With the myriad of options available on the shelf for the bourbon drinker, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Particularly with the constant flow of “new” brands that seem to keep appearing on shelves. As a bourbon writer people always seem to ask me two questions, “What is your favorite bourbon?” and “What’s the best bourbon for the money?” The first one is much easier; it’s Blanton’s Gold. The second question is a bit more complicated. Are we talking best value? If so, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an incredible value for the money but it’s also a limited release and can be hard to find. Of course, the Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 6 year white label is great as well, is only $11 and stands up to bourbons 4x more expensive but it’s only available in the state of Kentucky. I also realize everyone can’t afford to have Blanton’s as their daily drinker. Believe it or not, there are still some fantastic options out there. Both Old Grand Dad Bonded and the Old Grand Dad 114 are usually readily available and under $25. As well as the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond. Elijah Craig may have removed the age statement from their bottle, but at $27, it’s a go-to for many. These are all great options and provide a lot of value for any bourbon fan.
But after thinking about the best bang for your buck, I feel that above all the others I have mentioned, there is one that never fails to deliver. That bourbon is the Eagle Rare Barrel Selection. Eagle Rare is a tremendous value by itself at $30, but when you are lucky enough to come across a barrel pick of it for the same price, you have yourself an unbeatable combination for the money. I know that not everyone has access to a liquor store that gets their own barrel picks but when you do, Eagle Rare picks are not uncommon and are more than half the price of any Four Roses barrel picks. You’re getting a single barrel version of a bourbon that has been aged at least ten years and is always good. At 90 proof it’s not too hot and very approachable. Over the years I’ve had many barrel picks, some amazing, and some that have been extremely disappointing.
The good thing about a barrel pick is that they are always unique, but I’ve never had a bad Eagle Rare barrel pick. Some have been spectacular, but none have them have been any worse than the standard release product. I wish I could say the same for other barrel picks out there. Believe it or not, I’ve had a barrel pick of Blanton’s that was terrible. I understand that sometimes a store wants to choose a barrel that is unique and different to what is in their regular bottles but bad is bad, and it can be hard to hide, especially when you pay upwards of $60 for it.
I don’t want to get into tasting notes since every barrel pick is unique, but I can say for sure, your best bang for your bourbon buck is any Eagle Rare Barrel Selection. When you factor in the price, age, the fact that you’re getting a single barrel product that normally isn’t, and the consistent quality of their bourbon, this one is always a winner. When you consider some of the outrageous pricing that exists on some of these newer brands that are nothing more than a sourced product with lots of marketing dollars behind them, you could do a lot worse and spend double or triple for something that I promise you won’t be as good. If you happen to find one on the shelf you should grab one, you won’t be disappointed, and you may end up with an amazing one. I know I have on more than one occasion.