Many people these days are looking to dive head first into the bourbon realm, but we are going to give recommendations for new bourbon drinkers. Many of us are looking to buy “just a good bourbon” for a friend or for yourself, or you just want to glance over the “Beginner’s Guide to Buying Bourbon” and head to your nearest liquor store and buy the prettiest bottle you see. If only it were that easy!
In this article our main goal is to help new whiskey or bourbon drinkers make an educated choice on a purchase, have that first purchase stem off to other great purchases, and give recommendations for new bourbon drinkers. We will recommend a few different types of whiskey and bourbon as well. The value, or otherwise bang for your buck, will be a large part in the recommendations we make for you. We will help lead you down a path to make a confident decision, but it also helps to have a fellow bourbon drinker guide you in the right direction, you need somebody to make a good recommendation for the first bourbon that you can actually feel proud of owning. For many of you reading this, you are probably well known as a bourbon drinker to all of your friends, coworkers, and family, yes you know who you are. You also know that people are constantly asking you for bourbon recommendations, or what type of whiskey they should buy for a friend or for a family member as a gift. You should take pride in this, because these people obviously think of you as knowledgeable in the whiskey or bourbon realm, or they wouldn’t have come to you for recommendations in the first place.
The bourbon market has become increasingly popular in the past 10 years. Countless types of new bourbon and whiskey are popping up every month, so it can be very overwhelming where to start. So let’s get one thing clear and learn what bourbon really is.
Bourbon whiskey is a type of American whiskey, a barrel-aged distilled spirit made mostly from corn. Bourbon has to be produced in the United States in order to be considered bourbon. It has to be made from a mash bill (grain mixture) that is at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume), bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume). There are aging requirements for bourbon, such as straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label. Now that you’re clear on what bourbon whiskey actually is, you can already feel confident that you won’t go into the liquor store and buy a bottle of whiskey that looks really cool but has only been aged for one year, lets face it, it probably won’t taste very good.
- Small Batch or Single Barrel Bourbon:
Small batch bourbon or whiskey is literally a whiskey that is bottled after mixing the contents of a small batch of select barrels; this is done to maintain a specific flavor profile that the distillery is aiming to achieve. We love recommendations for new bourbon drinkers, and we suggest this easy sipping E.H. Taylor Small Batch. This amazing bourbon should cost you about $35 for a 750ml bottle. Single barrel bourbon is a bottle of bourbon that came from one barrel only and has not been blended with any other barrels. A great single barrel bourbon that we recommend for beginners, but is globally recognized and loved by many is Blanton’s Single Barrel, which is also very easy sipping bourbon. This should cost you about $55 for a 750ml bottle, which is a little more than the previously mentioned bourbon, but with most single barrel bourbons you climb into a higher price bracket. Blanton’s will not disappoint, and should be bourbon that you savor and bring out when you have special guests or when you feel like drinking something really special.
- High Rye Bourbon Whiskey:
High Rye Bourbon is still classified as bourbon because it meets all of the requirements mentioned above, it just has a higher percentage of rye in the mash bill. Usually a high rye bourbon will have a percentage of rye containing anywhere between 18 – 35 percent rye. High rye bourbon typically has a more floral and spicy flavor profile and often times notes of baking spices, and is something worth getting to know. More recommendations for new bourbon drinkers in this category would be to try Four Roses, as this high rye bourbon is subtle and yet complex, it makes a great beginners choice. Four Roses Distillery puts out many variations of this delicious high rye bourbon, but a favorite that we recommend is Four Roses Single Barrel. The small batch is very good as well and will run you about $35, but for just about four dollars more we highly recommend picking up a bottle of the single barrel offering.
- Wheat Bourbon Whiskey
Wheat Bourbon has more recommendations for new bourbon drinkers than most other categories of bourbon and is a fantastic category for beginners to explore. Commonly known as, “wheaters,” wheat bourbons are still classified as bourbon, but the secondary grain used in the mash bill is wheat. Wheat bourbon offers more of a soft and sweet flavor profile than when rye is used as the secondary grain. A very affordable and great place to start for a wheated bourbon is W.L. Weller Special Reserve. You should be able to pick up a 750ml bottle for around $25. We recommend this wheat bourbon because it is a classic, it is affordable, and it has every characteristic that wheat bourbons should have.
This list has great recommendations for new whiskey drinkers. We strive to help you make a confident choice of what we believe are good starting bourbons. Each of the recommendations we made are all classified as bourbon, but we wanted to throw some variety and different types of bourbon in the list because everyone’s palate is different, and who knows what might be your favorite type of bourbon.