When you get to the whiskey/bourbon aisle at your local liquor store, you're accustomed to seeing plenty of the booze named for a master distiller from the past. This applies well to Elmer T. Lee, but at over 90 years old, Lee isn't just a ghost from the past, but is still giving each barrel his personal stamp of approval before bottling. He's also responsible for introducing the world's first single barrel bourbon, Blanton's Single Barrel. After helping launch other single barrel successes, Buffalo Trace gave Lee a much deserved bourbon bearing his name, and it's among the best in its price range. Elmer T. Lee Bourbon ($30) exhibits plenty of caramel and nutty tastes up front, and some nice vanilla and honey remnants on the back end. It's a nearly perfect balance of heat and sweet. If you're just getting into reasonably priced single barrel bourbons, and want to sample one of the best, reach for a bottle of this stuff.
Don't let its clear color fool you — this is no typical moonshine. Inspired by the white whiskey distilled by founder Jacob Beam, Jim Beam Jacob's Ghost White Whiskey ($22) is actual, full-on whiskey that offers the woody flavors of a traditional bourbon but with a lighter body and greater versatility. It's aged for at least a year in a charred white oak barrel, resulting in a slightly smoky flavor with light vanilla and sweet corn undertones. And while it can certainly be enjoyed like a traditional bourbon — neat, on the rocks, or in traditional whiskey cocktails — it really shines when you use it to replace white spirits like vodka, tequila, or rum. A bourbon-based Bloody Mary? Yes, please.