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What's In My House Well?

We recently took the family out for a special dinner. At a very nice restaurant, my bourbon-loving daughter asked for an Old Fashioned cocktail. The waitress asked her what kind of bourbon she wanted in the cocktail. My daughter rattled off several everyday bourbons and the waitress answered each bourbon named with the phrase"I'm not sure we have that in the well." Really, I thought? Really? You don’t have that “in the well”? And that got me thinking - What's in my house well? 




While fine and drinkable on their own, these can typically be found in the kitchen cabinet as cooking bourbon. These are great for baking, such as in Derby Pie, making a terrific BBQ sauce, and marinating (e.g. salmon, pork, or the cook!). Each of these is made from the flagship Heaven Hill mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. This is classic bourbon with vanilla, caramel, brown sugar along with a warm apple hand pie. I typically find the Quality House for a Hamilton in Kentucky, and connect on handles of Evan Williams when they're on sale for less than a Jackson.




There is always - always - something in the Woodford / Old Forester palate in my cabinet. Everyone has their go-to, must-have brand - for me it's this family from Brown-Forman. With identical mash bills of 72% corn, 18% rye, the yeast strains are one strain off from each other. Thus, Old Forester is not a "younger" Woodford Reserve, but they definitely are close siblings/cousins in the family tree. These are in the sweet-savory family, with vanilla, caramel, malt and grassy notes, balanced with oak and pepper spice. Paired with a Blue Monday or a bourbon ball candy is my favorite way to enjoy this well-favorite.




I recently enjoyed a pour with a friend who is a Wild Turkey fiend. While he always has nice and very exclusive bottles from Wild Turkey on hand, he shared that he had recently grabbed a bottle of traditional Wild Turkey 101 and commented on how much he was enjoying a bourbon that to him had been somewhat forgotten.


Forged by Master Distillers and father and son duo, Jimmy and Eddie, the Wild Turkey brands start with a mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. Inside you'll find vanilla and caramel blended with brown sugar, and balanced with cinnamon, spice, and even some light citrus notes. The flagship brand is bottled at 101 proof and is able to hold its own on ice or in cocktails. Rare Breed is barrel proof, generally landing in the one-teens. For me, Russell's Reserve 10-Year is one of my forgotten likes. The lower-proof on this one makes for an exceptionally smooth expression, and the 10-year age statement and an attractive price point make this easy to keep on hand.




I've been quite impressed with the solid products being produced by Bardstown Bourbon Company and Master Distiller Steve Nally. A look in my cabinet showed no less than 3 different Fusion Series - blends of BBC's own products blended with older-aged sourced products, and two of their own bourbons in their Origin Series.


While I've been impressed, my spouse absolutely loves these products. For her, they're rich, exceptionally flavorful, balanced, and smooth sipping on her palate. Their Origin Series - both of which have been aged for 6 years - has a high-rye 96 proof along with a wheated Bottled-in-Bond expression


The Fusion Series is a long-running sequence of releases containing Bardstown's house bourbons blended with older bourbons from nearby neighbor, Heaven Hill. Each bottle contains a detailed description of the bourbons that are blended together. For example, Series 8 was a blend of two different BBC bourbons paired with 30% 12-year bourbon from Heaven Hill. The resulting combination had notes of caramel and butterscotch laced with tangy honeycrisp apple. 




Some of the bourbons in my house well are there, quite honestly, because I grab them every time I see them for their elusiveness. It has seemed that on several drop-in visits to Buffalo Trace, Weller Special Reserve was the allocated bourbon of the day. 


Weller is a wheated series of bourbons sharing a common mash bill to Pappy VanWinkle. This bourbon has traditionally done well in blind tastings with other wheated stalwarts, including Maker's Mark, Larceny, and Rebel. I will say, though, that the competition is stepping up their game, with very competitive wheated bourbons from Green River and Bardstown Bourbon Company. Weller offers sweet vanilla notes balanced with a floral and fruity sensation anchored in a spicy cinnamon finish. 



Wild Card    


Come to my house, and there's always something interesting to try. There may be something craft-like from Wilderness Trail, Whiskey Acres, New Riff, Casey Jones, or even a recent addition - Holladay 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond. I do like to mix things up a bit and enjoy trying new bourbons. Don't be afraid to look beyond the Big 10 distillers (or so) when it comes to bourbon. While initially, some of the craft bourbons being produced were very young and just needed more age, some distillers are doing just that - giving it more time to age - or even engaging with the century-old standard of quality set forward in the Bottled-in-Bond Act.



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