Bourbon is a world of complex flavors, but where does one start? Finding the best bourbon for beginners can be like opening the first page of an exciting novel. Let’s embark on this whiskey journey together.
Bourbon whiskey is a quintessential American spirit that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Its deliciously complex and rich flavor profile, coupled with its versatility in cocktails, makes it a beloved choice for both connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Bourbon whiskey gets its distinctive flavor from the charred oak barrels in which it is aged.
The charred wood imparts notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak to the whiskey while also providing a smooth finish. The mash bill, or the combination of grains used to make bourbon whiskey, also plays an integral role in determining its flavor profile.
Most bourbon whiskeys contain at least 51% corn along with other grains like rye or barley. But it’s not just the taste that makes bourbon whiskey so alluring; it’s also deeply rooted in American history and culture.
The production of bourbon whiskey is tightly regulated by law and can only be made in America under strict guidelines. It’s hailed as America’s native spirit and has become a symbol of American tradition and craftsmanship.
Why Choosing Beginner-Friendly Bourbons is Key
While the appeal of bourbon whiskey is undeniable, it can be intimidating for beginners who are just starting their journey into the world of whiskey. With so many different brands, mash bills, barrel ages, and proofs to choose from, selecting the right bottle can feel overwhelming.
That’s why choosing beginner-friendly bourbons is crucial when starting your whiskey journey. These bourbons are typically less expensive than their high-end counterparts but still offer delicious flavors that won’t overwhelm your palate.
They are also widely available at most liquor stores and bars. A beginner-friendly bourbon should have a balanced flavor profile that isn’t overly harsh or strong but still showcases some complexity.
It should be easy to drink on its own or mixed into cocktails without overpowering other ingredients. By starting with beginner-friendly bourbons, you’ll be able to ease into the world of bourbon whiskey and develop a taste for its unique flavor profile.
What is Bourbon?
Definition and History of Bourbon Whiskey
Bourbon whiskey is one of America’s most treasured exports, known for its distinctive flavor profile and versatility in cocktails. The origins of bourbon can be traced back to the late 18th century, when the first settlers in Kentucky began experimenting with distilling corn-based spirits.
By the early 19th century, bourbon had become an increasingly popular choice among American drinkers, and it remains a beloved spirit to this day. According to the US government, there are certain requirements that must be met for a whiskey to be classified as “bourbon.” First and foremost, it must be produced in the United States (though most bourbons are made in Kentucky).
Additionally, it must be made from at least 51% corn mash, distilled at no more than 160 proof, aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years (though some bourbons are aged much longer), and bottled at no less than 80 proof. These regulations ensure that all bourbons meet a certain standard of quality and consistency.
Requirements for a Whiskey to Be Considered Bourbon
One of the key requirements for any whiskey to be considered bourbon is that it must be made from at least 51% corn mash. This gives bourbon its characteristic sweetness and makes it distinct from other types of whiskey.
Additionally, all bourbons are aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years (though some age much longer), which imparts additional flavor notes such as vanilla or caramel. Another important requirement for bourbon is that it can only be distilled at no more than 160 proof.
This means that more flavor compounds are retained during distillation compared to higher-proof spirits like vodka or gin. All bourbons must be bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV) to ensure consistency and quality across different brands.
Overall, bourbon whiskey is a uniquely American spirit that has a rich history and set of regulations that make it stand out from other types of whiskey. Its sweet, oaky flavor profile and versatility in cocktails make it a great choice for both beginners and seasoned drinkers alike.
Beginner-Friendly Bourbons: High-Level Overview
If you’re new to the world of bourbon, it can be overwhelming to navigate through the vast array of options available in the market. Fortunately, there are plenty of beginner-friendly bourbons that offer a smooth and approachable taste for whiskey novices.
In this article, we’re going to introduce you to seven bourbons that are perfect for kickstarting your whiskey journey. These bourbons have been selected based on their quality, affordability, and accessibility.
Brief Overview of 7 Bourbons Covered in the Article
Maker’s Mark: Maker’s Mark is a classic Kentucky bourbon that has been around since 1953. It’s a wheated bourbon, which means that wheat is used instead of rye as the secondary grain.
