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1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
3/25/22 8:59 a.m.

So I'm expecting a visit from a somewhat well-to-do Brother-in-Law later today.  I understand that he is fond of Bourbon whiskey.  While his tastes run to the high end and hard to find, like Blanton's, I am a man of modest means.  What Bourbon might I procure today that would be a good compromise between price and quality?  Where's the "sweet spot?"  I don't want to spend $200, but neither do I wish to offer the man something that tastes like bilge water.

As always, thanks for your sage advice!

mtn
mtn MegaDork
3/25/22 9:12 a.m.

Michters, or if you can't find it, Woodford Reserve. Woodford is kind of the Lexus ES of bourbon, if the Toyota Camry didn't exist. It may be boring and commonplace, but anybody turning their nose up at it is a snob. It is a really good bourbon; the fact that it is accessible should not be held against it.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
3/25/22 9:17 a.m.

In reply to mtn :

Thanks!  Woodford Reserve was on my short list, since it seems to be a fixture on several "best bourbons" lists.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
3/25/22 9:21 a.m.
1988RedT2 said:

So I'm expecting a visit from a somewhat well-to-do Brother-in-Law later today.  I understand that he is fond of Bourbon whiskey.  While his tastes run to the high end and hard to find, like Blanton's, I am a man of modest means.  What Bourbon might I procure today that would be a good compromise between price and quality?  Where's the "sweet spot?"  I don't want to spend $200, but neither do I wish to offer the man something that tastes like bilge water.

As always, thanks for your sage advice!

If he likes blantons, any of the Buffalo trace family of bourbon should work.

 

Afaik, the actual mash bill (recipe of ingredients) is the same between eagle rare, blantons, pappy, Buffalo trace, colonel taylor etc...

 

I am very fond of blantons (can't find for less than $150 around me right now).  Eagle rare would be around the $90 or so dollar range here.  Buffalo trace should be in the $30 to $50 range.

 

Does this person ever mix their bourbon?  If so, BT is fine.  

 

If you want something a little off the radar, rabbit hole makes good stuff.  I also like Weller (also, a Buffalo trace product), and willet.

Willet tastes good and has a really cool bottle (looks like a still).

 

Stay away from 1792 (I don't know anybody who actually likes it).  Also, there is a bourbon called blade and bow that some people think is a copy or competitor to blantons.  It IS NOT!  Don't waste your money!

These are all wheated bourbon which have a sweeter, smoother taste fyi.

 

wae
wae PowerDork
3/25/22 9:35 a.m.

Okay, so most of the really expensive, hard to find stuff is expensive and hard to fine because the allocations are artifically restricted, not because it's actually that good.  If you can get it from a charity as a fundraiser, or if you happen to be able to buy it at MSRP, any of those Buffalo Trace rarities - Blantons, Eagle Rare (which isn't as good as it usd to be, btw), Weller, and, yes, even Pappy - are really not worth your time and money. 

So, rant over, let's talk the juice. 

I don't know what distribution is like there, but if you can find New Riff, that's pretty good stuff which is distilled down the road from me in Newport, KY.  They have a bottled-in-bond which is quite good.  Their rye whisky is good as well, but of course, not bourbon.

Bookers is pretty good, I recommend 5 or 6 drops of water to be added per glass.  I don't think it's as good as the price tag commands, but you won't be disappointed.

Jefferson's Ocean is a neat gimmick and some of the voyages are much better than others.

Basil Hayden is fantastic.  The Dark Rye may not be bourbon, but it's a fine whisky.  Toast is also good, but harder to find.  The regular Basil Hayden isn't something you'll go wrong with.

Maker's Mark is well-known, but priced too high for what it is.  Maker's 46, however, is worth having on the shelf.

I have head good things of Belle Meade, but it's not one I have on my shelf right now.  I've tasted one of their products and it was good, but I don't remember which one.  I suspect you wouldn't go wrong with that.

Elijah Craig has some good expressions.  I've got a bottle of barrel proof sitting on my desk right now that is 133.4 proof and needs nothing but a glass to drink it from.  I've got a couple other bottles that are upstairs in the cabinet and they're all quite good.

Russell's Reserve is a very fine bourbon.  Again, some versions better than others, but I haven't had a bad one.

Henry McKenna is a little harder to find, but the 10 year bottled-in-bond is very tasty.  Not sure about the other expressions.

Knob Creek.  Great stuff all around.  Older's better, but weird thing is that the 14 year I've got tastes totally different from the 13 year and the 15 year...  Weird.

Willet.  Great little distillery down in Bardstown.  All their stuff is pretty good:  Pot Still has a neat bottle and is very good, Noah's Mill really good.  I don't think they distribute outside of KY, but one of my absolute favorites is their Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond.  Skip the regular OB, it's the exception to the "all their stuff is pretty good" rule.  But the B-i-B is a $15-$20 bottle which I'd take over Blanton's any day of the week.  Rowan's Creek is another one of theirs that's worthy.

