While there’s certainly fun to be had hunting down the latest super-limited release, and few feelings beat the thrill of snagging the last bottle of something special at retail pricing (I watched a woman grab the last bottle of Michter’s 10-Year-Old for $80 at the Hollywood K&L earlier this year and practically got a contact high), sometimes, you just want it to be easy. You want something that tastes great, doesn’t cost too much, and can be found at even the most pedestrian of retailers without a fight.
Fortunately, there’s tons of fantastic bourbon out there that doesn’t require camping out outside a store for days, or winning the lottery (in both senses of the term), and many of them make excellent Christmas gifts. Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite mid-range selections, all bourbons under $100, and all widely available in national markets.
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon (image via Whitney Harrod Morris/The Whiskey Wash)
Packaged in a beautiful, faceted bottle and topped with the iconic horse and jockey stopper, this single barrel release from Buffalo Trace lays claim to being “the original single barrel bourbon.” Made from a high-rye mashbill, it’s citrus-forward and floral, with a nice dry finish.
Independent bottler Barrell Craft Spirits has dished up hit after hit with its series of numbered, cask-strength sourced bourbon releases. We’ve tasted several and liked them all, although our favorite of the bunch was Batch 006. They all retail around $80, and they’re all worth it.
Delightfully affordable, Willett Pot Still Reserve narrowly edges out Blanton’s Single Barrel for the most striking bottle of the bunch: a long-necked, full-bellied thing made to resemble the stills that made the liquor inside. Honeyed and buttery yet still offering some spice and complexity, Willett Pot Still Reserve is easy to love.
This small-batch series started out as a Jim Beam Christmas tradition: Booker Noe would select his favorite barrels, bottle them at cask strength, put a handwritten label on them, and give them as gifts to friends and family. Today, they’re one-off vattings, still bottled at cask strength. Until recently, they were simply numbered; this year, they’ve gotten individual names. We tasted Booker’s Bluegill Creek earlier this year, and loved it.
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...