HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


What's my next all-purpose whiskey/bourbon?

  • blkery Mar 16, 2011 09:56 PM
  • 73
  • Share

I'm finally getting into whiskey and bourbon after a lifetime of gin dedication. I was pretty impressed with the versatility and price point of Bulleit. Are there any others I should take a look at?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
  1. Elijah Craig 12 yr old, all around excellent at a slightly lower price point.

    Buffalo trace is a nice sipper but maybe not flavorful enough to mix well.

    Weller Antique 107 is a little harsh for sipping neat but has a lot of flavor for mixing.

    Maybe try some George Dickel No 12 Tennessee whiskey, made Jack Daniels taste like water in a side-by-side taste test I did recently.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ncyankee101

      Great suggestions!

      1. re: sku

        Thanks Sku - I actually think EC 12 is the best bang for the buck bourbon I have had, on sale for $18 this month (reg $22) and would still be a good Bourbon for 50% more. I actually prefer it to the 18 yr old which is quite woody (though I like it too).

        1. re: ncyankee101

          Agreed on EC 12. A fantastic bourbon for a low price and versatile as well.

    2. Hard to beat the taste & value of Evan Williams Black Label bourbon at under $10 for 750ml.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT

        agree about the Evam Williams, has to be the best bang for the buck in bourbon. Around me it's $13 for a liter.

      2. If you're looking for something low price, decent tasting (it's a touch on the sweet side), and that you won't mind mixing, I say go with a bottle of Ancient Age.

        You can pick up a 1.75 liter bottle for around $16. I always keep a bottle on hand specifically for mixed drinks.

        George Dickle and Rebel Yell are also pretty good bourbons...

        1. I was trying to suggest Bourbons at a similar price point and quality level to Bulleit, with which you seem to be satisfied, which is around $20-25 here in NC (depending on sales).

          There are plenty of acceptable Bourbons at a much lower price point but IMO a substantial step down in quality. I assumed when you said "all-purpose" and versatility you wanted something you could sip as well as mix.

          Also Ancient Ancient Age is only a couple $ more and a little better, and 90 proof vs 80 for Ancient Age.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ncyankee101

            Just a head's up for anyone looking for Ancient Ancient Age...

            The regular Ancient Age is 3 years old, and there are two versions of Ancient Ancient Age.
            There is Ancient Ancient Age 10 STAR, which is 6 years old.
            There is also Ancient Ancient Age 10 YEAR, which is (not suprisingly) 10 years old.

            The latter 2 look exactly alike, but the 10 Year is not often found outside of Kentucky. Both are good all purpose bourbons, but if you spy the 10 YEAR, grab it!

            1. re: Ditdah

              Thanks for that. I've got some saved on a wish list for my next order out of KY.

              1. re: Blind Mind

                I live in Ohio, and typically keep the 10 Star on hand. But when I'm in Cincinnati for any reason, I stop across the river to pick up some of the 10 Year.

                As well as plenty of other stuff, since alcohol is so much cheaper there than in Ohio!

              2. re: Ditdah

                I got a bottle of Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year in Kentucky a couple of years ago and it was a good value because it is so cheap there (I think it was around 15 bucks). But it really helped me understand what people mean when they talk of "finish" versus "nose" and "taste". The Ancient Ancient Age smells and tastes almost identical to Buffalo Trace (no big surprise since it is the same distillery and mash bill) but the Ancient Ancient Age finish vanishes quickly while that of BT lingers. I guess the tasting panels really know their stuff.

            2. In the Bulleit price range, i.e. $25, I'd recommend Buffalo Trace's standard bottling, or , even the Eagle Rare 10yr old if you can find it on sale. I will say that Bulleit is pretty versatile because of its high rye content, and can be used as a substitution for rye whiskey in cocktails in a pinch. However, in my opinion, the Buffalo Trace bourbons taste a bit more like bourbon.

              Evan Williams Single Barrel is another great bourbon in that same price range. It's a bit more floral/citrus-y and delicate than the Bulleit, but very good nonetheless.

