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 the first post we focused on whiskeys I could source for under $35. Now we look at bottles under $70.
1. Old Dominick Huling Station Straight Bourbon – $40
Old Dominick is another pre-prohibition label with an amazing story that was resurrected after decades of lying dormant. After finding an unopened bottle of their great great grandfather’s Old Dominick Toddy, brothers Chris and Alex Canale started the Old Dominick distillery in downtown Memphis in 2013. Old Dominick’s Huling Station straight bourbon is technically an NDP product – it is made by MGP Ingredients in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. However, this one is special. Master Distiller Alex Castle was a distillery production supervisor at Wild Turkey before leaving to head up Old Dominick, so she knows a thing or two about good whiskey. She helped develop the custom Huling Station mashbill that contains 52% corn, 44% rye, and 4% malted barley. MGP simply produces the whiskey for Old Dominick as the stills in Memphis are dedicated to their new Tennessee whiskey product due out later this year. This Huling Station “red label” straight bourbon is aged at least four years, spending time in both Indiana and Tennessee, and gets bottled at a nicely drinkable 100 proof. You might taste notes of vanilla, cherries, caramel, cinnamon, and tobacco.
2. 1792 Full Proof – $45
Sazerac’s Barton distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky produces the 1792 line-up of bourbons, including variations like Small Batch, Bottled in Bond, Single Barrel, and Full Proof. The latter is what we’re drinking today. This bourbon is aged 7-9+ years and has a “high rye” mystery mashbill. It’s bottled at 125 proof and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. Believe it or not, “full proof” does not mean cask strength or barrel proof – it simply means it’s proofed down to the original barrel entry proof. I’ve had the pleasure of picking a few barrels of 1792 Full Proof with friends in my bourbon club (the one pictured here is ours!) and this stuff can easily be 130 proof or higher fresh out of the barrel. With that kind of heat, a few drops of water or an ice cube could be warranted. If you like big, bold flavors, this one may be for you! You’ll get notes of frosted vanilla bean, rich caramel or toffee, some smokey oak, and a touch of cherry cordial or banana.
3. Wild Turkey Rare Breed – $50
Benjamin Franklin said it best when he wrote, “ For in truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird [as compared to the bald eagle], and withal a true original native of America. He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a bird of courage.” Campari’s Wild Turkey has been churning out some of the best bourbons and whiskies for decades. All of their bourbons are made at the Lawrenceburg, Kentucky distillery and use the same mashbill that contains 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. Wild Turkey’s Rare Breed is a blend of 6, 8, and 10 year bourbons all mingled together inside a large stainless vat at barrel strength before being proofed down to an average of 116.8 per this version’s label. For my palate, Rare Breed brings a fantastic balance of sweet and spice to the party. On one hand, you have your classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, toffee, and seasoned oak. On the other hand, the extra age and proof bring a more intense array of flavors like maple sugar, leather, and tobacco. If you like Wild Turkey 101 or Russell’s Reserve, don’t sleep on a bottle of Rare Breed!
4. Bulleit Bourbon Single Barrel – $60
Bulleit Bourbon is owned by mega drinks corporation Diageo, but has been around for decades. To this day, there’s a bit of a mystery surrounding the brand and where its bourbon comes from. In the recent past, their NDP whiskey was a special blend of Four Roses bourbon that was sent over in large tanker trucks for blending or bottling. Today, their distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky is up and running so the odds are good that a significant portion of the current standard “orange label” whiskey is their own stuff. However, we’re looking at Bulleit single barrels! Single barrels are always unique in that they may or may not follow the typical brand flavor profile. Bulleit single barrels are all aged between seven and nine years and are made from one of the ten possible mashbill and yeast combinations. Most of these barrels are sourced from other distilleries so you may get something from Jim Beam, Barton, Heaven Hill, or even Four Roses. Depending on the store, some people choose barrels that follow the standard Bulleit flavor profile, but want it cranked up to 11. Others will want something different and out of left field. You’ll need to try a store pick in person to decide whether it’s worth it for you or not.
5. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof – $65
Another Jack Daniel’s product?! You’ve got that right. This one in particular is one of the best whiskies to ever come out of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Jack Daniel’s “gold label” single barrel barrel proof is a fantastic bourbon that can rival the best from those Kentucky and Indiana distilleries. Seriously. This barrel in particular once won a friendly blind tasting event against bottles of E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Four Roses Limited Edition 2020, and Stagg Jr. The Jack Daniel’s mashbill contains 80% corn, 12% rye, and 8% malted barley. These single barrels are aged at least five years, are pulled from the top tiers of their rickhouses, and get bottled at true barrel proof. The exact bottling proof will vary from barrel to barrel, but this one here is a hair over 135! If that doesn’t wake you up, I’m not sure what will. That added proof brings layer upon layer of flavor – rich brown sugar, toasted vanilla, cinnamon, oak, smokey pipe tobacco, and a touch of the infamous Jack Daniel’s torched bananas foster.
6. Belle Meade Reserve Bourbon – $70
Once again we have an old pre-prohibition brand that got resurrected in the early 2000s. Belle Meade was one of a handful of brands that Charles Nelson made in the late 1800’s. According to his great great great grandsons Andy and Charlie Nelson, Belle Meade was the toast of the town back then, being known specifically for its high quality and good value for money. Today, Belle Meade is produced by the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee. Belle Meade is an NDP product – current Reserve production is a special blend of two MGP bourbons made with two yeast strains, distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, but aged for 7-11 years before being blended and bottled in Nashville. Previous Reserve bottlings were produced in individually numbered cask strength batches, but they’ve merged all of those into one SKU with an averaged proof of 108.3. Belle Meade’s Reserve bourbon was one of the first that I fell in love with when I got into bourbon. For my palate, it has the prototypical bourbon notes of caramel, vanilla, cherry cordial, and oak.
7. Maker’s Mark Private Selection – $70
Have you ever wished you could craft your own perfect bourbon like it was a LEGO kit? If so, Maker’s Mark Private Selection is what you should be drinking! When retailers or bourbon clubs head up to the Loretto, Kentucky distillery, they’re presented with a challenge: take a glass of Maker’s Mark bourbon at cask strength and alter it with different wood staves to achieve a new flavor profile that you love. The base Maker’s Mark bourbon is aged 5-7 years and is made from a mashbill of 70% corn, 16% soft red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley. It has robust notes of sweet caramel, vanilla, citrus fruits, allspice, and sweet oak. Next, you start blending in the different staves – Maker’s 46, Baked American Pure, Seared French Cuvee, Roasted French Mendiant, and Toasted French Spice. Each adds a new layer or flavor to the puzzle. It takes a steady hand and a hearty palate to come away from the experience with something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. For me, this experience alone is worth the investment!
8. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof – $70
Elijah Craig’s small batch bourbon, distilled and bottled by the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, is my go-to recommendation for those who are just getting into bourbon. It has all the right key elements – easy to find, relatively easy to afford, and easy to sip on. It has all the right tasting notes: vanilla, honey, oak, caramel, butterscotch, and baking spices. The mashbill is a classic, too, with 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. You’ll be thinking you’re drinking a spice cabinet in a good way. Once you’ve gotten accustomed to its easy drinking flavors, it’s time to crank the volume up and try some at barrel proof! This particular product is a bit harder to find as it’s a more limited bottling that comes out in three unique batches each year. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is aged at least 12 years and is usually bottled around 120-130 proof. If you’re going to chase one good bourbon to drink, make it this one.
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!
For more affordable options check out yesterday’s post featuring bottles under $35.