These Bourbons are Good…

Bourbons (Whiskies) You Will Like

The bourbon world (myself included) has become overly obsessed with limited editions (LE’s) or rare bottles. Is this the pot calling the kettle black? It’s more like the pot acknowledging its faults. About 80% of what I write on this blog is LE  related. Why? Because that’s what is fun, interesting and exciting. I don’t think this is a problem as long as there’s the occasional reality check.

This post is stripped down for a reason. There’s no click-bait title (think of this as “8 Bourbons That Beat Pappy In Blind Tastings” or “2015 Quadruple Gold Winners from the Great Alaskan Whiskey Competition” if you need something a little more captivating to read). No crazy back story or hyped press release. This is simply a list of bourbons that are consistently good and consistently on shelves across the country. I know there’s some we’ve missed. What would you add to the list?

Booker’s Bourbon

bookers bourbon 1









Booker’s was one of the first bourbons that opened my eyes to what bourbon could be. It was about sipping and enjoying not mixing and shooting. Booker’s is sweet with a little spice and the classic Beam charred taste. 

Four Roses Single Barrel

(Private Barrel when you can find it)

four roses single









You can’t have a bourbon list without Four Roses on it. They use the OBSV mash bill for their single barrel which usually includes fruit, spicy and a creamy flavor.

Smooth Ambler 10

Smooth Ambler is a distillery/bottler that has made a name for themselves with their sourced whiskey. Luckily, the whiskey they produced is almost ready to bottle.


It’s hard to beat Buffalo Trace’s Blanton’s bourbon. This bourbon comes with a lot of caramel, vanilla and cinnamon notes but stores are beginning to see less and less of it as demand for bourbon rises.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength


Maker’s Mark is one of the most recognizable brands in bourbon and the most available wheated bourbon. The regular offering is decent but the new cask strength version is good. Bonus, they’ve started releasing it in a 750 ml version.

 Michter’s Bourbon


Michter’s is often the center target of bourbon enthusiast hate. I’m not saying some of it isn’t deserved but they still put out a good product and their US1 bourbon is good.

Redemption Straight Rye Barrel Proof

Redemption sources their whiskey from MGPI but still puts out a consistently great product. Cask strength rye whiskies have become a staple on my whiskey shelf with Redemption BP leading the charge. Another substitute would be Smooth Amblers Cask Strength rye (if you can find it).

Angel’s Envy Rye

Angels Envy is dessert in a glass. If you don’t like sweet whiskeys this is not the bottle for you but if you looking for maple syrup and brown sugar notes this is the bottle!


    I totally agree with you on Booker’s. It was the first cask strength bourbon I ever tried and really got me hooked on bourbon in general.

    Makers mark was my first love going back close to 20 years when people still said “you want coke in it or something?” when you ordered it or any bourbon…. (Rather) often I get a dash of sentimentality and pout myself 3 fingers and toss in some ice. You dance with the one that brung ya rght??

    I have the bottle of cask strength sitting on the counter (in queue) but I am letting it wait a little before I jump into it.

    Blake – as always love your posts. I think there are two missing from this list that I would definitely add. The first is Elijah Craig. The standard 12 yr is easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and always delicious. I would say it is my second favorite bourbon, in my top 10 of all whisk(e)ies. The other may not currently meet both qualifications (availability), though it did up until a few months ago. I’m referring to Elmer T. Lee. It is my *favorite* bourbon, above all others, including Eagle Rare 17 and even the mythical Pappy 20 (can’t compare to the 23, as I have yet to exp that one). Every sip of Elmer T. Lee is like drinking the definition of Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It’s not too sweet, not too hot, but just right every time. Up until a few months ago, it was plentiful in every liquor store I went to in MD, D.C., VA, NC, SC, & TX. It did disappear in VA for a bit, but, two weeks ago, VA ABC was flush with stock again. Like the Elijah Craig, it is usually widely available, and is fairly inexpensive. I believe both retail for right around $30. Another bourbon that is consistently delicious is the Elijah Craig Barrel Strength. This has typically been a limited edition, hard to find release, but, I’ve been seeing it show up in liquor stores consistently in the states I mentioned above on about a quarterly basis, so it *may* be getting to the point where it meets both quals for this list.

