View Full Version : Essential Bourbons
I'll preface this by saying: for Scotch I consider Laphroaig 10, Balvenie DoubleWood, Highland Park 12, and Talisker 10 to be essential to any enthusiast's collection.
What do you consider to be essentials to a quality bourbon selection?
I'm fairly new to bourbon (while not impressive, my current arsenal includes Wild Turkey 101 [a real humdinger!], Buffalo Trace [uninteresting], Knob Creek [okay], Old Weller Antique 107 [haven't opened], but that doesn't mean I don't like delving right into the more complex/challenging stuff (heck, the first single malt I bought was Laphroaig 10, without ever trying it, and loved it), so let's not let that affect your input.
I think if I just wanted a well stocked bar for my guests, I would have something like WT 101 because it's great neat, on the rocks or mixed (and the price is not so high I would cringe if someone wanted it with a coke), I would have something smooth like Makers Mark or Evan Williams SB, I would need a high rye like OGD 114 and then maybe one of the high proof bottles like GT Stagg or Bookers. I think I could please almost anyone with those bottles.
But you throw in the word "enthusiast" which indicates an entirely different beast all together. Lets see, as an enthusiast, I need a bottle from each distillery. I need different ages of the same mash bill when possible. I need wheaters and high rye. I need low and high proof. I need examples off less expensive and up....Oh and when a well informed member passes on that a bottle is going out of circulation, well then I need a few of those if possible so I can try one and bunker a couple for future appreciation. And then to be fair to my beloved Bourbon I would need examples of Tennessee, Canadian and American blends to compare against. And then I need a better selection of glass wear for side-by-side tasting's...and much more shelf room!
All this of course so that when the opportunity arises I can offer up a drinking education to a friend and share what has become a wonderful trek for me. As an enthusiast, I appreciate very much a quote from someone else; there are no bad Bourbons, only better ones.
I worked with Don Rockwell (local wine writer) on a Bourbon article for this month's Washingtonian magazine (not online yet). We decided to include recommendations for wheat and rye-recipe bottlings at three price points. This may or may not constitute a list of "essentials" but it's where we decided to go with that question. Few of these should be a surprise to youse guys.
Lower-end: OGD BIB and Weller Antique
Mid: WT KS and Lot B
High: Stagg and Pappy 15 (Pappy 20 being slightly too expensive to recommend in this particular context).
The WT 101 would certainly qualifiy as an "essential". The OWA 107 is a good representation of a wheater. Assuming we're talking about readily available, everyday sorts of pours, I'd add OGD 114 for its rye content.
Being also relatively new to this site I have a much more, how should we put it? insignificant, insufficient, selection fo bourbons on hand. One may want to describe it as immature possible. 23 open bottles of bourbon and rye whiskey on hand.
Of these, I'll tell you that I could easily get by with a simple selection of five and not feel constrained in the least.
Wild Turkey 101 - consistent quality offering
Wild Turkey Rye - my favorite pour including all other spirits-neck and neck
with my morning coffee.
Elijah Craig 18 - for the times when I feel like gnawing on an oak twig.
Eagle Rare SB - the bottle I have currently open is friggin dangerous.
I hate to use the word "smooth" but I have no other
description to use. Maybe something along the lines of
None of these will break the bank, only the Elijah Craig costs more than $20.00 for a 750 ml.
I would have to put it this way:
You need a standard rye, that would be WT 101. You need a standard wheat. That would be Maker's Mark. You need a barrel proof, to see what it's like full strength. That would be Bookers. You should have something old, something that shows you what bourbon tastes like when it's been around a while. I like EC18, others like OPVW 20. Those are very different pours, so you should have both :-)
Am I missing anything critical?
I'd agree with much of this, but WT Rare Breed would be a fine choice, as would Van Winkle 10/107. OGD 114, definitely. Eagle Rare, whether the old 101 or the new single barrel 90 proof.
Any BTAC bottling.
A tasty but inexpensive wheater - Old Fitzgerald BIB.
Let's not forget rye. Rittenhouse BIB, or Wild Turkey Rye, any Sazerac, VWFRR...
Bourbon's I'd never want to live without:
As long as I have either WT RB or RR, I'm happy
Highland Park 12
What is Lot B? An expression from Wild Turkey, right? Can someone post a link of a bottle or something? A quick web search yielded nothing.
Here (http://www.oldripvanwinkle.com/newbs/vw/website3.nsf/wProducts?readForm&t=Products)ya go. Second row, left-hand side.
My current arsenal:
GT Stagg (newest)
William Larue Weller (newest)
Van Winkle Lot B
all with around three inches left in the bottle :-(
Elmer T Lee
Eagle Rare SB
Weller Antique 107
And...I'm working a lead for a bottle of Very Very Old Fitgerald (distilled in 1953 and bottled in 1965) with presentation case and glasses.
Bourbons I would consider must haves:
Pappy 23 (only for myself & VERY dear friends!)
Maker's (to keep on hand for the less-discriminating visitors)
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