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Bourbon Tips

  • j

A friend just gave me a couple of hot bourbon tips. Any where-to-buy (mail order) suggestions, or other obscure brands to add to the list (my preference is less for new-fangled yuppie products than for lesser-known older/quieter ones)?

George T Stagg
AH Hirsch
(http://www.hirschbourbon.com/), but beware the last bottling is from a distillery that burned down, so the label will continue but the contents will be different.

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  1. Jim,

    Don't know where to get those brands, but thought I'd throw in my two cents. I've always enjoyed Rebel Yell, found it to be very smooth and tasty. A very good "drinking" bourbon, although it might not be as "obscure" as you desire.

    It's also pretty reasonable, about $14 for a 750 ml bottle. And it's Keef Richard's favorite.


    Link: http://www.rebelyellwhiskey.com/

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pete G.

      You know, my father in law had Rebel Yell one time, but also had Old Forester another night. One night I discovered O.F. and Fresca and I am not kidding - it is a great mix.

      While I truly stand behind the O.F. now, I don't remember the Rebel Yell for taste, but I have increased that certain bourbons are good for certain things. Turkey 101 for shots, turkey 80 and coke, jack and coke, beam never (now that I'm not in college - and on that note, a room mate and I almost bought a rooster as a pet and called it Old Fitzgerald after a particularly cheap whiskey).

      Anyway, I know what you're looking for, and neither Pete nor I probably answered specifically what you're looking for. I'm huge into Scotch straight, I go Irish for shots and then hate myself, and then most of the time I enjoy a bourbon - usually mixed, but with reason. By the time I'm going to have the bourbon like Bookers (I believe either Turkey or Beam refined), I might as well have Scotch - but that's just my two cents.

      Any way you go, enjoy the trip.

      1. re: Dennis S

        Dude, scotch is a totally different galaxy in the liquor universe. I love the scotch. I love the bourbon. They are appreciated the same way, for the variety of notes in the flavors, the manner and order in which your taste buds are attacked, the character of the finish, etc. But I wouldn't say that a well-crafted bourbon may just as well be replaced by any old scotch.

      2. re: Pete G.

        Billy Idol named a song after Rebel Yell....in fact he was drinking Rebel Yell with the Rolling Stones the night of and/or the night before when he thought of many lyrics for the song.

        *my citation is from the mouth of Billy Idol

        1. re: creamsherry


          on the site click on shoulder label program....pretty cool, you can create your own label just like a cigar(like if a family member has a baby as an example).

      3. Woodfords Reserve... really nice. Readily available but no one talks about it much. Runs about $25-30 750 ml and worth twice the price.

        Newest strange bourbon... Pogue... tastes like vanilla and coconut.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          Second on the Woodfords Reserve. A local bartender turned me onto it, now my favorite.

          1. re: susancinsf

            I love the stuff too. We visited this summer. Really nice place.


          2. re: JMF

            +1 on WR. My all time favorite (for now).

          3. I bought a bottle of the Eagle Rare 10 awhile ago and was just having some tonight, I think it's got a bit of a metallic hint that slows it down a bit, but only at the first drink. I'm not sure about the physics of it all but it does seem to benefit from 'opening up' for awhile. Not to say it doesn't have a sweet spot, it's got a nice sort of caramel-y bit of toffee in there as well. Haven't tried the 17 yr.

            I've also recently tried the Willie Nelson brand, "Whiskey River" and it was good as well. Smooth but without as many interesting flavors.

            I've read good things about the Michter and one of those might be the next one I try (also, I think they're on sale). Pennsylvania liquor stores, though state run, seem to do a decent job of finding interesting stuff. I'll link the bourbon page below.

            Dax also recommended the Bookers so that's on my short list as well. We literally just had this conversation offline. He's from Georgia, I'm from Nebraska, hence, bourbon.

            Basil Hayden is still my guy. Smooth, interesting sweet flavors, maybe a bit too 'corn-y' for some, but I really like it.

            Link: http://www.pawineandspirits.com/webap...

            11 Replies
            1. re: joypirate

              Surprised not to see Maker's Mark on there, a popular-priced bourbon that's very nice indeed, with great oaky vanilla and cinnamon.

