Thanksgiving Day, Friendgiving, Ribsgiving, Turkey Day — whatever you’re celebrating this coming Thursday, you’re likely going to require a drink or two to get through. It’s going to be a long, food-filled day full of anticipation, gluttony, games, and hopefully a good pour of whiskey or two. While we’ve already shared our two cents on roasting the perfect turkey and finding the best pumpkin pie, we’re also keen to recommend some great bourbon to sip every single step of the meal.
To that end, I’m calling out six bourbons for all six major moments of many a Thanksgiving Day. From the arrival to the meal to the after-dinner gaming to the “it’s time to get the f*ck out of my house” pour, we dove deep to find you a great bourbon whiskey for each situation. The “things are getting political” pour is on you.
For this list, I’ve collected six bourbons that range from fairly easy to get and affordable to truly special pours for special moments. And while those special pours are not widely available, they are available for a price (and I’ve linked to places where you can pay that price). Still, it’s important to note that my recommendations are more of a vibe than a “you must have” choice. Take the theme of the pairing and maybe find something that you can find or fits your budget better instead.
Sound good? Let’s dive in!
The “Welcome to the Party” Pour — Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 10 Years
Average Price: $47
This might be one of the most beloved (and still accessible) bottles from Buffalo Trace. This whiskey is made from their very low rye mash bill. The hot juice is then matured for at least ten years in various parts of the warehouse. The final mix comes down to barrels that hit just the right notes to make them “Eagle Rare.” Finally, this one is proofed down to a fairly low 90 proof.
Nose: Old leather boots, burnt orange rinds, oily sage, old oak staves, and buttery toffee draw you in on the nose before a sense of old fallow fruit orchards with falling leaves hints at old brick barrelhouses in the distance with a whisper of dried apple.
Palate: Marzipan covered in dark chocolate opens the palate as floral honey and ripe cherry lead to a winter cake vibe full of raisins, dark spices, and toffee sauce before deep and earthy barrel warehouse vibes arrive with a sense of the cobwebs, mold, and ancient wood takes over.
Finish: The end has a balance of all things winter treats as the marzipan returns and the winter spice amp up alongside a hint of spicy cherry tobacco and old cedar wrapped with smudging sage, old fall leaves, and bourbon-soaked oak stave from decades ago.
Why Pour This Now?
The first pour is a very important pour of whiskey on any Thanksgiving. It’s your handshake, you welcome to the party, your … “this is me” pour. You want something special but recognizable. It has to be great tasting while still feeling deeply classic to the point of nostalgia. That’s Eagle Rare 10 to a tee.
This whiskey is pure Kentucky bourbon in its most quintessential form. It’s deeply classical while going deep into fall/wintry flavors, which fit with the flavors of the holiday. Moreover, this is just really easy sipping whiskey that works on a big rock or in an old fashioned (if someone wants to jump on the bar and stir).
The “Dinner” Pour — Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $53
This is the mountaintop of what the main line of Wild Turkey can achieve (this is easily found on liquor store shelves for the most part). This is a blend of the prime barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic Turkey bourbon with nowhere to hide.
Nose: This opens like a dessert table during the holidays with crème brûlée next to a big sticky toffee pudding with orange zest sprinkled over the top next to a bushel of fresh mint.
Palate: The palate hits an early note of pine resin as the orange kicks up towards a bold wintry spice, soft vanilla cream, and a hint of honeyed cherry tobacco.
Finish: The end keeps the winter spices front and center as a lush pound cake feeling leads to soft notes of cherry-spiced tobacco leaves folded into an old cedar box with a whisper of old vanilla pods lurking in the background.
Why Pour This Now?
Okay, everyone has arrived, the turkey is on the table, the mash is rapidly getting colder and tackier, and now it’s time for a great food pairing pour. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon is the perfect pairing bourbon for a big holiday meal. The spiciness perfectly accents the big flavors on the table. There’s a nice honeyed vanilla that teases the coming desserts. This bourbon has everything.
Again, this is also very easy to drink neat or on a big ol’ rock. And again, if someone wants to mix this into a cheeky Manhattan or old fashioned, it’ll sing that way too.
The “Intermission” Pour — Bomberger’s Declaration Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2023 Release
Average Price: $179
This whiskey heralds back to Michter’s historical roots in the 19th century before the brand was even called “Michter’s.” The old Bomberger’s Distillery in Pennsylvania is where the brand started way back in the day (1753). The whiskey in the bottle is rendered from a very small batch of bourbons that were aged in Chinquapin oak. The staves for that barrel were air-dried for three years before coppering, charring, and filling. The Kentucky bourbon is then bottled in an extremely small batch that yields around 2,000 bottles per year.
Nose: Sweet mashed grains — think a bowl of Cream of Wheat cut with butter and molasses — mix with sticky toffee pudding, old saddle leather, old cellar beams, and sweet cinnamon with a hint of candied orange and dark chocolate next to luscious eggnog with a flake of salt.
Palate: The palate is super creamy with a crème brûlée feel that leads to soft winter spices, dry cedar, and orange chocolates with a hint of pear-brandy-soaked marzipan in the background.
Finish: The end has a creamed honey vibe next to brandy-soaked figs and rum-soaked prunes with fresh chewing tobacco and salted dark chocolate leading back to dark chocolate and old cellar floors with a touch of smoldering orchard bark.
