Images Courtesy of Liquor Barn, Barrell Craft Spirits, Five and 20, and Getty Images
Bourbon, that caramel-colored brown liquor, with the unmistakable nose and palate of smoke, vanilla, caramel and molasses, is a bona fide crowd pleaser. The distinctly American grain spirit must be at least 80 proof and 51% corn to be considered a real bourbon and must be aged in American new oak barrels. And no, it doesn’t have to only come from Kentucky.
But despite the notions that brown liquors are hard to drink or only for very specific palates, many bourbons go down fairly easily. Sweet and smooth, bourbon is equally at home in cocktails (hot or cold) as it is being drunk straight. It is no longer just the post-prandial predilection of choice for people of a certain age: it’s gaining traction amongst the younger set—and as a seasonless and daily drinker—as time wears on.
Great Bourbons for Sipping Straight
Bourbon is the key actor in Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, of course, where they enjoy the help of a supporting cast of sugar, vermouth, fruits and so on. These are classic cocktails that are possibly more popular now than ever.
Drinking a Bourbon straight, without any mixers, but with a rock or two, or a splash of spring water, is how to really appreciate the flavor nuances of the spirit.
The bourbons highlighted below hit all the high notes, and are some of the best examples for sipping straight, according to our Spirits Reviewer, Kara Newman.