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The Best Bottles Of Bourbon To Give Instead Of Chocolate This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year. In fact, it comes in third behind Mother’s Day and Christmas/New Year’s. Obviously, chocolate and flowers tend to dominate the conversation about the love-themed holiday, but we suggest ditching those rote options this year and presenting a bottle of bourbon to your crush.

The best part of the giving bourbon as a gift is that you can share it throughout the night. The second best part is that you can customize the gift to the palate of whomever you’re giving the bottle to. Bourbon has a mainline of caramel, vanilla, and oak as a flavor spectrum. But different grains — like wheat or rye in the mash bill (recipe) — and specialty barreling — like rum or sherry cask finishing — can bring a whole new world of flavors and textures to the fore. These new recipes and combinations can help meet any palate when it comes to looking for a new and tasty bourbon in 2020 to give as a gift.

The ten bottles below are some of the easiest drinking bourbons on the market. Each bottle is fairly accessible nationwide. We tried to keep the bottles in a reasonable price range, too — they’re all well under the $100 mark.

Wilderness Trail Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

ABV: 50%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Danville, KY
Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Wilderness Trail has been producing some quality bourbon recently. As their bourbon becomes more and more refined, it becomes more and more popular — meaning it’s now available in several states from coast to coast. This bourbon expression is bottled from 12 barrels per batch. The sweet mash bill of 64 percent corn, 24 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley gives the spirit a clear rye-forward presence.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a sense of caramel that leads towards rich and oily vanilla seeds. The vanilla and caramel carry through the palate as a note of tart apples baked in cinnamon surges forward. Hints of pepper, oak, and wildflowers combine as the taste draws to a warm-yet-subtle close.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Oat Grain Bourbon

ABV: 45.2%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Versailles, KY
Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Oat Grain takes the opposite approach of the high-rye expressions. This Kentucky bourbon leans into American whiskey’s Irish whiskey heritage by using oats in the mash bill, alongside the usual suspects of corn, rye, and malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot going on with this dram. A sense of pine resin and freshly lumbered timber comingle with cinnamon spice and peppermint dipped in caramel. Orange zest leads towards a Granny Smith apple tartness until the caramel and peppermint return. These flavors usher in the end that reminds you of the apples and orange with a wisp of dark chocolate powder right on the final note.

Larceny Barrel Proof

ABV: 61.6%
Age: Six to Eight Years
Distillery Location: Bardstown, KY
Average Price: $49

The Whiskey:

Heaven HIll’s Larceny Barrel Proof is a big-hitting bourbon that never loses its nuances in all that alcohol. The wheated bourbon errs towards subtly on the palate with a big alcohol punch. No chill filtering and hand-selected barreling make this a special bottle at a fairly affordable price point.

Tasting Notes:

Grilled pancakes with a solid pour of maple syrup cut with vanilla greet you. The maple syrup thickens to rich and dark molasses that’s accentuated with notes of freshly picked figs and hazelnut. The oak and vanilla kick back in with the dark fruitiness as the alcohol warmth peaks in the finish.

Four Roses Small Batch Select

ABV: 52%
Age: Minimum Six Years
Distillery Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $59.99

The Whiskey:

Four Roses Small Batch Select does what it promises. The brand hand-select barrels from their rickhouses that have been aged at least six years. They then combine around six of those prime barrels into a small batch bottling to make Small Batch Select. This is a unique small-batch expression that represents the best Four Roses has to offer from their rickhouses.

Tasting Notes:

Clove and nutmeg mix with fresh-picked raspberries upfront. Those berries carry through and more stone fruit comes into play with apricot leading the pack. Cinnamon comes into the mix with notes of oak and vanilla as the finish brings forward a hint of spearmint right at the end.

Weller The Original Wheated Bourbon Special Reserve

ABV: 45%
Age: Seven Years
Distillery Location: Frankfort, KY
Average Price: $19.99

The Whiskey:

W.L. Weller’s The Original Wheated Bourbon Special Reserve is one of Buffalo Trace’s heavy-hitting bourbons. The wheated aspect (which completely replaces the rye) brings about a nuanced nature to the dram that’ll entice even the most unsure bourbon drinkers out there.

