There are certain things that signal the start of the fall season. Leaves change color, football season begins, and Four Roses releases a limited edition small batch bourbon. This year marks the 125th for the historic distillery, and while they are celebrating year round, the 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch ($85) might be cream of an already prestigious crop. It's an enticing blend of three of Four Roses unique bourbon recipes bottled at barrel strength that smells and tastes like a creamy vanilla, brown sugar dessert. Only 8,000 bottles will see retail store shelves, so don't miss out on this autumn masterpiece.
Already one of the best distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Buffalo Trace isn't one to rest on their laurels. The pioneering distillery is in the process of releasing the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection ($46 each), the returns from testing recipes and barrel treatments that began two decades ago. For their most recent wheat entry, the same bourbon recipe was put into barrels at different proofs (from 125 to 90) and aged for 11 years and 7 months. All four were then bottled at 90 proof. There isn't a bad one in the bunch, so grab one for your collection or all four for a taste test experiment of your own.
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.