              Had a twinge seeing the Evan Williams down the bottom. I'd assume that's the black label, and worth the price. I got a few bottles of the red label back in the 70s, and it was wonderful, but no more. Either out of production, or bespoke by some overseas market.

              Jack Daniels I don't think of as bourbon at all. It's blended whiskey, which is something else.

              1. re: Shep

                bourbons I don't know; but my dad loved his old crow and coke

                1. re: Shep

                  Maker's Mark is in the store, but not on the website. Actually, last time I was there they had something I'd never seen before, 1.75's of Maker's Mark. Now that's a LOT of bourbon.

                  1. re: joypirate

                    The "Family Reunion" size.

                  2. re: Shep

                    Jack Daniels is not Bourbon, it is Tennessee whiskey, Boubon must be from Kentucky.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      I was googling that lately and it appears that "Gentleman Jack" is made in exactly the same way as bourbon is made, though since it's from Virginia they don't call it bourbon.

                      1. re: joypirate

                        The Tennessee whiskeys have a charcoal filtering stage that bourbon typically doesn't have (although I think there's at least one exception). But I'm not sure if it's required in order to call it Tennessee whiskey.

                        1. re: joypirate

                          First of all, Gentleman Jack and all other Jack Daniels products are from Lynchburg, Tn. No where else.
                          Secondly, the difference between bourbon and Tn whiskey is "The Lincoln Process." It is filtered through charcoal to mellow it.
                          I'm not sure if bourbon HAS to come from Ky. I do know that "all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon." That is courtesy of our friends at Makers Mark.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Bourbon does not have to come from KY to be considered bourbon. Yes, the Lincoln Process is exactly why Jack Daniels is not, nor ever will be, bourbon.

                            1. re: Blind Mind

                              I now have a bottle of bourbon from Virginia so I now know. I wrote that 5 years ago.


                        2. re: StriperGuy

                          not true that bourbon must be from ky, although that is a common misperception. see jim's festival link above for more on that topic.

                    2. Jim, you probably know this already, but just in case: Stagg and Hirsch -- along with a few jillion other bourbons -- are both available at LeNell's in Red Hook. I don't think she does mail-order. But if you have a car, it's worth the trip from Queens. And hey, if you don't have a car, LeNell lives in Queens herself, so maybe she'll bring some back from the store for ya. Anyway, I'll link to her bourbon selection below.

                      I love the history and heritage of bourbon more than I love the drink itself -- I ain't no connoisseur. That said, I'm fond of Elmer T. Lee, and the Pappy Van Winkle 20-year (never had the 23-year, which is really pricey).

                      -- Paul

                      Link: http://www.lenells.com/selections/whi...

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Paul Lukas

                        You've made me a happy man! I'm loving the link. Can't wait to get down there. How could I not have known about this??

                        Alas, no IW Harper, though. I heard there may be a bottle in Newark, NJ...


                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Wow...the RYE SELECTION!!

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            I used to enjoy Old Overholt (largely due to the price, I suppose, not to mention there didn't used to be many brands of rye available), and settled in with Wild Turkey Rye for the long run. Fortunately, I left the game before all the pricey stuff hit the market!

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              "Beer is for women, wine is for men, and rye for heroes...”


                              1. re: joypirate

                                Wow, I knew it was delicious, but I didn't know it was noble!

                                OTOH, not sure I'd want to be a hero in Bismarck's eyes...

                                1. re: joypirate

                                  Isn't Bismarck a herring? Does it go well with bourbon?
                                  Love Woodford reserve. Do not care much for Makers Mark.

                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                Of course if you put off your visit for a few months you could combine the trip to LeNells with a visit to the Red Hook ballfields. They're only about a 5 minute drive away.

                              3. re: Paul Lukas

                                Here's even better prices....wine store in Mill Valley, CA (Bay Area)

                                Link: http://vintagewines.biz

                                1. re: Paul Lukas

                                  Didnt notice this thread till Bob Martinez told me about it tonite. Now that you have LeNell's listing, here are a couple of things about her place:

                                  1- she does tastings from her well stocked bourbon cabinet whenever anyone comes in and is interested. She'll pour from more than 20 and educate you on all aspects of the productions;

                                  2- she's friends with a # of producers, so the Van Winkle family, the Maker's Mark people.... have all come for weekends and brought great stuff for us all to sample. I've had excellent "white" Makers (not sold retail) that is the product before it's oaked & incredible Van Winkle's that way.