Why Pour This Now?
Okay, the true intermission pour is a bottle of water. After that, you’ll need a nice palate cleanser pour of whiskey before you go back to the table for round two. Maybe you’re out on the deck smoking a cigar or just hoovering over the serving table planning your next move. Either way, pour this quintessentially deep and nuanced bourbon to get a full reset on your palate.
Bomberger’s Declaration is a masterpiece with depth that goes beyond the ordinary. It’s grassier yet creamier. It’s nuanced and bold yet light and almost playful. This bourbon will reawaken your senses just in time for more stuffing and cranberry sauce on another pile of turkey and potatoes.
The “Dessert” Pour — Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Series #11
Average Price: $139
The latest release from Bardstown Bourbon Company is a full-on Kentucky bourbon blend. The whiskey is made with 73% 13-year-old Kentucky bourbon, 21% 10-year-old Kentucky bourbon, and 6% of Bardstown’s own six-year-old Kentucky bourbon. Once batched, the whiskey mellows before bottling 100% as-is at cask strength.
Nose: Tart cherries and rich toffee rolled in roasted almond and dipped in salted dark chocolate drive the nose toward cinnamon spice cakes with a hint of dried cranberry, plummy sauce, and rich tobacco.
Palate: The taste leans into caramel-covered peanuts with a hint of red fruit leather, old spice barks, and a whisper of orange rinds next to a touch of Cherry Coke, old leather tobacco pouches, and the old beams from a whiskey barrel house.
Finish: The end leans into a lush vanilla buttercream with notes of old back porch wicker, almost sweet cedar kindling, smudging sage, and cinnamon bark soaked in cherry brandy with a touch of chili-cut dark chocolate.
Why Pour This Now?
Okay, time has probably passed before the pies and puddings come out. Still, you need something that’ll counterpoint all that sweetness with a sharpness that’ll add true depth. That’s Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Discovery Series #11. It’s such an edgy yet welcoming pour of whiskey. It’s rich and saucy. When you pour it over ice, it gets creamier and more bitter chocolate forward to the point of feeling like a creamy espresso cut with dark chocolate and stewed red fruits.
If that doesn’t sound like a dessert accompaniment, I don’t know what does.
The “Gametime” Pour — Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 12 Years
Average Price: $74
This is the classic Beam whiskey. The whiskey is left alone in the Beam warehouses in Clermont, Kentucky, for 12 long years. The barrels are chosen according to a specific taste and mingled to create this aged expression with a drop or two of that soft Kentucky limestone water.
Nose: This opens with clear notes of dark rum-soaked cherry, bitter yet creamy dark chocolate, winter spices, a twinge of a sourdough sugar doughnut, and a hint of menthol layered with smudging sage and orchard barks.
Palate: The palate leans into a red berry crumble — brown sugar, butter, and spice — with a hint of dried chili flake, salted caramels covered in dark chocolate, and a spicy/sweet note that leads toward a wet cattail stem and soft brandied cherries dipped in silky dark chocolate sauce.
Finish: The end holds onto that sweetness and layers in a final note of pecan shells and maple candy before leaning into a creamy vanilla cream spiked with tobacco and stewed prunes, dates, and figs.
Why Pour This Now?
Okay, the food is done (sort of — we all go back for more). It’s time to break out a game, a cigar, or a movie. This is where we all come together and go at our own pace. You really need an easy-going whiskey that delivers for that. Knob Creek 12 is just fantastic for easy-going slow-sipping after-dinner luxuriating.
Again, you can mix a killer Manhattan or old fashioned with this or just sip it neat. It shines over a big rock. It’s the perfect drink-it-how-you-like-it whiskey.
The “Farewell” Pour — King of Kentucky Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Sixth Edition
Average Price: $299
2023’s King of Kentucky from Brown-Forman in Louisville, Kentucky is a 16-year-old masterpiece. The batch this year was pulled from 51 barrels all filled on July 19th, 2007. Those barrels were left alone all these years in Warehouse G in the Louisville Brown-Forman Distillery. Once batched, the whiskey went into the bottle 100% as-is at cask strength, yielding only 3,800 bottles.
Nose: Toasted coconut and brandy-soaked dates lead the way on the nose with a rich sense of good salted dark chocolate, vanilla buttercream, and honeyed Graham Crackers sandwiching toasted marshmallow.
Palate: That dark chocolate takes on a creaminess (kind of like a small espresso mocha) with a sense of sticky toffee pudding cut with black tea, those brandy-soaked dates, a twist of orange, and plenty of nutmeg and cinnamon before leathery notes of old boots and dry tobacco arrive with an ever-warming heat from the ABVs.
Finish: The ABVs buzz to a warmth that peaks before it gets hot as the finish rides a wave toward orchard barks, mince meat pies, mulled wine, and whispers of pear marzipan.
Why Pour This Now?
At some point, it’ll be time to leave. Always go out with a bang! This whiskey is both elite and bold AF. Your guests will wake back up with this sipper thanks to massive ABVs and seriously bottomless depth on the profile. This is the pour that your family or crew will be talking about all year and ask for the minute they arrive at Thanksgiving 2024.
Send them off smiling with this outstandingly memorable pour of Kentucky bourbon.