The Bourbon Boom
Seems like a lot of people are drinking bourbon these days. Despite being around for over 200 hundred years, it wasn’t until the last decade that “American whiskey” has become widely popular both domestically and abroad.
What was once a backwoods mountain brew is now a multi-billion dollar industry with a recent resurgence in “small batch” or micro-distilleries popping up all over the country. Sure, the big guys like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are still around and even they’ve expanded their offering up and across the shelf. The old stalwarts are making bourbons with apple, honey and maple flavoring. They’ve even starting aging in smaller batches and different barrels to counter some of their higher shelf competitors like Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek.
These days if you’re in the bourbon business more is better, and better is good. Tasting competitions and events are taking place from Maine to Alaska and Americans are flocking to them. Bars and liquor stores are expanding the number of bottles and distillers they offer to their patrons. The choices are becoming endless.
We’ve done some research……..boy was that fun……and came up with 5 bourbons that we highly recommend. Click on the names and learn more about these wonderful whiskies. Some you may have heard of and others we’re almost sure you haven’t. They are all worth trying and in no particular order. Go find a good rocks glass, enjoy and stay warm.
While most bourbon makers specify the number of years they age their whiskey, Basil Hayden’s is “aged to taste”. Their recipe dates back to 1796 and they were the first to introduce a smaller grain (rye) into the traditional corn mash. The result were notes of peppermint and citrus that add a subtle and distinctive spice to the finish of this 80 proof liquor. This mid-high shelf bourbon finishes clean and dry and will not break the bank. This is a go-to for many regular bourbon drinkers and for the money may be the best value out there.
Part of the Buffalo Trace distillery family of brands this bourbon was indeed a treat to test. Sweeter and less spicy than most with hints of toffee, dark chocolate and brown sugar meshing perfectly with tones of cloves and resinous oak. This bourbon has a bold taste that lingers briefly and warms you from within. Not inexpensive at around $80 per bottle, Stagg Jr. instantly classes up the liquor cabinet. This is the one you pull out when the boss comes over for dinner and you want to impress but not brag.
This bourbon holds the distinction of being distilled at a higher altitude than any other and thus Breckenridge Distillery can be called “the worlds highest distillery”. Right. Colorado Rocky Mountain High. We get it and we dig it. Minerals and waters from the high altitude snow melt provide the unique base for this relatively new but critically acclaimed distiller based in the mountain town of Breckenridge. One of our staff got a bottle from his in-laws for Christmas and busted it out as part of our R & D initiative and we were quite impressed. Extremely smooth from the first sip, this was one of the more simple yet pleasurable bourbons we tried.
So close to home, but with an out of this world taste and finish. Hillrock uses the “solera” method of aging where small amounts of the aged whiskey is actually removed from the barrel and a newer whiskey is added. Once old and new are married, they finish the aging in 20 year old Oloroso Sherry casks for a complex yet balanced bourbon that may be the best we’ve ever had. And it’s made right in our backyard. Save up for a special occasion or gift because this stuff can get expensive. Hillrock is one bourbon you can go ahead and brag about.
Everyone has heard of Whistle Pig and they’ve played a large part in putting the Green Mountain state on the map of small-batch bourbon hot spots. Silo is using a blend of 70% non-GMO Vermont grown corn and 30% rye in small barrels and only filters their bourbon once, leaving tiny bits of wood sugars and char that give this whiskey a character that is unique and rich. Again a great value at under $50 a bottle most places, but it is hard to find.