Happy Hour is for Amateurs, pp. 198-199.
I'd like to think that nails the subject in full. Sums up what any serious bourbon drinker understands about the whiskey - what sets it a breed apart from any other form of liquor.* But enough of that introduction. Here's the meat of this piece, the five best bourbons I know:
Don't let anyone tell you Wild Turkey is rotgut drunkard whiskey. This is as smooth as bourbon comes, deceptively easy to swill, with a deep caramel finish typically found in rum. But this is no bottle of
Recommended for: Sabbath concert tailgates, snowmobile rallies, adult competitive vandalism.
4. Knob Creek
If bourbon were India Pale Ale, Knob Creek would be the best of the Double IPAs. It tastes like it's got twice the ingredients of every other bourbon and doesn't try in the least to hide any of its 100 proof bona fides. Still, it's not overpowering. Chocolately, syrupy, but also at the same time sharp. And though it's only one proof unit under
Recommended for: Crippling yourself at steak joints and cigar bars while people talk golf, the market and the heinousness of income tax.
This is a controversial pick. Some people think this is an overpriced bourbon trading on status as the first mass produced "single barrel" brand. They're half right. Blanton's is overpriced. No way in hell it's worth $45.00 a bottle. I don't care that it's the favored julep bourbon of the The Derby crowd. And having spent more of my youth roaming around golf courses than I'd ever care to recount, I can say this of the average clubhouse boozehound: He doesn't know liquor from lacquer, let alone good from bad bourbon. You could feed half the drunks at a horse race Old Crow with a splash of Scope and they'd never be the wiser. But all that said - the silly metal horse on the top of the bottle and contrived pretense aside - Blanton's is great whiskey. It's sweet and perfect deep burgundy. Not as dark as Knob Creek, but heavier than Maker's Mark, with just a hint of tanginess to counter its sugary side. The distillers could've taken a few more chances and made Blanton's more distinctive, but I don't think that was their aim. I think their intent was simple - take a standard, tried and true recipe and execute it perfectly. Which they've done.
I must confess, however, I've a soft spot for this whiskey. I was drinking Blanton's the morning I got married, and the taste takes me right back there. That was a damn good month. If there's a feeling in this world better than getting on plane after your wedding and leaving all the irritants of the shit existence we call "office life" behind, I've yet to know it.
Recommended for: A flask in your tuxedo. (It's terrible luck - and terrible form - to get yourself hitched stone sober. Don't feel guilty. She'll be on third champagne at that point. It's all fair.)
Not to be confused with Booker's, the raw, 127 proof bourbon sold in a wooden casing, Bakers is the much harder to find 107 proof variety of Jim Beam Distilleries' "Small Batch" line. Harder to find, probably, because this is an amazing goddamned bourbon, better than the rest of Beam's brands by a long measure. If
Recommended for: Nightcaps after long days at the office, when you need a fast, tasty "bullet in the head" knockout and don't have any dope lying around.
Now, you might be thinking, How can he say Baker's is the most flavorful bourbon of the bunch and then rate Woodford Reserve above it? Because intensity of flavor isn't everything. If you like drinking bourbon the way people who really like drinking bourbon like drinking bourbon, when you drink bourbon, you want to drink a lot of it. And if you're going to drink a lot of it, Woodford Reserve is the bourbon you want to be drinking. The taste is gingery, sharp, and light, and it never dulls the tongue. Your sixth tastes a lot like the first and the buzz is fucking divine. I don't know what the people who make this stuff do in the distilling process, but it's clearly filtered more, or uses a far better quality of water, than any of the other brands. Every bourbon talks about how it's crafted from the essence of some pristine spring or creek. Woodford actually tastes like it. True or not, you get the sense you're drinking something made in an entirely organic process. And the next day confirms its purity. Of all the liquors here, this is the easiest on the body - an almost hangover-free whiskey. The other nice thing about Woodford is it's a fine year-round bourbon. Knob Creek, Baker's,
Recommended for: Brunch, breakfast, bar mitzvahs, drives through the countryside, the symphony, funerals, wakes, Ramadan, do-it yourself oil changes, patching the roof of the garage, dance marathons, Take Back the Night marches, children's soccer games, Psoriasis Awareness Week, first holy communions, steeplechase, Spanish Civil War re-enactments, marriage counseling, kite-surfing, deep water competitive swimming, AA Meetings, cat shows, Flag Day, swinging parties, pre-teen beauty pageants, black masses, skeetshooting, marlin fishing, Lent, public executions, cliff diving, pottery classes, whale watching, moped jousting and exotic piercing preparation.