Bottled in Bond Act was passed in 1897, and its designation was to differentiate it from fakes. And today, that designation is still understood as a mark of high quality.

This spirit is a more assertive version of White Label even though it has a high-rye content. It is also made from a mash bill that is different from White Label. Old Grand-Dad is rich with a corny sweetness and comes with overstated notes of rye spice. This makes the bourbon much wilder than its Jim Beam cousin. Overall, Old Grand-Dad does not disappoint when it comes quality and taste.

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Tullamore Dew 15 Year Old Trilogy Small Batch Irish Whiskey $9599 At Caskers

Heres a limited-edition Tullamore DEW 15 Year Old Trilogy Small Batch Irish Whiskey that is made from three different grains, including malted barley, unmalted barley and corn. This trilogy of Irish whiskey has a rich aroma filled with tropical fruits, mixed nuts, tannins, and oaks. The palate then transitions to flavors of chocolate fudge and whipped cream, which makes this blended Irish whiskey a good choice for after-dinner drinks.

Makers Mark Bourbon Whisky

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If you prefer a nice whiskey cocktail theres no need to splurge on a premium bottle for sipping and discussing. Instead, go for a beloved classic such as Makers Mark Bourbon.

Makers Mark sets itself apart with a recipe that doesnt include rye . Without rye, Makers Maker allows the corn, malted barley and red winter wheat to do the talking. The flavor is less spicy, with more sweetness and citrus.

Although Makers Mark will hold its own simply on the rocks, it really does best in a great cocktail. We like the classics , but also suggest trying lesser known recipes like a Lynchburg Lemonade or Whirl-Y-Gig.


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Four Roses Yellow Label

As the #1 budget option on the list, Four Rosess standard option is a great buy.

You can grab a 750ml bottle for around $20 and it has a simple, sweet, and mellow flavor profile.

While it could technically be considered a bottom shelf option, it could hold its own against more expensive bottles in blind taste tests.

Why We Love Bourbon

I think the main thing is it just has an amazing core flavor profile that runs through all the best bourbons.

The corn used gives it that classic caramel sweetness that isnt really found in any Scotch whisky, sweet Scotch is a usually different kind of sweetness more akin to honey.

Then there are other great flavors such as the vanilla you find in many bourbons.

There is also a huge variety to choose from. There are a lot of bourbons that are very good or better so you will never get bored.

Add into the mixer that there are loads of high proof bourbons that are absolute flavor bomb monsters and you can see there are countless reasons to love bourbon.

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Jefferson’s Presidential 17 1991

This bourbon was distilled in the last year of the Stitzel-Weller era. There are indeed older JPS bottles, including those that are part of this series, but this bottle has struck a particular chord with me since tasting the flight at Sage in the Aria Resort in Las Vegas five years ago. For me, this outdid the 18, 21, and 25. What started at $110 per bottle is now easily over $1,500. Disclaimer: There are specific batches of this that are worth more than others, so do your homework first.

How Is Bourbon Made

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Just like its cousin the American whiskey, bourbon is made from corn. The rules are a bit different for bourbon than they are for whiskey. To get qualified as bourbon, the mash bill has to contain at least 51% of the total grains from corn, the rest can be a mixture of malted barley, rye or wheat. And 90% of the production of bourbon comes from Kentucky.

For the legalese of the US regulations to become a recognized spirit, you can also check out our article with the 10 best bourbon brands, so we will not get into it again here.

The main difference between bourbon and whiskey comes in the distillation process, which is made twice most of the time. The ageing is important as well. Bourbon has to sit and get the flavor from oak casks for at least two years, some even longer. This process also eliminates any tannins and gives it a smoother flavor. And charring the barrels gives the smoky aroma and caramelizes the liquid.

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