Everybody has a go-to bourbon, but sometimes, whether by choice or by limited selection at the liquor store, a backup bottle is needed. OG Jim Beam — the one with the white label — is about as popular as a bourbon can get. It’s the most popular bourbon worldwide and one of the most popular stateside. Aged a minimum of four years and available widely from $15 to $20, it’s the epitome of macro-bourbon. But drinking one whiskey for the rest of time isn’t exciting. Here are three whiskeys to reach for next.
Knob Creek Small Batch
Older Sibling: Get Knob Creek if you don’t like drastic change. A part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection (which also includes Baker’s, Booker’s and Basil Hayden’s), all Knob Creek bourbon is made using the same mashbill — or recipe — as good ol’ JB. Plus, the Small Batch expression is in the same proof neighborhood. The biggest difference is maturation time; where Jim Beam is aged four years minimum, Knob Creek Small Batch containes whiskey older than nine years.
Evan Williams Straight Bourbon
Like-for-Like: Evan Williams black label is Heaven Hill Distillery’s version of classic Beam. From the company behind Elijah Craig, it’s a lightweight bourbon that’s aged four or five years and available for under $20. It also happens to be one of the most complex bottom shelf bourbons available.
Spicy-Smooth Upgrade: Basil Hayden’s gets a bad wrap. Not by regular drinkers — it’s one of the most popular premium bourbons in America — but by bourbon drinkers. Those who identify as bourbon-smart bemoan its low proof and light body as weak and unworthy of the $50 or so you’ll spend on a bottle. Maybe they’re right, but there’s no arguing its merits as an easy-drinking whiskey for those just getting into sipping the good stuff. A part of the Beam Small Batch Collection, it’s made with a slightly higher percentage of rye than traditional Jim Beam.
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