For bourbon enthusiasts who don't have deep pockets, Bulleit Bourbon inches ahead of an increasingly crowded pack. So when bottles of Bulleit's brand new bourbon landed on our desk, we were ready to taste the trusted distillers latest drink. Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon ($45) is the brand's selected reserve, aged in their charred American white oak barrels, but for a few years longer than their staple bourbon. It's noticeably smooth, with hints of creamy vanilla and some faint dried fruit. Imagine the standard Bulleit Bourbon but with more flavor and a quick, balanced burn. The next time you reach for a bottle of Bulleit, grab a few extra dollars and gravitate towards Bulleit 10.
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.
Think the Kentucky Derby was your only excuse to visit Louisville this year? Think again. You'll likely be flying into the city to go fetch a bottle of Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece ($200). This limited-edition release is available only at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, KY, roughly 30 minutes outside Falls City. As for the booze itself, it's a potent 100-proof, extra-aged in the optimal rack-house position as determined by Master Distiller Fred Noe, and then finished in PX sherry casks to give it a unique dynamic all its own. Smooth, rich, and full-bodied, it will arrive in its own wooden case that's sure to become a highlight of your liquor shelf.
Uncut and unfiltered, Booker's Bourbon ($50) is a must have for any true bourbon lover's liquor cabinet. Created by 6th generation Master Distiller Booker Noe — also known as Jim Beam's grandson — this drink is bottled straight from the barrel, and comes in at 121-127 proof. Yes, that's quite strong, but thanks to the oaky, smoky flavor and intense, complex finish, odds are you'll be sipping on each glass for as long as you can.