View Full Version : Cheaper alternatives to Beam Small Batch Bourbons?
One of the great things I'm learning about this forum is that the members are very familiar with the taste profiles of bourbons and don't get caught up in label appeal/marketing.
Given that the relatively high price of the Beam Small Batch (BSB) bourbons seems to reflect a market positioning strategy and a fair amount of advertising/marketing costs, it seems that you all may be able to point out bourbons that are close or better in quality for less money (this begs the question of whether I truly like the style of the various BSB bourbons, but let's skip that for now).
Consider this challenge; what bourbons do you think could substitute fairly well (in say, a blind tasting) for the following at a lower cost?
The first three (Booker's, Baker's, KC) are all from the standard Beam mash, and I have heard folks compare Beam Black to the first and third. At a lower proof, it doesn't pack the punch of either, but it does have a nicely rounded, rich profile, and it's substantially cheaper. If you're looking for a cheaper barrel-proofer than Booker's, Wild Turkey Rare Breed comes in at a few dollars less, but the profile is quite different. Beyond that, keep looking, as barrel proof bourbon tends to run higher than the $45 I pay for Booker's. As for Baker's, the recent bottles I've had truthfully don't compare to much else out there. The wild Beam yeast is tamed by rich chocolate on the finish, and it's the best Baker's I've ever had and one of my favorite bourbons on the market. Others at that proof are mostly wheaters, but I suppose McKenna BIB (which has a similar yeast strain) might approximate the profile. It ain't much cheaper, though. Now, when it comes to Basil Hayden, you're in luck. It's the same mashbill as Old Grand-Dad, which clocks in at 86, 100, or 114-proof. All are cheaper than BH by a fair bit. They are also younger, but IMO are all better than BH. The 114 in particular shines at around $21/fifth in these parts. In general, HH products are probably closest to Beam in flavor profile. BT bourbons are generally sweeter, while others don't seem to be as forceful in presenting their flavors (WT excepted).
BTW, while I'd agree that marketing has a good deal to do with the price point of BH, Knob Creek is worth every penny, and Baker's ain't far behind. Beam definitely has money tied up in marketing, but they aren't churning out only high-priced crap.
I'm going from memory, which is often faulty...
but if you want to read an interesting side note to Beam's setup, look up (IIRC) Bobby Cox's (bobbyc) discussion of Beam barreling and/or warehousing to brand from maybe a couple of years ago.
Or, maybe Bobby will remind us.
I think these bottlings are all well priced in todays whiskey market, a few years back I wouldn't have said that, but times have changed and the prices on these haven't (much).
With Beam not having tons of different mid and upper bottlings to choose from, these bottlings end up being basically unique in their portfolio. And while I would pass on BH and get OGD 114, those whiskies are not exactly similar.
Just remember there are ~17 1.5 ounce drinks on a bottle, how much would 17 good bottles of beer cost? With some beers hitting $8/12oz bottle that's $136. Three $8 six packs puts you at $24, while a case of Pabst means you're drinking some of the cheapest whiskey on the shelf.
I'd just like to emphasize that this thread was not intended to bash the small batch line but to see if there are any bargain alternatives that are quite similar. I own and regularly enjoy Bookers and Bakers, so I've voted with my $ that it was worth it me. I also own BH. Thanks.
Beam Black is a good substitute for Booker's and Baker's. It doesn't quite compare to Knob Creek, but Knob is the least expensive of the Beam small batchers and pretty affordable in its own right. Old Grand-Dad BIB is the best substitute for Basil Hayden and is, in my opinion, actually the superior drink.
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