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The 12 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2019

The 12 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2019

Bourbon 101

Historical past And Federal Laws

Let’s begin with the fundamentals. And the fundamentals start right here: All bourbon is whiskey however not all whiskey is bourbon. Which means, bourbon is the one variant that’s uniquely American by way of and thru, with manufacturing courting again centuries to the very basis of America — earlier than Prohibition-era speakeasy lounges, organized crime, and Tommy-Gun-fueled police pursuits. From right here, we noticed the manufacturing of American whiskey take full benefit of our nation’s local weather, agriculture, and entrepreneurial sense of journey. Unofficially, it’s believed the primary bourbon whiskey was distilled within the late 18th century by the Samuels household (whose youngest inheritor now runs Maker’s Mark) however skeptics have voiced their concern because the Samuels Household hadn’t begun to supply commercially bought bourbon till the mid 19th century. Unofficially, it’s believed the primary bourbon whiskey was distilled within the late 18th century.

As an alternative, some consider the Even Williams distillery, established alongside the banks of the Ohio River within the late 18th century, led the best way for extra trendy takes on the spirit. It was just some years later when Bourbon Nation, Kentucky was officiated after which Mister Elijah Craig himself broke new floor when he began getting older corn whiskey in oak barrels. Mr. Craig then proceeded to open a bit distillery in Georgetown, KY to seize the brand new technique. Now, Heaven Hill distillery is likely one of the few titans of the bourbon business — standing alongside 4 Roses, Buffalo Hint, Wild Turkey, and Brown-Forman amongst others at the moment.

So, what’s bourbon if not normal American whiskey? Properly, because of a federal decree handed in 1964, we will summarize the authorized definition of bourbon whiskey in a number of brief sentences.

What Is Bourbon?

Based on the Federal Requirements of Id for Distilled Spirits, bourbon should:

  • Host a grain invoice that’s at the least 51% corn.
  • Be produced at not more than 160 proof (80% ABV).
  • Be saved in new charred oak barrels for at the least 4 years at not more than 125 proof (62.5 % ABV).
  • Be bottled at a minimal of 80 proof (40% ABV).
  • Be made in the USA.

These are the tenets by which all bourbon distillers should adhere. For any deviation from the aforementioned mandates leads to a spirit that shall not be labeled as bourbon. We’ve additionally seen extra particular guidelines come into play through the years as properly. Specifically, that bourbon can’t be artificially flavored or enhanced with coloring — a key cause why Jack Daniels is labeled as a Tennessee whiskey and never a correct bourbon. Additionally, some bourbon devotees recommend if the spirit doesn’t come from Bourbon County, KY and make the most of Kentucky limestone water within the distilling course of then it isn’t bourbon. The federal authorities doesn’t acknowledge such strict requirements so we’ll depart that tidbit to drift within the realm of subjectivity in the intervening time. Bourbon can’t be artificially flavored or enhanced with coloring — a key purpose why Jack Daniels is labeled as a Tennessee whiskey and never a correct bourbon.

What’s value noting, nevertheless, is knowing the place your bourbon originates. Which means, from which distiller is the uncooked spirit first distilled previous to cargo. It’s a key attribute to know as a result of odds are that small boutique bourbon model is promoting you a label that’s been well-designed and printed on a bottle of bourbon they sourced from one of many huge gamers talked about above. There’s additionally the totally different variants to think about: bottled in bond, straight, cask power, barrel proof, etcetera. Extra which is expanded upon under.

Bourbon Glossary

Know The Business

Figuring out find out how to learn a whiskey label is nearly, if no more essential, than understanding easy methods to benefit from the spirit. That’s as a result of, for novices and even apathetic drinkers on the market, it’s straightforward to be fooled by what’s outlined on the label. Seeing how there’s a sure lexicon to think about, we’ve gone forward and outlined some key phrases to reference when both ordering or buying a bottle on the package deal retailer.

Bourbon Glossary: Key Phrases To Know

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Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon that’s saved in charred new oak barrels for at the least two years. These may also embrace blends of different straight bourbons as properly (very similar to the principles for what constitutes a single malt) so long as every batch comes from same-state distilleries.

Bitter Mash: An business method that pulls mash payments from earlier distillations into the brand new mash to stop undesirable yeast strains from infecting the brand new batch.

Proof: A quantity used to reference the quantity of alcohol current within the whiskey. Discovered by doubling the ABV proportion.

Bottled In Bond: An previous federal regulation that mandated bourbon have to be the product of a single distillation by a single distiller at a single distillery. The whiskey should then be saved at a federally-bonded warehouse (therefore the identify) for at the least 4 years and bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). From right here, the label should additionally determine the distillery the place the distillation course of happened.

Small Batch: A time period used to specify the bourbon was made by way of an unique variety of barrels and/or recipes in a blended bottling. Sometimes reserved for particular variations of bigger manufacturers.

