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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon To Give As A Gift This Holiday Season

The gift of bourbon is the gift that keeps on giving all year long. Giving a friend or lover a great bottle of bourbon is… an event. There’s a bit of ceremony involved in opening, pouring, and sipping that first dram. It lingers, as does every sip until the bottle is gone — making bourbon a great gift for anyone who wants to be remembered all year long.

Here’s the rub, there are over 1,500 distilleries across America right now. While not every single one is making bourbon, some are making multiple bourbons and releasing them year after year. This all adds to a massive wealth of choice. So much choice, in fact, that you’re forgiven if you find it all too intimidating to mess with. Fear not, we got you.

Hopefully, the 11 bottles of bourbon featured below will give you a head start on selecting the perfect bottle of bourbon to give as a gift this year. Just to note before we dive in, this isn’t a completist list. There are so many bourbons we love. Also, we’ve specifically chosen brands that are available nationwide and (with one big exception!) under the $75 sweet spot. Point being, you should be able to source most of these bottles of bourbon fairly easily this time of year and afford them too.

JIM BEAM DOUBLE OAK

Price: $27.99

The Story:

Jim Beam Double Oak is a solid mid-range bourbon, full stop. The juice is aged for four years in charred new American oak and charred new white oak, giving the bourbon its name. This is a classic bourbon taken up a few notches and the nuance and care shine through at an accessible price point.

Tasting Notes:

This easy sip opens up with a clear sense of that oak char. Notes of buttery caramel, popcorn, and vanilla come through as a hint of spice leads towards a warm-yet-subtle finish.

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BELLE MEADE SOUR MASH STRAIGHT WHISKEY BOURBON

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Price: $37.99

The Story:

This historical recreation from the Nelson Brothers uses proprietary yeasts from yesteryear along with a high-rye content. The juice is well-aged in new American oak in Tennessee and then barreled with a focus on a small batch program.

Tasting Notes:

Maple syrup, wildflowers, and citrus dance across your senses. Classic bourbon notes of caramel and vanilla come into play alongside a clear rye spiciness. Fatty, dried apricots lend to the caramel sweetness and have a feel of a stewed, almost mulled wine spice as the finish leans into ripe red fruits dusted in cinnamon.

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BASIL HAYDEN’S 10 YEAR BOURBON

Price: $49.99

The Story:

This holiday season is seeing the next release of Basil Hayden’s 10. The high-rye bourbon spent 10 long years mellowing in charred new American oak. This is a special bottle of booze that’s won’t break the bank while impressing any bourbon lover as a gift.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a striking balance between rye spiciness, caramel sweetness, and oak char. Notes of banana, Christmas spices, and a note of fruitiness shine through. The end is a flourish of rye spice, bourbon vanilla, and a return of the oak as the sip warms.

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ANGEL’S ENVY PORT BARREL FINISHED

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Price: $49.99

The Story:

Angel’s Envy is one of those bottles that any bourbon-lover will appreciate. The hot juice is aged in new American oak before a finishing mellowing in port wine barrels, adding a whole new dimension to the bourbon. After six years, the bourbon is barreled in small batches of eight to ten barrels, assuring high quality.

Tasting Notes:

Toasted nuts, fresh maple syrup, raisins, and subtle vanilla shine through. That vanilla peaks with the maple syrup as fresh red fruitiness arrive with hints of roasted cacao beans. Finally, the sweetness from the port kicks in and brings the whole sip to a wonderfully subtle final note.

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OLD FORESTER 1897 BOTTLED IN BOND WHISKY

Price: $52.99

The Story:

Old Forester makes great throwback bourbons that celebrate milestones in whiskey history. Their 1897 Bottled In Bond celebrates the beginning of the bottled in bond designation by the U.S. government, which sought to regulate the quality of bourbon nationwide. From then on, “bottled in bond” was a stamp of approval and guarantee of quality.

Tasting Notes:

Big notes of caramel greet you. Rich vanilla, dark roasted coffee, deep red fruit, and charred oak bounce around the palate. The sweetness of that fruit marries the oak with a spicy edge as the finish warms your senses.

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WILLETT POT STILL RESERVE

Price: $54.99

The Story:

This small-batch bourbon comes courtesy of the old school Willett family who’s been involved in American whiskey since the drink’s inception. The bourbon is masterfully crafted and comes in one of the cooler bottles you’ll find on the market. For a price of around $50, you can’t beat this bottle as a gift.

