Kentucky is known for its derby, its fried chicken and, best of all, its bourbon. So we asked a few bartending pals down in Louisville to share their favorite bottles. If you haven’t yet discovered your own favorite bourbon yet, consider these a great place to start. And if you’ve already found your lifelong brand, you can see if your tastes align with the Kentuckian masters.
"If forced to drink one whiskey for the rest of my life, without hesitation I would pick Old Grand-Dad 114. It’s a rich, full bourbon tempered with a serious amount of rye spice. I already tend towards high-rye mash bills, and this one is bottled at the exact proof it deserves. I think the fact that there’s no age statement only adds to the charm—and the focus on what it actually tastes like. I’m in good company here too. Grand-Dad was Steinbeck’s preferred camping whiskey and James Bond’s choice for an Old Fashioned in Live and Let Die." — Jeff Swoboda of Proof on Main
"If I had to pick just one, it would be the one that I take the time to enjoy. For me, that would be Weller Antique 107. I like the potency of the higher proof with the smoothness of the wheated mash bill. Jam one cube in a glass with it, and I'm good to go." — Bill Hart of Garage Bar
“I can't say that I have only one favorite bourbon, but I tasted this delicious gem last week. Our 1792 Full Proof Silver Dollar House Selected Single Barrel is eight years and three months old. It is 125-proof and from Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, with honey and oat aromas. This non-chill-filtered bourbon has a rich and velvety mouthfeel, with robust oak, herbal notes, and finishes with a hint of smoke.” — Susie Hoyt of The Silver Dollar
“This is one of my go-to everyday bourbons, because there is never a bad time or way to drink it. It's both affordable and tastes great in cocktails. On the nose it has caramel, toffee, oak and brown sugar. On the palate, there are notes of baked apples, nuts and cinnamon. The finish hits you with a little more cinnamon and then is pretty fast and clean, leaving you ready for another sip. At 91.4-proof, it will never get me into trouble, and it has enough going on that it's never boring.” — Nic Christiansen of Butchertown Grocery
“First of all, it's really delicious and perfectly balanced—a little spice, a little char and a great, toasty caramel flavor to round everything out without seeming heavy or cloying. Also, it's a really great bourbon for people who are unsure about what they're looking for in a bourbon. I've never served this to anyone who didn't like it.” — Stacie Stewart of Whiskey Dry and MilkWood
“I love single barrels for variation plus aggressive and full flavors. This stands up to any bitter or vermouth in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, but also is earthy and robust enough to enjoy on the rocks.” — Travis Shireman of Whiskey Dry
"Trying to choose a ‘favorite’ bourbon can prove to be nearly impossible. However, if we’re talking about choosing a ‘go-to’ bourbon, I would have to go with Old Grand-Dad Bottled-In-Bond. This whiskey stands out on its own or in a cocktail. Weighing in at 100-proof, it can be taken straight, or whipped into a killer Old Fashioned or Boulevardier. But here’s the real kicker: Not only is it named after Basil Hayden (one of the fathers of bourbon distillation), but it’s also one of the least expensive brands on the market." — Jeremy Salmon of Garage Bar