Welcome to a new tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next.
“Preacher! Go on down and get me some bourbon. J. T. S. Brown. No ice, no glass.”
– Paul Newman as Eddie Felson, The Hustler
I’d noticed J. T. S. Brown sitting on the bottom shelf of my favorite local liquor store and couldn’t figure out why it sounded familiar. After a little research, I went back and bought a bottle. That quote right there is a good enough reason for me to try a bourbon. Also, I’m a sucker for bonded whiskeys that look like their label hasn’t changed in 40 years.
Age: NAS – No Age Statement
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Caramel Sweetness | Corn
First Sip: Spicy | Oily | Grassy | Slightly Medicinal
The Burn:** A lingering finish with an enjoyable Atomic Fireball candy burn that reminds you you’re drinking 100 proof bourbon.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: A splash of water opens up the sweetness and eases the burn a bit too much for me. If rocks is your thing, it’ll work too. Personally, I find this enjoyable neat.
Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan: Drink this one straight! The Old Fashioned will come out okay if you half your normal amount of sugar. The Manhattan was cloying like someone added the liquid from a jar of cheap maraschino cherries, which I did not.
Share With: Friends who like bonded bourbons.
Worth The Price: At $13.75, yes. It’s a sturdy sipper.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Bottle, though if you manage to find it in a bar it would pair nicely with a beer. While I can’t fully endorse Mr. Felson’s drinking style, J. T. S. Brown Bottled in Bond is an enjoyable budget whiskey.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?
Thomas Fondano has been drinking bourbon and trying every bottling he can get his hands on since last century. While he enjoys all types of whiskeys, bourbon remains his go-to whenever he says, “I need a drink.” He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he makes cocktails every day at 5pm. Read Thomas' full profile.