                                  3- she has an e-mail newsletter. Get on the list.

                                  4- as Bob M. said, she's only a couple of minutes from the RH ballfields. It's a ritual with a # of us to go there after eating. She's also just down the block from 360 if you want to go before dinner at one of the best $25 pre-fixe places in the city.

                                  Recommendations: I really think Makers Mark is the best in its price range. Go up a notch and the Van Winkle 12 year old "special reserve" is excellent. Both of these are the ones I just drink. Up again and either Michter's or Blanton's. Another notch up and there's Stagg and the better Van Winkles.

                                  Other than DiFara's, I shill for her the most.

                                  1. re: Paul Lukas

                                    Just so you know, we've got a couple of bottles of this past release of Stagg left over at LeNells. Found a couple we had put back. We can deliver some places, just depends on where you are.

                                  2. Found this very cool photo essay about the KY Bourbon Festival, something I've long dreamed of attending. See link.

                                    Link: http://lewbryson.com/kyfest98.htm

                                    1. I don't know where it fits in your selection process but if you haven't tried Blanton's you have missed the best.


                                        MAIL ORDER: BINY'S www.binnys.com IN CHICAGO AND SAMS IN CHICAGO http://www.samswine.com CAN'T BE BEAT.

                                        1. I recently bought a bottle of J.W. Dant here in Boston, reasonably priced, pretty tasty.

                                          I also think Jim Beam Black Label (8 year), which I found for $19.99 for 1.75L is as good as any foofy bourbon out there.

                                          Link: http://www.kybourbon.com/english/page...

                                          1. I dunno if it's a yuppie product but I've always sworn by Booker's. Barrel aged, barrel strength (125 proof), and I can sip a shot straight up for an hour, reveling in the caramel aftertaste. That said, there are many kinds I haven't tried; one of my friends, for example, always recommended Pappy Van Winkle's.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Brian S

                                              I used to drink Bookers straight no chaser in the early 90s until Booker Knoll told me, himself that he made it to drink 2 fingers Bookers, 2 fingers branch water, no ice. Like single malts, the water opens up a whole new range of flavors.

                                            2. I've tried most of the brands mentioned so far, but for my money cheap old Evan Williams is the best all around. A full taste sour mash. Though I admit, Evan was better 15 years ago when it was 7 years old and 90 proof. If smooth is what your looking for, you shouldn't be drinking bourbon.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: e.d.

                                                "Smooth" is ambiguous enough a term to be completely meaningless, anyway. For most people, it means mild and low-flavored (i.e. "goes down easily"). For others it means balanced. Needless to say, any fluid without stuff in it is texturally smooth.

                                              2. Another good one is Blanton's. This was the first single barrel bourbon released (1984.) My husband and I like it a lot, but the price has really gone up in the past few years. It's now definitely a special event bourbon. The bottle is very distinctive -- it's round with a sculpted horse and rider on the cap.

                                                Link: http://www.blantonsbourbon.com

                                                Image: http://www.alcoholreviews.com/SPIRITS...

                                                1. My favorite bourbon is Knob Creek. Excellent flavor and not too high a proof.

                                                  For rye, if Pikesville is available, that's my 'everyday' rye. Not a super premium rye, but pretty darn good and always available for around $8 or so making it a great bargain.



                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: KOK

                                                    Knob Creek is good stuff. I have a bottle in my cabinet at all times. Great with a cigar.


                                                  2. i told my friend about this thread & after talking he and i went to lenells this weekend. he knows it and had previously gotten a bottle of maple hills there that he had enjoyed sipping, i dk which one it was.

                                                    so lenell just got in sazerac 4yr rye and he got a bottle for $25(raw, fruit and wine-like notes). i went nuts and got a bottle of the classic cask 21yr rye for $80(mellow, caramel notes here). i enjoyed the visit and we had a nice rye tasting that afternoon!

                                                    ps--they will pour you a taste of anything to try out. beside what we bought, they had michters 4yr out which we tried & i have had before & do not care for.

                                                    pss--we stopped in at HOPE&ANCHOR for lunch. nice wet roast beast hero. boo on the otherwise nice server for her naive and idiotic hipster "i hate oh" tee shirt.

