Bourbon people are hard to impress and even harder to understand at times. The true devotees talk in codes like OGDBIB, WT101 and VOB (those are: Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond, Wild Turkey 101 and Very Old Barton respectively). They know their bourbons and they have opinions about which ones are the best for any occasion. And they also will have opinions about your bourbon collection. If you want to impress a bourbon fan, put one of these bottles front and center on your home bar. You’ll finally get that nod of approval you’ve always wanted. Note: Let’s all accept that anyone who knows anything about whiskey would be impressed if you had a bottle of Pappy on your bar, and leave Mr. Van Winkle out of this round up.
Cask strength and unfiltered, it is as pure as bourbon can get. Each batch of this powerful offering from the Buffalo Trace Distillery is its own beast, though each is generally aged for nearly a decade. While everyone has their own favorite batch, it is generally accepted that batch one should be avoided, while batches seven, eight and nine are widely praised.
You’re probably familiar with Four Roses’s Yellow Label (which is a terrific staple bottle to have on hand), but their small batch offerings are the ones for which the bourbon geeks are truly excited. What makes these bottlings particularly cool is that Four Roses reveals the recipe that goes into each one. There are four different recipes used for the small batch, and you can see each one on the tag that comes on your bottle. If you really want to impress a whiskey geek, learn how to break down the formula, which shows you which mash bill and which yeast strains were used for the bottle you purchased.
Because Barrell Bourbon collects bourbon from unnamed sources all over the U.S. and bottle it, there’s an air of mystery around every release. You can never be sure exactly where the juice originated (though the company does reveal where there bourbon was distilled and aged), but you can be sure that the bourbon is going to be great. Every batch is different and every batch goes quickly. If you happen to see a bottle of the 006 Batch or 009 or 011, snatch it up. Having a bottle on your bar tells a whiskey connoisseur that not only do you have a good eye, but you also have self-control and somehow didn’t drink the whole bottle in one week.
Though each batch is different, this line from Elijah Craig is generally known for its extreme drinkability, even at its high proof, which ranges between 128 and 140. For its depth of flavor, it is also extremely affordable. Like many bourbons, this too comes with its own code. Each bottle is marked with a letter and a series of numbers indicating when the bottle was released. For example, if the bottle was marked A117, that would mean it was the first release of the year, released in January of 2017. Or, if the bottle was marked B517, that would mean it was the second release of the year, released in May of 2017.
Once upon a time, this single-barrel bourbon was plentiful and affordable. But now, people are catching on to its smooth vanilla-caramel flavors and warming, high-proof heat. This 10-year-old bottling is many bourbon enthusiasts’ bunker bottle—the one they would buy by the case and drink down as they waited out the apocalypse.
For many bourbon nerds, this was their introduction to the finer spirits in life. Underrated and too often thought of as a shot-only whiskey, Wild Turkey’s strong spirit is rich and caramelized with wonderful baking spices and a touch of maple. If you have a bottle of this on your bar, any bourbon geek will know that yours is a home they can rely on for a good pour of whiskey.