Along with writing about whiskey, I sometimes do whiskey tastings, and bourbon tastings in particular, for novice or intermediate whiskey drinkers. In these tastings, I am often asked for bourbon recommendations. To that end, I've come up with a list of American whiskeys to try. The idea of this list is that if you are a novice bourbon drinker, tasting these whiskeys will give you a good sense of the variety and range of styles of American whiskey. Once you have tried all of these, you will be ready for the big-time. In addition, they are all whiskeys I feel comfortable recommending (i.e. I generally like them).
Since the list is intended for novices, the two qualifications for the list are that all of the whiskeys be (1) fairly easy to find in a good Los Angeles area liquor store (although some are obviously easier to find than others); and (2) fairly affordable (although, obviously there is a range and the idea was not to only list the absolute cheapest bottles or expressions). I also tried to mix it up between styles and distilleries.
The list certainly reflects my biases. You won't find many Beam products or any Jack Daniels but lots of Buffalo Trace. Rye is arguably over-represented, but I love my rye. Of course, there are some great bourbons that I left off. I wasn't going to list every expression of a given whiskey, so for instance, I limited myself to one Weller. And while Very Old Barton BIB is great and would easily belong on such a list, you can't get it in California, so it's not on the list. I also excluded special releases that change from year to year (such as Parker's Heritage, Buffalo Trace Experimental, etc.).
So let me know what you think. How helpful would you find this list if you were (or are) a novice? What would you add? What doesn't belong?
Booker’s Bourbon ($50)
Buffalo Trace Bourbon ($20)
Eagle Rare 10 Bourbon ($25)
Elijah Craig 12 Bourbon ($20)
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon ($40)
High West Rendezvous Rye ($50)
George Dickel #12 Tennessee Whiskey ($18)
George T. Stagg Bourbon ($75)
Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($23)
Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon ($23)
Old Potrero Rye ($70)
Sazerac Rye ($27)
Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon ($36)
Rittenhouse 100 Rye ($20)
Wild Turkey 101 Rye ($20)
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon ($43)
William Larue Weller Bourbon ($75)
Woodford Reserve Bourbon ($25)