Food & Drink

Five New “Everyday” Bourbons to Try

These recently released bottles offer value and versatility for bourbon fans

A bottle of bourbon on a wood barrel

Photo: courtesy of Wilderness Trail

Wilderness Trail 8-Year Wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.

I’m always on the lookout for bourbons that punch above their weight. Over the past few months, I’ve acquired several bottles that, judging by their diminished fill levels, I consistently reach for when I’m in the mood for a nice pour. They’re a bit more elevated than your typical everyday whiskeys but not so precious that I worry about where or when I’ll find a replacement. I also don’t think twice about enjoying them over ice or in a Boulevardier or Paper Plane, my go-to bourbon cocktails of late. Last weekend, I decided to pour an equal amount of each into identical Glencairn glasses, have a friend disguise which was which, and—with a fire in the outdoor hearth and a flight of bourbon to help stave off the chill—dive into what distinguishes each one. 

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Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 

Released three times a year, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a consistent showcase for Heaven Hill’s workhorse bourbon mashbill. The first batch of the new year (A124) weighs in at 119 proof and carries an age statement of ten years and nine months. A trio of classic bourbon flavors—oak, vanilla, and caramel—hit the nose and palate first. Closer attention reveals supporting complexity, with layers of dark chocolate, caramelized sugar, orange peel, and cured tobacco. While both age and proof are lower than past bottlings (last spring’s release was the first less than twelve years), I don’t feel like anything is missing from this assertive sipper—especially when it comes with a suggested retail price of $75. 

Wilderness Trail 8-Year Wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

If making bourbon is both an art and a science, Wilderness Trail Distillery leans toward the scientific side. The distillery was founded in 2012 by Shane Baker and Pat Heist, who, six years prior, also partnered to launch a company that develops products and technical services for the spirits and ethanol industries. Wilderness Trail uses a proprietary method to cook its locally sourced grains at precise temperatures, which are then fermented with a yeast strain developed by the founders, distilled using the sweet mash process, and barreled at a relatively low proof. Time has been kind to the brand’s growing stocks of aging whiskey. Its eight-year bottled-in-bond wheated bourbon offers a well-structured sip with notes of oak, cloves, and cherry skin, giving way to a long, peppery finish. The eight-year has so far been a Kentucky-only release (suggested retail: $90), but it offers a snapshot of what a few more years adds to Wilderness Trail’s widely available, and also enjoyable, flagship wheated bourbon, aged between five to six years and priced around $55.

2XO Oak Series American Oak

Master blender Dixon Dedman launched his 2XO label in late 2022 with small batches of one-and-done releases blended from bourbons he aged for a second time in new charred oak barrels to enhance complexity and character (2XO stands for “Two Times Oak”). American Oak, part of the new Oak Series, is Dedman’s first ongoing, readily available bourbon, finished with charred oak pieces inserted into the original barrels of five-and-a-half-year-old bourbon and blended for consistency. Bottled at 92 proof and with a suggested price of $50, it’s a flavorful and versatile bourbon that pours a dark, golden brown and stands up on its own or in a cocktail.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Bardstown Bourbon Co. has been highly successful blending in older sourced whiskeys with its house-distilled whiskey for both its own bourbons and outside brands, all while remaining transparent about its processes. A new chapter in BBC’s story opened last year with the release of the first bottles comprised entirely of its own distilled and aged whiskey. The latest batch of its wheated bottled-in-bond, one of three initial releases in its Origin Series, stands out. Aged six years and bottled at 100 proof, the bourbon comes on subtly with a floral bouquet over spearmint and milk chocolate, with a hint of oak and light spice on the finish. It may not be the most complex bourbon, but it is nicely balanced and approachable at $50.

Buzzard’s Roost American Whiskey

Louisville-based Buzzard’s Roost Sipping Whiskey is a newer brand built around finishing small batches of sourced bourbon and rye in new toasted and lightly charred barrels. American Whiskey, a new ongoing release, is a value-driven option that begins with high-rye bourbon aged at least three years and finished in the second-use barrels from Buzzard’s Roost’s collection. Bottled at 105 proof and priced at $50, it’s a good choice for home mixologists. Tasted neat, the sip leads with spicy rye flavors that travel down the sides of the tongue, finishing with a hint of fresh oak and cinnamon. There’s nothing out of balance, but I find the proof and spice-forward flavor profile benefit from a few ice cubes and play nicely in a cocktail.