If you can get Glen's Creek where you're at, OCD #5 can be good.  It's a single-barrel product and some are way better than others.  I don't think you can get the "Premium" except at the distillery outside of Frankfort, but if you see a bottle of that, buy it.  Stave and Barrel is okay, but if you're not trying to collect the full set, I wouldn't bother.

Bulleit is quality stuff.

Back to Heaven Hill Distillery for a minute...  Evan Williams is pretty decent stuff.  The Single Barrel is delightful and the small batch is worth having on the shelf.  But again, the big winner there is the white-labeled bottled-in-bond.  Another sub-$20 bottle that I reach for all the time and punches way above its weight.

Old Tub bottled-in-bond from Beam is great stuff.  Again, $20 or less, but I don't know how far they distribute.  Used to be you could only get it in 375s from the gift shop at the distillery, but I can get it in any store around me in 750s now.

Four Roses.  The yellow bottle is okay, but their single barrel and small batch expressions win the day there.

Woodford.  I mean, it's alright, but nothing special.  They have one, uh, double oaked I think they call it, which is the one I'd buy if I was buying Woodford.

Avoid Town Branch at all costs.  Swill.

Old Grand Dad is another Beam product that is worth your time.  The 114 is very pleasant and should be on your shelf.  Again, I find myself going to their Bottled-in-Bond expression, though.  $20 for a 750 and something that will run with the big boys.

If you're going to buy something from Buffalo Trace, there are a few there that are worth it.  Plain old "Buffalo Trace" is fabulous.  It's basically the same as the allocation whiskys, just younger and aged in different places in the rickhouse.  Can't go wrong.  Stagg is good stuff, but a little rough around the edges.  For serving in coffee, the Bourbon Cream is delightful.

I'm sure there are some others I could mention, but that's what have off the top of my head.

KyAllroad
KyAllroad MegaDork
3/25/22 9:48 a.m.

My two current daily drinkers are Old Forester 100 and Old Grand Dad Bonded 100.

Neither one is too spendy (between 20 and 25 a 750 locally) and both are good enough to enjoy without going down the rabbit hole of cost vs enjoyment.  

 

An aside: the OCD #5 is an interesting drink but it's "smokyness" factor is off the charts.  Worth trying in the way a mega-hopped IPS is but not for everyone's palate.

johndej
johndej Dork
3/25/22 9:49 a.m.

Your local here in VA so have to go by what's available in the state controlled stores. They don't even stock buffalo trace offerings anymore outside of special lottery giveaways. I know because I sign up for all of them (Link to ABC page). A lot of what's mentioned above you can hardly find in the Richmond area as people by it the day it's dropped off, I know Woodford sells out regularly. Any of what Wae mentioned are nice and another good one I've found that has remained somewhat available is some of the Old Forester special offerings.

I did find Buffalo Trace/Weller/Blanton/Eagle Rare cheap at some stores in rural Tenn/Kentucky late 2020 ago and bought up almost a challenge car's worth between myself, brothers, couple friends, would probably cost 4 times that for the same bottles today.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
3/25/22 9:52 a.m.

Whoa, when did Blanton's get so expensive? Granted I haven't bought it since probably 2014. But back then it was in the $50 for a 750 range. Now it's triple that? It's good, but not that good. 

My go to is Woodford, I've tried the double-oaked, it's, ehhh. It's not for me. If not Woodford, I'd go with Knob Creek. 

Either straight up or in an Old Fashioned. You have to be at a really decent place (most times) to get a good Old Fashioned out, many bartenders use far to much sugar/simple syrup. At least for me.

wae
wae PowerDork
3/25/22 9:55 a.m.
KyAllroad said:

An aside: the OCD #5 is an interesting drink but it's "smokyness" factor is off the charts.  Worth trying in the way a mega-hopped IPS is but not for everyone's palate.

That one is so barrel-dependent.  It's a shame that the quality can vary so dramatically from one to the next.  I tasted a bottle from one barrel - I can't remember which one it was, but I think it might have been bottled in 2019 - that was just undrinkable.  The premium line is the "leftovers" of the various barrels that they blend and return to a barrel for more aging.  It really helps to mellow out the differences and makes a really nice product.  Frankly, I think they should wean themselves of the single barrel production until they can get some better consistency and focus on blending and proofing down what they've got.  But that's just me...

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
3/25/22 9:56 a.m.

Elijah Craig drinks fantastic, it's replaced nearly all the bourbons in my collection. 

Jefferson's Ocean is harsh. Not a fan. 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
3/25/22 10:05 a.m.

I was tipped off by a whiskey lover of a good, cheap, bourbon- Evan Williams Bottled in Bond.  Good stuff.

