I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me in the past couple of weeks, both experienced bourbon drinkers and novices alike, asking me to post about my everyday pours, or those bourbons that regularly make an appearance on my sipping shelf. This is actually a very difficult question because the reality is that there is an abundance of good quality, affordable bourbon that is readily available from most liquor stores. And while I always like to explore new bourbons whenever possible, I spent some time looking at my bourbon cabinet and realized that I do have a few bottles that regularly make an appearance on my day-to-day shelf.
Here we go…
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a die-hard Buffalo Trace fan so it should come as no surprise that this is always my go-to bourbon. In my opinion, Buffalo Trace is a very affordable and high quality, traditional bourbon. This bourbon comes from Buffalo Trace’s mashbill #1, which means it is low rye and has a more sweet flavor profile. On the nose it provides the traditional bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak, which also translate onto the palate. This is a very soft, warm bourbon that leaves a nice mouthfeel and delivers a lot of flavor. The finish is medium-long, with just the right amount of burn. Ultimately, Buffalo Trace is a complex and flavorful bourbon perfect for sipping, but the flavors aren’t too complex or nuanced so it is also great for cocktails that require a strong, flavorful base.
Buffalo Trace does not include an age statement but it is estimated that this bourbon is aged from 7-9 years and comes in at 90 proof (45% abv). Buffalo Trace typically retails for $30-$40.
Henry McKenna Bottle in Bond
This bottled-in-bond bourbon from Heaven Hill has been one of my favorites for quite some time and there will always be a spot in my bourbon cabinet for this bottle. The mashbill consists of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. The nose on this bourbon is rich, with notes of caramel, toasted pecan, some chocolate, and rye spice. The palate is light up front but the rye spice really opens up to make this a well-balanced bourbon. The finish is medium-long with notes of oak, caramel, mint, and caramel popcorn.
Henry McKenna is aged for 10 years and comes in at 100 proof (50% abv). This bottle usually retails for roughly $35. Unfortunately, this bourbon is also becoming increasingly more difficult to find, so if you see it make sure to pick up as many bottles as possible and send a few my way!
Four Roses Single Barrel
Four Roses utilizes two different mashbills with a variety of five proprietary yeast strains, resulting in 10 unique bourbon recipes. The single barrel recipe is always OBSV. The mashbill consists of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley.
The nose on this bourbon is light, but there is a lot to pick apart if you’re willing to put in the time. There is some alcohol, along with traditional notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel, but I also find some sweetness of cherry syrup, rye spice, and some dried fruit. On the palate this bourbon is soft, but the rye spice develops quickly, leaving a nice bite up front. There are notes of rye spice, oak and dark fruit that transition into the finish. The finish is medium-long, and the spice lingers as new flavors develop. The oak also remains in the finish and there are also strong notes of fruit, like dark cherries and some pear. Light notes of vanilla also linger in the finish.
Four Roses Single Barrel usually retails for $40-$60. For those of you in Tallahassee, Market Square recently had a great barrel selection that I really enjoyed in this price range.
I have maintained a bottle of Eagle Rare on my shelf consistently for the past 5 years or so, and unfortunately that task is becoming more and more difficult as a result of the growing demand for this exceptional bourbon.
Eagle Rare also comes from Buffalo Trace’s mashbill #1, so there is minimal rye and a sweeter flavor profile. Everything about this bourbon makes me want more. The nose is soft but complex, and requires just the right amount of work, revealing notes of caramel, vanilla, and banana. On the palate this bourbon is oily, leaving a nice mouthfeel, with the sweetness of honey and a nice, balanced array of flavors. I regularly find notes of toasted oak, cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, and some chocolate. There is almost no burn . . . this is a dangerous bourbon! There is a medium finish, with sweetness continuing through the sip, almost reminiscent of chewing gum, along with notes of oak, caramel, and vanilla.
Eagle Rare is aged for 10 years and comes in at 90 proof (45% abv). Eagle Rare used to retail for $40-$50, but prices have increased from the growing demand. I’ve recently seen bottles in Florida going for $60-$80!