    Agree with you about Elmer T Lee, but it doesn’t meet the definition of always available. In CT very few liquor stores get it, and of those that are allocated, two bottles tops. It comes around twice a year, so if you don’t time it right, good luck. Now is the spring release, and that is why you are seeing it. Stock up now, because when it’s gone, you won’t see it again until the fall.

    As for me, I’m going to enjoy a glass of Elmer T Lee tonight!

    What a coincidence. I don’t recognize several of the bourbons on this article’s list, but I happen to be drinking some Elmer T. Lee as I write this. I’m starting to be a connoisseur, but can’t yet describe the “notes” to a particular bourbon. I also like Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel, and Basil-Hayden’s. Surprised to not see any of those on this list.

    I completely agree with Artie on his selections of Elijah Craig (12yr and small batch) as well as Elmer T Lee. Unfortunately Elmer shows up in stores in Columbus, OH only slightly more frequently than the Loch Ness Monster. Elijah 12yr is normally available and sometimes the small batch, which is an awesome bourbon.

    I’d have to add High West Campfire bourbon/scotch/rye blend. There’s a lot going on here and I have yet to taste a whiskey with this much flavor. My all time fave and more readily available than ever – fortunately!

    Great list. I like that you included Old Scout on here. I’m a big fan of their standard 6- or 7-year that seems to be readily available, and I’ve purchased a couple Private Barrels as well. I have yet to be disappointed. It seems as if they really know their bourbon, so I have high hopes for the bourbon they’re producing.

    I think I saw you post a review on the Old Granddad 100 and I tried it based on that. I have to say, it is smooth and a little sweet and I haven’t found a better bottle for the price ($25 for a liter). Very enjoyable.

    I like Knob Creek, too. I’m starting to be a connoisseur, but can’t yet describe the “notes” to a particular bourbon. I also like Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel, and Basil-Hayden’s. Surprised to not see any of those on this list.

    Agree on the Old Scout 10. I was surprised at its complexity and smoothness. I however, hope SA will continue to let their barrels age because their current distillate is simply too young. The last Yearling I bought I had to mix with a private barrel of 8yr.

    And Michter’s. The 10yr I have is truly excellent and word is the 20-25 are amazing if you have an extra half grand in your pocket. I could live with their lies and deception. I can’t live with their persecution of Bombergers. I passed on the barrel strength and toasted barrel just the other day. I can’t support a company like that.

    Blanton’s was my gateway single barrel bourbon 20 years ago, it has been on my bar every day since. In the relatively easy to find every day bourbon category I would only add Clyde May’s Alabama Bourbon. Got it the first time because of some Alabama ties, found it to be pretty enjoyable and a good tailgating whiskey.

    Got add in the Barrell Bourbon Blake……..Love the Redemption 6 and 7 yo releases. The 10 yo is not as hot as the 6 / 7…..but delish nonetheless…..Noah Mills would be a good go to priced right bourbon if available.

    1) 1792 Ridgemont Reserve

    This is actually my favorite little value bourbon. It’s aged slightly longer than the workhorse Very Old Barton expression from Buffalo Trace’s sister company, Barton. It’s a standard mashbill and is a very smooth whiskey with a slightly sweet character. Makes for a great cocktail whiskey as well.

    Will remind you of: Blanton’s or Eagle Rare.

    2) Old Granddad 114

    Another value bourbon, this at full (114) proof and with a high-rye recipe (Spicy!). This is a GREAT rocks bourbon as the proof and the rye spice won’t get overwhelmed by the ice. Made by Jim Beam, it’s actually a very similar mashbill as Basil Hayden’s. I like it better than Hayden, because it doesn’t have that overwhelmingly grassy note that BH does.

