A while back Reddit posted the article “You really only ever need 5 bottles of bourbon at a time” and it took the whiskey world by storm. Every whiskey reviewer seemed to jump all over it and give their opinion on what they would pick. Now I know everyone has an opinion on this and as someone with a healthy collection of whiskey of his own, it’s hard to pick just one for each category. There are so many different bottles that could easily fit into this article so after you get done reading this, I challenge you to post your picks in the comments below. Let us know what you would enjoy. Since this idea has resurfaced again here in 2022, I thought it would be a great idea for yours truly to get into the mix. So, here we go!
To qualify for a daily drinker, it needs to be a whiskey that is easy on the palate, easy on the wallet, and easy on the proof. It also helps if it goes well with most cigars that I smoke. It needs to be something that I can go to after a long day at work, after a weekend of running the family around, or just sitting back in my favorite chair and watching a few minutes of my favorite show. My current daily sipper is Benchmark Old #8.
Coming in at only $13.99 and 80 proof, this bottle is not only budget friendly but also pretty tasty as well. Produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort Kentucky, Benchmark uses the same low rye mashbill as other well-known Buffalo Trace names such Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, Stagg Jr, Colonel E.H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. On the nose you get all of the traditional bourbon notes that you look for in a good bourbon. Soft caramel and vanilla. On the palate you get notes of honey, caramel, and vanilla. The finish is a nice caramel note with a youthful corn sweetness and very light oak in the background.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: Crowned Heads Mil Dias Mareva Edicion Limitada XX
What makes this cigar a good pairing the sweet notes and oak and that it doesn’t overpower the whiskey.
Impress Your Guest.
The next category is the whiskey that you want to pull out to impress your guest. They may be new to whiskey or could be someone who enjoys a pour every now and then. This needs to be a bottle that most will see and would likely be excited to try or at least appreciate the fact that you would bring it out to share. Keeping with the Buffalo Trace distillery I picked EH Taylor Small Batch.
An allocated bottle and in most places hard to find, EH Taylor is a 100 proof bourbon that is said to be aged between 4-6 year before it leaves the barrel. The suggested retail price is around $60 but tends to be found for $120 and even higher.
With notes of grapes, caramel, and oak on the nose and Vanilla, cinnamon, and butterscotch on the palate this is a bourbon that most people would be excited to try for the first time or sit and sip again and again.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: Plasencia Reserva Original
With notes of nuts, white pepper, and cedar and sweetness on the finish, this cigar compliments the whiskey and doesn’t fight for attention.
Our third category is a cheap whiskey that makes for a good mixer. To me a good mixer needs to be something that I don’t mind sipping neat, it needs to be over 100 proof to hold up to ice, and needs to have a good flavor profile… or at least one that hits above its price point. For me one of my favorite whiskeys that meets those requirements is Fighting Cock.
Hailing from the barrels of the Heaven Hill Distillery and weighing in at a lean and mean $17.99, Fighting Cock is known as the “Kickin Chicken” of whiskey. Heaven Hill says “The bad boy of Bourbon is bottled at a robust 103 proof, but its 6 years of aging smooth out the feather real well.” With notes of peanuts and citrus on the nose and peanuts, citrus, vanilla, and oak on the palate, this 103 proofer makes a great base for a whiskey and coke, whiskey sour, or any of your favorite cocktails. It holds up great to ice but for me personal, I like it neat. This is diffidently a bourbon that kicks well above its price point weight class.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: It all depends on what kind of cocktail that you are making. I would stick with a night medium cigar that doesn’t have a lot of pepper notes in it.
This next category is my favorite. After a long week at work, you come home Friday night excited for the weekend, ready to relax and let the stress of the week fade into the night. You go and grab that one whiskey that hits you in all the right spots, that Friday night pour. If you know me at all, you know that I’m most likely looking for a Chattanooga Whiskey product and it’s likely to be the Chattanooga 111 Cask Strength.
Chattanooga 111 is a four-grain bourbon whiskey made up of Yellow Corn, Malted Rye, Caramel Malted Barley and Honey Malted Barley. It has an age of at least 2 years and has a batch size of 6 – 10 barrels. Its unfiltered and bottled at barrel strength coming in at 111 proof. On the nose you get Carmel, malt, and chocolate and the palate brings you notes of chocolate, cherries, honey and a slight sweet tea. The finish is long and warming and leaves you with that nice Kentucky hug that a higher proof whiskey gives you. For a 2-year-old whiskey, this one diffidently drinks a lot older and more mature than what it is.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: All Saints Dedicación
Chocolate and citrus with a hit of baking spices and a sweet finish adds another layer of flavors to the caramel and malt note of the Chattanooga. They go so well together.
Special Occasion Bottle.
The last category of bottle on our list is a special occasion bottle. This is that bottle that is either rare and hard to find or something that means a lot to you. It could be a bottle that you and your wife went and picked or a bottle that a friend found and gave to you as a gift. Whatever the reason is, make sure its something special. For this category I have 2 picks. Instead of diving deep into the flavors and notes I would rather give you meaning and background because for this bottle the notes don’t matter, it’s the meaning behind the bottle not its mash bill.
Makers Mark Ambassadors Bottle.
When my wife and I first started dating we started visiting a lot of different distilleries and making lots of whiskey memories together. One of the first distilleries that we went to was the Makers Mark distillery. We did the tour and at the end signed up for their Ambassador’s Program. By doing that we were able to adopt a barrel with our name on it and over the next few years we got to track and follow its progress on their app. We watched it constantly and would talk often about how exciting it will be to go back once it has matured. Seven years later we returned once our barrel had been aged and pick and we had few bottles filled and labeled with our names on them. We now have special bottles that mean something to us that we will bring out for special occasions or anniversaries to share with our friends or with each other.
Bookers has always been one of those bottles that I have just wanted. I’ve never really been able to find one and the one or two times that I did, it was so overpriced that I couldn’t afford it. One day a friend of mine and I were talking about hard-to-find whiskey that he should hunt for and I told him about Bookers. I told him about how I had always looked for one but never really found one. Its was at the top of my “bucket list” bottles. About a month later when we met up at a club event, he pulled out this little brown box and inside was that bottle had been looking for. He had not only found one but he had gotten it for me as a gift. A few days later he asked if I had opened it yet and I told him no, I was saving it for a special club occasion so that when I opened it, he would be a part of that experience. So, for me that bottle will be saved for the right moment.
Cigar Pairing Recommendation: N/A
No cigar recommendation for these selections, but not because you shouldn’t have one. Enjoy the moment with the whiskey and the reason you are drinking it. Take in the experience and then find you a cigar that would match the feelings and the moment you are having right then. No one can tell you what that cigar will be, but it will be the perfect one.
Now that you have seen my list, what’s yours? Please comment below what bottles you would use for each occasion. I would love to read about it. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Until next time, if you’re going to enjoy a little smoke & oak just remember, “Life’s too short, enjoy the good stuff”…. and do it responsibly!