              I also like Knob Creek, but it's a bit higher in alcohol than Bulleit.

              I've also heard great things about Jim Beam Black, which should be a bit less than the Bulleit.

              5 Replies
              1. re: kyoung05

                Funny that you mention Eagle Rare and Evan Williams SB because they are both on sale this month for $25 in NC and I have never had either one. I was so torn between them that I didn't buy either LOL (though I have a feeling I will be back before month's end .)

                Knob Creek was also in the mix though it is a little pricier at $30 on sale (reg $34).

                I did buy a bottle of Beam Black (also on sale this month, can only resist so long) to revisit it because I was unimpressed when I had it last year, and I wanted to try it again now that I have some more experience with Bourbon. Though there is nothing bad about it, there is also nothing all that distinctive about it. It's a solid, decent but not all that interesting Bourbon.

                At the same price point as Elijah Craig 12 yr old, I would always choose the latter. In a blind comparison I found the Craig spicier, oakier, just generally more flavorful - but just as smooth.

                1. re: kyoung05

                  While we are discussing price, bottle size matters quite a bit. For example, Knob Creek comes in a 1.75L bottle which is attractively priced per unit volume. Just a thought....

                  www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    But we're discussing trying Bourbons he hasn't had before, not a good idea to shell out $50+ and be stuck with a huge amount of one you don't love.

                    Once you find something you know you like a lot, sure go big. Elijah Craig 12 yo is $43 in NC for a 1.75 which is actually about the same price as the 750 on sale, while Knob Creek 1.75 is $70 - also about the same as $30 for a 750. Of course we are state-run and I know privatized states seem to have much better prices on larger bottles.

                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                      In that same vein, Costco regularly sells Eagle Rare 10yr old in a 1.5L for $35 which is a fantastic value.

                    2. re: kyoung05

                      I second the Eagle Rare 10 year. it's definitely become our house bourbon, since it's pretty smooth for the price, and everyone seems to like it.

                    3. I think Bulleit is a little bit harsh for the price, but I also think Maker's is harsh for the price....

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: jaykayen

                        What do you mean by "harsh"? Do you mean that it's high in alcohol content and burns? If so, well, that's part of the charm of bourbon - the alcohol content (among other things) provides character - without it, you'd be one step closer to bland watery whiskey like Crown Royal.

                        1. re: kyoung05

                          No, because it was in a Manhattan, very easy on the vermouth, so alcohol content shouldn't have been a factor. My friend and I found it to be undrinkable, I had to ask the bartender to increase the vermouth and stir on ice again.

                          It's like two vodkas that are both 40% and one goes down smoothly and you can sip it, the other you wouldn't think about drinking it without mixing. I've even infused a poor tequila with strawberries, decreasing 40% down to probably 35%, and it was still harsh. Harshness isn't usually because alcohol content.

                        2. re: jaykayen

                          I agree with Kyoung...

                          Bulliet is a good bourbon because of that spicy rye bite. That's part of what gives Bulliet a distinguishing flavor compared to most of the other bourbons within it's price range. Plus I'm a sucker for the retro looking bottle.

                          IMO, Makers Mark 46 is pretty good, if you're looking for something a bit sweeter. If you're looking for something mellower, Collingwood Canadian Whisky is good. With a bit of water you definately get the maple and fruit flavor/aromas...

                          1. re: deet13

                            I don't think it's a function of perceived sweetness, either. I have Rittenhouse bonded at home. I understand Bulleit is quite well-regarded, so anything negative I would say is against the grain.

                            1. re: jaykayen

                              Hm..I was going to agree with deet and say that maybe it was due to the spiciness of the rye. However, it seems you enjoy drinking real rye whiskeys like Rittenhouse. So, maybe it's just the fact that Bulleit was made to resemble the original "frontier-style" whiskeys, which I imagine were more "harsh" than the whiskeys of today. For what it's worth, I had my friend try a glass of Bulleit once, and he described it as liquid sandpaper.

