If you really want to impress your poker pals, ditch the Scotch and get acquainted with a real man’s whiskey: bourbon. The sour mash spirit, which usually comprises two-thirds corn, must be made in the U.S. to be called bourbon; about 95 percent of it comes from Kentucky. Too often, however, people’s idea of bourbon is a Jack and Coke. (Technically, Jack Daniel’s isn’t even bourbon; its makers reuse barrels, which is a no-no. JD is a Tennessee whiskey.) Here, a handful of bourbons worth sipping.
Hunter S. Thompson’s drink of choice – whether on the job or off – is the finest of the entry-level bourbons, offering a fiery kick and huge, robust flavour. $26.95
A common name in bourbon snobbery, Woodford Reserve uses a small batch process similar to Scotch, with a master distiller keeping tabs on the best barrels for blending. $43.95
Named for one of the original settlers of the bourbon hub of Nelson County, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s is a light delight at only 80 proof. Its unusually high proportion of rye means it’s a good first step away from CC. $54.95
Don’t let the fact that it’s 107 proof scare you: Baker’s is a hand-bottled, small-batch bourbon beloved by boozehounds for its smoothness and its sweet vanilla flavours. Alberta and U.S. only, prices vary.
Old Rip Van Winkle
The Van Winkle family (seriously) has had more than 100 years to perfect this smooth, straight bourbon. It’s aged for at least 10 years, and smacks your palette with a distinctive caramel flavour. Alberta and U.S. only, prices vary.
Prices listed are at the LCBO; they’ll vary elsewhere.
Image courtesy of cal gecko on Flickr.