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  1. #1

    beginner reccomendations

    Just discovered this resource and may I say FANTASTIC!!

    I've been a bourbon drinker most of my adult life, though I'll admit it's been with little regard for quality. As an everyday drink it's been JB White for many years. I tried Maker's Mark many years ago and still remember it as good. At one time in Louisiana I bought several bottles of a bourbon called "Beam's Choice". It was very good, so of course I've never been able to find it again.

    As I've matured a little now I find myself more interested in the quality of my spirits. As such I'm need need of your help. What would be your reccomendations to begin with? I'm mainly looking in the <$35 range, though if there's something spectacular out there I'm not adverse to spending more. How about putting your suggestions into price groups such as <$25, $25-$35, $35-$50, and so on?

    Hopefully I'll have enough suggestions to have some guidelines for a great bottle to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Burlington VT, USA

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    I'm somewhat of a bourbon newb myself, and I have tried only a very small number of bourbons. With that said, here are the ones I have had so far that really stand out:

    <ul type="square"> [*]Elijah Craig 12 yr old [*]Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage (latest is '94 vintage)[*]Eagle Rare Single Barrel[*]Eagle Rare 101 proof 10 yr old[*]Old Forester 100 proof[*]Jim Beam Black Label[/list]
    The Evan Williams and the Elijah Craig both come from Heaven Hill, and share some characteristics, although the Evan Williams Single Barrel (hereafter refered to as EWSB) is much lighter and approachable. The Elijah Craig seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it bourbon, but I really enjoy it.

    The Eagle Rare bottlings both come from Buffalo Trace distillery, and are pretty similar; the Eagle Rare Single Barrel is just a tad pricier where I am ($19 vs. $17 for the Eagle Rare 101). These are very flavorful, powerful bourbons. The first sip usually knocks me on my ass, but after that it's good clean fun.

    The Old Forester is produced by Brown-Forman, and in my opinion, is a great bargain. I just opened my very first bottle of this a few days ago, and for $16 a bottle, it will become one of my regular pours (assuming I can keep it in stock - it's hard to find around here).

    An item not on this list (simply because I haven't tried it) is Wild Turkey 101 proof, from Austin Nichols distillery. If you are interested in trying products from every distillery, this would be a good inexpensive one to pick up before springing for the pricier Wild Turkey offerings.

    $25 - $35
    This price range covers quite a few bourbons, and I have only tried a few. Here are the items I have tried and would recommend in this price range:
    <ul type="square">[*]Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon - Closely related to the much pricier Blanton's, Elmer has actually stated that he prefers this expression.[*]Woodford Reserve (some people love it, some people hate it - it's closely related to the Old Forester; its "rich uncle", as it were). WR has gotten a bad rap here because batches of it appear to vary greatly in quality.[*]Old Charter Proprietor's Reserve - Without a doubt one of the finest whiskies I've had the pleasure of drinking. May be difficult to find, and it doesn't get much discussion here, but I can't get enough of it. Chocolate covered cherries, leather and tobacco are what I taste.[*]Knob Creek - From the Beam distillery, it's got a great reputation, and for good reason. It's spicy and full flavored, and will not disappoint.[*]Wild Turkey Rare Breed - Barrel proof Wild Turkey. Gets great reviews here; I am still not sure I like it, but it sure is different than any other bourbon I've tasted - far more flavour than I am used to. I'm not certain, but I believe this is a characteristic of all Wild Turkey products due to their low distilation and barreling proof.[/list]

    Okay, I've tried very few bourbons in the $35 - $50 range, but here are two that I can recommend:
    <ul type="square">[*]Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon - Fantastic. I tried this at a friend's house, and special ordered a bottle the next day. It took months to arrive, and now that I have it, I can't bring myself to open it. I'm waiting for a special occasion.[*] Booker's - Had this one at a bar while on a business trip, and I have to say that it's great. It's a bit on the pricey side ($50 per bottle; RHF is only $39), but it's bottled at barrel proof, so one bottle goes a long way, especially if you like to cut with some water.[/list]

    Now, some items that I cannot get or have not tried, but that I have heard good things about:
    <ul type="square">[*]Bulleit Frontier Bourbon - I have a friend bringing me a bottle from my neighboring state of New Hampshire. He says it's incredible, and I know that Chuck Cowdery, our resident guru, holds it in high regard.[*]Any Van Winkle product - I have yet to read an unfavorable review of the Van Winkle line of products.[*]Blanton's - The "quintessential bourbon" in many people's eyes, this bourbon started the "premium American whiskey" movement, which lead to the Beam Small Batch collection, etc. It has been said here that "if you don't like Blanton's, you don't like bourbon". A bit pricey at $45 or so per bottle, but I have heard nothing but good things. The one bottle I was able to find was corked, and my state liquor outlets have been unable to produce another bottle yet. Stay tuned.[*]Buffalo Trace Bourbon - Apparently distribution is limited, but Buffalo Trace is supposed to be a wonderful value bourbon. If it is available to you, try it out.[*]Ancient Ancient Age 10 yr old - Not to be confused with the Ancient Ancient Age 10 star (which is 6 years old - a very deceptive labeling practice, if you ask me). I've heard good things, but this is also very limited in distribution.[/list]

