Value Bourbon: Ranking A Shopping Cart Full of $16 to $25

In my recent live tastings, I’ve been walking into a liquor store and buying everything on the shelf in a certain price range. 

Last week, it was under $15. Heaven Hill Green Label, 6 year, won that taste off, and it should be noted that it’s only available in Kentucky. But it was in the liquor store, and it met my qualifications for the tasting, so I bought it. In second was the Henry McKenna brown label, 80 proof. Also, in that tasting were two—Benchmark and Cabin Still—that were not pleasant at all to the palate.

My goal with this series is to show we have some very good bourbon that’s available. As I’ve done in the past, I will eventually put these in blind tastings with limited edition, hard-to-find bourbons. Previously, Rare Breed whipped the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection in a blind taste off. All of this is also an effort to get creative with my tastings, and I’m having a blast!

Yesterday, I tasted the $16 to $25 category. And I acquired these products just as I did before: I filled a shopping cart up at Liquor Barn and placed my credit card into the machine. Nearly $600 later, I had 26 bourbons.

Now, how in the hell does one taste 26 bourbons in one sitting? 

Well, you shouldn’t try this at home. Seriously. I do this for a living and having been tasting bourbons in large quantities for awhile. I simply applied the same methods I do in competition. And the most important thing is to spit. You cannot possibly drink 26 bourbons without getting drunk and passing out. Well, maybe those tasting notes would be more interesting, though.

Meanwhile, here are my rankings from last night’s blind tasting with moderate tasting notes. Tune in next week for the $26 to $35 range. 

Lastly, full disclosure, I am just one taster and this is just my opinion. You should definitely taste for yourself. 

View the entire tasting, but here are excerpts with corresponding glass numbers. 

One Shop Rankings, $16-$25

Watch full episode.

26. OZ Tyler. Glass 14: “bad smells, like a dying cat.”

25. Four Roses Yellow Label, Glass 13: “burning plastic and corn.”

24. Wild Turkey 81 Proof, Glass 10: “Vanilla and lots of herbs, like marijuana.”

23. Big Ass Bourbon, Glass 6: “corn.”

22. Penny Packer, Glass 20: “meh.”

21. Old Bardstown, 90 Proof, Glass 24: “vegetal.”

20. Big House Bourbon, Glass 4: “friggin’ shit ton of bananas.” 

19. Jim Beam, White Label, Glass 9: “cherry syrup.”

18. Starlight, Liquor Barn Barrel Pick, Glass 16: “wood and vanilla extract.”

17. Larceny, Glass 19: “Peach Cobbler.”

16. Rebel Yell, 80 Proof, Glass 11: Caramel.

15. Jim Beam Bonded, Glass 8: “Cornbread and slight hint of anise.”

14. Quarter Horse, Glass 1: “Corn bomb.”

13. Rebel Yell, 90 Proof, Glass 26: “Corn tortilla and hatch chili.” 

12. Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond, Glass 23: “IPA, grapefruit and hint of wood.”

11. Maker’s Mark, Glass 2: “Smells like Starbucks and tastes like caramel.” 

10. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Glass 12: “Caramel and baking spices.”

9. Old Forester, 86 Proof, Glass 17: “Hard caramel candy, bananas and cherries.”

8. Cooper’s Craft, Glass 5: “Brown sugar, pie crust and fruit.”

7. Jeffer’s Creek, Glass 22: “Fried dough, banana and cinnamon crumble.”

6. Elijah Craig, Glass 15: “caramel bomb.”

5. Rebel Yell, 100 Proof, Glass 21: “complex and delicate.” 

4. Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, Glass 3: “cornbread, molasses, caramel and jalapeño.”

3. Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond, Glass 18: “Cornbread, honey, salt flakes and chocolate.” 

2. Fighting Cock, Glass 7: “Nutella, caramel, grains and orange zest.”

1. Old Forester 100, Glass 25: “Caramel, banana pudding, vanilla ice cream and cherry pie.”

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