Looking to stock (or restock) your home bar doesn’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage. Here are 5 bottles you should have on hand to give a broad flavor profile, suitable for drinking neat or in a cocktail, and that won’t break the bank.
Maker’s Mark 46
I splurged here over the typical Maker’s Mark Bourbon. 46 starts off with the traditional Maker’s Mark wheated bourbon made from 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. From there, it receives an extra 2-3 months of aging in just-emptied Maker’s Mark barrels with heavily seared French oak staves. It carries a similar Maker’s profile with added and richness of spice and caramel notes. At 94 proof, this is complex enough to withstand a cocktail, but also easy-drinking enough to serve neat.
Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Small Batch
I splurged here as well over it’s lesser sibling, Wild Turkey 101. Carrying a 10-year age statement, and a mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley, this bourbon carries a flavorful punch over WT 101. While lesser proof – coming in at just 90 proof – this carries a lot of rye spice, with a looooonnnnnggggg finish. And while Wild Turkey 101 is very well-known, a good many gloss over this slightly more expensive sibling. Jimmy and Eddie have delivered a solid drinker with a bit more punch.
Four Roses Yellow Label
I’m running out of cash here, so I need to make some smart choices. Four Roses’ flagship product is a blend of 2 different mash bills and 5 different yeast strains. All 10 resulting bourbons are blended together. The first mash bill – 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% barley – is paired with a second, high rye mash bill – 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. While I prefer the higher proof and more complex Small Batch or Single Barrel products from Four Roses, this 80 proof product carries similar unique fruity and floral characteristics – atypical of a more traditional-styled bourbon. All said, for added variety, and a nice starter for less-seasoned bourbon drinkers, this is great addition to the bar.
Old Forester Straight Rye Whiskey
While technically not a bourbon, Old Forester Rye has been receiving many accolades since its introduction in January 2019. At 100 proof and an age of around 4-years, this is a very approachable rye whiskey that even a bourbon drinker would like. OF Rye carries a mashbill of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn. Both the barley and corn add hints of smokiness and sweetness, and the yeast and the charred barrel have pulled off a spirit that screams of vanilla with a soft bit of spice. Neat, on the rocks, or in an Old Fashioned, this is very good rye whiskey that adds a unique flare to your bourbon bar.
Heaven Hill Green Label 6-year Bourbon
For those outside of Kentucky or an adjoining state, you need to take a trip to the Commonwealth to snag a bottle (or two, or five) of Heaven Hill Green Label 6-year Bourbon (be sure it carries the 6 year age statement, as HH produces some without the age statement at a lower proof). With a decades-old bottle design and a 6-year age statement, it’s hard to beat this 90-proof bourbon made from 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. For the money, this is one of the best bourbons out there – corn, vanilla, and spice balanced with complexity and baking spices. This will impress even your snobbiest friends as fine, old-fashioned Kentucky bourbon.
It’s a Wrap
If my math is right – and factoring in a little wiggle-room for taxes and price variations – you’ve put together a solid and diverse lineup of bourbons and whiskeys, each with a variety of flavor profiles. Cheers!
Photo Credit:John Cafazza