Non-Distiller Producers: Referenced earlier, these are the businesses that buy the whiskey from precise distillers and mix accordingly for particular person branding.

Single Barrel: Because the identify may recommend, single barrel bourbons are aged utilizing single barrels that work to impart a larger vary of variations in nostril, palate, and end.

Nowadays, the phrases “small batch” and “single barrel” are rising increasingly widespread throughout new gamers within the whiskey business in addition to iconic legacy manufacturers. That’s partially because of the surge in bourbon’s reputation all through the mid-aughts when hip whiskey bars, mid-century-theme cocktail lounges, and storied whiskey cocktails — right here’s to you Previous Customary — resurfaced into the millennial and Gen Z nightlife scene like a nasty meme. And admittedly, we’ve solely simply begun. Whiskey, like beer, isn’t going anyplace anytime quickly. Likewise, we should always proceed to embrace what the market delivers for our enjoyment. As a result of there’s no actual rest fairly like an American bourbon-based cocktail after a tough day’s work.

Buffalo Hint

Not together with one of the iconic bourbons of all time in any whiskey record is downright blasphemous in our opinion. Buffalo Hint, the powerhouse distillery of the fashionable period, is aware of bourbon. And with their flagship product out there in nearly each package deal retailer beneath the solar, it’s inconceivable to disregard. Every batch is made with wholesome proportions of rye, barley, and corn in a powerful method that imparts notes of caramel, honey, citrus, and mint on the nostril with mellow toffee, brown sugar, and rye on the palate. It leaves you with an oaky end that’s quintessentially on-brand.

Key Specs

Type: Straight
ABV: 45%
Tasting Notes: Toffee, Brown Sugar, Rye

Buy: $24

WL Weller 12 Yr

One trait you don’t sometimes discover with bourbon is a wheated grain invoice. Sometimes, corn and rye reign supreme with variations leaning a method or one other between these two variables. Not with W.L. Weller, nevertheless. The truth is, they have been the primary to supply a bourbon with wheat as the flavour grain within the invoice versus rye. And we’ll be trustworthy, the result’s incredible. This small batch bourbon hosts a style that’s dry, complicated, and toasty — imparting notes of cocoa mud and delicate spices adopted by the apparent contact of wheat, cedar, and a nutty end that work in concord to take the sting off after an extended day.

Key Specs

Fashion: Small Batch
ABV: 45%
Tasting Notes: Cocoa Mud, Delicate Spices, Wheat, Cedar, Nuts

Buy: $27

4 Roses Single Barrel

Straight from Lawrenceburg, KY comes one of many smoothest but full-bodied bourbons round for the “beneath $50” worth level. Odds are you’re already conversant in 4 Roses in some regards, so it will definitely behoove you to provide their single barrel attempt. Once more, all of the mixing we all know and love about 4 Roses continues to be intact, the distillery simply opted for a extra refined mannequin this go-around. Right here, take pleasure in complicated notes ripe plum and cherry that give method to fruity and spicy aromas, yielding a discoverable palate filled with wealthy vanilla, extra spice, and floral notes.

Key Specs

Type: Single Barrel
ABV: 50%
Tasting Notes: Ripe Plum, Cherry, Spices, Herbs, Cocoa

Buy: $40

King’s County Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon

For probably the most half, Bottled-In-Bond is an indication of belief between the distiller and the buyer that the whole lot you see earlier than you befell on a single location throughout one season. A merit-badge if you’ll, this certification of types ensures that you simply’re consuming precisely what’s outlined on the bottle. Gimmick-free on this regard, King’s County is simply that, aged for 4 years, bottled at 100 proof, and distilled and aged on-site. So, if purity is your choice for bourbon, there’s not an entire lot on the market that may match the aesthetics and composition of this specific expression.

Key Specs

Fashion: Straight, Bottled in Bond
ABV: 50%
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Caramel, Deep Molasses, Cinnamon

Buy: $40

Balcones Child Blue Whiskey

What some would contemplate sacrilegious, we contemplate audacious. That’s as a result of Balcones not solely operates outdoors of the Kentucky “bourbon belt” within the Lone Star State however they use roasted blue corn of their mash invoice. Now, whereas which may have purists up in arms, we propose giving Child Blue a attempt as we’re betting you’ll discover the expression pleasantly shocking. We’re speaking a palate filled with tropical fruit, brown sugar, candy tea, smoked chilis, and cotton sweet of all issues. Sure, you learn that appropriately. A real award-winning unique from the Texas backcountry, what’s extra American than that?

Key Specs

Type: Small Batch
ABV: 46%
Tasting Notes: Darkish Caramel, Baked Apple, Spices, Salted Butter

Buy: $40

1792 Full Proof Bourbon

Because the 2018 winner of the World’s Greatest Bourbon on the World Whiskies Awards, 1792 Full Proof is a drive to be reckoned with. It’s a small batch bourbon hailing from Kentucky and is each curiously robust and filled with taste. Extremely deep tasting notes peppered with simply the correct quantity of smoky parts yield a bit one thing particular for everybody to take pleasure in. Moreover, we will’t neglect the truth that this expression provides up delicately balanced notes of candy vanilla and caramel to assist degree out the 125 entry proof. Not probably the most prevalent bourbon round, however proper on the cash price-wise. In the event you see it, greatest make the small funding.

