About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry, and he’s also Dappered’s resident shoe & denim expert. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on on his
dad bod father figure.
Father’s Day is the annual U.S. holiday that celebrates the fathers and father figures in our lives. Many people enjoy spending time with their family and giving their fathers a small token to show their love and appreciation. Odds are your father doesn’t need another necktie, 400-piece socket set, house slippers, or pair of grilling gloves. If your father is anything like me, odds are he would rather sit around the kitchen table with you and the family, sharing funny stories and warm memories of the good ol’ days over a glass of whiskey from a bottle you’ve gifted him.
Dappered author Jason P. did a great job walking readers through the basics of bourbon in this post, covering mashbills, proof, and a handful of big name distillers like Wild Turkey instead of non-distilling producers like MGP. Like Jason, I’ve also tried to stay true to Dappered’s affordable quality theme by recommending commonly available and relatively affordable choices. Affordability is highly subjective – one man’s $60 “daily drinker” bottle is another man’s monthly bourbon budget. So, I’ve recommended an overflowing bucket of bottles that should be available on most store shelves throughout the country including a few of those NDP bourbons.
Pricing will naturally vary from state to state and even from store to store. These prices were collected (or averaged) from national retailer Total Wine and Ohio’s state run OHLQ to get a solid running average. They may not represent pricing or availability in your neck of the woods. Apologies if you live in expensive cities like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Honolulu!
A quick note on tasting notes – everyone’s palate is different. Taste is a highly subjective sensory exercise and it’s directly linked to your senses of smell and sight as well as your brain’s memory bank. As such, each person may see, smell, and taste things differently than you or me. So, you shouldn’t put too much stock into what other people say in terms of taste or flavors. Try things for yourself! As always, drink in moderation and remember to drink what you like, the way you like to drink it. Cheers!
In this post we’re going to focus on whiskeys I could source for under $35. Stay tuned, soon, for a second post focusing on bottles under $70.
Evan Williams 1783 is a small batch bourbon from the Heaven Hill distillery that’s headquartered in Bardstown, Kentucky. This “extra aged” bourbon went through a much needed rebranding in 2021 which updated the packaging, raised the proof from 86 to 90, and added an age statement of 6-8 years old (online). Heaven Hill claims this small batch product has a mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. The batch is pulled together and blended with fewer than 300 barrels, and while small batch isn’t a legally binding term, the distillery is well known for their high quality and value focused products that regularly land on “Best Of” lists every year. This bourbon features typical notes of syrupy honey, caramelized vanilla, and a pop of citrus zest. I’m a big fan of Heaven Hill’s products and this Evan Williams bottling is no different.
(FYI: My local liquor store has this one priced to move at $16 for a 1 liter bottle!)
Rebel, formerly known as Rebel Yell, is produced by Luxco’s Lux Row Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. This wheated bourbon has a mashbill of 68% corn, 21% wheat, and 12% malted barley and is bottled at 100 proof. While it carries no age statement, we know it’s at least four years old. The wheated bourbon inside the vintage looking bottle was formerly sourced from Heaven Hill under contract, but word on the bourbon street is that Lux Row is now selling whiskey that they produced in house after opening their distillery and firing up the stills back in 2018. Either way, the wheat in the mashbill recipe adds a hint of buttery softness and a handful of youthful sweet notes like honey, toffee, and vanilla. At 100 proof and under $20, this is a fantastic value drinker that you won’t mind drinking straight or mixing with a Coke.
(FYI: My local liquor store has this one priced below $15 for a 750 ml bottle!)
Old Forester’s “Signature” 100 Proof bourbon is produced by the Brown-Forman company and is distilled at their Shively, Kentucky distillery that also produces whiskey for Woodford Reserve and other “white label” or contract goods for other distilleries (*cough* Michter’s). Old Forester products use a mashbill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley as well as a common strain of the Brown-Forman family yeast so the overall taste profile is somewhat similar to that of Woodford and, believe it or not, Jack Daniel’s. The “Signature” 100 proof variety is hand picked from select barrels for a richer, more flavorful product as compared to the standard 86 proofer. I notice flavors like espresso, mild chocolate, and baked apple pie. This is an easy drinker!
