(and other important American whiskeys)
93 proof. The original single-barrel bourbon, since 1984, and universally highly regarded: full, smooth, well rounded, and both sweet—with hints of vanilla and caramel—and spicy.
120 to 126 proof. The only unfiltered, unwatered bourbon: dark, rich, deep, woody, complex, and flavorful despite its hiring alcohol content. Don’t be afraid to add waters; its distiller, Booker Noe, himself prefers it with ice and water.
90 proof. Very old indeed, considering that bourbon ages than Scotch, yet fairly light and not too woody. In the words of the whiskey expert Stefan Gabányi, “bourbon at ist best: rich, round, and pleasantly sweet.”
100 proof. A nine-year-old from Beam’s small-batch lineup. Dark and dense and woody. Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan, the authors of The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys , call it “as close to protection as any bourbon on the market.”
90 proof. An aristocrat among bourbons, full of body, yet polished and balanced and gentle and subtle. The absence of rye makes it lighter and smoother than many bourbons, and it is delicious in a snifter, on the rocks, or in a mixed drink.
90 proof. The new longer-aged version (thirteen years old) of a whiskey that’s been around since 1874. The pepperiness of rye mingles with the sweet, mellow flavors imparted by years in the barrel.
101 proof. A truly classic bourbon, dark, deep, full of body. Wild Turkey also comes in a lighter 80 proof version; a 108 to 112 proof Rare Breed, aged up to twelve years; and, best of all, a Kentucky Spirit single-barrel bottling.
80 proof. Clear, aged less than fifty days, at least 80 percent corn, and sold in a jar, this harsh whiskey approximates moonshine or the whiskey Kentucky seetlers made before they started aging it. It has a serious atavistic clientele in pockets of the Southeast.
86 proof. he classic Tennessee whiskey. The slow charcoal filtering makesit on the one hand light and mild and on the other sooty and sweet. Gentleman Jack is a new high-end version; it has been through the filtering twice, for extra smoothness.
101 proof. The best of the four surviving brands of straight rye, made with a mix of 65 percent rye, 23 percent corn, and 12 percent barley: lively, peppery, spicy, and less sweet than much bourbon. Tasty by itself and also wonderful for that American classic whiskey and ginger ale.