    Will remind you of: Basil Hayden (of course), or a little like Elijah Craig (though not quite as good).

    Great list Blake – and I agree with Artie…Elijah Craig 12 year and the Elmer Lee (although it hasn’t found it’s way back to SC yet, still a tough find) Maybe I can work out something with Artie.

    I would add the smooth drinking Evan Williams Single Barrel and Larceny to the list. Always in the low to mid $20s and available.

    Nice to see you mention Evan Williams Single Barrel. I’m starting to be a connoisseur, but can’t yet describe the “notes” to a particular bourbon. I also like Buffalo Trace, Elmer T. Lee, and Basil-Hayden’s. Surprised to not see any of those on this list.

    Good post. Most of these are whiskies I can actually buy.

    So far as the LE’s go, I consider them vapor. They pretty much don’t exist here in Michigan.

    I’d love to try the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but cannot find it here. Concur with Artie that the Craig 12 y/o is a great value.

    Angel’s Envy….”dessert in a glass” , well put. Too sweet for my tastes.

    Other favorites of mine….OGD 100 and 114…ET Lee…WT Rare Breed…Baby Saz….Stagg Jr….EH Taylor SBtch and SBbl….Evan Williams 10 Y/O vintage…Dickel No. 12….and some others.

    One LE product that I can find, because a local retailer bought a barrel, is Dickel 14 y/o. Fabulous stuff.

    totally agree with scott – 1792 (thought I HATE the new packaging) is my well – my every day go to….its so smooth and balanced for easy drinkability ….. especially for the price

    My every day go to is Woodford Reserve. I always keep a bottle handy – good to sip, bit not so expensive etc… that you cant mix it if needed (i.e. sneaking into the ballgame).
    I just got a bottle of their LE Sonoma – haven’t tried it yet but cant wait to see what its like. Anyone here try it yet ?

    All good choices but I would like to add Willet Pot. Sister of Noah’s Mill and Rowan Creek and comes in the coolest decanter bottle to boot!

    I’d add EH Taylor to this list. It’s now my favorite everyday bourbon. Thanks for the insight into Angel’s Envy. I love sweeter bourbons so I’ll give this a try.

    Some great suggestions listed here so far. I too got in to the Bourbon scene by way of Maker’s Mark and still have some around, including a bottle of their Cask Strength (quite tasty). My favorite so far has to be the Elmer T. Lee but alas I don’t know about availability any longer since his passing and from what I’ve heard (which may not be accurate at all) BT is about to bottle, if they haven’t already, the last of it from the barrels Elmer chose. So if you can find it, BUY IT! Even if that’s not the case, it’s still a great bourbon. Another favorite of mine is Bowman Brothers Virgina small batch. This typically runs around $30 in Michigan when you can find it as it can sometimes be tough to find. When all else fails, I can easily find Eagle Rare 10yr old and enjoy it as well.

    My wife is a fan of the Angels Envy. Can anyone here give me a comparison of the Angels Envy…and the Angels Envy Rye?
    Rye…sweeter…with more spice…or just a bit more spice as in most other Ryes?

    Love the Michter’s and the Old Scout as well!!
    Nice to see them on this list!


    Wathen’s is a single barrel Kentucky Bourbon bottled by Charles Medley Distlillery. It is bottled in California. At 94 proof it is very similar to Elmer T. Actually comes in the same bottle. If ETL is the varsity team, Wathen’s is the sixth man off the bench on that team. Around $32. Stagg Jr. Would be my favorite though.

    I want to find something to like about Stagg Jr., i really enjoy the aromatics but it is just to hot for me, maybe i just dont have the bourbon experience yet, idk. For barrel proof/cask strength my top is MM cask strength, 2nded by Booker’sfollowed by EHT barrel proof. I havent tried any of the ECBP. Do you add any oce to your Stagg Jr.? Not saying it can’t be good I just cannot get past the heat.

