It wasn’t till my 30s that I started to take bourbon more seriously. That’s when I met Basil Hayden. It wasn’t cheating. Jack and I had an open relationship—hell, we spent most of our time with our friend Coca-Cola anyway. That’s when Jack and I… well, we started to drift apart. What Basil Hayden and I shared was pure, not to be sullied by carbonated beverages or even ice cubes. But of course, once you start dancing with the siblings of the sour mash, you can’t just dance with one. There are so many different flavorful varieties of the brown booze out there, you’ve got to taste them all.
Not to mention, there is a certain collectability about bourbon. Famed Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve can go for upwards of $500 a bottle. And that’s if you can find it, which in all probability you can’t. Hell, empty bottles go for $100 on eBay. It’s the stuff of hushed whispers and wild speculation. That said, having had it, I can tell you. It’s worth it. Ninety-five percent of all bourbon is made in Kentucky, adding to its reputation as the Killer State, with its artery-hardening chicken and the villain everyone loves to hate, tobacco. In spite of all that, there is something in the water of Kentucky that makes it special—iron-free filtering through high concentrations of limestone. That aside, do you really want a bourbon from Cleveland? It’s like buying Vodka from Idaho. Sure, they have potatoes, but still.
Kentucky is Daniel Boone, Colonel Sanders, Hatfields, McCoys, and the occasional Clooney and Depp. It’s the tear-stained legacy of tobacco. Much how French soil affects the grapes in winemaking, maybe the history of Kentucky has an impact on the sour mash. One of the many life lessons that can be learned from novelty t-shirts is that “Man Cannot Live By Beer Alone.” So live a little and experience a little of Kentucky’s finest. That craft brew will still be patiently waiting when you’re done.
5 Really Good Bourbons
Angel’s Envy……….around $50 a bottle
A relative newcomer on the market since 2010, and designed by the distiller behind Gentleman Jack and Woodward Reserve
Basil Hayden’s……….$30-40 a bottle
Named for the man that Old Granddad was named after, this is a smooth and well-crafted small batch, guaranteed to impress any boss or father-in-law.
Makers 46……….$30-40 a bottle
If Maker’s Mark is the Buick of bourbons, then this is the Jaguar. The fact that head of Pappy Van Winkle calls it his second favorite bourbon is high praise indeed.
Four Roses……….$30-40 a bottle
From one of the older distilleries and most popular for the first part of the 20th century, it had all but disappeared by the 60s, but it’s back, like vintage Lee Marvin.
Old Heaven Hill……….$10-14 a bottle
Don’t let the price fool you, it stands its ground. Smooth and lean, it ain’t pretty to look at but delicious to drink.
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