Best Bourbons for Summer
Summer is in full swing and we put together our playlist of best bourbons for the summer sippin' season. Check out our picks - most are readily available or found if you keep your eyes peeled - to make sure you're well-provisioned for the warm weather. As always, stay hydrated, my friends.
Four Roses Tan Label ($19 - $23)
While siblings Small Batch, Small Batch Select, and Single Barrel may get all the glory, it's hard to knock this blend of 10 bourbon recipes. For many years this was a "yellow label"; recent marketing changes have produced a khaki-tan colored label, though for many, it's still fondly referred to as "Yellow Label".
Thought to be around 5+ years old, and bottled at 80-proof - our lowest proof in this lineup - it has the flavors and personality of a bourbon with a significantly higher proof. With more fruit and floral notes (think apple and pear blossoms), this is a bourbon that is unlike many of the traditional whiskeys. While a capable mixer, the fruitier characteristics won't weigh you down as the mercury rises if you're enjoying neat or with ice.
Old Forester 86 / 100 ($19 - $23)
Old Forester is classic bourbon at its best. For the price point, this may have one of the best noses on the market, rich in vanilla and caramel balanced with oak and spice. The Old Forester mash bill is the same as its pricier sibling, Woodford Reserve, with 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley.
It's a versatile bourbon, enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. The lower 86-proof is ideal for sipping on warm nights; its higher-proof sibling holds up well to melting ice or in a Kentucky Mule.
Larceny ($25 - $28)
Introduced in 2012 by Heaven Hill, Larceny is one of our favorite and most approachable wheated bourbons. Named after a bonded treasury agent who kept the keys to the warehouses and knew just where the best bourbons were stored, this versatile bourbon has earned the respect of bartenders and consumers alike.
The mash bill is thought to be 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. The wheat brings doughy-bread notes forward along with toffee and butterscotch. At 92-proof, there is enough there to keep even tenured bourbon lovers interested or, again, to enjoy in a cocktail, such as an Old Fashioned.
($32 - $35)
One of the newest introductions from the Wild Turkey brand and Marketing Director Matthew McConaughey, this bourbon comes with a distinct outdoorsy feel. Utilizing the traditional Wild Turkey mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley, Texas Mesquite and oak barrels are used to filter the finished product. The result is a 90-proof bourbon with a lighter and softer Wild Turkey flavor. The mesquite adds vanilla and light wood notes, as well as honey, citrus, and even a passing whiff of campfire smoke - perfect for enjoying with company around the campfire or fire table.
Elmer T. Lee
($39 - $59)
Our last selection may be as elusive as snow in July. However, I've also seen this sitting in a major regional store display case as disappointed Blanton's shoppers passed it by.
What many may not know is that Elmer T. Lee is one of the single-barrel lineups from Buffalo Trace, including Blanton's and Rock Hill Farm. Elmer T. is the lowest of the proof, coming in at 90-proof, followed by Blanton's at 93-proof, and Rock Hill at 100-proof. While there's no barrel numbering or attractive jockey-topped decanter, the juice inside is the same mash bill as other, more elusive single barreled products from Buffalo Trace.
The lower proof really allows this to be a smooth-sipper. Those able to find bottle with find their pour laced with vanilla and brown sugar maple notes. The lighter proof also allows some citrus-peach notes to be layered in - perfect for catching a warm breeze as you sip and rock on the porch.