Posts from the ‘Bourbon Rankings’ Category

The Best Value Bourbons

After abandoning my quirky numbers system for determining a bourbon’s value, I am resorting to relying on my taste buds and my wallet.  These bourbons are my personal favorite value bourbons, listed from the least to the most expensive.

Evan Williams Black Label – This one is hard to beat simply because it is usually available for under $15.  This bourbon is still raw and uncouth, but it is drinkable and moderately complex, too.

Four Roses Yellow Label – This bourbon is becoming more readily available and more widely recognized for being a very good whiskey.  It is soft, citrusy, and floral.  It makes a wonderful cocktail, but it stands tall on its own, too.

Wild Turkey 101 – This bourbon’s quality and value has been well documented.  It is warming and powerful, but it also brings wonderful vanilla and cinnamon sugar notes into the fold.  Great stuff.  The Turkey 81 is also a good value pour, but I always opt to pay three dollars more for my beloved 101.

Russell’s Reserve 10 year – This bourbon lives up to Jimmy Russell’s legend.  It also happens to be available around $30 in most liquor stores.  It unfolds beautifully in waves, giving complex bourbon and rye flavors throughout.  Wild Turkey at its finest.

Four Roses Single Barrel – Although there is some variance from bottle to bottle, this bourbon is consistently at the head of the class.  It has a wonderfully rich mouth feel that is unsurpassed in whiskeys under $40.

Those are some of my favorite value bourbons, but not the only great value bourbons on the market.  The beauty of bourbon is that you don’t have to break the bank to drink classy.

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Bourbons by Price Point

This is a list of all the bourbons I have reviewed on the site, arranged according to their price point.  I have ordered them within the price ranges according to the value of this whiskey (in my opinion).  My grades are in parentheses.

$10-15: Evan Williams Black Label (C)

$15-20: Jim Beam White Label (C-), Jesse James (D+)

$20-25: Four Roses Yellow Label (C+), Wild Turkey 81 (C+), Old Forester (C/C+), Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C), Old Weller Antique (C), Jim Beam Black Label (C), Fighting Cock 6 yr. (C-), Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

$25-30: Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B), Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel (B), Four Roses Small Batch (B), Elmer T. Lee (B-/B), Buffalo Trace (B-), Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-), Elijah Craig 12 yr. (B-), W.L. Weller 12 yr. (B-), Kentucky Vintage (C-), John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-), Maker’s Mark (C-)

$30-35: Russell’s Reserve 10 yr. (B+), Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B), Woodford Reserve (B), Jefferson’s (B-), Knob Creek Small Batch (C), Bulliet Frontier (C), Berkshire Bourbon (C)

$35-40: Four Roses Single Barrel (A-), Rowan’s Creek (B+), Maker’s 46 (B+), Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B), Basil Hayden’s (B-)

$40-45: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-), Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel (B-)

$45-50: Booker’s (A), Noah’s Mill (B+), Rock Hill Farms (B+/B), Blanton’s Original (B)

$90-100: Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

The best way to navigate this list (and the liquor aisles), is to have an idea of the flavor you are looking for and a price you are willing to spend.  There is almost always an intersection of the two available somewhere in the whisk(e)y world.  So get out and enjoy America’s native spirit (responsibly) and let it ride!

Bargain Bourbon Grades

I have decided to operate under a new grading system from here on.  I will be assigning every whiskey I review a grade based on how much I like the whiskey and how I judge the whiskey’s overall quality.  My grades have tried not to factor in price, and I have tried to be relatively objective, but I am openly acknowledging my palate’s involvement in my grading.  Anyway, here is my basic scale.

A+:  This is absolutely brilliant whiskey.  There is nothing I would change about it.  These whiskeys are often reserved for special occasions when I am up for the finest whiskey I can get my hands on.

A:  This is also brilliant whiskey.  It is usually the intangibles of the whiskey that keeps it from making the A+ grade, not the structure of the whiskey itself.

A-:  This is fantastic whiskey, and provides a balance between the great whiskeys and the greatest whiskeys.

B+:  This is great whiskey.  There may be some things I would like to see different with it, but it is a great whiskey overall.

B:  This is very good whiskey, and often the range where I like my daily sipping whiskeys to be.

B-:  This is good whiskey, indicating a very good effort.  This also includes a lot of daily sippers.

C+, C, C-:  These are all still passing grades, so they are not bad whiskeys.  However, they are often whiskeys that I don’t mind other folks mixing, but I still enjoy drinking them.

D+, D, D-:  These whiskeys are passing, but barely.  Best suited for mixing.

F:  I’ve never given a whiskey a failing grade, but if I did, it would have to be awful in every way.

