I recently caught a news story that inflation hit the 7% mark in 2021 - the highest rate in 40 years. While investors may not completely understand the financial markets - stocks and bonds, crypto and NFTs - everyone has an inflation story of a good or product that they purchased had significantly increased in cost during the past 12 months.
With inflation running hot and many of us making tough choices at the local supermarket, here are my picks for a 6 bottle bourbon bar that won't break the bank. In investment-speak, there is a term called Sharpe Ratio named in honor of Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe. It is used to help investors understand the return of an investment compared to its risk. In layman's terms it can be explained as "bang for the buck". These 6 bourbons are not only great tasting, but provide an exceptional "bang for the buck".
Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond ($18)
This bourbon is probably one of the most underrated bourbons on the market. While sibling Evan Williams gets much of the fanfare, this bottled-in-bond rendition carries very traditional bourbon notes with the added versatility of a higher proof. The mash bill is 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. Being bottled-in-bond, it is a product of a single distillation season, by a single distiller at a single distillery. In addition it must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least 4 years and be bottled at 100 proof. Neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, this caramel, vanilla, and brown sugar-laced spirit is hard to beat.
Old Forester 100 ($24)
For years, this brand languished as dusty bottles until parent Brown-Forman began to reinvigorate the brand in 2015 with a $50 million shot-in-the-arm. Along with Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, this is one of the bourbons that is nearly always in my cabinet. The mash bill is 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley - the same as its more expensive cousin Woodford Reserve. The nose is very deep and rich with vanilla, caramel, and light bananas foster notes. Again, part of what makes this a great bourbon to keep on hand is its higher proof and the versatility that goes with it. This brand is also the core of the flagship mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby. Need we say more?
Knob Creek 9 Year ($34)
For years, this 100-proof up-scaled Jim Beam brand carried a 9-year age statement, only to have it removed as stocks thinned, and a couple years later, had it return. The mash bill is traditional Jim Beam, with a blend of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. This bourbon is dark copper colored and is a warm, fried apple pie in a bottle, dripping with vanilla, maple and brown sugar. The finish is long, yet subtle, with oak and spice. Again, the higher proof allows this to hold up nicely to ice or a classic Old Fashioned cocktail.
Russell's Reserve ($32)
While our first two picks are at least 4-years of age, and Knob Creek is at least 9, Russell's Reserve comes in as our oldest BFYB (bang for your buck) product with a 10-year age statement. While collectors are bidding up the 10-year Eagle Rare to obscene amounts, this similar-proof expression from Wild Turkey often slips under the radar. The mash bill is classic Wild Turkey: 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. Vanilla and spice are prominent, along with leather and even some tobacco notes. The flavors are layered and exceptionally smooth and balanced, making this an outstanding slow sipper.
Weller Reserve ($30)
I hesitated to list this here as you have to work hard to find this at MSRP. Produced by Sazerac at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, this bourbon carries a similar mash bill to the legendary Pappy Van Winkle line. While the distillery is mum on the exact mash bill components, we do know that this is a wheated bourbon, meaning wheat has replaced rye as the secondary grain. At 90-proof, this bourbon is incredibly balanced for the price, with plenty of caramel, vanilla, and gentle oak layered in a smooth, yet complex bourbon. Make good choices with this one, though. At MSRP, this is exceptional; at double that, you're really overpaying and better off investing in a second bottle of one of our earlier picks.
Your Favorite Regional Favorite
We've done a good job sparing your pocketbook so far in this list, so splurge a little and buy (and drink) local. There are a host of great regional bourbons out there, including some bourbons that can stand up to the "Big Boys", such as Whiskey Acres, J. Henry & Sons, New Riff, Bowman Brothers, and Wilderness Trail.