There is nothing better in the world than bourbon whiskey. That said, it follows that if you subscribe to these sentiments and you have time to vacation, Kentucky must be your destination. So, this June we grabbed up Heidi and the kids, threw them into the rusty van, and headed south to some of the best bourbon distilleries in the world, including Woodford, Willett, and Four Roses. We also sampled numerous other bourbons at various locations including Eagle Rare, Old Forester, Booker’s, Maker’s 46, Hudson baby bourbon, and, yes, even the immortal Pappy Van Winkle (even have the bottle to prove it). We thought that maybe you might like to know which ones we liked best. How about this selection of six?
(Kentucky Bourbon Distillers/Willett, Bardstown): Willett distillery is the only distillery on the Craft Trail that we went to, but it sells some of our favorite bourbon. Noah’s Mill is a prime example. With it’s pleasant pecan nose and spicy hot taste, we are going to save the Mill for cocktails. The heat comes from its high proof (114) and the oak removing its sweetness on the finish. That said, you might be OK if you like a bit of water with your bourbon; this one should open up quite nicely in that regard.
Pure Kentucky (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers/Willett, Bardstown): Our favorite new try from the Kentucky trip was the state’s namesake bourbon from Willett. It smells like breakfast: loads of maple syrup. The taste is similar to the nose- thick with cream, brown sugar, vanilla and finishes with a last second rye kick. Warm and smooth for its 107 proof. Woodman’s doesn’t carry it, so we’ll have to order a Roghers carry-out when this bottle is gone!
Rock Hill Farms (Sazerac/Buffalo Trace, Frankfort): Buffalo Trace sells some fantastic bourbons from Eagle Rare to the ultra limited Pappy Van Winkle, but for the money, you can’t beat Rock Hill Farms. It smells like opening a bottle of vanilla with a hint of citrus somewhere. Rock Hill is a very soft bourbon on the palate with beautiful mixture of vanilla, caramel corn, honey, and a bit of rye spice. Rock Hill is a bourbon that I would not like to be without.
Rowan’s Creek (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers/Willett, Bardstown): Our last bottle from Willett was Rowan’s Creek, a bourbon I believe will please everyone. It smells like it tastes, velvety up front with loads of vanilla, but not too sweet as it transitions to charred oak and light spice. Rowan’s Creek is an admirable cousin to Noah’s Mill if you don’t like the Mill’s burn or sticker shock.
Russell’s Reserve, 10 year (Wild Turkey/Lawrenceburg): Of the six, the Russell’s Reserve would serve a cigar the best. The bottle I have has a rather neutral nose, probably from oxidation, but you can get a bit of corn, wood, and sweet-smelling flowers in there. The taste is sweet up front but moves to a moderate burn with spice and faint tobacco on the finish- something in there always says ‘Wild Turkey’ in it. If you don’t care for that ‘Wild Turkey’ characteristic, I’d pick up some Buffalo Trace which is just as good for less money.
Woodford Reserve (Woodford/Versailles): My favorite bourbon and the one of the most beautiful distilleries in Kentucky. Woodford is great neat or in a cocktail. Its nose is maple and oak. The taste begins with spice, and moves to a well-rounded middle of brown sugar, wood, and corn; the finish is a long lasting echo of black pepper mixed with lingering cocoa. The nose is as bold as its taste. Chris Morris is a distilling god.