    Well, I'm sure there are many others. One nice thing is that it's pretty hard to find a bad bourbon. Even the Beam white label is decent, just nothing special.

    One last note - I just remembered you mentioned Maker's Mark in your post, and I feel compelled to respond. Maker's Mark is a good whiskey. In fact, it's one of the whiskies responsible for turning me into a bourbonaholic. With that said, after drinking bourbon for a while, you realize that there are better whiskies to be had for the same price (or cheaper). If you like Maker's, try some of the Weller products (Special Reserve, Antique, Centennial). I have a bottle of Weller Special Reserve, aged 7 years (Maker's is 6 years, I think). The Special Reserve is also a wheated bourbon, but cost me $12 as opposed to $20+ for a bottle of Maker's. I prefer the Weller both in flavour and price.

    Welcome aboard, and good luck!

  3. #3

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    This is an exercise we seem to do several times a year (run a search for "recommendations"), but since it does serve to focus one's recollections, I'll go at it again (listing just a single favorite in each price range, meaning I am omitting for space and simplicity reasons only many bourbons I like very much). Note that prices vary from state to state, or even within a state. I am erring on the high side:
    [list][*]Under $25 (750ml): any vintage Evan Williams Single Barrel (thankfully, this is the toughest category because there are so many fine pours that are great values.)[*]$25-$35: tie, Eagle Rare Single Barrel or Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve[*]$35-$50: any Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (Stagg, Eagle Rare 17yo, Sazerac rye) if you can find it.[*]Over $50: there is no need to even go there unless you find something rare or obsolete (Hirsch bottlings, Weller 19, Wild Turkey 12yo, Pappys)

    Just remember -- the best bourbon is the one YOU like.

  4. #4
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Seattle, USA

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    Being out here in Seattle, our prices are higher, and we can't get certain things at all. Still, my recommendations are similar:

    <$25: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old (in either 90 or 107 proof versions), Weller Antique, or Evan Williams Single Barrel 1994
    $25-$35: Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Old Grand Dad 114
    $35-$50: Old Rip Van Winkle 15/107, Booker's
    >$50: George T Stagg, Sazerac

  5. #5

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    Thanks for the replies so far. I've read several posts and know that the request for reccomendations is fairly common. I just thought that grouping them in price ranges might help break things down a bit.

    I realize that these things are subjective, and each person's opinion is just that. But where else can you get 20 answers to the same question and have all of them be correct?

    Anybody have any info on the Beam's Choice? I'd love to find it again, and have tried to no avail.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    Anybody have any info on the Beam's Choice? I'd love to find it again, and have tried to no avail.
    Where are you? VA ABC shelves are loaded with it!?

  7. #7

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    Anybody have any info on the Beam's Choice? I'd love to find it again, and have tried to no avail.
    It's available here in Middle Tennessee, too. We sell it in the liquor store where I work part-time. Still says 'charcoal filtered' on the label.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    North East MS

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    Evening Arrowhead,

    The Beam's Choice is still available but prehaps may not be the same expression you enjoyed some years ago. May I suggest the current Black label to be one that might fit the flavor profile you remember.

    I live in Bourbonia, well the Deep South, where excellent whiskey is available for less than $35.00 and only limited or very special bottles are over that line.

    For less than $25.00 we have Knob Creek, 7&amp;12 90 and 107 Weller, 7yr 101 Brooks, Elijah Craig, 10yr Eagle Rare, 114 Old Grand Dad, Elmer T., Wofford, Bulliet ( I really like this one), and a bunch of others so for me that price is a sufficient cutoff point.

    Prehaps it would be simpler to try both a rye and wheat expression that is available locally for you and let us know your thoughts which could then be compared to our experiences.

    Good luck hunting,

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Central LA, Louisiana :-)

    Re: beginner reccomendations

    [*]Elijah Craig 12 yr old [*]Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage (latest is '94 vintage)[*]Eagle Rare Single Barrel[*]Eagle Rare 101 proof 10 yr old[*]Old Forester 100 proof

    Agree with those and would add Old Granddad 114, and any Wild Turkey.

    Have fun.



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