WRT Blanton's- for the controlled states, it's still the same price- just really not common.  From what I can tell, when Buffalo Trace signed a deal with cruise ships, pretty much all of their efforts went there.   Which sparked a wide spread shortage.  Which sparked a sharp demand increase.  And now it's just allocated so that Buffalo Trace can make sure every single bottle of Blantons is sold before it's even gotten to the store.  Kind of sucks for people who like it.  But if you are a cruise fan, you can get it really easily on a ship.

On one of our last cruises, there were so many bottles of Blanton's in the store that it was easy to re-arrange them all for the horses to spell out Blantons.

KyAllroad
KyAllroad MegaDork
3/25/22 10:17 a.m.
wae said:
KyAllroad said:

An aside: the OCD #5 is an interesting drink but it's "smokyness" factor is off the charts.  Worth trying in the way a mega-hopped IPS is but not for everyone's palate.

That one is so barrel-dependent.  It's a shame that the quality can vary so dramatically from one to the next.  I tasted a bottle from one barrel - I can't remember which one it was, but I think it might have been bottled in 2019 - that was just undrinkable.  The premium line is the "leftovers" of the various barrels that they blend and return to a barrel for more aging.  It really helps to mellow out the differences and makes a really nice product.  Frankly, I think they should wean themselves of the single barrel production until they can get some better consistency and focus on blending and proofing down what they've got.  But that's just me...

True.  I'm on my second bottle of it in 6-7 years.  It generally sits in the back of the shelf and I only drag it out for tastings with bourbonphilles.  And last I checked it was $85 a fifth so there are other choices at that price point most people prefer.

I cracked open a bottle of RipVanWinkle the other day (part of the Pappy line) and while it was good, it certainly wasn't 5x as good to my palate as some $20 bottles.  Glad it was a gift, won't spend that sort of money on myself.

wae
wae PowerDork
3/25/22 10:24 a.m.
z31maniac said:

Whoa, when did Blanton's get so expensive? Granted I haven't bought it since probably 2014. But back then it was in the $50 for a 750 range. Now it's triple that? It's good, but not that good. 

I had the same whipsaw moment.  I used to get a bottle whenever I ran low because it was good stuff I could get almost anywhere for a decent price and it looked like the Holy Handgrenade.  Then one day all hell broke loose and people wanted stupid money for them and you couldn't find them anywhere.  Same thing with Eagle Rare.  I used to be able to get that all day anywhere in town for something like $30/$40 a bottle.  Now they're both allocation items that you need to either hope you win a lottery to buy or you pay stupid money on the secondary market.  And neither of them are "that" good.

DrBoost
DrBoost MegaDork
3/25/22 10:26 a.m.

Anyone try Uncle Nearest?  It's next on my list to try. 

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
3/25/22 10:46 a.m.

The sweet spot will be between $30 - $50. Price jumps substantially above that for minimal increase in quality.

If you want to treat and surprise him, I recommend:

Redwood Empire "Pipe Dream"

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Review - Whiskey Consensus

Should be $35 - $40. It is the best bourbon I've found at that price, and would still be one of the best at $50-$60. It's not one of the big known names, and you will impress him with the find. He likely has heard of and tried it, but will appreciate that you didn't buy him the same old thing. New Riff was mentioned, and it's most similar to that, but notably better.

If you want to drop more and blow his mind: Paul John Classic

Indian Whisky Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2% - Paul John Distillery

It's an Indian Single malt and will run around $100. In the same way that the Miata is the best British Roadster ever, this Indian Single malt is the best Bourbon I've ever had. I sampled it next to Old Rip Van Winkle, and it hit all those same notes, but with a richer depth to them all.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
3/25/22 10:52 a.m.
wae said:
z31maniac said:

Whoa, when did Blanton's get so expensive? Granted I haven't bought it since probably 2014. But back then it was in the $50 for a 750 range. Now it's triple that? It's good, but not that good. 

I had the same whipsaw moment.  I used to get a bottle whenever I ran low because it was good stuff I could get almost anywhere for a decent price and it looked like the Holy Handgrenade.  Then one day all hell broke loose and people wanted stupid money for them and you couldn't find them anywhere.  Same thing with Eagle Rare.  I used to be able to get that all day anywhere in town for something like $30/$40 a bottle.  Now they're both allocation items that you need to either hope you win a lottery to buy or you pay stupid money on the secondary market.  And neither of them are "that" good.

I think that Bourbon is getting popular in general, and it doesn't really matter what the product is if the label looks fancy. I remember getting Eagle Rare on sale for $25, and Buffalo Trace was around the same, and not having them wow me but being happy with them for the price. WTF happened? Even Michter's used to be around $35-$40 for a fifth. Now it is at least $50. Of note: I really like Michter's and Woodford, which come from the same distillery.

