Father's Day Gift Ideas from the Readers of BourbonGuy.com

A couple weeks ago, I gave away a pair of socks to a lucky reader. But, being the sneaky devil that I am, I required them to answer a question for me in order to enter. In this case, I asked them what "gift-worthy" relatively available bourbon they would give to someone for Father's Day.

That’s right, I got the readers to do my work for me. And as I had hoped, I found the information interesting and I think you might too.

10 “Gift-Worthy” Bourbons as Chosen by the Readers

1. Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond 10-year old.

This beloved darling of a whiskey was the most submitted bourbon by the readers. And with good reason. This is an affordable bourbon that comes with a 10 year age statement. That combination is a rarity these days. Of course since this just won multiple awards at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including “Best in Show Whiskey” I don’t know that I would expect to see this sitting on the shelf anytime soon. But if you do, grab a bottle. It really is quite good. Spicy, rich and complex. And if you see two, maybe grab one for a gift too.

2. Colonel E. H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

One of two suggestions coming from the EH Taylor portfolio, Single Barrel is just what it sounds like. A Single Barrel, Bottled in Bond Bourbon. Clocking in at 100 proof, this one should be high enough proof for the experienced drinker but not proofed so high that it scares away the novice. I haven’t had this one personally but the distillery says this: “The aroma carries lightly toasted oak, with dried figs and butterscotch. One sip brings flavors of sweetness balanced with tobacco and dark spices. The finish is just long enough to prepare the palette for another sip. The bottle itself is a likeness to Colonel Taylor's original design used over a century ago.”

3. Four Roses Single Barrel

This is one of my favorite bourbons and my favorite in the Four Roses line-up. In my mind when I think of “bourbon flavor” I’m thinking of Four Roses Single Barrel. Of course, I am an admitted Four Roses Fanboy so take all of this with a grain of salt. In fact, the last time I wrote about it I had a very short review of it: “This is a fantastic bourbon. If you haven't had it yet, you should. If you buy it and you don't love it, I'll be happy to drink it for you if you send it to me.” And as a gift, not only does it come in a lovely bottle but if your local store has private selections, you can get something unique as well.

4. Blanton’s Single Barrel

This is one of five entries on the list that is made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This particular entry will be a bit hard to find most of the time. Though it isn’t impossible depending on where you live. Introduced way back in 1984, Blanton’s was the original Single Barrel and helped kick off the Bourbon Renaissance we are living through today. Internationally, there are multiple labels in the Blanton’s portfolio, including a Barrel Proof version that is to die for. Here in the US, we only get this one. But don’t be too sad, it is a hell of a bourbon and any person would be happy to receive it as a gift…if you don’t decide to keep it for yourself.

5. Booker’s Bourbon

This is one that you will not want to give to everyone on your list. Regularly clocking in at well over 120° proof, this is not for the bourbon novice. If your recipient is an experienced bourbon lover though, you cannot go wrong with Bookers. Sweet, thick, chewy and delicious, I am never disappointed with a bottle of Booker’s. Makes me wish I had a bottle right now.

6. Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon

The second of two suggestions coming from the EH Taylor portfolio, Small Batch is also a bonded bourbon. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t had this one either. Not sure how the entire E.H. Taylor line escaped my attention, but I should probably remedy that soon. In any case the distillery says this: “Tastes of caramel corn sweetness, mingled with butterscotch and licorice. The aftertaste is a soft mouth-feel that turns into subtle spices of pepper and tobacco.”

7. Eagle Rare Bourbon

I’ve had this bourbon on my shelf numerous times over the course of my bourbon journey and I’m going to tell you something. I’ve never noticed that the top of the E in the logo was an eagle head until right now. As a graphic designer for almost two decades, that bothers me more than it should. But maybe I can be excused, I mean most of the time I’m looking at this bottle, I’m focused on what is inside it, not on the label. This ten year old bourbon from the Buffalo Trace company clocks in at a respectable 90° proof and is probably my favorite bourbon from the distillery that is available here in the States.

8. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

This is the bourbon that I give as a gift most often. It is mellow and smooth, comes in a pretty bottle and tastes delicious. It is a great gift for the bourbon novice and is tasty enough for the bourbon expert. In fact, for a long while it was my go to from the Four Roses lineup before finally being overtaken by Single Barrel in the last few years.

9. Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon

Small Batch Select is the most recent release from Four Roses Bourbon, and the one in my glass as I wrote this. I got mine on my last trip to Kentucky since unfortunately it isn’t available nationwide yet. Non-chill filtered and clocking in at a hefty 104° proof, this is a bourbon to give to the experienced bourbon drinker. Being a mix of OBSV, OESV, OBSK, OESK, OBSF, and OESF recipes, this bourbon caters to the floral side of the Four Roses flavor profile without skimping on the spiciness. If you live in an area where this is for sale, it’s a no brainer as a gift for a whiskey lover that lives in the rest of the country.

10. Stagg Jr. Bourbon

This final entry on the list is another barrel proof, unfiltered bourbon. This time from Buffalo Trace. Named similarly to George T. Stagg of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Junior is a bit younger than the 15+ years of its older brother. Stagg Jr. doesn’t carry an age statement but is assumed to be in the 6-10 year old range. And as one of the readers who suggested it said: “Separates the men from the boys.” I’m assuming he means the women from the girls as well. But the sentiment is correct, this is a burner.


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Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2018

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Buffalo Trace for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

I recently got samples of this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This post will be long enough, so tonight I’m going to forgo all the extremely witty banter I normally provide before the review and instead jump straight into the reviews.

But first, a moment of silence for my sample of Sazerac Rye 18 year old. I knew something was wrong when the box UPS handed me was wet. Not being one to cry over spilled whiskey, I posted the photo on Instagram and got a few likes. I thought briefly about tasting the foam padding but decided that a tongue full of glass probably wouldn’t taste all that good, even though it smelled delicious. I guess sometimes the Whiskey Fairy just wants a dram for herself.

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 17 years old. 101° proof (up from previous years’ 90° proof). Distilled in the Spring of 2000. Aged on floors 1, 2, and 5 of Warehouse C.

Nose: Caramel candy, allspice, cinnamon candies, and almond.

Mouth: Nice mouthfeel with floral, caramel, leather and oak notes.

Finish: Nice and long. Ripe berries and floral notes transition to oaky notes of tobacco and dark chocolate.

Thoughts: I like this, but I don’t love it. I’m not a huge fan of bourbons once they reach their lower- to mid-teens. I am loving the floral notes on it, but there is a bit too much oak on this for my palate (my wife loved it though, she’s a fan of old oaky bourbons).

William Larue Weller

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 125.7° proof. Distilled in Winter 2006. Aged in Warehouses C, I, K, L, M and Q.

Nose: Very sweet. Chocolate covered cherries, the nougat from a Milky Way bar, vanilla, cinnamon.

Mouth: Cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, oak and campfire smoke.

Finish: Long and warm. Cinnamon and chocolate covered cherries linger.

Thoughts: Nice and warm. Very sweet. I like this one even though I’m not typically a fan of wheated bourbons.

George T. Stagg

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 124.9° proof. Distilled in Spring 2003. Aged in Warehouses C, H, I, K, P and Q.

Nose: Caramel, rich leather, ripe berries and pipe tobacco.

Mouth: Sweet with caramel, brown sugar, leather and pipe tobacco.

Finish: Long and warm. Very sweet. Lingering smoke and tobacco.

Thoughts: Rich is the first word that comes to mind on this one. Delicious is the second. I really like this one. It’s my favorite of the three bourbons.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 128.8° proof. Distilled in Spring 2012. Aged in Warehouses I and L.

Nose: Spearmint, cinnamon, hints of anise and banana bread.

Mouth: Caramel, spearmint, very hot, great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm. Spearmint, baking spices and just a touch of dill linger.

Thoughts: This is my favorite of the four. The bourbons were mostly sweet and this is a nice change of pace from that. It’s very warm, but not overpoweringly so even at full strength. I like this one a lot.

