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The Pour

Bourbon's Shot

U.S. distilleries are turning brown into green

June 2014

Bourbon is 100 percent American—Kentucky born and bred. With all due respect to that beautiful, brown, smoky liquid they make in Scotland, bourbon's place in golf history is just as steeped. Walter Hagen was a bourbon drinker. So was Bobby Jones. Just as single-malt scotch rose in popularity and price during the late 1990s, bourbon's demand might soon outpace supply. Domestic whiskey sales rose 40 percent the past five years, reports the research firm Euromonitor. Woodford Reserve, the oldest distillery in Kentucky, saw global sales increase 28 percent in 2013. Beam Inc., maker of Jim Beam and Maker's Mark, recently hired actress Mila Kunis as its spokeswoman. In other words, get it while it's hot. Here are some bourbons to consider.

BULLEIT ($25)
Whether you like it neat, on the rocks or in a Manhattan, this whiskey doesn't disappoint. It's spicier than many bourbons because of a higher rye content in its mash bill (that means recipe). It doesn't finish as hot in your throat as it starts, but it still makes you feel like you've just rested your Winchester next to a bar in the Old West and were served whiskey in a shot glass.

BUFFALO TRACE ($22)
If the name sounds familiar, it's because the distillery in Frankfort, Ky., was robbed of 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle last year. Pappy can sell for more than $900 a bottle on the secondary market. Buffalo Trace happily doesn't have the same inflated price tag. What it does have is a taste reminiscent of rye. Aficionados call it a dry bourbon, because it lacks the sweetness found in typical Kentucky whiskey.

WOODFORD RESERVE ($35)
One of the first premium bourbons on the market, Woodford is as reliable a choice as you can make. Aged for at least six years in oak, Woodford has hints of honey and apricot and has just enough bite to remind you that you're drinking a really good whiskey. It's best ordered neat.

OLD FORESTER ($16)
A great whiskey for the price. It's very mellow and has a syrupy flavor and texture with a hint of vanilla and almond. When you think of the taste of traditional bourbon, this comes to mind. It's great for making an old fashioned. And here's a little trivia: It was the first whiskey sold exclusively in sealed bottles instead of barrels.

EVAN WILLIAMS SINGLE BARREL ($25)
Talk about personality: This whiskey offers half a dozen flavors in a single sip. There's cinnamon, oranges; you can even taste the oak barrels used in the aging process, which lasts more than nine years. Most bourbons aren't aged that long.

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