5 Best Bourbons for Beginners
(ignore the cheesy alliteration in the title)
I am just getting in to Bourbon what should I try? I have heard this questions hundreds of times.
Here is a list of five Bourbons that all beginners should try. All of these bourbons are readily available and fairly inexpensive. They also serve a purpose to show you how different Bourbon can be. Keep in mind all Bourbons have to be at least 51% corn. After that rye, malt, and wheat are added to create different flavors and characteristics.
Makers Mark – $25-$30
Makers Mark has has a rich Bourbon history and is considered one of the most recognizable Bourbon Brands. Check just about any bar in America ,if they only have one Bourbon on the shelf it is usually Makers Mark. Most
Proof: 90 (If you want some controversy Google “Makers Mark Proof”)
Uniqueness: Wheated Bourbon. Wheat adds a smoothness to bourbon
Buffalo Trace – $20-27
If you didn’t notice we are progressively adding rye to our Bourbons. Buffalo Trace uses Mash Bill # 1 from Buffalo Trace Distillery. While not released there is around 10% or less rye in this mash bill. Buffalo Trace does not state the age of their flagship bourbon. That is because it’s probably a mixture of 6-8 year bourbons.
This deep amber whiskey has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses. Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise. This whiskey finishes long and smooth with serious depth.
Old Charter/Eagle Rare ($15/$30)
The second bourbon a beginner can choose could be either Old Charter or Eagle Rare. The reason is they are both made from the same Mash Bill by Buffalo Trace Distillery. The Mash Bill Buffalo Trace (mas hbill #2) uses a little more rye than what is in regular Buffalo Trace bourbon. They don’t release the exact amount but rye is most likely 12%-15% of the recipe.
As long as you can find it I would go with Old charter. Eagle Rare is an older single barrel Bourbon and that means more $$$.
A complex, well-balanced nose that shows both dry, peppery notes and a rich honey sweetness. The palate features some tingly spice notes and mellow toffee, very long and very satisfying finish.
The nose (a fancy way to say smell the Bourbon) has a lot of toffee, hints of orange peel, herbs, honey, leather and oak. The taste is bold, dry and delicate with notes of candied almonds and very rich cocoa. The finish is dry and lingering.
Bulleit Bourbon $24-$30
We have reached the Bourbon with the highest rye in its mash bill. Bulleit Bourbon is approximately 28% rye. Not only does this bottle look great it also taste great.
On the nose of this Bourbon you get orange, corn, ginger, oak, cinnamon with a slight floral not. The taste is even better. It is very similar to the nose with orange, corn, ginger, oak, cinnamon but you also have the spiciness of the rye as you taste it.
Jim Beam Black – $23
While we were building up the rye ladder we come back down a few notches with this one. Jim Beam Black’s mash bill is only 15% rye but as you will notice it is much sweeter than some of the previous lower rye Bourbons. This is because it is 75% corn. Corn adds a distinctive sweetness to the Bourbon. Also, the 8 years of aging add a smoothness and richness to the Bourbon.
The nose has a strong caramel, vanilla, and corn aroma. Once again the taste is backed up by the nose with caramel, vanilla, and spice up front with as well as a little oak flavor that is added by 8 years in a new oak barrel. You may also notice a hint of cinnamon. This is from the 15% rye.
This post puts the Buffalo Trace bourbon in the mashbill #2 category, but your masbill breakdown post has it in #1.
Buffalo Trace is mash bill #1. Not seeing where it says anything different?
Peter is correct, above you say “If you didn’t notice we are progressively adding rye to our Bourbons. Buffalo Trace uses Mash Bill # 2 from Buffalo Trace Distillery. While not released there is somewhere between 12%-15% rye in this mash bill.”
Gotcha. My mistake. I have updated the post
Hey Blake, you should do a little series! Next installment, five best bourbons for the intermediate whiskey drinker…
That’s a good idea, Micah! I think I’ll do that
I think it would also be nice to see a list and review of the bottled in bond whiskeys available, primarily because i am selfish and i am starting a collection of bottled in bond brands
I just re-read this old post. And I think it’s good advice still! I buy a 1.75 of Bulleit for $44 for everyday cocktails. Cheers!
An excellent read. I appreciate that you have “Maker’s Mark” listed first. Happens to be “My Choice” – From “Maker’s Mark”, “Maker’s 46” and “Maker’s Private Select” (all my counter now) will say Maker’s . Though will say “Maker’s Cask Strength is also very enjoyable. Over the years I have enjoyed Seagram’s Seven and Canadian Club (My inexperience thought they were both produced by the same distillery), I also enjoy Jack Daniels (Only Old No. 7). My wife and I are enjoying “The Bourbon Trail Tour” getting Our Passports Stamped. The most important thing I can suggest is trying this various Bourbons you have listed is only in a Bourbon Tasting Glass or Glencairn Glass rather then a Rocks or Old Fashion Glass thus being able to enjoy the aroma of the bourbon as well as the full flavor in the taste. The other most important thing I can think to mention is Sip Your Bourbon, Please – Please Do Not Throw it back like a shooter, shooting tequila – you will not be able to enjoy. I must commend this Blogger – Do Not Base your taste of what a Good Bourbon should taste like based on the Price. If a person is trying to find what they enjoy the best – might I recommend purchasing several of the Airline or Mini-Bar bottles at your local liquor store or liquor outlet, easier on a persons wallet or purse then a 750 ml bottle. Thank You for letting me share my experiences in Bourbon Tasting.