Best Horse Racing Bourbons
Walking into a liquor store and I’m immediately drawn to bottles with horses. Horses. Bourbon. What’s more Kentucky than that? That same limestone-filtered, calcium-rich water that makes fine bourbon also makes for strong, sturdy legs to gallop at great speed.
If you’re hosting a party for an upcoming horse race, check out these great-looking bottles, adorned with horses, and perfect to highlight your event. A couple of these can be a little hard to find, but with some careful planning, you should be able to secure at least a trifecta and have a great table display.
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon
One look at this bottle, and you’ll know you’re hooked. A lovely, rounded, cut-glass bottle adorned with a horse and jockey stopper is matched with an equally impressive bourbon. Created by Albert Blanton in 1984, this was the first single-barrel product and is the epitome of consistently fine bourbon.
Blanton’s is a single-barrel bourbon bottled at 93 proof. This is Buffalo Trace’s low-rye mash bill, similar to Rock Hill Farm’s. My current bottle was dumped on 9-24-2018 from barrel number 1687 on rick number 5. There’s no age statement, but most agree this bourbon to be about 9 years old.
In the glass, this is a great medium-brown in color. On the nose – wow! Just wow! There are great vanilla-caramel notes with wisps of citrus. It’s a great nose – one I keep coming back to. On the palate, this is silky smooth with more caramel and citrus, along with some floral notes with even a faint hint of mint – but none overpowering the other. Incredibly balanced – especially for a single barrel. The finish has lots of oak with more citrus and floral notes. Wow. Wow. Wow.
Price: I found mine for $60, but I’ve seen this going for significantly more than that. If you see one – grab it and truly savor the mastery of consistency and individuality in each barrel.
Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon
I have a bottle of this that I’ve been nursing for some time. I try to keep a bottle of Blanton’s for my barrel head display, but have threatened to move this Rock Hill Farms bottle onto it in the event of an emergency.
Rock Hill Farms is made from Buffalo Trace’s Mash Bill #2 (a higher-rye mix, comprising corn, malted barley, and 12-15% rye), bottled at 100 proof, and rumored to be in the 8-10 year range.
On the nose, you’ll catch vanilla and fruits. A slight pepperiness is felt as it makes its way down for a long, slow, smooth cinnamon and oak finish.
Price: I found mine at a little honey-hole college liquor store for $50 but expect to pay more.
Calumet Farm Small Batch
If you’re having trouble locating the first two bourbons on this list, you’ll probably have an easier time with Calumet Farm Small Batch. There is no indication on the bottle as to who distilled or bottled this product.
The website provides little more to assist in the source of this spirit. The website indicates “Bottled for the Western Spirits by Three Springs Bottling Company, Bowling Green, KY”. The website further states the bourbon was “bottled from hand-selected barrels”.
A little more searching leads to a press release from January 2017, where it was announced that the startup distillery Bardstown Bourbon Co. would be producing the Western Spirits lineup, which includes Lexington Bourbon, Calumet Farm, and the popular Bird Dog Whiskey brand. Something tells me that Bardstown didn’t make this bottle (at least I hope it’s not that young!). There’s no indication as to the sourcing. For me, I like to know which distillery made it and who crafted the spirit.
This bourbon is bottled at 86 proof. In the glass, this is straw-like in color. On the nose, there is the smell of sugary sweetness and light vanilla notes. On the palate, there is some vanilla and spice. The finish offers a slight alcohol burn with more spice.
As a whole, this is one where the bottle might be better than the bourbon. There are some 10 and 12-year varieties of this product I’d love to try, but at a higher price point, this may be more for decoration on your shelf and a solid-mixer for novices. With the great-looking bottle and Calumet Farm image, I wish the bourbon lived up to the heritage.
Pinhook Bourbon Country
The bottle here is a unique one – the tall slender lines, orange-hewed label with a gorgeous thoroughbred head capped by an orange wax top. On the shelf, it resembles wine bottles more than the standard bourbon bottle. The Pinhook name refers to the thoroughbred racing term used to describe the process of purchasing young thoroughbred horses, raising them until maturity, and selling them to become race horses.
In a similar vein, the founders of Pinhook have been “bourbon pinhooking” – seeking out top barrels from distillers, aging them, and then selling the finished product. Every 6 months, a new, limited batch of bourbon gets released, and each batch is a unique blend and proof of distillate. Until recent years, much of the bourbon was sourced from MGP, but since 2017, upstart Castle and Key Distillery has been providing the new distillate. Rumor had it that then master distiller Marianne Barnes was having input to the selecting and blending of the sourced barrels as well as crafting the distillate that Castle and Key was providing.
Pinhook is bottled at 95.5 proof and carries a mashbill of 75% corn, 20.5% rye, and 4% malted barley. The label carries a statement “aged at least 3 years and hand bottled in Frankfort, KY” (home to Castle and Key).
This is a light, straw-colored product. On the nose, there are strong vanilla notes complimented with light summer fruit essences. This is very light on the palate with solid corn notes followed with a finish of cinnamon and pepper spices. Overall, nicely done for a young upstart and very well-balanced. This is one that even seasoned bourbon drinkers will find interesting. I’d love to see another year or two on this, but on a whole, this is a well-balanced expression.
Price: $20 – I found mine on sale at a Midwestern grocery store but expect to pay in the $30 range for a non-sale price.