                                                    1. I'm Canadian, living in the Mountains north of Vancouver and I've been enjoying Bourbon for many years. I've tried Pappy Van Winkle, Makers Mark, Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace and Bookers.
                                                      But... it wasn't until I had my 1st taste of Labrot & Graham's Woodford Reserve that I kicked my single malt habit.
                                                      As for coctails, I'm going to stick my neck out. I'm a classic martini, dark rum & coke kinda guy. Don't go for no stinkin' Chocolate Cranberry Slush Puddles, I like to taste my liquor. But it was the Manhatten that got me hooked especially when my old cocktail book mentioned Bourbon as an alternative to Rye, though I have a variation:
                                                      3 oz Woodford Reserve over ice (quality bourbon makes a big difference here).
                                                      Add 1 maraschino cherry (& just a bit of the juice) and 3 dashes Angostura Bitters.
                                                      Top with 1 oz Orancio (Martini's orange vermouth).
                                                      Swirl, sip, smile.
                                                      I will now make it my business to try the George T Stagg before I spout off on bourbon again

                                                      Link: http://www.bigsmoke.ca

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Adam

                                                        Since reading this post months ago, I have been trying to find Orancio, and I just can't...Do you know if it's only available in Canada? (I'm in California)

                                                      2. I'm Canadian, living in the Mountains north of Vancouver and I like Bourbon. I've tried Pappy Van Winkle, Makers Mark, Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace and Bookers.
                                                        But... it wasn't until I had my 1st taste of Labrot & Graham's Woodford Reserve that I kicked my single malt habit.
                                                        I will make it my business to try the George T Stagg before I spout off on bourbon again.

                                                        As for coctails, I'm going to stick my neck out. I'm a classic martini, dark rum & coke kinda guy. Don't go for no stinkin' Chocolate Cranberry Slush Frou Frou Puddles, though I do enjoy a Mint julep on a hot day. I like to taste my liquor. My favouriite drink is the Manhatten. I was hooked when my old 1950s cocktail book mentioned Bourbon as an alternative to Rye. This is my variation:

                                                        3 oz Woodford Reserve over ice (quality bourbon makes a big difference here).
                                                        Add 1 maraschino cherry (& just a bit of the juice) and 3 dashes Angostura Bitters.
                                                        Top with 1 oz Orancio (Martini's orange vermouth).
                                                        Swirl, sip, smile.

                                                        Link: http://www.bigsmoke.ca

                                                        1. Could someone tell me why people like Woodford reserve so much it is ok but Buffalo Trace to me is just as good and half the price. I have tryed many $50 bottles but always come back to Buffalo Trace. Also a bottle of bookers is real nice. When I want scotch I go for Glen Garioch.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: seanroge

                                                            I'd say that Buffalo Trace is actually significantly better than Woodford. Booker's just burns to me. I have a bottle that I've had for almost 2 years now that I just can't seem to pawn off on folks.

                                                            1. re: jpschust

                                                              agreed tremendously. Woodford is good, but for the price BT is amazing, and quality makes it taste alot better. Also, the blantons, the bourbon with the horse and jockey on top

                                                          2. The A.H. Hirsch bourbons, distilled in 1974 for its former owner, Louis Forman, are from the defunct Michter's Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA, which did not burn down, but has sat idle and deteriorating since the late-'80s.
                                                            The Michter's name is now put on bottlings owned and distributed by Chatham Imports of New York, which selects it whiskey and bottles it at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in Bardstown, KY. KBD does not distill, but is owned by the family of its former distillers, the Willetts, so there is, at least, a whiskey history. But, other than the name, there is no relation between the two.

                                                            1. George T. Stagg is the finest bourbon on the planet. In my view, there is Stagg, and there is everything else. It's got a huge rich flavor, beautiful dark rich color, almost cloudy and a nice sweet and smooth finish. But it is STRONG. Latest batch was 73% alcohol I believe and all the last few years have been 70%+. To me, this is truly superior to everything else out there. I haven't tried 'em all, but I've had a lot. It's made by the good people of Buffalo Trace (already mentioned here and another fine, much more reasonable price) as is Elmer T. Lee. Stagg usually retails for around $45 - 55 when it comes out, but they only make about 2400 bottles a year, and it goes fast and when it's gone, it's gone. You really have to pre-order it at most retail stores because they usually only get a very limited supply. Once it's sold out, you start seeing bottles in stores and on ebay for in the $80 - 120 price range. Good luck with that.

