Top Bourbon Brands: Gift and Budget Guide

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Bourbon Brands

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By Pasito Tola, Whiskey Enthusiast and Founder of Best Whiskey Guide

Whether you’re a bourbon beginner seeking a smooth, approachable pour or a seasoned whiskey aficionado craving bold, complex flavours, this ultimate guide has you covered. As a dedicated whiskey lover and the founder of Best Whiskey Guide, I’ve explored the world of bourbon to uncover the best everyday brands for every type of drinker, from budget-conscious shoppers to those searching for the perfect gift.

Bourbon Basics 101

Before we dive into the best bourbon brands, let’s quickly cover the basics. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that must be:

  • Made from a grain mixture (mash bill) of at least 51% corn
  • Aged in new, charred oak barrels
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proofs (80% ABV)
  • Entered into the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV)
  • Bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV) or higher

The ageing process and the unique mash bills used by each distillery contribute to the diverse flavour profiles found in bourbon.

Top Bourbon Brands for Every Type of Whiskey Lover

Best for Bourbon Beginners: Maker’s Mark

Bourbon Brands

Why You’ll Like This: If you’re new to bourbon, Maker’s Mark is the perfect starting point. This iconic wheated bourbon, known for its distinctive hand-dipped red wax seal, offers a smooth, approachable flavour with prominent notes of toasted vanilla bean, butterscotch reminiscent of your favourite childhood candy, and a hint of soft wheat sweetness. Maker’s Mark is so smooth, it’s how many people DISCOVER they actually like bourbon. Plus, it makes the BEST Mint Julep, a classic bourbon cocktail perfect for sipping on a warm summer day. Fun fact: Maker’s Mark also bakes an amazing bourbon pecan pie! (Try this recipe)

Gift Idea: Create the ultimate bourbon starter pack by pairing a bottle of Maker’s Mark with a rocks glass and a cocktail recipe card. It’s the perfect introduction to the world of bourbon.

Try: Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

Best for Bold Flavor Lovers: Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey

Why You’ll Like This: Wild Turkey’s high-rye bourbons pack a flavorful punch that stands up beautifully in cocktails. The Wild Turkey 101, bottled at a robust 101 proof, delivers a full-bodied taste with notes of toasted vanilla, rich caramel, and a fiery rye spice that evokes cracked black peppercorns and warm cinnamon stick. If you enjoy the smooth, easy-sipping nature of Maker’s Mark but crave more spice and complexity, Wild Turkey 101 is the perfect step up to experience a high standard of bold flavour.

Try Wild Turkey 101 (£22.50) for a spicy kick in your favourite bourbon cocktail, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

Best Budget-Friendly Bourbon: Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

Why You’ll Like This: If you’re looking for a high-quality bourbon that won’t break the bank, Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond is a fantastic choice. Produced by Heaven Hill Distillery, one of Kentucky’s largest and most respected bourbon producers, this bourbon is aged for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. It delivers a rich, full-bodied flavour with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a touch of spice. Bartenders love Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond for its exceptional quality in high-proof cocktails, making it the perfect budget-friendly choice for home mixologists looking for a vintage taste at an affordable price.

Try Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond (£39.99) for a wallet-friendly bourbon that punches above its price point.

Best Bourbon for Gifting: Four Roses Small Batch

Why You’ll Like This: Looking for the perfect bourbon to gift to a whiskey-loving friend or family member? Four Roses Small Batch is a great choice. This miniature bourbon showcases a perfect balance of dark fruit like stewed plums, creamy vanilla beans, and a touch of rye spice. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s sure to impress both bourbon newbies and seasoned enthusiasts alike. The sleek, stylish bottle design also makes for an attractive gift presentation, ideal for impressing even the pickiest of dads or discerning whiskey connoisseurs.

Gifting Tip: When shopping for a bourbon gift, expect to spend at least $30 for a decent bottle, with truly special and rare expressions often reaching $50 or more.

Try Four Roses Small Batch (£40.95) for a balanced, easy-sipping bourbon that’s perfect for sharing with friends and family.

Best for Everyday Sipping: Buffalo Trace

Top Bourbon Brands

Why You’ll Like This: Buffalo Trace’s flagship bourbon strikes the perfect balance between complexity and drinkability. With notes of brown sugar, toffee, and a hint of fresh mint, it’s a well-rounded pour that’s easy to sip neat or on the rocks. Did you know that Buffalo Trace uses both column and pot stills in their distillation process? This unique combination contributes to the bourbon’s balanced flavour profile, making it a reliable choice for everyday sipping.