This gives Maker’s Mark a smoother and sweeter taste than other bourbons. Buffalo Trace: Buffalo Trace is another Kentucky bourbon that has won numerous awards for its high quality and affordability.
It boasts a complex flavor profile with notes of caramel, vanilla, and spice. Wild Turkey 101: Wild Turkey 101 is a higher proof bourbon with a bold flavor profile.
It has notes of honey, cinnamon, and oak, making it an excellent option for those who prefer more robust flavors. Elijah Craig Small Batch: Elijah Craig Small Batch is named after Reverend Elijah Craig – who is credited with inventing bourbon whiskey in 1789 – making it an excellent choice for history buffs.
This bourbon has a rich caramel flavor with hints of vanilla and toasted oak. Jim Beam White Label: Jim Beam White Label is one of the most popular bourbons in the world due to its affordability and accessibility.
It has a mild flavor profile with notes of vanilla and caramel. Evan Williams Black Label: Evan Williams Black Label is a budget-friendly bourbon that is perfect for those who want to try bourbon without breaking the bank.
It has a smooth and mellow flavor with notes of honey and oak. Old Forester Classic: Old Forester Classic is the oldest continuously produced bourbon brand in America, dating back to 1870.
It has a balanced flavor profile with notes of caramel, vanilla, and spice. Each of these bourbons offers something unique for beginners to explore.
Whether you’re looking for a sweeter wheated bourbon or a bold high-proof option, there’s something on this list for you. Let’s dive into each of these bourbons in more detail.
The 7 Beginner-Friendly Bourbons
Choosing the right bourbon can be an intimidating task for beginners. With so many options available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged.
But fear not – we’ve compiled a list of 7 beginner-friendly bourbons that will kickstart your whiskey journey without overwhelming your taste buds. Whether you are sipping it neat or mixing up a classic cocktail, these bourbons offer a smooth and approachable flavor profile that is sure to please.
If you’re looking for a classic bourbon with a rich history, Maker’s Mark is an excellent place to start. This Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey has been produced since 1954 using the same recipe and handcrafted methods passed down from generation to generation. The production process includes four key ingredients: corn, wheat, barley malt, and limestone-filtered water.
Unlike most bourbons which use rye in their mash bill, Maker’s Mark uses wheat which gives it a softer flavor profile. Maker’s Mark has a golden amber color with aromas of vanilla, caramel, oak and cinnamon on the nose.
The flavors are well-balanced with notes of caramel sweetness upfront followed by hints of charred oak and spices. Its smooth finish makes it an easy drinker even for those new to bourbon whiskey.
When it comes to cocktails, Maker’s Mark is extremely versatile. It shines in classics like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan but can also be used in modern twists like the Maker’s Ginger which blends Maker’s Mark with ginger ale fresh lime juice.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on quality or flavor, Buffalo Trace is worth trying out. This Kentucky straight Bourbon Whiskey has been around since 1999; however, it has quickly become a staple among bourbon enthusiasts. Buffalo Trace is made from a mash bill of corn, rye, and barley malt and is aged in new charred oak barrels for approximately eight to ten years.
Buffalo Trace boasts a medium amber color with aromas of caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak. On the palate it offers flavors of toffee, brown sugar sweetness upfront followed by notes of oak and spice with a smooth finish that lingers on the tongue.
Buffalo Trace is equally delicious neat or on the rocks but also makes an excellent base for classic cocktails like the Mint Julep or Whiskey Sour. If you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing up a Boulevardier or even swap out gin in your next Negroni with this delicious whiskey.
Wild Turkey 101
If you’re looking for bold flavor with plenty of kickback – Wild Turkey 101 should be high on your list. This Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey has been around since 1942 and packs quite a punch with its high proof content (50.5% ABV).
Wild Turkey 101 has an amber color with aromas of caramelized banana, vanilla bean, sweet corn and cinnamon spice on the nose. The flavors follow through with caramel sweetness upfront followed by some heat from spices like cinnamon and black pepper which balances out well with notes of oakiness towards the finish.