Tasting Notes:

Subtle caramel and vanilla open this sip. That caramel morphs into fresh honey as butterscotch and a mellow oakiness come to the surface. Finally, a wildflower orchard in full bloom helps carry the oak and vanilla towards a velvet end.

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch

ABV: 50%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Frankfort, KY
Average Price: $49.99

The Whiskey:

Sticking with Buffalo Trace, E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch is one of the easier drinking whiskeys on the list. That’s thanks to the expert distilling but, also, the barreling. Each barrel comes from Warehouse C, a rickhouse — built in 1881 by Colonel Taylor. These barrels age into an x-factor that makes this bourbon bottling a very special one to chase down.

Tasting Notes:

Freshly popped kettle corn and oak greet you. The popcorn leans into a county fair caramel corn feel as hints of butterscotch and licorice whips mix in. Echoes of black pepper and tobacco show up to mingle with the oak and leave lingering warmth on the end.

Michter’s Limited Release Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon

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ABV: 45.7%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Louisville, KY
Average Price: $69.99

The Whiskey:

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish is upping the game in specialty secondary — or finishing — barreling techniques. Michter’s takes their standard bourbon and finishes aging it in a barrel they made from toasting instead of charring the wood. This natural, air-drying process takes 18 months just to get the wood right for finishing their bourbon. That makes for a very unique expression of Kentucky bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

You get a sense of the toasted barrel upfront that leads towards a wisp of campfire smoke, cinnamon-forward pecan pie, and a little nuance of candied fruit. Pears baked in cinnamon mingle with vanilla and a marshmallow sweetness that ends the sip on a satisfying note with a lingering moment of that campfire.

Jim Beam Double Oak

ABV: 43%
Age: Minimum Four Years
Distillery Location: Clermont, KY
Average Price: $19.99

The Whiskey:

Jim Beam Double Oak is another straightforward bourbon that does exactly what it says. In this case, the spirit is aged for four years in new American oak as per the standard expression of Jim Beam. Then, they find the best barrels and move that juice into yet another new American oak barrel for finishing. This adds a depth to the standard Jim Beam that’ll have you hooked.

Tasting Notes:

Yes, oak is what’s most present on the first encounter. Toasted wood, vanilla, and caramel lead toward rich toffee and spicy baked apples. The caramel comes back with a clear note of toasted and spicy oak that leads toward a dry and warming finish.

Balcones Texas Spot Still Bourbon

ABV: 46%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Waco, TX
Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon is a fantastically unique expression of bourbon from outside of Kentucky. This tipple is made with a focus on the best ingredients with a grain-to-glass attitude to assure quality. Classic pot stills are used on the local ingredients and warm-climate aging in Waco, Texas, all add up to a one-of-a-kind drinking experience.

Tasting Notes:

Slightly sweet and tart apples mingle with kettle corn, toasted oak, graham crackers, and oiled leather. That leather carries through as honey sweetness mixes with candied pecans, sweet cream, and a distant echo of sandalwood. A mellow spiciness kicks with the support of the toasted wood for a warm, noteworthy finish.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

ABV: 54.1%
Age: No Age Statement
Distillery Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
Average Price: $39

The Whiskey:

Anyone should be happy to get a bottle of Wild Turkey’s Rare Breed in a heart-shaped box. This whiskey is an uncut whiskey straight from some of the best six, eight, and 12-year-old barrels in the Wild Turkey rickhouses. The award-winning expression is a great example of how good Wild Turkey is at a base level.

Tasting Notes:

Sweet tobacco meets Christmas spices and notes of fresh mint and orange zest. The spice carries through and adds a sharp sense of black pepper as that sweet tobacco lingers and mixes with woodiness. The taste ends with a nice flourish of fresh mint and a note of bitterness that stays warm and enticing.

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