Try Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (£20.00) for a trustworthy daily sipper.

CategoryBrandFlavor Profile
Best for BeginnersMaker’s MarkSmooth, approachable; toasted vanilla bean, butterscotch, soft wheat sweetness
Best for Bold Flavor LoversWild Turkey 101Spicy, full-bodied; toasted vanilla, rich caramel, cracked black peppercorn, warm cinnamon stick
Best Budget-Friendly BourbonEvan Williams Bottled-in-BondRich, full-bodied; caramel, vanilla, a touch of spice
Best for GiftingFour Roses Small BatchBalanced, crowd-pleasing; stewed plums, creamy vanilla bean, rye spice
Best for Everyday SippingBuffalo TraceWell-rounded, balanced; brown sugar, toffee, fresh mint

More Budget Bourbons Under £30

Looking for more affordable bourbon options? Check out these top-notch picks, all priced under £30:

  • Jim Beam White Label (£22.00): A classic, reliable bourbon with notes of vanilla, caramel, and a hint of oak. Perfect for mixing in cocktails.
  • Old Forester 86 Proof (£24.99): A balanced, easy-sipping bourbon with notes of brown sugar, cinnamon, and a touch of citrus. Great for both neat sipping and cocktails.
  • Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond (£75): A high-rye bourbon with a bold, spicy flavour profile featuring notes of black pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla. It is ideal for those who enjoy a spicier pour.

If You Like X, Try Y

  • If you enjoy the smooth, wheated sweetness of Maker’s Mark, try these other wheated bourbons:
  • If you love the bold, spicy kick of Wild Turkey 101, explore these other high-rye bourbons:
    • Bulleit Bourbon (£29.99): Delivers a bold, spicy flavour with notes of pepper, cinnamon, and a hint of dried fruit.
    • Knob Creek 9 Year (£37.99): Offers a robust, full-bodied flavour with notes of toasted oak, vanilla, and lingering spiciness.
    • Old Grand-Dad 114 (?): A high-proof, high-rye bourbon with intense notes of black pepper, charred oak, and a hint of caramel sweetness.
  • If you appreciate the well-rounded, balanced flavour of Buffalo Trace, try these other versatile bourbons:
    • Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old (£32.00): A single barrel bourbon offering deep notes of cocoa, leather, and a long, oak-driven finish.
    • Woodford Reserve (£27.00): Features a complex flavour profile with notes of dark fruit, caramel, and a hint of spice.
    • Four Roses Single Barrel (£68.99): Showcases a robust, full-bodied flavour with hints of cherry, vanilla, and a long, smooth finish.

For more bourbon recommendations and in-depth guides, check out our other articles:

Where to Buy Bourbon

When purchasing bourbon, it’s essential to buy from reputable sources to ensure authenticity and fair pricing. Some reliable options include:

  • Local liquor stores with knowledgeable staff: Many reputable stores offer tasting events, allowing you to try before you invest in a bottle. Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for recommendations based on your taste preferences.
  • Online retailers like ReserveBarDrizly, and Flaviar: These sites offer a wide selection of bourbons and often provide helpful tasting notes and customer reviews.
  • Directly from the distilleries’ websites or gift shops: Purchasing straight from the source ensures authenticity and sometimes grants access to exclusive or limited-edition releases.

Always remember to drink responsibly and in moderation. Take the time to savour and appreciate the unique flavours and craftsmanship behind each bourbon.

Conclusion: Find Your Perfect Everyday Bourbon

Whether you’re a bourbon beginner, a budget-conscious sipper, a bold flavour seeker, or someone searching for the perfect gift, there’s an everyday bourbon brand out there that’s perfect for your palate and preferences. From the smooth, approachable Maker’s Mark to the bold, spicy Wild Turkey 101, the bourbons featured in this guide offer a diverse range of flavours and experiences.

As you explore these remarkable bourbons, take the time to savour each sip and appreciate the craftsmanship behind every bottle. Share your discoveries with fellow enthusiasts, and don’t be afraid to branch out and try new expressions. Your perfect everyday bourbon awaits. Cheers!

For an authoritative guide on the regulations defining bourbon, visit the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

What are some good bourbons I should try?

Some good bourbons to try include Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Elijah Craig. Each offers a unique flavour profile and quality that appeals to both beginners and connoisseurs alike. Cheers to exploring the world of bourbon!

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One response to “Top Bourbon Brands: Gift and Budget Guide”

  1. […] Trace Distillery: Home to some of the most sought-after bourbons in the world, including Pappy Van Winkle and Antique […]

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