My Favorite Whiskeys by Price Point

I am often asked, “What’s your favorite whiskey?”  Honestly, that is like asking me to name a favorite child, favorite beer, favorite song, or favorite movie.  I have many favorites, and many of these depend on my mood, and the money in my wallet.  However, I have recently had a request from my good friend, Kate at http://www.kateampersand.com/ for some recommendations for how to give the gift of whiskey.  I have reviewed about 40 whiskeys on the site so far, and here are my favorite whiskeys out of those 40 at different price points.  The prices used are the approximate prices for 750ml of the whiskey.

Best Whiskey under $20:  Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/).  This is a very good, rye forward bourbon, with a lot of power.  It doesn’t have the complexity of some other high rye bourbons, but it is hard to beat for $18 a bottle.

Runner-up under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/14/four-roses-yellow-label-review/).  In comparison to the power of Old Grand-Dad (bottled at 100 proof), the Yellow Label is a delicate rye-forward bourbon.  There is a lot of light spice that tingles the tongue and the nostrils, but it doesn’t quite have the depth of Old Grand-Dad.  Nevertheless, Four Roses Yellow Label is a great buy.

Best Whiskey under $25:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/).  Not only is this whiskey a great value, it is a great whiskey.  There is a ton of complexity, ranging from spiciness to sweetness to a rich earthiness.  If you want to impress somebody, buy them this whiskey for their birthday.  Trust me, they will think you spent a good amount on it (especially if you put it in a fancy decanter since the bottle design is not especially flattering).

Runner-up Under $25:  McClelland’s Speyside (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/30/comparison-review-scotch-styles-mcclellands-speyside-vs-mcclellands-lowland/).  This is a fine single-malt Scotch for the price.  It has all the delicacy of a Speyside, with the craft necessary to give it some soft chocolate and smoke flavors that give it character.  (It should be mentioned that if you can find Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel, or Jim Beam Devil’s Cut for under $25, they are even better.  However, I live in Boston where I am not quite so lucky.)

Best Whiskey under $30:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond.  It still reigns supreme; it’s just that good.

Runner-up under $30:  Buffalo Trace (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/).  It is the bourbon that turned me on to bourbon a number of years ago, and it continues to impress.  It is not overly sweet, leaving the vanilla to be blended perfectly.  It is like eating a perfectly balanced cheesecake (sort of).

Best Whiskey under $35:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/12/russells-reserve-10-year-bourbon-review/).  Finally, Rittenhouse was dethroned.  Every time I drink Russell’s Reserve, I am amazed at how wonderfully structured it is.  It is like reading a great novel, where the plot unfolds precisely when it should.

Runner-up under $35:  W.L. Weller 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/28/w-l-weller-12-year-review/).  This is exactly what a wheated bourbon can achieve.  It is sweet, but complex, demonstrating the many phases of a sweetness.  It reminds me of eating buttermilk pancakes smothered in cinnamon sugar and maple syrup (except not as filling).

Best Whiskey under $40:  Four Roses Single Barrel (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/14/four-roses-single-barrel-review/).  Although this is a single barrel whiskey (meaning there will be some difference between batches), I’ve never had a bad batch of this whiskey.  It is plainly brilliant.  It has the all the spicy rye character of Four Roses Small Batch, but it demonstrates a whole other layer of complexity with a sweet, dark palate.

Runner-up under $40:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  It has rightly remained high on my list even at a higher price point.

Best Whiskey under $50:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/22/bunnahabhain-12-year-review/).  This is really a brilliant Islay whisky.  The sherry influence is strong, but the Islay peat hangs around to provide a perfect balance.  Although this is not a traditional Islay whisky, it is my favorite value.

Runner-up under $50:  Four Roses Single Barrel.  Yes, it can compete with whiskeys that reach above its price point.

Best Whiskey under $60:  Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/06/21/comparison-review-bookers-vs-noahs-mill/).  This is my favorite whiskey to date, and it should only be given to a true whiskey lover who you love very much.  It is a full, robust whiskey, providing a complexity and intensity rarely seen elsewhere in the bourbon world under $60.  (I have seen Booker’s for as cheap as $47.  If you see it around that price, snatch up a bottle.)

Runner-up under $60:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr.  As many of you are aware, Scotch is expensive.  However, I have yet to find a better value among Single Malt Scotch than Bunnahabhain.

I am stopping at $60, because most people that read this blog are seeking value bourbons.  If you like some recommendations for higher price ranges, feel free to email me at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  I would also recommend that you read the reviews of these whiskeys before purchasing them, just to make sure it sounds like something that will truly be enjoyed by whoever is its lucky recipient.  Let it ride!

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?