3 Bourbons for Thanksgiving

Now that our children are grown, the Thanksgiving meal has evolved into being about more than just turkey. The boys generally enjoy a little bourbon before and/or after we eat (we still stick to a light red wine for dinner). With Thanksgiving just two days away, I thought I’d share with you three bourbons great for serving on Thanksgiving.

1. Buffalo Trace

buffalotraceThis is a bourbon that is good for both mixing or sipping. At this price point, you don’t have to watch the bar to make sure your good sipping bourbon isn’t ending up in mixed drinks, but also can easily serve it to a large crowd to enjoy on the rocks. Buffalo Trace is an outstanding distillery which makes premium brands such as Pappy Van Winkle and Blanton’s.

Price: $25.99 for 750mL from BevMo!

2. Basil Hayden’s
bottleThis is a great bourbon for serving both on special occasions or at an impromptu gathering with friends. It is a lower proof, well priced sipping bourbon. I recently picked a bottle up from our Costco for $39.98. We pulled it out on Sunday at Friendsgiving and it was a crowd favorite. I’ve written before about this making a great gift – consider taking this to your Thanksgiving host as well!

Price: $44.99 for 750mL from Total Wine

3. Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve Cask Finish
To go with some of the bold, tanniny red wines you will be drinking over the holidays, I suggest Jefferson’s Reserve finished in Groth Cabernet French Oak barrels. This bourbon is a superpower sipper and will be well received by all your friends and family. If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of Jefferson’s Reserve bourbons. This one is perfect for a holiday – unique, smooth, easy to like.

Price: $73.99 for 750mL from Mr. Hi Time

Bourbon Review: Black Saddle 12 Yr Old Straight Kentucky Bourbon

I first read about Black Saddle on Caskers’s website. Aged for 12 years, this bourbon was named the “Best Small Batch Bourbon” at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition winning a Double Gold Medal. It’s spring horse racing season. And, even though it has a western saddle on the label, I felt it follows my spring racing theme.


I love Black Saddle’s label and bottle graphics. The seal over the cork is also very well done with an embossed saddle on it. Open the bottle and you immediately smell the spice. – it’s a wonderful aroma. Upon tasting it, I immediately got vanilla and a lot of other spices. The distiller’s notes say crème brulee, pepper, and toasted cinnamon. You can taste and sense all of those.


At 90 proof it grabs your attention in a good way. It definitely says I am going to impress you and hold my intensity and your attention. You get a lot of flavors for the whole experience from first taste to finish. For dinner tonight we had kielbasa simmered in onions and beer served over extra wide egg noodles. I tasted the bourbon prior to dinner, during dinner, and after dinner. It was a “trifecta” and worked all evening.

This is definitely a bourbon I would suggest giving a try. It is a very good bourbon worth you attention and the $50 price tag.

BTW – If you aren’t subscribed to Caskers, you should (you can register here).  They get some very good, unique, hard to find bourbons.

Aged: 12 years
Proof: 90
Color: Dark Amber
Aroma: SPICES, lots of spices!
Taste: Vanilla
Price: $55.99 at BevMo

Bourbon Review: Basil Hayden’s


I have had a bottle of Basil Hayden sitting on our bar cart for over a year, unopened.  After opening it the other night I am not sure WHY I waited so long.

I didn’t know what to expect, as I had never tasted it or read a review. I’m actually not really sure why I originally bought it — maybe the packaging.  But I have heard a lot of good things recently, and it turns out they were all true. Taylor wrote about Basil Hayden’s in her guest post earlier this week – it’s a favorite at her house, and now mine too.

What an incredibly smooth bourbon!  I am putting it on the same pedestal with the best.  I starting sipping while working on another blog post and I had to stop and savor the moment.  It reminded me of the first time I tasted Pappy (which I’ll talk more about in a couple weeks).  It was one of those moments when you say to yourself, “This is a special moment, stop and enjoy it.”

The History (from their website):

In 1796, Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. broke ‘the rules’ by mixing small grains into the mash of a traditional corn base. A Maryland transplant unafraid to stand out amidst the residing establishment, Basil conjectured that the spicy flavor of rye would be a striking complement to the sweet smoothness of corn in his distillery’s standard bourbon. And much to the chagrin of the traditionalist set, Basil was right. His recipe was a masterpiece, resulting in a unique, singular small batch bourbon whiskey that was blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish.

I have to agree with their notes of strong pepper and a spicy aroma.  As it sits on the granite counter by my keyboard, it has a wonderful smell and color to enjoy.  Each sip brings new tastes and a warmth with the finish.  I can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed this bourbon.

In their notes they say, “Basil Hayden’s is the lightest bodied bourbon whiskey in the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons produced by Beam Suntory.”  It is that light body that makes it soft and a great sipping whiskey.  I just wish it would cool off again here in California so I could build a fire to sit by and enjoy this wonderful bourbon.  Pick up a bottle and enjoy it this weekend!

Age: 8 years
Proof: 80
Color: Golden amber
Aroma: Spice, tea, hint of peppermint
Taste: Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite
Price: $38.99 BevMo


Guest Post: Valentine’s Day Bourbon Ideas

Hey there! It’s Bill’s daughter, Taylor, here with my first guest post.  I’ve been helping my dad in the background with technical support. Today I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day ideas. And tomorrow I’ll be back with a post about decking out your home bar!

Valentine’s Day is right around corner (on Sunday!). I have yet to get my husband a gift, and fortunately he enjoys bourbon as much as Bourbon Bill.  Bourbon is a super easy, yet thoughtful and fun gift, to pick up for your Valentine, guy or girl. You can really tailor it to your someone special. You can easily find a bourbon with a cool bottle, a top rated bourbon, or just something new, for under $50 at your local liquor store.

