Everybody has a go-to bourbon, but sometimes, whether by choice or by limited selection at the liquor store, a backup bottle is needed. A fairly reliable shelf staple in most markets, Buffalo Trace bourbon has long held its status among the most dependably affordable and versatile whiskeys out there: a proper sipping bourbon that holds up just fine in a cocktail and keeps its proof at an easy-drinking 90. Here’s what to reach for if Buffalo Trace isn’t on the shelf, or it’s come time to branch out.
Retail Price: $30 – $40
Older Brother: Eagle Rare is made by the Buffalo Trace Distillery using the same low-rye recipe as Buffalo Trace bourbon and it’s cut to match the familiar 90 proof. What’s different? Where Buffalo Trace is aged at least 8 years, Eagle Rare is aged at least 10. Those extra two years maturing in the barrel make for whiskey with far more barrel characteristic, a slightly fattier body and loads more vanilla and spice notes. If you want a slightly upgraded sipping whiskey for not a whole lot more cash, Eagle Rare is the move.
Four Roses Small Batch
Retail Price: $30 – $35
Like-for-Like: Four Roses Small Batch is among the best “everyday” bourbons in the world. A blend of high- and low-rye mashbills and 6- to 7-year-old bourbons, its proven to be among the most consistent bottles in all of whiskey. It also happens to be cut to the same proof as Buffalo Trace and hovers in the same price bracket. If you can’t find Buffalo Trace but want a bourbon that exhibits similar drinking flexibility, price and age marks, reach for Small Batch.
E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel
Price: $60 – $80
Mystery Bottle: The E.H. Taylor line is another member of the Buffalo Trace Distillery’s famed mashbill #1 family. All E.H. Taylor expressions are Bottled-in-Bond and therefore 100 proof and aged for at least four years. Buying a bottle of its single barrel variant, like all single barrel whiskeys, is a game of roullete — you could get a honey barrel or you could get something more forgettable. It’s higher in price and proof and it can be tougher to track down, but its flavor potential is levels higher than standard Buffalo Trace whiskey. Get this when you’re feeling lucky.