                              1. re: jaykayen

                                But come on man, we're talking about Rittenhouse. For a rye whiskey, it's probably got a more balanced and a smoother flavor profile than most of the other whiskeys on the market. :)

                                That's why it's one of the best all around whiskeys out there.

                                As for not liking Bulleit, to each their own I say.

                                1. re: deet13

                                  If you want to try a good, relatively inexpensive rye, I recommend Redemption Rye. I've got a handful of people hooked on it. Really smooth, flavorful rye with a tiny bite. Just ordered a few cases for me and friends.

                                  1. re: Blind Mind

                                    I agree, Redemption is very tasty.

                                    1. re: jackbauer

                                      Redemption Day!

                                      1. re: Blind Mind

                                        Nice, I'll have to get my liquor store to order me a bottle or two.

                                    2. re: Blind Mind

                                      Redemption is still a bit young, although bottles coming out now are just getting mature. I may be wrong but from what I remember in speaking to the brand owner, they have been bottling out of the same volume for almost two years now. When they first got it the spirit was around 18 months old from which I am pretty sure batch 1 came from, this was just a small bottling. then batch 2 was when it was 2 years old. It could be that the two year old was batch 1 and the first young bottling was just an entrance into the market. It will be nice to see what it will be like in another year or two. I think batch 3 will be coming soon, or already has.

                                      1. re: JMF

                                        The Redemption I just picked up was aged 2 years.

                                        1. re: Blind Mind

                                          does it have a batch number on it?

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            Not sure, will check when I return from this helluva long biz trip next week...

                                  2. re: jaykayen

                                    Personally, I think Bulleit is highly overrated. I think there is a lot better for the price range, including some of those listed above by NCYankee. And I'm a huge fan of rye, so that's not the issue.

                                    1. re: sku

                                      Agreed. I also like the suggestions for Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare. Maker's 46 and Basil Hayden are good choices neat but not so great for mixing IMO.

                                      1. re: Blind Mind

                                        Your mention of Basil Hayden reminds me of another excellent moderately priced high rye Bourbon: Old Grand-Dad 114. The dirty secret of Basil Hayden is that it is essentially the same whiskey as Old Grand-Dad, but it's diluted to 40% abv. You can get Old Grand-Dad 114 for about $15 cheaper, (but the bottle is less fancy looking).

                                        1. re: sku

                                          Funny you say that... I was going to recommend the OGD 114 but thought it might not be as versatile to be an all around bourbon. I enjoy it neat but not everyone does. Had a one w/ an ice sphere last night as a nightcap. I actually discovered that thanks to a posting on another 'hound board so thanks!

                                        2. re: Blind Mind

                                          Not to mention 46 and Hayden's are about 50% more expensive, at least here in NC. Keep in mind the original poster mentioned price point.

                                          I have heard so many good things about OGD 114 but it seems to be nearly impossible to find.

                                          Sku - do the lower proof versions of OGD have similar mashbills?

                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                            Yes, all OGDs have the same high-rye mashbill, as does Basil Hayden.

                                            1. re: sku

                                              I finally got hold of a bottle of OGD 114 on my trip to PA for Thanksgiving. Very nice stuff, amazingly smooth given the proof but with robust flavor and just the right amount of bite. For $22 might be my new bang-for-the-buck fave.

                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                Another high rye bourbon and a great price for a 114 pf bourbon. I have a bottle in my cabinet as well as the regular OGD.

                                2. Recently, I was at Costco and saw that they had a 1L bottle Kirkland brand "small batch bourbon" for $20.

                                  The label said the mash bill contained corn, rye, and malt. It's aged 7 years, and bottled at 51.5% ABV. Tasting notes on the label state that there are complex aromas of molasses, citrus and spice, with a faint smoky background and a long rich finish.

                                  On the nose, I definitely get vanilla and some molasses/brown sugar. Also, upon first pour, I got a good bit of citrus on the nose, but after about 10-15min of sitting in the glass, the citrus is almost undetectable - the vanilla and brown sugar aromas remain. On the palate, there's lots of spice - in part due to the high ABV, but also in part due to the rye. Also, lots of oak. Lastly, I get hints of popcorn on the finish/aftertaste. IMO, it tastes similar to a younger Elijah Craig 12 that has been bottled at a higher ABV. Not really complex, but still very good.

