People are getting more and more into bourbon, the nectar of the gods. So, I am receiving more and more questions about what is the best bourbon for my money? It will come from either someone who had a great bourbon and really wants to refine their palate; someone with a small budget, but does not want to skimp on quality; or just someone interested in bourbon for the first time.
There is one big secret in the bourbon industry that the big boys do not want you to know. The $100+ bottles of bourbon… are really not much better from some lower cost bourbons. Unless you have really refined your palate, you will not taste much of a difference at all. The hyped bourbons may not be the best for you.
When I think of a value bourbon, I think of something under $35. And, you can not just try a single bourbon and know if this is something for you or not. Nor, will it allow you to understand what type of bourbon you enjoy best/the qualities in bourbon you enjoy the most. So, I have broken this into Rye, Wheat and Traditional Bourbons. If you do not know the difference please see a previous post ( Types of Bourbon )
Weller 107 ($23, 107 proof)
Buffalo Trace Distillery
The wheat base really allows what you enjoy in bourbon to shine. It cannot hide behind spices or strong oak. You can pick out a bit of orange zest and honey that you normally will not find in the other mash bills. You will also find a bit of apply, very mild oak, but the vanilla shines a bit more. As this is a bit higher proof, I will sometimes add a single drop of water and it opens up those zesty flavors a bit more.
I could not give this to a single bourbon as they both add uniqueness.
Four Roses Small Batch ($25, 90 proof)
Four Roses Distillery
At about 27.5% Rye it adds a nice richness and spice to this bourbon. What makes this more unique that any other bourbon is the amount of cinnamon found in this bourbon. I always keep a bottle on hand when I feel like something mildly sweet, great mouth feel, red berry, mild oak and vanilla, but loads of cinnamon and other spices.
Old Scout 7 year ($35, 99 proof)
Smooth Ambler Spirits
There is a beast of 36% rye in this offering. Now, you will find a lot of the same flavors, but the subtle differences are what made me have two in this section. OS7 will be a lot sweeter, instead of the red berry flavor you may find some apple and fresher fruit. There is a much milder spice than the FRSmB given the additional sweetness.
Elijah Craig 12 year ($30, 94 proof)
Heaven Hill Distillery
EC12 is a great balance between sweet and spicy. You will find a nice balance of oak, vanilla, burnt caramel and spice. You will also find some soft floral notes in the palate and in the nose than you will not find in the Rye bourbon as the spice overpowers and possibility of it.
Elmer T Lee ($30)
Buffalo Trace ($30)
Eagle Rare 10 year ($35)
Old GrandDad 114 ($25)
Weller 12 year ($30)
Wild Turkey 101 ($23)
You can find a ton of great bourbon at a good price. If you disagree with any of these, let me know. You are wrong, but I am happy to hear your thoughts.