Bourbon’s continued rise in popularity has won over many new converts to the American Spirit. Distillers are capitalizing on that popularity by releasing new bourbons including some super premium super pricey ones.
If you’re new to the bourbon game you might be like me as far as not wanting to spend a fortune on a bottle of whiskey. The good news is, there are more than a few excellent bourbons on the market that won’t break the bank. In my opinion, based on my personal research over the years, the following value priced brands more than hold their own with some of today’s “it” bourbons.
Elijah Craig 12 Year Old – This 94 proof offering has a complex flavor profile that belies its inexpensive price tag. This was one of the first small batch bourbons to impact the market and it’s still one of the best. Try this one as soon as you can because I fear bourbon’s ever increasing popularity will make this one harder to find and much more expensive down the road.
Wild Turkey 101 – This high proof release from Lawrenceburg, KY has a reputation as a cowboy/biker whiskey that’s as rough and ready as those folks who tend to drink it. There’s some validity about that perception but there’s also a lot more to this bourbon than fire and brawn.
When I sip 101 I get a big hit of rye complexity working together with some sweet notes of vanilla and charred oak. There’s plenty of alcohol heat but not as much as you would think in a high proof whiskey. It’s by no means a one trick pony and, to me, it’s a glowing example of what bourbon’s all about.
Very Old Barton 100 proof – Another big brawny bourbon with a lot in it’s flavor profile. I tend to drink my bourbon on the rocks and this one really opens up as the ice starts melting. It has a substantial feel in the mouth and a nice balance of rye and the sweeter notes of barley. I also enjoy it’s long dry oak finish.
Evan Williams Black Label – This 86 proof bourbon doesn’t have all the complexity of the first two but it has just enough of the old fashioned rough edges to make it an interesting whiskey experience. There are those times when I just want a bourbon that’s easy to drink but still has those subtle notes of oak and grains and that unmistakable rough edged Kentucky twang and this one fits the bill.
These are my current favorites but, there are quite a few more that make the grade of great bourbon at a reasonable price. In addition to its 100 proof release, Very Old Barton also has 80, 86 and 90 proof versions and they’re all great values. Old Charter comes in 8 and 10 year old versions and both have a nice rye spice accent. If you find you enjoy the unique flavor that wheat brings to the mix, Old Fitzgerald is a nice option.
If you want to go up just a bit in price, find some Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve or Eagle Rare. These three aren’t exactly cheap but they’re far below the price of many of today’s ultra premium bourbons.
Welcome to the world of bourbon. If you want to find out more about how and where bourbon gets made got to www.kybourbontrail.com and www.bourboncountry.com.