    You’re absolutely right about the Wathans being somewhat similar to the Elmer T Lee!
    Oddly enough its older brother the Meadleys 12 year I don’t like nearly as well!

    Depending on what part of the country you’re in pricing seems to be all over the map on the Wathans!

    My adds would be OGD 114 and Russell’s Reserve single barrel . Both are outstanding, easy to find, and affordable.

    This is a great article, I love that you’re calling attention to some incredibly good readily available bourbons. The bourbon world has gotten so focused on tracking down all the latest limited release stuff that the quality everyday bourbons are forgotten about, and there is a lot of really good readily available bourbon out there. I haven’t had every bourbon on the list, but the ones I have had are incredibly good, especially Booker’s, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Maker’s Cask Strength (which I think is a very underrated bourbon).

    Great article. Some other great bourbons are Elijah Craig cask strength , Bulliett and WL Weller (any of them) my personal favorite s

    I like Weller as well (12 year my fav of the Wellers). A buddy told me its the same as Pappys 12 – well I happened to have a bottle of both and to me they are not the same. Not far off from each other but not “the same” I understand thry both use the same mash bill/same warehouse ? But on different levels so the difference in temps make them slightly different ?
    Thoughts ?

    Booker’s for sure. Also agree that Elijah Craig should be on your list. KBD/Willett has many great products. One of my favs is Rowans Creek, but for around 30 try Speakeasy. Smooth sweet buttery nutty cashew goodness.

    As many others have mentioned, Elmer T Lee is far and away my favorite “readily available” pour…. “readily available” until just recently. My neighbor-hood purveyor of fine spirits who has been out of ETL since January landed all of 6 bottles last week, saving me one. In Michigan, ETL retails for $39, so there’s lots of others which cost less, but if you give me a choice, I’d go for the Elmer. Now that my choice has been taken down, I’ve found that Henry McKenna is a pretty good substitute for ETL., it has a bit more bite, sometimes I throw in a dash of water but not always. Booker’s, Baker’s, Blanton’s….. all great pours.

    Nice read, thanks Blake. I’d add bulleit, evan williams, eagle rare, old grand dad 100 & 114, and larceny to the list.

    Maybe I got a bad bottle, but the Bookers that I got in the nice wood box had a bite to it. Not silky smooth at all. Very disappointing.

    I’ve heard so much about the Jim Beam gold label that comes out once a year I couldn’t wait to try it. I finally found some and got to try it OMG to me it tasted like industrial turpentine. In my opinion do not even try this

    Before the HUGE bourbon boom, there were a few bourbons I would drink regularly. Old Rip 10 year (which is now super hard to find), Woodford Reserve, Beam Small Batch Collection, and Makers Mark. If I wanted to celebrate, I would grab a bottle of Blantons! I never bought any of the super expensive bourbons and in fact, I rarely do today. Most I will pay is $80 for a Pappy 15.

    It’s fun to see the expressions of preferred tastes in these threads!
    I’m a “rookie” – never had a sip of Pappy – but I’m developing a bias (Wheat).
    My “to-die-for” is Weller’s 12 yr. Had to reach to Teas to find an affordable bottle ($32)!

    Since I have a bias toward wheat, I’d like to urge those of you who are adventuresome
    and open-minded: give Rebel Reserve a try. I know – “Rebel? you can’t be serious !”
    This brew is considerably more complex and titillating than Yell and very affordable.
    Great 6-days-a-week bourbon (if you like wheat -and I do!).
    Other thoughts? Bo

    I would have to add Eagle Rare and Russel’s Reserve to the list. Also, why did you choose the Angel’s Envy RYE over the regular Angels Envy Bourbon, given that this is a bourbon list? I love the AE bourbon but am yet to splurge the $70+ to try their rye.

    No mention of any Wild Turkey in the article, and only one mention in the comments so far? I encourage everyone reading this to go out and try some Wild Turkey Rare Breed and see if you don’t love it.

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