Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Best-Kept Secrets in Bourbon Are Hiding in Plain Sight
There are some really terrific bourbons out there that most people overlook. In many cases they are old brands that the manufacturers sell but don't support. Some offer a chance to taste something a little different, others are among the best bourbons you can buy, and all are great values. While a few have limited distribution, many are hiding in plain sight at your neighborhood whiskey monger.
A prime example is Weller 12-Year-Old. This wheated bourbon from Sazerac is right up there with the very best bourbons available today, and it costs less than $30 a bottle in most places. A few years ago it was in very short supply but now seems readily available. If you are pining for Pappy but have never had Weller 12, what's wrong with you?
At the other end of the spectrum is Very Old Barton, another Sazerac product. It is a 6-year-old, rye-recipe bourbon that used to be sold only in Kentucky and a few southern states. In Kentucky, it is very popular and competes head-to-head with Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's. It is now more widely available but not national. Unless you drink 1792 or Ten High, you've probably never tasted a bourbon from this distillery. Very Old Barton is a solid, reliable, standard bourbon that usually sells for less than $20, often a lot less.
Old Forester is the brand that launched Brown-Forman 143 years ago. It was the first bourbon to be sold only in bottles. It has the same recipe as Woodford Reserve. The 86° proof (43% ABV) is usually about $20 and the 100° proof (50% ABV) is usually about $25. Again, it is just a good, solid, dependable rye-recipe bourbon at an excellent price.
Old Grand-Dad, discussed here on Monday, is one of the few high-rye bourbons and definitely the least expensive one. Its bonded expression has long been the best-selling bonded bourbon in the country. The bond usually sells for about $20, the 80° proof (40% ABV) is about $17. It's made by Beam.
Also from Beam is Jim Beam Black Label, which is 8-years-old, 86° proof (43% ABV), and about $22 a bottle. Compare that to Knob Creek, which is the same juice at 9-years-old and 100° proof (50% ABV), and about $30. Even though it carries the Jim Beam name, or perhaps because of it, many bourbon fans overlook this superb value. It's available everywhere.
Evan Williams Black Label is Heaven Hill's flagship brand and the #3 best-selling American whiskey, after Jack and Jim. Again it's a good, solid, standard rye-recipe bourbon, selling in many places for around $10.
No one who really knows bourbon would turn their nose up at any of these.