                                  I've read elsewhere that this is actually a Jim beam bourbon, and is probably a younger version of Knob Creek (aged 7yrs vs. 9yrs) bottled at a slightly higher ABV (101 vs 103). IMO, it didn't really taste like Knob, but the difference in age and ABV could account for the difference.

                                  Either way, for the money, I'd say it's a solid bourbon - great value.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: kyoung05

                                    I've heard that as well. It wasn't that long ago that one of our local liquor stores use to sell Knob Creek 1.75 L for $33.99. I still have a partial bottle. The price has gone up considerably.

                                    1. re: kyoung05

                                      i finally picked up a bottle of the Kirkland Bourbon at Costco while on vacation in Myrtle Beach - have to say I agree with the general opinion that it is pretty good, especially at $20 for a liter. I read elsewhere someone surmised it was Baker's at a slightly higher proof, I haven't had Baker's but was wondering what other's thought.

                                    2. I don't mean to sound like a broken record but Elijah Craig 12 is a great choice - I believe it sets the baseline standard for all other bourbons and if you like the Bourbon with its high rye mashbill you could always go a price point higher and try Basil Hayden. If you want to venture out and try a Tennessee whiskey which is more subtle yet very good quality I would suggest Dickel 12 yr as well.


                                      22 Replies
                                      1. re: BourbonIntelligencer

                                        I keep a bottle of EC 12 in my bar at most times. If you like Heaven Hill products then Elijah Craig is an excellent bourbon.

                                        1. re: BourbonIntelligencer

                                          it is actually Dickel No 12 - no age statement. Their bottom of the line Cascade Hollow (which I have and isn't bad either) is 3 years old.

                                          I wholeheartedly agree that Dickel 12 and EC 12 are both superior to their more popular competitors Jack and Jim. I've done blind comparisons and it wasn't even close, made them taste like water IMO.

                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                            To be fair, around Boston a handle of Jim Beam is about the same price as a 750 of Elijah Craig, making it less than half the cost per ounce. Jim Beam is such an adequate mixing bourbon that it requires fortitude for me to pass up the deal for something more interesting. I did pick up a bottle of Redemption high-rye bourbon for about the same price. Never seen it here before. Anyone know if it is any good? I rather like Bulleit and that is sort of what I was hoping for at a cheaper price point. I only have room for so many bourbons...

                                            www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                              I've had the Redemption Rye but not the bourbon. The rye was okay but not great; it is quite young, as I believe the bourbon is as well. Redemption's whiskeys are sourced from Lawrenceburg Distiller's Indiana.


                                              1. re: sku

                                                I usually agree with you, sku, but not on Redemption. I love the stuff. Easy drinkin all day long neat or with a little water. Fantastic floral notes too. I'm getting ready to order another case!

                                              2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                Really? Wow that's crazy, here in NC the EC 12 is actually cheaper than JB Black, a 750 is $22.50 vs $25 and the gallons are $44.50 vs $47.

                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                  Gallons? Like stick your finger through the handle, tip it up with the crook of your elbow, and chug?

                                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                    Dan - just looked back at this thread and caught my goof - obviously should have been been half gallons not gallons heh heh.

                                                2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                  @EvergreenDan, I agree that Jim Beam is a fine value and hard to pass up, but I prefer it as an inexpensive sipper or as an everyday bourbon for use in simple, bourbon-focused cocktails, such as an old fashioned or julep. For most mixing purposes, I prefer Even Williams, which I feel cuts through the mix more and makes itself known. JB can get too laid back and boring in many mixed drinks. I usually keep both on hand for their respective qualities and uses.

                                              3. re: BourbonIntelligencer

                                                If you ever find yourself in Iowa, Illinois, or in select bars in SF and NYC that have it, give this a try ... http://www.templetonrye.com

                                                When Al Capone asked his barkeep for "the good stuff," this is what was served.

