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A guide to small batch American bourbons

Marnely Rodriguez-Murray is the author of the food blog Cooking with Books. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, she has worked as an overnight bread baker in Colorado and a chocolate maker in Virginia. She currently resides ...

It's National Bourbon Heritage Month!

Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month this September by sipping on these made-in-the-USA small batch, artisanal bourbons!

 A guide to small batch American bourbons

We sip bourbon when we're happy and celebrating; we sip bourbon when we're down and depressed. How is it that this luscious spirit has become a part of society and even more up and coming with the small batch producers and reserves being bottled? It may be that its caramel and burnt sugar notes remind us of childhood desserts (which we prefer to sip now in adulthood). Discover some of the best bourbons out there — but don't just trust us! We haven't tasted each and every bourbon out there just yet! Who knows if a future favorite is aging in a barrel right now?

Now, before you go purchasing endless bottles of bourbon, here are a few tips on how to taste bourbon. Just like wine, its subtleties are what we have to appreciate.

  • Keep in mind bourbon has a huge range of aromas. Some key words to remember are: vanilla, caramel, dark fruit, pear, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, tobacco, cedar, oak, pine, pecans, corn, malt and rye.
  • Now let's taste! Three main objectives to have in common are: appearance, aroma and taste/aftertaste. Appearance depends on the color, whether the bourbon has been matured in charred barrels or not. Aroma is when we swirl the glass and take in the bourbon with short sniffs. Longer sniffs can be overwhelming. And now the fun part, taste! Take a small sip and swish it around your mouth. How does it feel? Does it dry out your tongue? Is there noticeable sweetness? Take notes and create a bourbon tasting journal for future reference!
1

Blanton's

Sipping on bourbon has been a century long tradition, but the bottling of single barrel bourbon has only existed since 1984, when Blanton's started doing it. "Taken from the center-cut or middle sections of the famous Warehouse H, Blanton's Original was once designated for ambassadors, dignitaries and Colonel Blanton's family and friends." Now, everyone can enjoy this fine selection and with tasting notes that range from dried citrus to vanilla. This is one that is best served neat.

2

Smooth Ambler Spirits

Their Yearling is handmade and a limited release that is aged in their West Virginia rick house. Made from a mash of corn, barley and wheat, this bourbon has a smooth taste with sweet notes of butterscotch and undertones of smoky tobacco.

3

Four Roses Small Batch

Master blenders choose four kinds of bourbons to blend this special Four Roses Small Batch. It's won awards such as the 2012 World Whiskies Award for the Best American Whiskey Bourbon 7 Years & under, which goes to say how outstanding it is. The combination and variety in the blend produces a complex flavored bourbon with notes of citrus, smoke, spice and honey.

More on bourbon

A food and bourbon guide to Lexington, Kentucky
Peanut butter & bourbon s'mores sandwich cookies

Bourbon mulled wine

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