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I'll Drink to That! What is your favorite beverage to have with a cigar? Juice? Cola? Beer? Port? Single Malt Scotch? This room is for the discussion of beverages, especially alcoholic beverages that go well with cigars!

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Old 03-29-2003, 02:24 AM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2002
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Bourbon Buyers Guide

Given all the questions about bourbon and requests for recommendations I thought I'd post an abbreviated listing of the bourbons that I like and drink regularly in each price range.

The bottom shelf is also known as the 'floor'. Most of these bourbons are in the $7 range and most of them are very young (less than four years old). This is also where distillers market their disappointing barrels. Whatever you find on the floor leave on the floor. For a buck or two more you can get much better bourbon.

There are quite a few very good bourbons in the $10 - $15 range.

Heaven Hill Distillery's Evan Williams 'Black Label' is the nation's second best selling bourbon. 86 proof & 7 years old. Very inexpensive at $8 per 750ml bottle. This your best bet in low price bourbon.
Heaven Hill also makes J.W. Dant. This is a 100 proof Bottled In Bond that is a bar room brawl in a bottle. $10. For $15 you can get Heaven Hill's excellent 12 year old 94 proof Elijah Craig.

Jim Beam is America's best selling bourbon and the 80 proof 'white label' is running in the $12 range depending on your state. Many folks can still get this for $10 or less. Jim Beam also bottles an 8 year old 86 proof 'black label' expression for $15. This has been called poor man's Knob Creek, and rightly so. Easily worth the few extra bucks over the white label.

Old Forester was the fisrt bourbon to be marketed exclusively in sealed glass bottles in 1870. Prior to that bourbon was sold to saloons & liquor merchants by the barrel. At 6 years of age and 86 proof this is one of my all time favorites. $12. There is also a 100 proof version that is well worth the few extra bucks at $15. Very simular flavor profile to Woodford Reserve. Very tastey.

Very Old Barton is a very delicious bourbon if you can find it. There are 80; 86, 90 and 100 proof (bottled in bond) expressions. I like the 90 proof version best. $10.

From the Buffalo Trace Distillery comes the 86 proof Ancient Ancient Age '10 Star'. A truely great bourbon for $10.

For a long time most bourbons tried to toe the $10 price point. $20 a bottle was considered very expensive. America's first true premium bourbons were Old Grand Dad 100 proof Bottled In Bond and the justly famous Wild Turkey 101 proof. Both of these delicious bourbons still run neck and neck at $17. Let's go ahead and toss in America's best selling whiskey - Jack Daniel's 80 proof 'black label'. Same price, but I'll take Wild Turkey or Old Grand Dad any day. For Tennessee whiskey I much perfer George Dickel #12. 90 proof and roughly 6 years old. Same $17 or less.

There are some positively stellar bourbons that all hover around the $25 price point. Most of these are the much vaunted small batch bourbons ( a marketing theme started by Jim Beam that the entire bourbon industry has picked up on). Knob Creek at 100 proof and 9 years of age is the best selling of these super premiums. I just love this stuff.

From Buffalo Trace Distillery comes their flagship Buffalo Trace brand bourbon. 90 proof and around 6 years of age this is my wifes all time favorite bourbon. Give this a try if you can find it.

From Labrot & Graham Distillery comes the fabulous Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select. 90.4 proof and around 8 years of age. This is very same recipe as Old Forester ( both are owned by Brown-Forman). Very delicious in every way. A personal favorite, and well worth the price paid.

Wild Turkey's 10 year old 101 proof Russell's Reserve is a must have bourbon. Very close in flavor profile to their much more expensive single barrel Kentucky Spirit.

Heaven Hill raises the bar with their Evan Williams Single Barrel 10 year old 'vintage series'. The latest 1993 vintage is excellent. Just $22 where I live.

Also at $22 where I live is the very popular Maker's Mark. This is a wheated bourbon and is perfect for anyone wanting a lighter body and more delicate flavor profile. If you like Maker's Mark and can find Virgina Gentleman's 90 proof 'Fox' bottling do give it a try as it is an excellent wheater. Better in my opionon than Maker's Mark. W.L. Weller is the original wheated bourbon and also better than Maker's Mark. It's also 12 years old making it roughly twice as old as Maker's Mark.

Now for the wonderful stuff between $30 and $50 a bottle. There are very few bourbons that cost more than fify bucks a bottle. If you are looking for the very best bourbons that money can buy just pick anything off this list.

Single Barrels:

Wathen's - Distilled by Charles Wathen Medley. The Wathen family were among the very first families of distillers in Kentucky. Wathens is wonderful. Buy it if you can find it.

From Buffalo Trace comes Blanton's - the best selling single barrel bourbon. Magic Stuff. Also Elmer T. Lee and Handcock's President's Reserve are both very good. I don't recomend Eagle Rare (10 year old) single barrel because I much perfer the 17 year old Eagle Rare - truely supurb. For those of you that love straight rye whiskey the 18 year old Sazerac Rye is a must. Can't forget the greatest bourbon on the planet at the moment - George T. Stagg. All this goodness from a single distillery. Gotta love the fine folks at Buffalo Trace.Damn! I forgot Rock Hill Farms single barrel. It's 100 proof and Bottled In Bond. I can't say enough good things about it as it really is that good.

Wild Turkey's Kentucky Spirit single barrel bourbon is what old fashioned full bodied blow your shorts off drinking is all about. If you were to look up the definition of bourbon in the dictionary a glass of Kentucky Spirit ought to be waiting there for you. Stellar in every way. This is the perfect bourbon in my not so humble opinion. Also from Wild Turkey comes Rare Breed. I like this one too!

Jim Beam dosen't have any single barrel bourbons yet and the closest they come is pretty damn good - Booker's. Try this in a bar before you commit to a bottle. Not for everyone.

For lovers of wheated bourbons the Old Rip Van Winkel line of bourbons is your holy grail. Both the 10 year old and 15 year old expressions fall in this price range. 107 proof. Again for lovers of straight rye whiskey Van Winkel has a family reserve rye that is stated as 13 years old but much more like 20. Great stuff. I always have a bottle.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel is the best stuff they make and I like it a lot.

Over $50;

Pappy Van Winkel 20 year old is my very favorite wheated bourbon and is around $80. The 23 year old is close to $200. I think the 20 year old is better.

A.H. Hirsch 16 year old is an excellent pot stilled whiskey from the now defunct Michter's distillery in PA. Buy it if you can find it.$80. There is a 20 year old version that is over-aged in my opinion and also overpriced at around $200

If I've overlooked your personal favorites please don't feel badly. I tried to keep this as short as possible.

Tobacco is my favorite vegetable
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