About the Author: Jason P. spends his days working in the creative marketing department of a big telecom company. He also does a bit of real estate investing on the side. He believes in curating a timeless, classic wardrobe with subtle modern touches for today. He and his wife love hiking with their dog and shopping at local small businesses and antique stores when they travel. Jason is a practitioner of muay thai and traditional boxing, and his favorite drink is a hoppy New England IPA.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and the holidays are going to look a lot different this year than most. As we stay homebound and celebrate over Zoom or FaceTime from afar, as opposed to the usual large family and friend gatherings, the warmth of the season might feel far off.
Fear not, a delicious dram of America’s native distillate will warm your soul. For a refresher on the joys of bourbon, head to this bourbon post from earlier this year where we featured 7 affordable, often available bourbons.
That last piece about availability is crucial, as anyone can recommend the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Old Fitzgerald’s fall release, or those famous mythical unicorns. The bottles you’ll find below are a step up from the $30-$40 value picks, readily available, and exceptionally delicious. Prices are subject to change at your local shop.
Four Roses Small Batch Select – $55-$65
Let’s not bury the lede, this is likely the highest rated, awarded, and hyped bourbon you can regularly find on your local shelf. This is classic Four Roses: cinnamon and spice, with a dash of fruit. Not to be confused with the “regular” Small Batch (which is excellent in it’s own right at it’s $30 price point), the Select variant utilizes six of the distiller’s 10 recipes versus the regular version’s four. A limited release last year, now widely available, this is bottled at an excellent 104 proof and non-chill filtered. This is pure Kentucky perfection. An excellent balance of cinnamon, caramel, orange, and just the right amount of oak. If you could only buy one bourbon, this would be it.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style – $60-$65
Old Forester is a real bourbon drinker’s bourbon. Old Forester’s claim to fame is America’s first bottled bourbon, and the only bourbon continuously produced through prohibition and to present day. The Brown-Forman Distillery received a special license during prohibition to produce Old Forester as a medicinal bourbon. Pretty neat. And neat is the best way to enjoy this beautifully rich spirit (with a small splash of water). A monster at 115 proof, this is not a subtle bourbon. That alcohol is tempered by a deep wooded cocoa flavor, making it perfect for those cold nights where you need some comfort. This is one for true bourbon fans.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve – $45 – $50
It’s not a bourbon roundup without a single barrel inclusion, and Knob Creek’s 9 year single barrel reserve might represent the best single barrel bargain in bourbon. Distilled by the geniuses at Jim Beam, this is an ideal bottle for the peanut-lover; I taste peanut, vanilla and a bit of charred oak. The Knob Creek Small Batch is my favorite $30 bourbon, and this 9 year single barrel is my favorite at $50 or less. For that price, you get 9 years in the barrel and a non-chill filtered bourbon from a heritage distiller, and each bottle is an adventure. That’s the beauty of single barrel bottles – season after season, the flavors differ slightly without throwing away the foundation of what makes a delightful bottle. Even better, many shops travel to the distillery to pick their own barrels for special exclusive bottlings.
Peerless Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon – $70
This one is less about the bourbon itself and more about the history, bottle design, and novelty. This is the first bourbon from Peerless in over 100 years, and comes in a delightful barrel shaped bottle. Coming in at nearly 110 proof, this bourbon actually ticks up a few points in proof from when it enters the barrel at 107 proof. I taste tobacco, creamy vanilla, and a good bit of spice from the heavier rye content in the mashbill. Non-chill filtered bourbons like this one and the Knob Creek already mentioned above do not have the naturally-occurring tannins and other particles removed. The effect is a bourbon some will call “pure,” and while that isn’t gospel, it is appropriate for this old brand returning to life. Overpriced for sure, but for those in pursuit of a higher knowledge of bourbon and an appreciation for history, it’s worth seeking out for the first bourbon from this brand in over a century.
Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon – $30- $40
An exceptional value, when you can find it. Eagle Rare, like most Buffalo Trace Distillery products, suffers from the Pappy effect. People fawn after Pappy and Weller bottles, and because they’re mostly unattainable, they begin moving toward other Buffalo Trace bourbons and drive those prices and demand ever higher. At about $35, Eagle Rare is an oak-forward 10 year bourbon at a palatable 90 proof. A perfect bourbon to introduce people newer to the spirit to the effects that time in the barrel has on a distillate. I taste honey, oak, and a bit of toffee. It’s not a standout, but it’s a great easy-drinker and a great value (at MSRP) for a 10 year bourbon.