Bourbon was considered outdated and of low quality. However, exports like Scotch whiskies and Irish whiskies became much more popular in America in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Even Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon - which is now one of the most sought-after spirits in the world - was almost impossible to sell.
There are many factors that have contributed to the modern bourbon revival, but the most important has been cocktail culture, which consumers have sought to replicate at home. Bourbon can be used in a variety of cocktails, which is why it's so popular. The most well-known cocktail is the old fashioned, and television shows like Mad Men have played an important role in celebrating this key component (although bourbon was not always the preferred base whiskey).
The strict rules that govern the production of Bourbon, which is considered one of America's most authentic spirits, are a major reason why it is so highly regarded. It must be made using a mash bill, a recipe that contains at least 51 percent corn and other grains like rye, malt, and sometimes wheat. The Bourbon must be made in the United States and be distilled to at minimum 80 proof. It must be aged in new oak containers, not necessarily in barrels.
Although each bourbon whiskey is produced in a similar way, there are hundreds of varieties that have different elements. These elements make them stand out from other spirits within the same category. While many are exceptional examples of this style, some are better than others.
These bourbons were initially tasted on their own without any ice and in identical glasses using blind tasting to avoid bias. Each was featured in a round with three to four glasses, and were then ranked before we could determine which one contained which bourbon. To determine the best bourbon, we tasted each round's best whiskey blindly.
Bought out by Joseph J Magliocco and Richard Newman at the turn of the millennium, Michter's can be traced back to 1753. Originally named Shenk's, set up by Swiss Mennonite farmer John Shenk, the original Pennsylvania distillery was re-named Bomberger's during the mid-1800s, changing hands many times after prohibition. With the trademark having been taken over, the entire operation has been moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where it continues to produce exceptional "straight" whiskeys, aged for a minimum of two years.
As is the case with the rest of the distillery's US*1 expressions, the Michter's US*1 Kentucky straight bourbon is an exceptional benchmark bourbon for both enthusiasts and newcomers looking to taste a premium whiskey without an eye-watering price tag. Although well suited to cocktails, the bourbon is best sipped neat, with pronounced caramel and vanilla notes joining stone fruit character alongside just a whisper of smokiness and plenty of oak on the finish.
Buy now PS49.85, Masterofmalt.com
Yellowstone's Select is named after the first whiskey produced in late 1880s. The company has changed hands many times since then. It is a blend of four-year old and seven year-old Kentucky straight Bourbons. This blend was created by seventh-generation master distiller Stephen Beam, a descendent from the famous Beam and Dant whiskey-producing family.
Yellowstone Select was created to honor the Beam family's deep distilling roots. It has a lot of categoric Bourbon notes including vanilla fudge, caramel and some summer peach sweetness. This compliments the light, creamy mouthfeel, dry finish, and savours oak and white pepper.
Buy now PS45, Ocado.com
Best: for bourbon beginners
Woodford Reserve was first launched in 1996. However, the distillery site at Woodford Reserve is one of Kentucky's oldest. It has been around since 1812. Woodford Reserve, a small-batch Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is distilled using a combination of copper pot stills as well as columns stills. The flagship expression is aged for seven years in new American oak barrels.
It has a high rye percentage, with a mash bill that includes 72% corn, 10% malted barley, and 18% rye. This is compared to other Bourbons. The palate is full of rye spice, with a strong banana bread flavor that Woodford Reserve has become famous for. There are also subtle hints of tobacco leaf, dry oak, and menthol. This whiskey is a great base whiskey for old-fashioned cocktails.
Get now PS29.85 at Drinksandco.co.uk
Wild Turkey 101 is an excellent entry-level bourbon. Wild Turkey longbranch, however, is a premium expression that was created from a 24-month partnership between master distiller Eddie Russell, and Matthew McConnaughey, the brand's creative Director. Longbranch, a Kentucky straight bourbon made from small batches and aged at least eight years, is named after the spirit of community and family. After rigorous testing, the flavour profile was achieved using a proprietary process that combines two different filtration methods. First, American white oak is used to filter the product. Then comes charcoal made from Texas mesquite. The charcoal does not impart a mesquite flavor, but simply polishes the final product to give it a smooth, rich finish.
The longbranch's aromas include vanilla, cherry, baking spices, and classic Wild Turkey aromas. On the palate, there is a balance of honey, nuts, and a prominent Rye note.
Buy now PS35.25, Distillersdirect.com
Best: Budget buy
Ezra Brooks whiskey was originally created to address the shortage of Jack Daniel's in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to its popularity, similar square bottles are also available. It is distilled using a sour mashing process and charcoal filtered.
This bourbon, also known colloquially as Ezra Brooks' "black label", is now distilled at Lux Row. Lux Row is located in the heart of Kentucky's bourbon trail. The spirit is available in Europe in an 80 proof version. This is in contrast to the original 90 proof. Its sour-mash distillation process uses the yeast from the previous batches to ferment the new batch. After that, the spirit is aged in new charred oak barrels before being filtered through small amounts charcoal to give it a more subtle flavour. The overall whiskey is simple, but it's also well-made and affordable, which makes it ideal for cocktails. The typical vanilla and butterscotch flavors are joined by faint apple and citrus flavours. There is a background of cinnamon and baking spices. The finish is warming, peppery.
Buy now PS266, Ocado.com
Atom Labs launched a 10-year-old bourbon with charcoal & cornmeal and rickhouses. The brand's packaging was deliberately understated to make it accessible, while avoiding the traditional marketing of many spirits brands. It is the liquid in the bottle that matters most. The resulting liquid is also a good value for an older bourbon. It contains lots of vanilla fudge and raisin as well as oatmeal, treacle, peanut brittle and just a hint of sweet black coffee. It is softly spicy with notes of apple, liquorice and butter popcorn. This bourbon is complex and best enjoyed neat.
Buy Now PS47.95 at Masterofmalt.com
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