Bourbon is the gift that keeps on giving. Why waste valuable dollars on fancy packaged vodka this holiday season? Introduce your loved one to these outstanding and inexpensive whiskies.
5. J.T.S. Brown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Proof varies
This is one of those forgotten whiskies that tastes better than it costs. For $8, JTS Brown delivers a balance of sweet and spice. And hey, Paul Newman enjoyed it in The Hustler. Heaven Hill Distilleries makes J.T.S. Brown.
4. Very Old Barton Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 86 Proof
With a soft caramel color, Very Old Barton hits the nose with vanilla, caramel and oak and just a hint of my grandma’s french toast. I realize that you’ll never have my grandma’s french toast, so you’ll just have to trust me. The heat warms a medium-bodied palate with notes of oak and vanilla with some nice rye spice. Made by Buffalo Trace, Very Old Barton sells in the $12 range at retail. It makes wonderful whiskey cocktails.
3. Old Bardstown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 86 Proof
Named after a horse, not the town, Old Bardstown looks, smells and tastes of pralines, oak, vanilla and caramel. It’s a dry finish with a touch of sweet caramel. I love this whiskey for all the usual cocktails and on the rocks. Old Bardstown 86 Proof retails under $15.
2. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon –93.7 proof
Value bourbon means it tastes more expensive than it is. For $23.99 a bottle, 1792 delivers $50- to $60-worth of love and goodness. Named after the year Kentucky became a state, 1792 offers a fine Cognac nose with a rich creaminess to the smooth body and a nice kick of spice from the rye. 1792 is the gift that keeps on giving.
1. Old Weller Antique Original 107 – 107 Proof
In the equation of money and quality, Old Weller Bourbon Antique wins every time. It’s a wheated-bourbon, meaning the secondary grain to corn is wheat. Other wheated bourbons include Maker’s Mark and the hard-to-find and ultra-expensive Pappy Van Winkle. Depending on where you buy it, Old Weller Antique 107 usually runs around $25. Old Weller Antique delivers vanilla and caramel with soft floral notes. The sweet ride to the finish gives a nice kick of spice not found in most wheated-bourbons. W.L. Weller 12-year-old is worth checking out, too. Next time the world goes mad looking for out-of-stock Pappy Van Winkle, your loved one can kick back with his or her Old Weller and know it’s just as good.
Note: Portions of this blog post first appeared in my American Whiskey column in Tasting Panel September 2012.