Thoughts:

This was my first time sitting down and tasting across the BTAC lineup (or, more accurately, 4/5th of the lineup). I’d had most of them in the past, but only one at a time. It was interesting to see how similar the bourbons were, even though there was a difference in proof and mash bill. There is some “Buffalo Trace Flavor” that comes through on each of them. It’s a testament to their quality control that the “house” flavor is present in both the bourbons distilled in our current decade and in the bourbons that were distilled in the decade previous. It means they aren’t messing around with things.

Thomas H. Handy is simultaneously the only one of the line I’d never tasted and the only one of the line I’ve ever seen on a retail shelf (years ago, before this year’s release was even distilled). It is a big, bold rye that has all the minty and herbal notes that I look for in a good rye. I was really impressed with it.

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I was impressed with them all in fact. I think they are worth every penny that Buffalo Trace is recommending they sell for. But based on the relative availability and quality of other bourbons in that price range, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable paying inflated retail or secondary prices for them.


UPDATE:

Buffalo Trace was kind enough to ship me a replacement bottle of the 18-year-old Sazerac Rye. My notes for it are below:

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Buffalo Trace for review purposes. Suggested retail is $99.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 90° proof. Barrels filled in 1998.

Nose: Mint, bubble gum and almond.

Mouth: Follows the nose with mint, bubblegum and almond, then adds cardamom and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering mint, cardamom and almond.

Thoughts: I preferred the Handy Rye over this, as I preferred the relative “brightness” that it’s youth provided. That said, I also like this one a lot. When compared to the others in the range it is in the lower half.


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Neat: The Story of Bourbon and Blanton's Straight From the Barrel

Last night, I settled in with my glass of Wild Turkey Rare Breed to watch Neat: The Story of Bourbon, a documentary about bourbon. I rented it off of Amazon, but it sounds others have it as well. 

I don't really have much to say about it. It heavily features Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, Denny Potter of Heaven Hill, Marianne Barnes of Castle and Key, Brent Elliot of Four Roses, Freddie Johnson of Buffalo Trace and bourbon historians Chet Zoeller and Mike Veach. There were also segments on various bartenders, a farmer, a team of archeologists, and a few other Master Distillers. Oh, and there was a segment about a guy and his wife who have a bar in their basement. They hold parties. The segment also followed him to a store where he goes and buys bourbon that doesn't make it to the shelf.

Oh and Marshall, Minnesota native: Steve Zahn. He, um, lightened the mood?

So here's the thing. This wasn't a bad documentary by any stretch of the imagination. I loved seeing the passion that Marianne Barnes spoke with. I could listen to Jimmy Russell read the phone book and be happy. And Freddie Johnson is a national treasure. I was confused by the addition of Steve Zahn. The movie was beautifully shot and had a serious tone until his segments hit and then it abruptly switched to goofy. The tonal switch was jarring. The couple with the bar in the basement was filler that could have easily been cut since it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. 

But overall, it was worth the $6 I paid to rent it.

I did make a mistake though. My wife chose Rare Breed to watch with it because we knew that Jimmy Russell was featured in the documentary. I completely forgot to tell her that Freddie Johnson was in it too. If I had, we could have enjoyed the subject of tonight's other review while listening to Freddie tell the story of how his father and grandfather had a hand in its creation. If you've been on one of his tours, you may have heard the story, but if not I'll leave you with a teaser to either watch the movie or go on one of his tours. It's a good story, and I don't want to steal it.

Blanton's Straight from the Barrel

Purchase Info: £70.79 for a 700 mL bottle from MasterOfMalt.com ($98.78 US at today's exchange rate).

Details: 63.8% ABV. Barrel 885, dumped 7-13-17, aged in warehouse H, rick 14.

Nose: Caramel, wet rocks, cinnamon, nutmeg and just the tiniest hint of chocolate.

Mouth: Oily mouthfeel. Sweet and spicy with butterscotch and nutmeg.

Finish: Long and spicy. Dry and floral. 

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Thoughts: Even at $100 plus shipping, I am already planning to buy a second bottle. I love this one. 
 


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