Old Grand-Dad is a well-known staple in the bourbon and bartending communities. It’s been in production since the 1800s and was even made during prohibition as a medicinal spirit. Today, Old Grand-Dad is produced by the Beam Suntory company and is distilled at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Affectionately known as OGD, this whiskey is great in cocktails as the higher proof and high rye mashbill (63% corn, 27% rye, 10% malted barley) add an extra layer of flavor and depth with notes of toasted oat, cinnamon, and a hint of pepper spice on top of the traditional vanilla and oak flavors that are usually found in bourbon. The bonded version of OGD is notable as it’s at least four years old, was made during one distilling season by one distillery, was aged in federally bonded warehouses, and is bottled at exactly 100 proof.
Early Times was once a fantastic bourbon, but decades ago during the bourbon glut, it became a low quality blended whiskey that not many bourbon enthusiasts would admit to drinking. However, the Brown-Forman company re-released the straight bourbon product as a limited edition Bottled in Bond offering in 2017 and it ended up being a huge win and a recipe for success. As such, it went into regular production and can be found on most store shelves. In early 2021, Brown-Forman sold the brand and some of the barrel stock to the Sazerac Company, which is now bottling those older stocks and distilling new distillate out of their Barton distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. As such, the bottles on store shelves may taste different in 2-4 years! The mashbill contains 79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% malted barley. As a Bottled in Bond product, it’s aged at least four years and is bottled at 100 proof. For my palate, I get a big helping of traditional bourbon notes – vanilla, caramel, a dash of citrus rind, and a little hint of ripe banana.
I know what you’re probably thinking – Jack Daniel’s isn’t bourbon! Well, technically it is.. And technically it isn’t. Most whiskey nerds will agree that Jack Daniel’s whiskey is made like a bourbon – it’s made in the good ol’ U.S. of A, has a mashbill of at least 51% corn, gets aged in new, charred oak containers, and enters the barrel at no higher than 125 proof. What makes Jack Daniel’s a Tennessee whiskey is their pre-barreling charcoal filtration method nicknamed the Lincoln County Process, named after the county that the distillery’s home of Lynchburg, Tennessee resides within. Some argue that this process changes the flavor, and thus, is a unique style of whiskey that’s wholly unique to Tennessee. Either way, Jack’s new Bonded product isn’t your grand-dad’s favorite Old No. 7 black label whiskey. This one earned the Bottled in Bond designation and is made with whiskey aged at least four years in select barrels. This one has notes of caramel, oak, brown sugar, bananas foster, and a warming spice finish.
David Nicholson Reserve is produced by Luxco’s Lux Row Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. This bourbon is an NDP product; Lux Row sources this whiskey from another local distillery, reportedly either Heaven Hill or Barton, and bottles it as their own. The practice of buying barrels of young or well-aged whiskey is nothing new. For over a century, local saloons, grocers, and new whiskey brands have needed whiskey to sell to their thirsty customers. David Nicholson was one such grocer who, back in the mid 1840s, bought and sold whiskey for his patrons. Today, this product is an “extra aged” bourbon with no age statement and a mysteriously missing mashbill that contains corn, rye, and malted barley. At 100 proof and under $35, this is a solid everyday drinker that features notes of honey, caramel, oak, and spice.
Green River Distilling Company is an old, pre-prohibition label that went dormant just before prohibition and was officially resurrected in 2020. Don’t let the recent date fool you, this is a fantastic whiskey that’s been years in the making. The distillery itself is in Owensboro, Kentucky and has changed hands numerous times since prohibition, but current Master Distiller Jacob Call started working as the distillery manager back in 2014 when the facility was named O.Z. Tyler. Today, Green River’s bourbon is a superb example of what happens when you get it right. This bourbon is aged at least five years and features a mashbill of 70% corn, 21% winter rye, and 9% 2 and 6-row malted barley. This “high rye” mashbill tastefully blends the sweetness of the corn with the baking spice notes of the rye and malted barley. You’re in for a real treat if you like notes of cinnamon, red fruits, vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, and a bit of a leather note.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to try a new whiskey or want to gift someone a small selection of them, don’t forget about the 50 ml “airplane” bottles. Most liquor stores carry these and they can be a fun way to explore new spirits without breaking the bank on a full-size bottle of booze. Cheers!
In the next post I’ll recommend several bottles under $70!