                                                1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                  Or you could order it from drinkupny.com with free shipping on orders over $100.

                                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                                    Yankee: Fortunately, I'm in Iowa and have access to Templeton Rye. If you can get it, give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

                                                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                      I have four unopened ryes in my house at the moment LOL - Bulleit, Rittenhouse 100, Wild Turkey, and Sazerac 6 yr. Bulleit is the only one I haven't tried before, though I have only had Ritt in a bar - on my second bottles of the other two.

                                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                                        Anyone tried the Whistle Pig rye? I'm mildly interested but more cautious that it's hype rather than merit leading to the high price for a bottle.

                                                        1. re: Blind Mind

                                                          I thought it was very good. It's very bold, briny, spicy. Not for everyone, but if you're a big rye fan you might like it. If you don't want to pay that much the new Jefferson's Straight Rye is thought to be from the same distillery (an unnamed Canadian), have a similar flavor profile but is cheaper.


                                                          1. re: sku

                                                            Interesting, thanks. What's the rye %? I like the Bulliet and Redemption because of the high rye % but both are not as firey as, say, the PVW Rye which I also love.

                                                            BTW, great website and loved the post on Bourbon Law.

                                                            1. re: Blind Mind

                                                              Thanks Blind Melon. WhistlePig and Jefferson are both 100% rye, and both are ten years old.

                                                              1. re: sku

                                                                Finally saw the Jefferson on the store shelf. Pretty pricey @ $44 compared to Bulliet and Redemption which are around $25. Really that much better?

                                                          2. re: Blind Mind

                                                            My husband and I are both big fans of the Whistlepig, though my brother found it a bit harsh. He's not really into rye, though. It's leaner and less sweet and caramel-y than most bourbons/ryes, but no lack of depth. Yum.

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                              I got the Redemption rye last week for $20 for the .750 and have been enjoying it immensely, probably too much!!! Had it with a few drops of water, in a Manhattan and with Sprite (not my usual choice, but very tasty nontheless) and it worked well. Too bad it's almost gone, but at least I can use this thread to select my next libation!

                                                              1. re: imhungryletseat

                                                                Wow, that's a great price!

                                                                1. re: Blind Mind

                                                                  The store is the Wine Guy in Smithtown LI. They usually have great prices on whatever they get in, but once its gone, its gone. The same thing with the other liquor store I frequent; Bottles and Cases in Huntington.

                                                2. Agree with the Dickel 12 recommendations, awesome value. My go to, everyday (not that I drink it every day) whiskey is Wild Turkey Rye. It is widely available, sweet spot proof at 107, spicy but still has some bourbon- like sweetness on the finish and it mixes well.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: yalc

                                                    Sorry, typo, 101 proof.

                                                  2. I prefer a sweeter bourbon. (Usually suggests a higher corn ratio.)

                                                    I would start with:
                                                    * Rowan's Creek
                                                    * Elmer T Lee

                                                    Higher price:
                                                    * Blantons
                                                    * Knob Creek
                                                    * Woodford

                                                    When your bourbon comes out cask strength (proof in mid nineties or higher) I think that is the time to add a tiny dash of water. Basically, some distillers "add the water for you" and get the whiskey down to 80+ proof and some let you do it for yourself. (And then you aren't paying for their water.)

                                                    Forgot to give my home state distiller props:
                                                    The folks at Tuthilltown make a great bourbon (and a really nice "Scotch")

                                                    1. Rebel Yell is nice...my TX relatives know it is a much-appreciated host gift if they choose to bring it when they visit. :-) It can be hard to find in CA. I will definitely check out the other suggestions made in this thread.

                                                      1. The new Larceny is quite nice. It's actually 6 year old Old Fitzgerald, rebranded.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                          I gave it multiple tries and just don't like Larceny. Nose is decent but flavor fades fast and finish is empty to me. I'll take Makers over Larceny as my value wheater anyday