Every year when September rolls around, casks of aged, amber deliciousness are emptied, bottled and released to the eagerly awaiting public. Bourbon Heritage month isn’t just a name, it’s a culture (damn near religion) here in the great state of Kentucky. We spend the entire month visiting all of the area liquor stores, chatting up our favorite proprietors about what lovely bottles are coming in and what it will cost us to get our hands on the most coveted bottles.
WHAT SHOULD I BE DRINKING?
Granted, Pappy VanWinkle is the holy grail of bourbon, but accessibility is much of the game this month and, quite frankly, there are so many delicious bottles for much less money. If you will only have one bottle of bourbon on your bar for the rest of time, that 20 year old would be the one. But if you want some variety and would like a few bottles on the bar, leave the Pappy to the winds of fate and experiment with all of the great bottles coming out every year that are much more accessible.
Knowing what you like in a whiskey will guide your purchases. Like your bourbon hotter on the front end? Like a longer finish? Living for the vanilla-caramel-butterscotch flavor? Like a leather or tobacco nose to it? Taste as often and as many as you can until you know what you love. Bourbon bars are a great way to do that. Our local bourbon bar scene is an ideal place to have a flight and experiment. Or call on us at JBE to come and do some in home tasting parties. We recommend staying within a budget while you figure out what needs permanent places on your bar. There are dozens of delicious bourbons for well under $60 a bottle. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the less expensive bottles. If they aren’t fit to drink neat, you have a new well bourbon for mixing cocktails.
Here are our favorite special releases so far this month at JBE.
OLD FORESTER BIRTHDAY BOURBON
Each year on September 2nd, in honor of their founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday, Old Forester releases a limited-edition, 12-year old vintage-dated expression. It was the third release of this special bourbon and it has proven to be a home run each and every year of its release. Beautiful nose of tobacco and oak, a sweet vanilla flavor, and a dry, nutty finish. This is certainly one of our top picks of the month.
MICHTER’S TOASTED BARREL FINISH BOURBON
This bourbon is made by taking Michter’s US 1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon and then aging it for an additional period in a second custom made barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 18-month air dried wood and then toasted but not charred. The result is a bourbon with depth and complexity to it. Front end of cinnamon and candied fruit with a finish that is all sweetness with vanilla, caramel and even some toasted marshmallow. A delicious first release of this bourbon. We hope it is added to their lineup for a yearly release.
W.L. WELLER 12 YR SPECIAL RESERVE
We are big fans of Buffalo Trace Distillery here at JBE. I haven’t had one single bourbon that they produce (and their are quite a few) that I don’t love. The Weller line is no exception. This bourbon uses wheat instead of Rye in it’s mash and the result is a smooth, sultry whiskey. This bourbon has a sweet vanilla front end with butterscotch and some smoke on the tongue. It finishes with caramel and honeysuckle. Don’t even hesitate on anything Weller.
Old Forester 1897
While this is the second Old Fo on the list, this bourbon was a big surprise for me this season and it has grown on me the more I drink it. This 100 proof is the second release in the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series specially crafted to honor the U.S. Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. After the U.S. Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 to be labeled as Bottled in Bond, whisky must be the product of one distillation season, one distiller and from one distillery. This bourbon has lots of front end heat with a long butterscotch finish. It is one of the biggest bourbons on the list and if you like a big bourbon this is certainly one for your collection.
We love so many things about bourbon. It is a marriage of personal taste, tradition, history, and the craft of the best master distillers in the business. It is a great adventure to begin and a wonderful tradition to continue if you are already a fan.
Want some help navigating the world of bourbon? Contact us and let us help you host a tasting of your own.