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We Paired A Different Bourbon With Every Stage Of Your Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving foods cover a broad spectrum of flavors and textures. You’ve got the earthy fruits, spice-laden desserts, herb and umami infused meats, and all the butter one meal can handle — what’s not to love? Better still, these dishes pair beautifully with great bottles of bourbon. The caramel notes and warming finish of good bourbon can be mixed into a cocktail to counterbalance heavy side dishes or sipped over a single rock to tease out the sweetness of pumpkin pie. Plus it gets you buzzed, making matching different bourbons with each course of your Thanksgiving feast a win all around.

Before we dive in, it has to be said, this isn’t the cheapest option for a Thanksgiving get down. A bottle of bourbon is going to run anywhere from $15 to $100 per bottle. But if we’re talking about one dram per course for, say, eight people, you’ll have plenty of the good stuff left over to get you through the rest of the winter. Think of it as an investment to carry you straight into spring.

Let’s dive into some of the best bottles of bourbon whiskey to pair with every stage of this year’s Thanksgiving meal.

THE “WELCOME TO THE PARTY” DRAM — BELLE MEADE SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

The Moment: Everyone’s pilling through the door. Coats are getting heaped on beds. People are full of energy and excited to be gathering as the chips, deviled eggs, and charcuterie gets passed around. The energy is going to be high and that means it’s the perfect time for a special bottle of something you won’t be able to drink at any other time — a single barrel bourbon.

The Bourbon: Belle Meade’s Single Barrel Bourbon from Tennessee’s Nelson Green Brier is the perfect “welcome” dram. The sip is unique to this year and comes from, yes, a single barrel. That means you won’t be getting this one again. It also means the flavors are dialed in. Classic notes of bourbon vanilla, oak, and caramel open this up. There’s a clear sense of popcorn, cinnamon, honey, oak, dark chocolate, and a little note of black pepper.

This bourbon is bold, exact, and definitely a conversation starter.

THE “GAMETIME” DRAM — JIM BEAM DOUBLE OAK

The Moment: Okay, people are settling in. Maybe a deck of cards or a board game has come out, or guests have gathered around to watch some football. Either way, this is when the party is getting started. People are going to have a drink or two as they anticipate the big moment later. You need a whiskey that serves a utility of both keeping drinks in guest’s hands while having a depth that’s not overwhelming.

The Bourbon: Jim Beam’s Double Oak is the perfect bottle to have on hand. It’s cheap enough ($30 range) that if your guests polish off the bottle waiting for the turkey, it’s no sweat off your back or bank account. The bourbon is double-barreled as advertised — once in charred new American oak and then in charred new white oak. The wood and char come through brightly with this sip. There’s a rich smokiness next to buttery caramel and vanilla beans.

This is a delightful pull of whiskey that’s very easy to drink.

THE “YO, IT’S TURKEY TIME COCKTAIL” BOURBON — BULLEIT 10 YEAR

The Moment: It’s turkey time! It’s also cocktail time. You don’t want guests sitting down to a massive meal with a simple glass of whiskey. A nice Old Fashioned or maybe Manhattan is in order. And, to execute those cocktails well enough to pair with all your hard work in the kitchen, you’ll need a great bourbon as a base.

The Bourbon: Bulleit 10 Year Old is a solid sipping whiskey but it’s a fantastic cocktail whiskey. Bulleit 10 creates a base that just works with the aforementioned cocktails. The dark elixir has a base of rich caramel, dried fruits stewed in winter spices, fresh vanilla, and a nice wisp of smokiness. The high rye content means this whiskey will add a nice hint of spiciness to any cocktail.

Check out some cocktail recipes here.

THE “BREAK BEFORE I REBOOT THIS MEAL” DRINK — WATER

The Moment: Hydrate. We can’t overstate this enough. You should always have water on hand with every round of bourbon. Buy a case of water from Costco if you must. Get a Brita. Install a filter on your tap. Whatever. Just make sure you and your guests are drinking water throughout the meal and take a full-on round out to just drink water as a reset.

THE “LET’S DO ROUND TWO” DRAM — EVAN WILLIAMS BOTTLE-IN-BOND 100 PROOF

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The Moment: Okay, it’s time for seconds. More turkey. More stuffing. More everything. This is a moment where something heavy and thought-provoking isn’t going to do. The focus needs to be squarely on the food with the bourbon adding a nice note to all that’s come before on this day.

The Bourbon: Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond (the white label one) is a fantastic utility whiskey that’s both cheap and damn tasty. The whiskey has a clear bourbon sense of vanilla, caramel, oak, and malts. Then a nice rush of citrus arrives to cut through all the salt, spice, and umami on your plate. That citrus gives way to vanilla and, finally, black pepper spice.

Serve this one on the rocks or with a beer back.

THE “NOW I WILL JAM MY FACE FULL OF CHEESE” DRAM — ANGEL’S ENVY FINISHED IN PORT WINE BARRELS CASK STRENGTH

The Moment: You can’t beat a cheese course. The good bacteria in funky cheese is the perfect digestif. That’s just science, folks. A cheese course also gives you a break from all the carbs and gravy. Add in some nice walnuts and dried fruits with maybe a drop or two of fresh honey and you’ve built a course that cries out for a great whiskey.

The Bourbon: Angel’s Envy Port Finished Bourbon brings the wonders of great dessert wine (port) into whiskey form and works as a counterpoint to a funky cheese course. The whiskey opens with toasted nuts, maple syrup, and dried fruit. That maple syrup draws a line through the palate with dark chocolate, sweet and ripe red fruits, and port wine sweetness drawing the whole sip together.

This is a great wine and cheese whiskey that’s best served with a few drops of water to open it up.

THE “WHO’S READY FOR PIE?” DRAM — PEERLESS SMALL BATCH KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY

The Moment: Pumpin pies, pecan pies, apple pies, blueberry pies, banana cream pies, so, so many pies are about to be had as the meal winds down. A spicy, rich, and sweet dessert calls for a whiskey that rises to the challenge and not only stands up to the bold flavors of the pie but adds to it. You need a big hitter at this moment.

The Bourbon: Peerless Small Batch Bourbon is a high-rye expression that hits some big notes. The classic bourbon caramel, vanilla, and oak are there with a hint of roasted corn. The dram really shines in its spiciness and florals. There’s a real Christmas spice essence that’s underpinned by oaky wood and wildflowers with a sweet berry edge. Then it draws back into a creamy vanilla nature with that spice.

You’ll want to pour this stuff over your pumpkin pie, trust us. Or maybe we’re all just getting a little too tipsy at this point.

THE “GOODNIGHT” DRAM — VAN WINKLE SPECIAL RESERVE 12 YEARS OLD

The Moment: Well, it’s all over. Everyone is full to bursting. The games are finished. It’s officially the Christmas season. It’s time to say goodbye and leave your guests with something truly special to ring in the holiday season properly. This is where you go big or go home for the ultimate “wow” factor.

The Bourbon: Van Winkle Special Reserve bourbon from Buffalo Trace is the younger sibling of the Pappy line. This is a whiskey you should be able to find at a specialty liquor store for around $100. So, pour as you see fit. The sip is all about Christmas spices, roasted nuts, buttery toffee, bourbon vanilla and caramel, and a clear sense of oak with a note of old leather and tobacco smoke.

This is a nip of whiskey that’ll leave your guests chatting about bourbon for the rest of the weekend.

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