Last year, we introduced our inaugural list of the best bourbons for Autumn. Keeping with tradition, here is our 2021 selection of some of the best bourbons (and 1 whiskey) to add to your Fall palate.
You'll notice some themes among our recommendations. A couple of these contain higher rye mash bills; these spicier (though not pumpkin spice) bourbons just seem to taste better when it's not 105 degrees in the shade. And, a couple of these are single-barrel products, which serve as examples of a master distiller's ability to deliver a distinct product that remains true to brand, but vary ever so slightly from barrel to barrel. Enjoy this favorite season by slowing down, sipping slow, and enjoying the company of family and friends.
Wild Turkey 101
($22 - $24)
It's hard to deny this bold and spicy flagship brand from Wild Turkey. Big and bold, in a newly-designed bottle, this is generally thought to be a blend of 6-8 year bourbons. Wild Turkey uses a mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley.
Using comparable amounts of rye as Evan Williams and Woodford Reserve, the #5 heavily charred barrels produce impressive amounts of complex, layered flavors. This bourbon is up-front with vanilla, oak, and spice with a long finish true to the palate. No need to wait until your next turkey hunt, this bourbon is readily available and is perfect for enjoying in the outdoor setting of a campfire or tailgate.
Evan Williams Single Barrel
($26 - $29)
I've shared before that Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond may be one of the best everyday bourbons on the market. Evan Williams Single Barrel carries a slightly lower proof (86.6 vs. 100) than the bottled-in-bond version. However, rather than being aged for at least 4 years, this bourbon comes with a hand-lettered label indicating distillation date, dumping date, and the barrel number.
Depending upon the bottle, these are generally in the 7-8 year range. The mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley imparts warm bourbon bread pudding with vanilla ice cream on the nose with vanilla toffee, oak, and fall spices on the palate. The medium-long finish is gentle with caramel, oak and spice. This deliciously balanced and flavorful bourbon is perfect for enjoying with friends to celebrate the last of warm Fall days.
($32 - $50)
I wish Eagle Rare wasn't quite so ... rare. With a 10-year age-statement, this bourbon uses Buffalo Trace's Mash Bill #1 with a low-rye mash bill shared with Benchmark, Stagg, and E.H. Taylor. Once a staple in many retail outlets, now it's a rarer find and often marked-up significantly over MSRP.
Being patient and observant, I've been able to find this smooth-drinker at MSRP during my last few bourbon hunts. While not overly complex, this bourbon has a nose and palate that match, with honey-citrus, vanilla, oak, and well-worn weather. Your bourbon buddies will greet you with big smiles and raised glasses as you celebrate the end of the grilling season. This is the perfect bourbon to pair with grilled or smoked meat, chicken, or fish glazed with Bourbon BBQ Sauce and all the fixings.
Old Forester 1910
($60 - $70)
Part of Old Forester's Whiskey Row Series, 1910 pays homage to an October 1910 fire at the distillery that caused bottling operations to be shuttered indefinitely. Unfortunately a large vat of mature whiskey had already been dumped in anticipation of bottling. Not knowing what else to do, the whiskey was rebarreled into newly charred oak barrels until operations could resume. Similar in flavor profile with its cousin Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, 1910 pays homage to one of the first double-barreled renditions.
This deep copper-colored bourbon brings loads of vanilla, caramel, and oak wood to the nose and to the palate, as well. The finish is long with notes of deeply toasted oak and baking spices. This is a delicious bourbon to pair with desserts of the season, such as s'mores or a slice of Bourbon Apple Cake.
New Riff Single Barrel
($40 - $50)
New Riff Distilling is located in Covington, Kentucky - a stone's thrown across the river from Cincinnati in Northern Kentucky. While many new distillers rush to introduce product (often with minimal aging), New Riff has been doing things right, and has patiently been turning out Bottled-in-Bond and other, similar, longer-aged products.
Bottled at 108.5 proof, this 4-year-old, non-chill-filtered product, brings warm vanilla-cinnamon scones on the nose, followed by browned-butter, cinnamon and pepper spice on the palate. The finish is long and provides a brown-sugar and cinnamon finish. This bourbon, characteristic of the region's high-rye influence, is a great introduction to expanding beyond the traditional, sweeter products. It's delightfully well-balanced between sweet and savory, which makes it perfect for cool and blustery days.
George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond 13-Year ($38 - $50)
While this is a list of great Fall bourbons, it's hard to not include this Tennessee Whiskey into the mix. Sporting a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% wheat, and 8% malted barley, and a 13-year Bottled-in-Bond age statement, Master Distiller Nicole Austin continues to offer outstanding products release after release.
While carrying an age statement 9 years in excess of the minimum age standard in the Bottled-in-Bond Act, it adheres to all of the requirements specified in the legislation, including:
Being from a single distillation season
By a single distiller
At a single, identified location (Tullahoma, TN)
Aged at least 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision
Bottled at 100 proof
On the nose, this whiskey exhibits warm, caramel-apple pie notes, followed by a burst of vanilla and oak on the palate with trailing flavors of oak and peppercorn spice. The finish is long with campfire-crackling deeply toasted oak, vanilla and spice. With decent availability at MSRP, this is a bargain upgrade to your whiskey cabinet. Offering both complexity and a balance between sweet and woody notes, this is a delightful, cool weather pour that is perfect for enjoying amid the earthy smell of fallen leaves and a setting sun.