As a self-proclaimed bourbon connoisseur, is this truly what we are seeking? Actually, I just like bourbon, but I’m not sure I would say I’m an expert or anything. But anyway, isn’t the search for the best bourbons list like our life’s work?
I have a really great cat that we got from the pound. Her life’s work was to tear a toy mouse off of the top of a cat tree. It was attached with a strip of elastic. Catalina would run up there and pull that toy down until the elastic wouldn’t give one more inch. Then the toy would snap back up to the top and the cat would go at it again.
This happened over and over again, day after day. One day, the elastic finally weakened and snapped. Catalina had won her battle! It was like her life’s work.
A lifetime of searching…
Well for you and I, our life’s work may be amassing knowledge and experience with bourbon. We want to taste every bourbon out there and embrace the subtle flavors. Which one will we love and which will we think are overrated?
Since I don’t work at a distillery, and I am not a chemist or expert in all things alcohol, I’ve had to take this journey on my own. Like you, I taste what’s available and splurge when I feel the urge. But it’s slow going this way.
To speed things along, I’ve looked at various best bourbons lists online, as I’m sure you have. Some of them make perfect sense and some baffle me. In the end, some have introduced me to some really good bourbon!
Of course, there are those bourbon lists that seem obligatory. They list Pappy 23 yr, Black Maple Hill, and a few other well known bourbons that are difficult to find these days. But those lists are kinda boring because most people know about those already.
Instead of looking at lists of top 5s or top 10s, I like to look at the ratings on websites like Wine Enthusiast. This way I can get a qualitative comparisons of the different bourbons I’m interested in. Then I can check out the prices and where I can find them before I make my decision. It’s a lot more information than a simple list.
So this list is going to be a little different. I’ll tell you what I think are the best bourbons that I would go out and get right this minute. Some you know and hopefully some you don’t. Here goes:
The Best Bourbons List…
1. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 yo
Ok, let’s get this out of the way. It’s an obvious choice, but I’m not going to sit here and say it’s rubbish. Pappy is a very impressive bourbon.
Of course I like the 23 yo version because it’s amazing, but the 20 yo is cheaper and sometimes just as good. It all depends on the batch. I’ve had the 20 yo that I thought was every bit as good at the 23. But in truth, they are both amazing.
Some of the tasters around the internet recall an aroma of pork sausage and sweet spice scents. You may notice scents of dark coffee, marzipan, praline, vanilla, and caramel corn. It’s a very nice sensation when it meets your palate. It’s silky smooth. There’s not a ton of bite to it. Then it finishes warm and sweet. It’s really something to behold.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine gives the 20 yo Pappy a 97/100. They give the 23 yo version a range between 96-100. I suppose that makes sense? In any case, it’s excellent, just expensive.
2. Parker’s Heritage Collection 2013 – A Promise of Hope
I’ll just caveat this pick by saying I had this once when I was already a little drunk in Las Vegas, but nevertheless it was amazing. We later had some A5 Wagyu, but that’s another story. Also, another thing to take into account was that we had the 2013 edition and there is a new edition every year. I think there are 11 editions through 2017 and I haven’t seen the 2018 come out yet.
This bourbon is from Parker Beam, who apparently tasted a boat load of barrels before finally deciding to use this one. He released it to raise money for ALS research, as well. Nice!
This is the first of this series to be from a single barrel. It is reported to be 11 years old.
Picture this…a beautiful caramel colored glass approaches and you catch a scent that’s sweet with a little fruit. There’s definitely some oak in there.
When it hits the palate, you feel a smooth rush of sugar, maple syrup, and a touch of apple.
The finish is very smooth with a hint of spice, but is mostly a little more oak than at the start.
In any case, this is a dang good bourbon. They’re really hard to find anymore, but if you can find one then don’t pass it up.