We take bourbon way too seriously these days. On Twitter and Reddit, we have ongoing discussions about it. We criticize people for preferring particular brands or consuming alcohol in a particular manner. We lavish huge sums of money on extremely rare releases, then mock those who do the same. And we have an absurd amount of information on the reality behind the fabrications distilleries use to sell their products when we enter pubs and liquor stores. While a bunch of this ends up being pointless drunken blather. Some of it is actually helpful in comprehending what’s out there.
To be named “bourbon,” a particular type of whiskey must first meet two requirements. It must be produced only in America and contain at least 51 percent maize in its grain bill. Bourbon is not permitted to contain any additions or colors. And it must always be aged in brand-new, charred oak barrels at a maximum strength of 125 proof (or 62.5 percent alcohol). The minimum proof for bourbon is 80 proofs (or 40% alcohol), and the maximum proof for the mash is 160 proofs (or 80 percent alcohol).
The manufacture of bourbon, which has its roots in Bourbon County, Kentucky, has subsequently spread to a number of states, with bottles coming in a range of flavors and price points. Here are the top bourbons available right now.
Long before Matthew McConaughey was appointed creative director in 2016, the Wild Turkey brand of traditional, unpretentious American whiskey had already become widely known. The distillery’s entry-level flagship expression is 101 proof and comes in a new bottle. Which gives it a slightly hotter, spicy edge over other comparable whiskeys. In order to let the whiskey’s flavor develop as it ages. Wild Turkey typically bottles liquor that has been aged for at least six years. The barrels are then given the No. 4 “alligator” char, which is more powerful.
Additionally, there are certain premium releases like Master’s Keep, whose most recent offering. One was aged in toasted oak barrels (the new edition is due out this fall). Then there are smaller batch releases to sample, such as the Kentucky Spirit and the Rare Breed single barrel spirits. Both of which are barrel-strength. Despite all of this, a simple bottle of 101 is actually the best you can get (don’t waste your time with the 81-proof variety).
The traditional small-batch bourbon from Knob Creek stands out in the increasingly divided and allocated whiskey industry. It’s not because it has flavor profiles that will change your life. Like marmalade, honey, or maple, but rather because it stuffs the stat sheet as no other bourbon can. Because it is widely available, it is immune to the price gouging that affects brands like Buffalo Trace.
Due to its 100 proof, it nevertheless has a full body and blends well without setting your lips on fire. Additionally, the brand received its 9-year age guarantee back this year. Simply purchase this if you want the greatest bourbon for the money.
Jim Beam’s Old Grand-Dad whiskey line was almost discontinued in 2017. The brand, known by fans as OGD, has developed a cult following as a result of rising whiskey costs. And a consistently high-quality product. It doesn’t get talked about because it’s not a “hype” whiskey, doesn’t have a well-known name, and isn’t a limited edition. But I challenge you to find a bourbon with this much punch at the price range. Astonishing amounts of rye and malted barley are used in its comparatively low-corn mash bill (only 63 percent). Which results in a peppery bourbon that is perfect for sipping straight or blending into cocktails.
Officially, Tennessee whisky, not bourbon, makes up 99 percent of the ingredients in Dickel products. The firm is anxious to remind drinkers that the two are not the same, much like regional rival Jack Daniel’s (even though they kind of are). Dickel 8-Year Bourbon, the company’s first official entry into the bourbon whiskey market, will be available in 2021. It is a value-driven powerhouse.
A masterfully crafted whiskey with at least an eight-year age requirement, aromas of cherry, citrus, almond toffee, and wood, and a relaxed 90 proof is available for about $30. Price, evidence, and age all indicate that it might become your next household mainstay.
Prior to Sazerac (Buffalo Trace Distillery) purchasing Early Times from Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, Woodford Reserve), nobody gave it any attention. However, the Brown-Forman-made whiskey in Early Times’ wickedly inexpensive Bottled-in-Bond expression has that sweet-and-smooth Basil Hayden’s thing going on, just more of a firm alcoholic backbone with a persistent flavor of caramel corn throughout. In addition, it is marketed in liters.
Contrary to popular belief, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is not subpar. The liqueur is one of the few beverages that bourbon connoisseurs and novices both adore. Although the bottle doesn’t specify the age, Double Oaked is thought to have been aged for at least six years.
Before being poured into a second, more thoroughly toasted charred oak barrel, the juice begins its aging process in a fresh, charred wood barrel (as it should). Since Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, you can know that with its plethora of fruit and spice flavors, it provides a superb base for a mint julep. This is a wonderful sipper or gift for a buddy.
In 1855, the renowned Irish immigrant distiller created the McKenna distillery. As Minnick writes in his book, “The original yeast, mash bill, and flavor character are gone, lost with time.” But one thing the new bottle does have is time: the 10-year age statement makes it one of the elder bourbons in this price range. Remember, though, that it has become more difficult to get and more expensive than it once was ever since it won “Best in Show, Whiskey” in the rather contentious San Francisco World Spirits Competition a few years ago. The flavor is sweet, peppery, and slightly herbaceous.
The reputation of craft bourbon is damaged by a few rotten apples that produce poor whiskey. Whiskey from Wilderness Trail is of a high caliber. One of the few widely appreciated non-macro whiskey producers in the USA. Its 6-year-old offering is Bottled-in-Bond, sweet mash bourbon with flavor that indicates the “6” on the label is a misprint – this bourbon tastes substantially older. The end result is a wicked, wicked pour. Whether it’s due to the sweet mash’s milder flavor or the distiller’s secret “infusion mashing” procedure, or something else.
Stellum is a more reasonably priced Barrell Bourbon and one of the best new whiskeys in recent memory. The blending wizards at Barrell Craft Spirits produced this cask-strength mix, and it’s a monster. It is made up of whiskeys that are 4 to 16 years old and come from Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The flavor is quite complex, with notes of underripe blackberries, macadamia nuts, cotton candy, cayenne pepper, and cayenne pepper all resonating on the palate and scent. It is exciting and worth the $55 asking price.
You may have noticed that this selection lacks information on the price, proof, taste notes, or distillery. Barrell is currently the best whiskey mixer available, thus that explains why (they have the trophy case to prove it). Each of its releases explains what went into it, including the distillery, whiskey age, proof, and other factors, and they are all well worth finding out.
The old bourbon guard has been won over by Tripp Stimson, a master distiller, and Joe Beatrice, the company’s creator, who is a blender rather than a distiller. According to Minnick, “it received my American Whiskey of the Year award [in 2018] in a blind tasting.” It has such a rich flavor and complexity; it’s a great whiskey.