If you’re looking to mix up your cocktails routine – give Wild Turkey’s Spiced Old Fashioned recipe a try! It’s made by combining sugar cubes or simple syrup along with bitters & orange peel muddled together then adding Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon along with two dashes Angostura Bitters – served over ice before being stirred until chilled.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
If you’re looking for a richer, more complex bourbon whiskey, Elijah Craig Small Batch may be just what you’re after. This Kentucky straight bourbon is named after the famous Reverend Elijah Craig who is credited with first aging whiskey in charred oak barrels.
Elijah Craig Small Batch has a deep amber color with aromas of vanilla, caramel, and toasted nuts. On the palate it offers flavors of dark chocolate and toasted oak upfront followed by notes of cinnamon spice and a slightly dry finish that lingers in the mouth.
With its interesting flavor profile, this bourbon is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks to truly appreciate its complexity. If you’re feeling adventurous try creating elegant cocktails like Elijah Craig’s Autumn Sour which combines citrus juice with honey syrup and sherry to give it a unique spin on the classic whiskey sour.
Jim Beam White Label
The Jim Beam White label Bourbon Whiskey needs no introduction as one of America’s most popular bourbons. This classic Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey been produced since 1795 using Jim Beam’s signature high-rye mash bill – which gives it plenty of spicy kickback. Jim Beam has an amber color with aromas of caramel sweetness upfront followed by herbal notes and hints of oakiness towards the finish.
The flavors are well-balanced with malted barley sweetness upfront followed by rye spice and charred oak in the finish. Jim beam makes an excellent foundational ingredient for popular cocktails like Mint Juleps or Manhattans but can also be enjoyed neat or on ice for those who prefer something simpler.
Evan Williams Black Label
Evan Williams Black Label is another budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on taste or quality. It’s named after Evan Williams who opened Kentucky’s first commercial distillery in 1783. This Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey has been around since the 1950s and is made from a mash bill of corn, rye, and barley malt.
Evan Williams Black Label has a rich amber color with aromas of vanilla, caramel and toasted oak on the nose. The flavors are well-balanced with notes of honey upfront followed by a hint of spice and charred oak.
The finish is smooth with hints of caramel sweetness. Evan Williams works great for any cocktail that requires bourbon as its base like the Old Fashioned or Boulevardier but can also be sipped neat or over ice for those who prefer an easy drinker.
Old Forester Classic
Old Forester Classic is the only bourbon produced by the famous Brown-Forman Corporation which also owns Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. This Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey has been around since 1870 and is made using a mash bill of corn, rye, and malted barley.
Old Forester Classic has an amber color with aromas of honey baked ham, brown sugar sweetness, vanilla bean, nutmeg spice on the nose. The flavors are well-rounded with notes of cinnamon upfront followed by sweet toffee and charred oak towards the finish.
It’s a medium-bodied bourbon that packs plenty of flavor without being too aggressive on your palate. If you’re looking to mix things up try creating refreshing cocktails like Old Forester’s Mint Julep – combine mint leaves sugar syrup muddled together before adding Old Forester Bourbon along – shake then pour over crushed ice before garnishing mint sprigs – serve immediately!
Summary of key points covered in the article
Throughout this article, we have explored what makes bourbon whiskey unique and why it is such a popular choice for whiskey enthusiasts. We have also delved into seven beginner-friendly bourbons that are perfect for those who are just starting their whiskey journey. Each of these bourbons has its own distinctive flavor profile, production process, and cocktail recommendations that make them a great addition to any collection.
From Maker’s Mark’s smooth and sweet taste to Wild Turkey 101’s bold and spicy notes, each bourbon we covered in this article was carefully selected to help beginners explore the vast world of bourbon with confidence. We hope that this article has provided you with valuable insights on how to select bourbons that suit your palate.
Encouragement for readers
As you venture into the world of bourbon whiskey, remember that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy it. Whether you prefer your bourbon neat or in a cocktail, sipping it slowly or taking bold shots, your journey is uniquely yours.
We encourage you to experiment with different bourbons and find the ones that best suit your preferences. As you develop your palate, keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.
Who knows – you may discover some favorite bourbons along the way that become staples in your collection. Above all else, remember to enjoy the moment.
Savor each sip of your favorite bourbon while appreciating its rich history and complex flavors. Life is too short to drink bad whiskey – so choose wisely and embrace the journey ahead!