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Best of the Year

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is often revered as the cream of the crop in regards to Old Forester bourbons. With the company’s Whiskey Row series continually offering quality releases at respectable prices and availability, Old Forester has been on the uptick. Nowhere is that more clear than this year’s excellent Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Leaning heavily on red fruit infused brown sugar, rich vanilla, a touch of black cherry, and stout oak, formed one of 2021’s more exceptional sips. It brilliantly showcases its age with grace, and forgoes moments of balance for intensity. This year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a steller showing from the brand and an excellent example of the amazing whiskey the company can produce.

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In the neverending quest for good bourbon, it’s important to be reminded that a bourbon doesn’t have to be new, flashy, or constantly in your face to be good. This year Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel reminded us of that. A spinoff Wild Turkey brand, Russell’s Reserve has been around for years, it’s the cherry on top of Wild Turkey Distillery’s ice cream sundae of bourbon offerings. It checks all of the right boxes in their tight range of offerings - single barrel, high proof, and relatively high age. Most importantly, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel holds its own as a consistently great bourbon despite an onslaught of new bourbons into the marketplace.

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For years bourbon fans pondered what a higher proof Woodford Reserve Bourbon would taste like, and in 2018 Brown-Forman answered that question with the release of Woodford Reserve Batch Proof. Released annually ever since, the bourbon has been interesting, but has not necessarily stood out. That all changed in 2021 with the release of their 128.3 proof edition. This year, the brand elevated itself to showcase what it truly is capable of. The 2021 Woodford Reserve Batch Proof Bourbon hits the mark as it delights with a s’mores focused palate and robust and thick sweet oak running throughout. The company has finally found its groove with this line extension, and makes a case for why you should be on the lookout for this annual release here on out.

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It’s hard not to get a kick out of Weller 12 Year’s rags-to-riches backstory. Once a $20 bottom shelf dweller, it was slingshotted to stardom due to its ties to Pappy Van Winkle, which has also made it a brand many love to hate. Yet, the brand often offers a decent-to-high quality pour most years. Despite the fever surrounding it and subsequent difficulty finding a bottle, the whiskey typically delivers and that is certainly true in 2021. It’s a banger year for Weller 12 Year, offering excellent balance, pitch perfect intensity, and despite being straightforward, nails the classic bourbon flavor profile. Above all else, it’s a bourbon anyone can enjoy.    

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Many individuals are exposed to Evan Williams early on in their bourbon journey thanks to their incredibly affordable Black Label or Bottled in Bond releases. The brand is a gateway bourbon for many, however it doesn’t come top of mind for most when it comes to thinking about the best bourbons. Evan Williams 12 Year 101 Proof should change that for most. Originally an export-only bourbon sold in Japan, Evan Williams 12 Year 101 Proof made its U.S. return as a gift shop exclusive at the Evan Williams Experience in downtown Louisville during the last decade. Delivering a delicious soiree of classic bourbon scents and flavors, Evan Williams 12 Year 101 Proof owns every single year of its age and proof and can go head to head with almost any bourbon it goes up against. This bourbon should be on everyone’s list who visits Kentucky.

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Written By: BB Team

December 16, 2021
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