The bourbon aisle can seem a bit daunting. The sought-after bottles come and go before you even get an inkling they were there. The big brands are constantly expanding their portfolio with new expressions and packaging while virgin labels (some good, some…not so much) seem to show up to compete with the classics on an almost daily basis. But this means that there are a lot of undiscovered treasures on the aisle — many of which taste like bottles five times their price. Here, then, are seven under-the-radar bottles of bourbon to check out.
When our local shop has a bottle of David Nicholson 1843, we do our level best to snap it up. This wheated bourbon has a buttery feel with smokey notes spinning around a delicious vanilla sweetness and a hint of mint. Sip it neat if prefer. But, at 100 proof, it can tango with an ice cube or two.
From the folks who bring you the oft-oft-heralded Willet pot still bourbon, this lesser-known expression is a good one to search out. Pure Kentucky Bourbon is a strong option at the $40 price point with a nice portion of tongue-tickling spice, caramel and an herbal note that lingers for a beat before being enveloped in a nice warm finish.
When you’re at the store, check the bottom shelf for some Very Old Barton 100. It’s a simple bourbon, great for experimenting with cocktails and hits all the right notes, fruit, vanilla, caramel. Oh, and it’s $13.
Named for a famous midwestern bootlegger, George Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon can be a bit hard to track down since it’s only available on shelves in a handful of states. But if you come across a bottle, snag it. Toffee, oak, and spice enrapt the palate and then sit a spell for an abiding finish.
Created by his son Ethan as an homage to some of John Wayne’s favorite whiskies, Duke Bourbon is an affable sipper. It’s got some very peppery notes, but finds balance against a caramel sweetness.
Old Grand Dad 114 is a staple on our bar, often in need of replenishment. It’s a high-proof whiskey, bottled at an intense 114 proof that produces notes of dark fruit, spice, and oak that feels like it should cost much, much more than its $30 price tag.
Blade and Bow is a bourbon you’ve likely seen on the shelf and blown right by. Next time you see it, consider giving it a shot. This Diageo bourbon is solera aged, which means the barrels in which it spends time are never fully emptied. Some of the aged whiskey is removed and new spirit is added. It’s a solid dram with orchard fruit flavors playing off leather and spice.