Since it’s the holiday season, I’m seeing tons of articles and posts on what is a good bottle of bourbon to give as a gift–or to keep for yourself. Recently, I had a reader ask me for some advice regarding what I thought was a good bottle of bourbon. I do get this question occasionally, and I love it.
Before I get started answering that question, however, I need to point out the crucial fact here: I live in Kentucky. I have access to many bourbons that are hard to find outside the state. Additionally, I do live within minutes of several distilleries where special bottles are often offered. The closest distillery to me is Woodford Reserve.
Woodford often has special bottles. They even offer engraving services for their flagship bourbon, Distiller’s Select. I have bought gift bottles there for my father and folks at work.
Recently, I left work a little bit early to get to the distillery (it closes at 5 o’clock) to find something for my husband for Christmas. I was in luck.
Or, rather, he will be.
The bottle that had lured me to the distillery was a new offering: a bottled-in-bond version of Woodford Reserve. Price: $50.
But that’s not my husband’s big gift.
He’s also getting a bottle of Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Select American Oak. This bourbon was matured in a specifically sourced oak: Ozark. According to the information that came with the bottle: “Having barrels that share a common wood structure gives this Special Master’s Collection Woodford Reserve a distinct nutty and sweet aromatic character that will remind you of warm baked goods.” Sounds like the perfect poor for the holidays. Price: $130.
And now for some advice. I offer this information based upon my own likes, and on the assumption that the reader does not otherwise have an extensive knowledge of bourbon (which I don’t claim myself!).
So here are some tips if you are looking for a good bottle for the holidays or to give as a gift.
- Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select: This is my go-to bourbon. For me, it perfectly hits that point between spicy and sweet. Price for a bottle is around $30-$35 (note: in Kentucky; not sure outside the state).
- Four Roses Single Barrel: This is a high-rye bourbon, which I usually do not like. However, unlike many high-ryes, this one is exceptionally smooth. When I took the tour at this distillery, the guide called this bourbon “your all-day Sunday sippin’ bourbon.” I agree. Price for this bourbon is also around $30-$35.
- Henry McKenna ten-year-old bottled in bond: very good and hard to find, even in Kentucky. It used to be easier to locate here in my state, but it got on some list that it is a great value for bourbon so now everyone knows about it and it’s hard to locate. Not sure of the price these days. Was recently comparable to the bourbons above.
- Woodford Reserved Double Oaked: This bourbon is a bit sweeter, although not by much, than the flagship Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select. And as its name says, it is aged in more than one barrel to get that extra flavor from the Oak. Sometimes this is called a “dessert bourbon.” We’ve had it with Christmas dinner (the meal itself, not just with sweets). Price around $40.
- Old Weller Antique: I’ve heard this sometimes called “poor man’s Pappy,” referring to Pappy Van Winkle, that bourbon that’s now crazy expensive. Antique is made by the same family at the same site and is difficult to find. We made a special stop in Bardstown at a liquor store for our bottle–and that was over 3 years ago and I don’t think I’ve encountered one since. If you find a bottle and it’s not ridiculously expensive, go ahead and grab it.
Your best bets as far as availability beyond Kentucky are likely Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select and Double Oaked and Four Roses Single Barrel.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!