Below are three bourbons great for any Valentine, and all for under $50 for a 750mL bottle.


  1. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon – This is a favorite of ours right now. I’m not the biggest bourbon drinker and it is smooth enough for me to drink. I love the style of the bottle. The paper label ads a little something unique to it. This would definitely impress a Valentine. BevMo has Basil Hayden’s for $41.99 right now.
  2. Larceny Very Special Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – This is another favorite right now. Really easy to drink and really tasty.  Also, the bottle styling is really cool (are you seeing a trend in how I chose these bourbons??). This one is a great price point at $29.99 on Caskers.
  3. Angel’s Envy Bourbon Whiskey – It’s Valentine’s Day. The Bottle has wings. It was an obvious choice. But in all honesty, it’s another great bourbon, getting all sorts of praise in the bourbon world. Any Valentine would be excited to get this. BevMo has it for $45.99 right now. You can read Bourbon Bill’s review of Angel’s Envy here.

Bourbon Review: Wild Turkey 101

It’s 101 Proof and as good as it sounds.  Doesn’t it sound interesting and a cut above?  Being 101 proof means it’s 50.5% alcohol.  They get Wild Turkey to 101 when they dilute the bourbon down from about 109 after filtering to  bottle it.  It has matured in barrels with a #4 char between 6, 7 & 8 years.   Austin Nichols was Established in the mid 1800’s but it hasn’t always been called Wild Turkey.  A little history is below from the Campari Group’s website.

In 1940, Austin, Nichols executive Thomas McCarthy inadvertently established the Wild Turkey Bourbon brand name. An avid sportsman, McCarthy gathered with friends each year for a wild turkey hunt on a South Carolina estate. McCarthy, who was asked to bring the whiskey, pulled a sample of undiluted 101 proof from the warehouse. The following year, his friends insisted he bring more of “that wild turkey bourbon.” McCarthy, a businessman with a background in marketing, realized he had a winning product and soon began to market Wild Turkey Bourbon.

Knowing it was 101 proof, the first time I tried it I wasn’t sure what the first sip would bring.  It was delightful, very robust in flavor and a wellspring of flavors as it opens up.  As I was tasting it for this blog post, I was looking for the bite of the proof but it’s smooth for a high proof bourbon.  A lot of complex flavors: cinnamon (I would call it liquid cinnamon in color), very strong caramel, nutmeg. I detect some fruit which to me is apple, others call it orchard fruit.

I enjoy this bourbon and would recommend you try a bottle for sipping or mixing.  It will play well with other flavors.

I have had many bottles of Wild Turkey on my Southwest Airlines flights (thanks for the free drink coupons Southwest!) but never the 101.  Watch for it at your local store and give it a try.  Like me, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Aged: Blend of 7, 8, & 9 Years
Proof: 101
Color: Deep Russet (Distillers Notes)
Price Point: $24.99 (at BevMo)
Wine Enthusiast Rating91

Bolder but hotter than the 81 proof version, this Kentucky Bourbon has a drying feel, and lots of maple, caramel and vanilla flavor, finishing long with touches of dried orange peel and clove. Add a splash of branchwater to even out the alcohol. (Read more here)


“O Pappy, Pappy, wherefore art thou Pappy?”

DSCN3949 (1)
My Pappy Van Winkle collection.

That elusive bottle of 12, 15, 20, or 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. Everyone wants to know where to find a bottle. When we toured the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2013 everyone on our tour wanted to know which barrel warehouse had the Pappy in it. Our tour guide, who had been a 40-year employee, said he didn’t even know. By now, everyone has heard about the theft of Pappy from Buffalo Trace and the subsequent capture of the thieves. It was an inside job by one of the few people in the world who knew, “Where in the world is Pappy Van Winkle” for Carmen Sandiego fans, or, “Where’s Pappy” for Waldo fans.

How I got my first bottle

I got my first bottle because my friend John called and said they had some Pappy at Total Wine for sale. That was about 5 years ago, maybe 7. At that time they would get in all the years and sell one bottle per customer until it was gone. Those days are gone.

Collecting more Pappy

My second bottle was given to me by one of my best friends and college roommate, Jeff. Jeff buys a lot of wine from several stores.   If you are a very good customer, well, rank (and relationship) has its privilege.

My latest acquisition, a 20-year bottle, my wife Lynn gave to me for Christmas this year. She got it in a state lottery she entered on a whim while we in Idaho this fall! NOW THAT’S A GREAT GIFT.

Finding Pappy

So how do YOU find a bottle?   Pappy is released in late fall. It is never too early to start. Start early, find a friend, make a friend, get creative.

Make a friend means get close to your local liquor store manager/owner that gets Pappy. I got to know the manager of my local BevMo in Brea, California. He put me on the list early in the year in the year and they called me to say I was high enough on the list I had my pick of years. Of course, I took the 23 (more on preferred years in another post). This is key to acquiring any rare spirit, whether it’s bourbon, scotch, wine, etc. Identifying a good store and building a strong relationship will get you far.

My Christmas bottle came from a lottery. Some states with state run liquor stores have a lottery for the Pappy they receive – so, try to win the lottery. Other states with state run liquor stores have long waiting lists for Pappy. It’s worth putting your name on it, but you’ll probably have to wait years.

And, having friends scouting for you helps too.  One of my bottles came from Indiana (from Jeff).  I bought a bottle from BevMo for a family friend in LA who was interested.  Having friends on the team, especially out of the area friends, can pay off.

Years ago I saw a guy on Johnny Carson who got a White Baby Grand Piano for free. His philosophy was if you let enough people know, you can find almost anything you want, at the price you want to pay. He was looking for a White Baby Grand piano and he didn’t want to pay much for it.

Happy hunting and remember start early and be creative!