The Best Bourbon at Bourbon & Beyond
Bourbon & Beyond took place in Louisville this past weekend, and there was a beautiful variety of bourbons to enjoy under the hot Kentucky sun. Staying true to their name, the festival welcomed some amazing bourbon companies from around the country to offer their booze for the public to enjoy. I took it as my responsibility to sample as many of the bourbons there that I could so I could provide you with my definitive list of the best of the best bourbons at Bourbon and Beyond. Keep in mind that I am far from a connoisseur on this subject; this is amateur advice to other whiskey amateurs who may want to expand their horizons from Jack Daniels and Jim Beam and enjoy more complex cocktails.
There are some bourbon snobs out there who say the only way to drink this American treasure is neat, but that’s just not the case. I spoke with nearly a dozen master distillers and bourbon masters who all said that adding a cube doesn’t take away from the drink; in fact, it can actually enhance or change the flavor. New flavors can pop up even after adding just a drop of water, so cube it up, friends! I also learned that the first sip of bourbon should be tiny and it is used to shock the pallet. This will help your tongue and mind work together to really appreciate the wild assortment of flavors that are packed into every sip.
Best Bourbon to Enjoy While Sitting at a Campfire – High West
High West is the perfect whiskey to casually sip while hanging out with friends around a crackling fire under the stars. This bourbon is incredibly smooth with a sweet and slightly spicy tone as is surrounds the taste buds. It is best enjoyed neat or with an ice cube or two and will run you anywhere from $30-90 a bottle. This is a bourbon for scotch drinkers that offers a variety of options to match even the most high-class bourbon snob.
The Most Unusual Bourbon – Boone County Bourbon Cream
When I spoke to the folks over at Boone County Bourbon, I was a bit taken back when they said that they offered a root beer float. Before seeing the drink, I assumed they were going to mix milk, bourbon, and root beer together, and I was not stoked to try it, especially in the crippling heat. Thankfully, this was not the case. Their bourbon cream paired perfectly with root beer, and it literally tasted exactly like a root beer float. It was incredibly refreshing and is made by combining rich alabaster cream with aged bourbon. This is the least alcohol-heavy bourbon on our list at only 32 proof. A bottle of this will only run you around $20-25, but the folks at Boone County have some more classic bourbons with higher alcohol content for the pure at heart.
Best Bourbon for a Summer Beverage – Basil Hayden
Basil Hayden’s entry-level bourbon is light on the pallet and is perfect for mixing with some citrus and ginger ale. When topped with a sage leaf, it becomes a sensory sensation for the nose and the mouth. Super-refreshing and easy to drink, this is the perfect bourbon for non-bourbon drinkers. Starting at $30 a bottle, it won’t break the bank and is a perfect addition to any summer party.
Best Bourbon to Help You Rock Out – Blackened
Founded just over a year ago in August of 2018, Blackened is the bourbon for rock and roll fanatics. It was created by late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell in conjunction with Metallica and is a blend of straight American bourbons and ryes. Rob Dietrich is the new Master Distiller explained that this is a farm-to-table whiskey that is created with a blend of bourbon and rye. It has the sweetness of corn, with some spices of rye and a black brandy finish that is highlighted by notes of apricot. $45-50 a bottle won’t set you back too far, especially since this is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks. It also pairs extremely well with some ginger ale.
Best Bourbon for Beginners – Larceny
Produced by Heaven Hill, Larceny Bourbon uses wheat as the secondary grain rather than rye. This gives it an insanely smooth flavor from start to finish, especially when compared to other bourbons in its price range. Don’t be fooled: this bourbon packs an alcoholic punch at 92 proof. Feel free to sip this neat or on the rocks, but I personally enjoyed it most with some pineapple juice and ginger ale. This is starter bourbon with just the right amount of smokiness that gives your soul a warm Kentucky hug.
Best Bourbon to Enjoy After a Long Day’s Work – Jeptha Creed
Jeptha Creed is a women-owned craft distillery that grows and locally sources all of the ingredients used in their spirits, including their signature heirloom Bloody Butcher corn. This is one of the strongest and most complex bourbons that I had the pleasure of trying. A unique profile with red berry notes is Southern rock for the pallet. When sipped neat or on the rocks, this bourbon would be the perfect way to unwind from a stressful day of work.