It’s a tough decision when you hit the liquor store and see the shelves filled with various Bourbons to figure out exactly which one is worth the price of admission. How does a fellow determine which one is worthwhile and which to avoid? I thought this morning I would lay out my methodology and you can take it from there. A long time ago my wife and I determined if you find something precious you should not hesitate and go ahead and purchase it. Now luckily in the world of Bourbon there are only so many crown jewels and most of them are above my pay grade. Yesterday I saw a 23-year-old Elijah Craig which was $200 and I never even made a move to grasp it. There is no way on the earth that bottle is so earth-shattering it can be worth that amount. So first find your upper limit and don’t go over. For me that arrives somewhere around the $75 mark. I might go higher if I know something is phenomenal, but when an outstanding Bourbon can be had for $40 or less why would I spend another $60? My wife and I also have a rule if it is $20 or less just buy it, no reason to spend time thinking. Unfortunately the really great Bourbons are typically higher than that so I’ve got a $30 rule in the back of my head. I like to concentrate on Bourbons from Kentucky. I’m sure other places can make a great product and some of the products I buy come from Indiana, but for Bourbon I try to use Kentucky as my source. So I typically do a quick Google search on the smart phone and try to see what people have said. Anything from good to great and the bottle hits the shopping basket if it is $30 or less. As with all things you need to exercise care because some people have no ability to taste or else they like turpentine, so pick a site or a group to visit to find out if what you see on the shelf is worth taking home.
When the price creeps above $30 I rely on the smart phone and online reviews or what friends have said. That can steer you wrong if the friend appreciates a Bourbon which is more harsh. I spent $50 on Woodford Reserve Double Oak and wish I had never even wasted my money. Knob Creek Smoked Maple was a $30+ mistake I hope I can use to make some sort of barbecue sauce. Once you figure out where your tastes and that of a friend diverge you can start to make some intelligent decisions. Yesterday I came across a $31 bottle of Bourbon I had never heard of before. The origin was Kentucky, but no amount of online searching yielded who actually made it. It must be the best kept secret in the world. The reviews were all positive to glowing so I put it in the basket and made it all mine.
It can be difficult to decide what Bourbon to buy and what to pass by, but typically I like the products from most of the major distilleries. Buffalo Trace Distillery seems to never let me down, the higher end Beam brands are not too shabby, Woodford blows IMO, Four Roses is great, and Heaven Hills puts out some nice Bourbons. Hopefully something in my thoughts will help you make your decision on which Bourbon is worth your time and which to skip.