I'm at the point where it takes me about 2 years to finish a bottle, so I'm ok paying $50 for it, but I'm honestly just as happy with Very Old Barton as any of them. 

Actually, if you can find Very Old Barton - ubiquitous across much of the country, but not near me for some reason - that may be a good one to give him a blind taste and ask how much he thinks it will cost. 

Benswen
Benswen Reader
3/25/22 11:21 a.m.
Javelin said:

Elijah Craig drinks fantastic, it's replaced nearly all the bourbons in my collection. 

 

Hear hear.  Not too sweet, not too spicy, with a very clean finish.  Nothing better at the price.

Four Roses is good but almost a dessert drink.  Rather syrupy.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
3/25/22 12:09 p.m.

it's been mentioned, but I'll second "Bookers Reserve".  Agreed that it's probably priced a little higher than it should be, but if he's a Bourbon guy he will like the stuff.

That being said, and I know it's scotch (andnot bourbon), if you can find Aberlour A'Bundah (Cast strength), woah my god....


 

 I would do unspeakable things to very innocent people for a bottle of that stuff. 

My god.

Aaron_King
Aaron_King PowerDork
3/25/22 12:37 p.m.

I will third this from wae:

"But again, the big winner there is the white-labeled bottled-in-bond.  Another sub-$20 bottle that I reach for all the time and punches way above its weight."

My current favorite is this: Black Cherry Wood Rye, its from Cleveland and have no idea if they are distibuting it out of the state.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
3/25/22 12:50 p.m.

In reply to Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) :

Well... E36 M3... now that's something I need to hunt down. (Looks like it's actually pretty relatively available near me.)

 I doubt that's going to tick the boxes a bourbon drinker is looking for though.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
3/25/22 1:18 p.m.

In reply to Beer Baron :

Yeah, it was just perfect timing that it popped into my "memories" on FB the same time I saw this thread.  I only took a picture of it and put it on my feed so I wouldnt forget cheeky

Meanwhile I just looked online for Elijah Craig  and I am 100% going to have to order a bottle of that to try here shortly.  The thing is, sometimes flavors change from shore to shore (I had the Aberlour in Tacoma, so it's safe for those in the states).  For instance Hieneken here is WAY better here than in the states, and Sailor Jerry Rum is nothing here like it is stateside (way better on your shores).

Hopefully Elijah Craig doesn't suffer the same curse Sailor Jerry does when it gets here.

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
3/25/22 1:19 p.m.
DrBoost said:

Anyone try Uncle Nearest?  It's next on my list to try. 

Yes, we have an assortment of their stuff from the more commons down to the single barrels. They are good quality and smooth, but I am not an elitist on bourbon.

 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
3/25/22 1:26 p.m.

LOL.  Well, I waited too long to post this thread.  Headed out after one or two responses, so as a result, I have a nice 750ml bottle of Michter's, selected mostly on price point and mtn's recommendation.  Almost bought the Woodford Reserve.  Considered the Woodford Double Oaked.  I've had Elijah Craig before.  Honestly, most of the other stuff y'all talk about wasn't to be found on the shelf.  Something by Four Roses, and an interesting bottle called Heaven's Door, which as it turns out, has Mr. Bob Dylan's name associated with it. 

So, anybody else want to offer an opinion on Michter's?

wae
wae PowerDork
3/25/22 1:33 p.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

I had forgotten about that until mtn mentioned it!  I just had a sip (or twelve.  See also: minor rants) to refresh my memory. 

It's a little lower proof, but still pretty strong in flavor.  Kind of a honey thing going on.  Tastes warm without a big burn.  Good stuff.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
3/25/22 1:33 p.m.
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to Beer Baron :

Meanwhile I just looked online for Elijah Craig  and I am 100% going to have to order a bottle of that to try here shortly.  The thing is, sometimes flavors change from shore to shore (I had the Aberlour in Tacoma, so it's safe for those in the states).  For instance Hieneken here is WAY better here than in the states, and Sailor Jerry Rum is nothing here like it is stateside (way better on your shores).

Hopefully Elijah Craig doesn't suffer the same curse Sailor Jerry does when it gets here.

Most of those European premium lagers are intentionally spoiled for sale in the U.S. Heineken and Stella being the prime examples. Goes back to when they were first being imported before good climate-controlled shipping. People got used to it and thought that's what European lagers were supposed to taste like. Now they keep doing it. (Although I think they might be left untouched for draft.)

Spirits shouldn't have the same issue. As long as they're kept out of too much direct light and temperature extremes, they may need a couple weeks to rest after shipping, but that's it. My guess would be that Sailor Jerry uses some kind of flavorings or texture additives in the U.S. that some European countries don't allow in foods, so they have to change the recipe for Europe.

An unflavored whiskey should not have those issues.

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