Bourbon does not need to be made only in Kentucky despite common belief. However, the Bluegrass State is home to some of the finest examples of this category. Perhaps it’s the limestone-filtered water or the decades of experience, but Kentucky is the perfect place to make great bourbon.
There are many styles: the vanilla-heavy, full-bodied, classic bottlings to spicy, high rye versions to powerful cask-strength sippers. There are many ways you can drink it. Lauren Parton, general manager of Devereaux at Viceroy Chicago, says that Fred Noe from the Jim Beam clan was the most knowledgeable about the best way to drink bourbon. He said that there is no wrong way to enjoy whiskey, as long as you’re enjoying it. I like whiskey straight or over one stone, but when it’s hot in Chicago, I add some simple syrup and lime juice to make it a Daiquiri.
Best Overall: Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Allspice, Vanilla, Bruleed sugar
Kentucky bourbon has big flavours and a rich mouthfeel. It can also be very proof. Noah’s Mill, a small-batch bourbon, ticks all the boxes. It has a rich nose that is full of allspice and cinnamon. Expect to find classic bourbon flavours of bruleed sugar and toasted pecan on the palate. This leads to a rich finish with caramel and cream.
Noah’s Mill is a family-owned Willett distillery located in Bardstown (Kentucky). It has been awarded multiple gold medals at San Fransisco’s World Spirits Competition. Anthony Vitacca, a California-based bartender who has won numerous awards, says that this amazing bourbon is cask-strength at 114.3 Proof. But this bourbon has so much flavour that you won’t even realize you’re drinking such a high-proof spirit. It’s not a bad burn, but the burn is there.
Best Value: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Dried orange peel, Spice
Buffalo Trace is the perfect choice whether you are looking for reliable bourbon that you can order at dive bars or stock your liquor cabinet. It is a Kentucky bourbon that has a distinctive flavour. The nose featured vanilla and dried orange peel, which leads to a dark, spicy finish. Buffalo Trace is smooth and full-bodied. It can be enjoyed alone, with a beer back or mixed in a cocktail such as an Old Fashioned. This spirit is a great budget option, as it’s easy to find and affordable.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is the Best Luxuries
Tasting Notes: Caramel, Dark chocolate, Almonds, Dark cherry
Pappy is dead. Is the bourbon worth a month of rent? The quality of the blend changes every year, but it is consistently top-notch. Every year, a unique blend of barrels is released. This year, the bourbon was made from spirit created on April 16, 2009.
Birthday Bourbon is extremely rare. The MSRP is just over $100. However, you won’t find a bottle at that price in the wild unless you have a great working relationship with your local state liquor store. You can buy a bottle at the market price or grab a sample. Then, enjoy the wine in a glass. Take a sip, savour the flavours, and add water to intensify them. If you are looking for a birthday present for someone, why not buy a second bottle.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey: Best Single Barrel
ABV: 43% | Taste Notes Dried nuts, baked apple, cinnamon
As the name implies, a single barrel is a bourbon made from one barrel and not the usual mix of barrels that goes into a batch. Each barrel is unique, but some consistency will allow the experienced imbiber to identify the brand. Evan Williams’ bottles include the barrel number, the date it was placed in the barrel, and the bottling date. This single-barrel whiskey from Heaven Hill Distillery is one of the most highly-awarded whiskeys. It’s large, balanced, spicy, sweet and affordable. Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon is the Best Bottled-In Bond
Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Toffee, Vanilla, Dried fruit
Suppose you see “bottled-in-bond” on a label. In that case, the spirit was made at one United States distillery within a single “distillation period”, has been aged for at most four years in federally bonded warehouses, and was bottled at 100 proof.
Henry McKenna’s bottled-in-bond offering, a product of Heaven Hill Distillery, is a testament to its quality. It has ten years of ageing and was produced by Elijah Craig. It is bourbon’s most famous vanilla flavour, but it packs a punch. You can tame it with an ice cube or two. It can withstand dilution without losing its rich, spicy flavours.
Best Cask Strength: Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
ABV: 54.5% | Tasting Notes: Orange peel, Cherry, Tobacco, Roasted corn
You can still enjoy this whiskey straight without worrying about the heat, but you should mix it with some cocktails to take full advantage of its high alcohol content. You can pair it with honey and lemon in a Gold Rush or a refreshing Mint Julep. Even neophytes at cask strength can handle it.
Best Craft: Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Oak, Caramel, Toffee, Brown sugar, Cherry
Town Branch, one of the newest labels on the block, was launched in 2012. It was the first new distillery in downtown Lexington since Prohibition. The brand is focused on small batch production and emphasizes the human touch. Instead of using automation, they hand-fill barrels and bottles manually. Low rye gives the bourbon a smooth, sweet, and mellow taste.