It’s such a great time to be a fan of Bourbon. Right now, it is having its time in the spotlight. Being more popular than ever, there are plenty of great whiskies available. Now there also are more allocated Bourbons than there have ever been like: Pappy Van Winkle, Blantons, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Weller 12 Year, and Bookers. With that, there are more everyday Bourbons. The holidays are a great time to dive into whiskey waters. With the temperature dropping, theoretically, Bourbon can warm you up. Of course there are some great Bourbons that are hard to lay hands on but we’re going to talk about the ones that are stellar and always available. There are some basics you need to know about Bourbon though.

First, let’s ponder on my favorite phrase about Bourbon: All Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Bourbon. What makes a whiskey Bourbon? Bourbon must be distilled and aged in the U.S., contain 51 percent corn (and can have rye, wheat, or malted barley), and aged in new American White Oak charred barrels. There are some more rules, like the percentage of alcohol when it’s distilled and barreled but the most important thing to know is the regional origin, aging, and the mash bill. A lot of people think Bourbon has to be made in Kentucky but it really just has to be made in the U.S. You can make a bourbon-style whiskey anywhere but to truly be Bourbon, it has to come from the U.S. Now that you know what it is, here are some over delivering Bourbons:

Old Forester 86 Proof is an incredible value as well as house Bourbon. It’s delicious in a cocktail and can be enjoyed solo. I always judge a whiskey by how it tastes neat and with one ice cube or a dash of water. The Old Forester distillery is the last family-owned distillery that was producing whiskey before, during and after Prohibition. There were a hand full of them allowed to make whiskey for medicinal purposes during Prohibition and Old Forester is the only one left standing. They also pay homage to the American Whiskey history and tradition with their “Whiskey Row” series, the Original Batch, Bottled in Bond, and Prohibition style. They also were featured in a major motion picture The Kingsmen: Golden Circle with their whiskey “The Statesman.” It was so popular that they added it to their permanent portfolio. This is an incredible distillery with a lush history. Try a sip.

Buffalo Trace is a Bourbon I have always talked about as a shining example of Kentucky Bourbon. It hits all the marks a Bourbon should: Slightly sweet, caramel, charred oak, full and smooth. It’s cocktail friendly and crowd-pleasing. Buffalo Trace is also leading the pack with their “Experimental” series. They have a rack house (where they lay the barrels to age) that does something different on every floor from temperature, sun exposure, and humidity just to see how it affects the whiskey. 

Eagle Rare is a beautiful 10-year, straight Bourbon whiskey (straight Bourbon is aged for a minimum of three years in barrel) that stuns for the price. It’s normally available for under $35. It’s rare to find a whiskey this old for that price. I would definitely make this a whiskey sipper. Enjoy it slowly to appreciate the subtlety and weight of the whiskey.

Of course there are other great Bourbons that are semi-available like Four Roses Single Barrel, Angel’s Envy, and Weller Special Reserve. These are just some that you can always find and we all need a go-to. Try a glass after Thanksgiving to soothe you full belly