Welcome to the second installment of “If I Had a Benjamin!” This one is taken very literally as it is written by a Bourbon Brain Trust member actually named Benjamin. Ben is a professional bourbon photographer (you may remember his work from the 2015 Bourbon Classic) and Owner of Big Earl’s Beverage Company in Nicholasville, KY.
It’s really the age old question for bourbon-lovers isn’t it? On what particular whiskey (or whiskeys) should a whiskey lover spend their hard-earned dollars? To best answer it, I decided to call in the cavalry. I contacted a number of bourbon and whiskey bloggers, podcasters, writers, and retailers and asked them to submit their own strategic allocations of a hundred bucks. The series is called “If I had a Benjamin.” (See the whole series here.)
So, it is time to dream. Someone just handed me $100 and told me to go buy bourbon. There are clearly a couple of ways to approach this. I tend to favor the “quantity AND quality” theory so, here goes. Keep in mind that I am going from memory on pricing and am going to round them off and ignore sales tax. That said, three of these four stay on my bar at all times
I learned to love bourbon by drinking wheated bourbons and I prefer a higher proof bottle. Therefore, the first bottle in my basket would be Weller Antique (107proof) which comes in at about $25 dollars or so and holds the distinction of winning a blind tasting (warning, blasphemy coming) that some friends and I did between several wheated bourbons including 15 year old Pappy. That’s right, even with unlimited funds, I prefer this bottle. This one is on the bar now.
My tastes vary quite a bit from day to day so; the second bottle in my basket would be Old Granddad 114. Again, I like a higher proof bottle most of the time. As a Jim Beam product, this one has a familiar flavor profile and is a less expensive bourbon than many of their other high proof bottles (also comes in around $25)…also on the bar now.
One more inexpensive bottle would wind up in the basket for me. Both of the others I’ve selected so far are very nice drinks no matter how you want to drink them, but sometimes the drink would be better with a lower proof bottle. In that case, my choice would likely be Benchmark. Benchmark isn’t often one I would reach for to drink outside a cocktail, but it holds the distinction of having a solid mash bill and being about as cheap as it can get and still be bourbon. I like it as a mixing bourbon and it doesn’t hurt my feelings to mix it since it comes in around $12 almost everywhere. This one isn’t always on my bar, but I believe there is a bottle in the cabinet as I type this.
My fourth bottle would be a bottle of Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout 7yr old. I know that some wouldn’t agree with my choice of a sourced bourbon (MGP) on this list. However, unlike some others, the folks at Smooth Ambler have done a really nice job with their selection and are remarkably honest about how they market their products. For a price tag between $35 and $40 (my last bottle was $36.99) depending on where you find it, you are getting a great bottle of bourbon that hasn’t disappointed anyone I have had the pleasure of sharing it with. This is one I rarely allow myself to run out of and is on the bar now.