During this ongoing bourbon boom, somehow retail prices of $80 to $200 per bottle of bourbon became normalized. The masses that jumped into Bourbon over the past 3 to 4 years have bought into the fallacy that price equates to quality or rarity. This is a result of masterful manipulation by spirits companies. The chairman of Diageo, Javier Ferrán, said it best, “A key driver of perception of quality is price”.
One factor driving this is the influence from online whiskey reviews via bloggers, youtubers, tik tok, instagrammers, etc. Those new to the game errantly give these folks credibility. Their motivation to review these overpriced whiskeys is largely that they are given free media kits and want to continue to receive free whiskey samples from them. It wouldn’t matter if they bought these bottles from a retailer as there is only one opinion in the world that is important, you and your palate! Seriously, go right now and unsubscribe from any site/person that reviews whiskey online, and indefinitely delete your patreon account. Once that is done, come back to continue reading.
Here’s the deal. Most of those $80-$200 bottles are put out by NDPs, non distilling producers, who sourced overpriced whiskey through a broker. 99% of the time this whiskey is distilled by one of the major US whiskey distilleries. So, until you know the profile of what the major distillers put out and which bourbons align with your palate, you are chasing waterfalls. Just stop! The great news is that these major producers put out plenty of bourbon that is affordable and widely available for the most part. Below is a list from the majors to buy next if you haven’t tried them.
Some of the majors have multiple mashbills so some of them have 2 suggestions. With a few possible exceptions, these should be easy to find at any decent liquor store in the US and for under $30 a bottle.
-Barton – Very Old Barton 100 proof
-Buffalo Trace – Buffalo Trace. Wheated mashbill – Weller Special Reserve
-Four Roses – Four Roses yellow label (now a tan label)
-George Dickel – Dickel 12
-Heaven Hill – Evan Williams or Elijah Craig. Wheated mashbill – Larceny
-Jack Daniels – Jack Daniels black label
-Jim Beam – Beam Black or Knob Creek. High rye mashbill – Old Grand Dad 100 proof
-Maker’s Mark – Maker’s Mark
-MGPi – they have just started selling their own brands in certain states so if it’s available in your area then look for George Remus Bourbon; this will be the exception on price and more like $38. If George Remus is not available, then look for any Straight Bourbon which the back label states “Distilled in IN”.
-Old Forester – Old Forester Signature 100 proof
-Wild Turkey – Wild Turkey 101
-Willett – Old Bardstown 90 proof square bottle – The square bottle is their own distillate
-Woodford Reserve – Woodford Reserve
These are all the real deal Straight Bourbon Whiskey with no flavoring or extra barrel finishing/staves added. They are all aged at least 4 years. Try all these either by buying a bottle or by buying a pour at your local watering hole. Narrow down your preferences to figure out your favorite. I could tell you my favorite, but this ain’t a whiskey review site. Once you have a favorite, explore other options from the same distillery. The next time you buy a more expensive hyped up bottle, because I know you taters still will, compare them to each other. If your favorite from the list costs $25 and the new hyped bottle was 4 times the cost, ask yourself if the new one is 4 times as good. Is it even better?
I know if you truly take this approach, you will splurge way less often on these hyped bottles and you will begin to enjoy bourbon again.