Tasting Notes:

Bright lemon zest with vanilla frosting and malty sweet cake leads the way. The caramel takes over with a nice dose of spice alongside that lemon cake essence. Florals, leather, and a wisp of smoke tie the spice to the warm end.

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WILD TURKEY RARE BREED

Price: $54.99

The Story:

Wild Turkey is a hell of a whiskey, to begin with. Their Rare Breed is a barrel strength bourbon that eschews any cutting with water and keeps things in the small-batch arena by blending of six, eight, and 12-year-old whiskeys into a rad bottle of the good stuff.

Tasting Notes:

Candied kettle corn, vanilla, and oak are all present but subtle. The whiskey wallows in notes of tobacco smoke and orange zest before a flourish of fresh mint comes in, making this the perfect Julep starter. There are nice notes of black pepper, cinnamon, and rye spice on the finish.

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ELIJAH CRAIG SMALL BATCH BARREL PROOF

Price: $60.99

The Story:

Elijah Craig will put a smile on any bourbon lover’s face. The 12-year-old juice is uncut and unfiltered. Each bottle is hand-labeled from a very small batch straight from the barrels. This is a unique bourbon that you may never taste again.

Tasting Notes:

Since these bourbons are all batch bottled, there will be variance in taste. Look for caramel, oak, apple, and orange up top. Butterscotch, black pepper, cinnamon, oak, and fresh vanilla shine through. The spice comes in and warms the finish as the palate builds and subtly cools down to a satisfying end.

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BOOKER’S BOURBON

Price: $69.99

The Story:

Booker’s releases some of the coolest small-batch expressions every single year. But, sometimes those bottles are hard to find. To quell any bourbon lover’s thirst for Booker’s, grab their standard bourbon. It’s a stellar expression and comes with a high-rye mash bill that helps amp up the depth of this sip.

Tasting Notes:

Leather, oak, caramel, and apple orchards open this one up. That leather keeps on as vanilla is cut by bold rye spiciness. This is a big whiskey with a big, spicy, oaky end that’ll leave you wanting more.

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BALCONES TEXAS BLUE CORN BOURBON

Price: $71.99

The Story:

Finding a unique mash bill amongst the thousands of bourbons out there is actually a little harder than you might expect. There’s a lot of yellow corn, malted barley, and rye, is what we’re saying. So when a bourbon comes along that upends business as usual while moving the style forward, you need to pay attention. Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon is the whiskey that’s helping change the bourbon game by using heritage, sustainable Texas blue corn that’s straight-up delicious.

Tasting Notes:

Johnnycake waffles dripping in browned butter and maple syrup with notes of mint, savory herbs, and wisps of tobacco open this bold expression. Red Hots, campfire roasted marshmallows, Texas sweet tea, and orange marmalade all move across the palate. Finally, Oak, black pepper, cardamon, and fire-roasted cobs of sweetcorn polish of the sip with a lingering warmth.

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EDITOR’S PICK: FOUR ROSES LIMITED EDITION SMALL BATCH BARREL STRENGTH

Price: Generally High $200s-Low $300s

The Story:

The Four Roses Limited Edition series is both famous and beloved amongst bourbon lovers. It’s also expensive. But the level of craft and care in this bottle, the attention to detail of Master Distiller Brent Elliot, and the big, warming flavors make this the sort of gift that will be remembered for decades. Give it once and cruise on those coattails for a few solid years.

These bottled are barrel strength and that usually means ABV in the higher range — 2019’s expression is all the way up there at 56.3%. But with a mix of one 21-year, two 15-year, and one 11-year bourbon recipes, that heat is more “sensed” than tasted.

Tasting Notes:

NOTE: I haven’t tasted the 2019 expression. My notes are on the 2017 expression, which is markedly different.

This is warmth in a glass — pure holidays. Lots of fruit on the nose, with a little bit of oak and the slightest burn. On the palate, you get — and yes, this is an obnoxious whiskey cliche, but it’s also apropos here — so freaking much smoothness. It’s just a straight-up silky sip. The big fruit stays present, turning a little more aged and oaky (Christmas cake flavors) and is followed by vanilla, honey, and light notes of baking spice. The finish is warming but not hot.

It’s more the full-body sensation of warmth than anything else. Quite a lovely effect.

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