Key Specs

Type: Small Batch
ABV: 62.5%
Tasting Notes: Candy Vanilla, Caramel, Smoke

Buy: $45

Colonel E.H Taylor Bottled In Bond

From the revered and formidable Buffalo Hint distillery comes a two-for-one small batch and bottled-in-bond particular. Doesn’t harm that it’s a Colonel E.H. Taylor both. Sometimes, we see bottled in bond whiskeys discovered on the decrease finish of the totem ballot primarily because of the value and regulation concerned to supply them. Not right here, for this advantageous expression hosts the prized tasting notes of caramel, candy corn, butterscotch, and simply the correct quantity of licorice. As for the end, how about some delicate pepper and tobacco to assist deliver out your internal southern aristocrat on the subsequent backyard celebration.

Key Specs

Fashion: Straight, Bottled in Bond
ABV: 50%
Tasting Notes: Caramel Corn, Butterscotch, Licorice, Pepper, Tobacco

Buy: $45

Wild Turkey Uncommon Breed

Take every part you thought you knew about Wild Turkey and chuck it by the wayside. In true “shot to sip” transition, Wild Turkey Uncommon Breed is a prized fowl of a bourbon, to say the least. Maybe it’s their try to interrupt into the extra refined market, or it’s the results of sheer experimentation by the Russell household. Regardless of the case could also be, this can be a rattling high quality small batch options blends of six, eight, and 12-year expressions that work to impart notes of oranges, mint, and tobacco with a good nutty end for good measure. Not your school bar’s bourbon that’s for positive.

Key Specs

Type: Small Batch
ABV: 54%
Tasting Notes: Orange, Mint, Tobacco

Buy: $47

Previous Forester 1920 Prohibition Type

Prohibition was a troublesome period for bourbon however we don’t need to inform you that. What’s notable concerning the time interval, nevertheless, is how the strategies of distribution by way of American mobsters and corrupt politicians truly paved the best way for contemporary — and authorized — distribution logistics as soon as alcohol was legalized as soon as once more in 1933. A little bit of a historical past lesson, sure, however we hope that sheds some mild on Previous Forester’s intentions with this Prohibition Type bourbon. Right here, we now have a 155 proof expression that pays homage to the period and hosts a flavorful palate full with notes of caramel, cinnamon, toffee, darkish chocolate, and cherry. It’s in all probability being loved at a speakeasy-influenced bar close to you.

Key Specs

Type: Straight
ABV: 57.5%
Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Caramel, Darkish Chocolate, Toffee, Cherry

Buy: $60

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Yet one more notable model that’s worthy of the house bar, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof hosts simply the appropriate stability of fury and tranquility in its profile to maintain issues fascinating with out overpowering the senses. It’s all because of notes of caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch along side black pepper and cinnamon making their presence recognized on the again of the palate. And to wrap issues up, welcome notes of spearmint linger by way of the very finish. Definitely a bourbon value getting your palms on.

Key Specs

Fashion: Small Batch
ABV: 63.5%
Tasting Notes: Caramel, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Black Pepper, Cinnamon

Buy: $61

Blanton’s Gold

So far as elegant shows are involved, few reasonably priced bourbons on the market can prime what Blanton’s has going for them. Plus, it additionally doesn’t harm that the bourbon itself matches the tasteful vessel by which it’s displayed. Right here, we’ve a small batch model of their normal vendor — distilled from a mash invoice of corn, rye, and malted barley that’s correctly aged to assist impart a posh palate with nice prime notes, chewy oak, stone fruits, and deep spices previous to a end characterised by toffee and extra spice. Greatest loved each neat and on the rocks.

Key Specs

Type: Single Barrel
ABV: 51.5%
Tasting Notes: Chewy Oak, Darkish Fruit, Spices, Pepper

Buy: $103+

George T. Stagg

If yow will discover it and have the funds to help the impulse purchase, George T. Stagg is a type of accessible but bucket-list bourbons to maintain at residence and slowly take pleasure in when the time is true. Actually, we’d be fooling ourselves if we didn’t categorize this effective spirit underneath a borderline celebratory standing. Watch out although, trigger Mr. Stagg doesn’t fiddle. Beneath the notable ABV, nevertheless, rests the nice undertones of caramel, tobacco, and vanilla that, dare we are saying, make Mr. Stagg a complementary factor to a high quality cigar. Greatest served with a number of drops of distilled water to assist convey the whole lot collectively.

Key Specs

Type: Straight
ABV: 68%
Tasting Notes: Caramel, Tobacco, Vanilla

Buy: $799