                                                              Short of Stagg, some of my favorites (most mentioned) are Blantons (~$50) and Pappy Van Winkle Lot B (~$36). They are just a little more off the beaten path than some of the other "small batch bourbons" made by larger producers which are also quite good and more affordable and obtainable such as Knob Creek, Bookers, & Bakers. I've never really liked Makers or Woodford, but they are also widely popular and very accessible.

                                                              1. I enjoy Maker's Mark, Blanton's, Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek.

                                                                Wild Turkey if I happen to be low on cash.

                                                                1. Maker's Mark Manhattans are a Friday night ritual for me (along with grilled NY Strip Steak and creamed spinach).

                                                                  I like Bulleit Bourbon with just a splash of water.

                                                                  At the Taddich Grill in SF, the bartender made a Derby for me with Old Grand-Dad. It won me over so much I bought a bottle ($8!)

                                                                  After hearing nothing but good things about Woodford Reserve several years ago, I tried it but... meh. I prefer good taste, not hype.

                                                                  1. Love Woodford reserve. Like Wild Turkey. Hate Makers Mark. One man's opinion.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: phantomdoc

                                                                      An opinion implies a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute. You seem fairly closed though (I could be wrong). Are you sure that you aren't describing a preference?


                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                        You are correct! It is preference. Now I am starting to enjoy Gin and seltzer. Not to relax or get a buzz, but real flavor and refreshment. For the time being its Plymouth.

                                                                    2. I'm a big bourbon fan. For an inexpensive but quality drink try the previously mentioned Old Forester or Rebel Yell or Elijah Craig.

                                                                      For a more expensive, but incredible drink - skip Bookers and Bakers and go for the Van Winkle 12yr old special reserve

                                                                      1. I would look into Buffalo Trace, best cheap bourbon ever, its $20 and tastes like $30. Also Bulliet is another good bourbon that is around $25. the woodford reserve is not usually $25, its more of $30.

                                                                        Best special bourbon is the bourbon with the horse on the top and jockey.

                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                        1. re: saxman930

                                                                          Woodford was probably $25 in 2008 when this thread was active lol.

                                                                          IMO BT is not even the best cheap Bourbon from their own distillery, that would be Old Weller Antique 107 - at least the prices are about the same here in NC (actually BT is a couple bucks cheaper). BT is good but OWA is outstanding.

                                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                            Agreed. OWA is my current favorite under $30. Here's a list I put together that you might enjoy...


                                                                            1. re: Blind Mind

                                                                              I don't see OWA on your list, though i do see the 12 yr, I guess you made its acquaintance later? I have yet to try the 12 yr old though it is on my list, how would you say they compare?

                                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                OWA is definitely the better of the 2. It didnt make my list because at the time I couldn't find it for under $30 (even now I mostly find it at $32-34 locally). Weller 12 is much more tame because of the difference in proof. It's a sweeter flavor as well but still a great pour for the dollar. I'm more of a fan of higher proof bourbons (100+) and OWA is right in my wheelhouse. I'd long heard OWA is a younger version of Pappy 15. After a side by side comparison, I'd say this isn't far off. Definitely thinner mouthfeel and less concentrated flavor in the OWA but lots of similar flavors in the profile.

                                                                                1. re: Blind Mind

                                                                                  Wow, it's not often I see other state's prices that make me happy to be in NC, but I get OWA on sale for under $20, regular price $22.50.

                                                                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                    Damn! Thats way off! This shop is the only place I've seen OWA and they are usually more expensive than the average bear anyways. But I didnt think it was that bad!

                                                                                    1. re: Blind Mind

                                                                                      How does W.L. Weller Special Reserve compare to OWA? I recently moved and my new local store has this, rather than the OWA, which my last local (and sure to be missed) shop carried.

                                                                                      1. re: tomjb27

                                                                                        It's OK but not as good and also 90 proof as opposed to 107

                                                                          2. re: saxman930

                                                                            horse and jockey is Blanton's. I've put it next to Black Maple Hill, Lot B, Old Rip 90, and (just for kicks) High West Double Rye.

                                                                            It was second only to the Lot B, IMO. Great stuff for about $46 in Mass.