These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

If you think American whiskey is misspelt, overrated or just a shameful stain on the spirit industry, here are six bottles that will change your mind…

Bold, brash and boorish. That’s how most people see bourbon. It’s a bottled impostor from across the Atlantic, here to usurp Scotch and dilute the drinks industry with weak, wishy-washy whiskey. The spelling’s added an ‘e’ for some reason, it’s barely-aged and has an altogether too-close relationship with Coca-Cola. Surely it’s just one blonde coiffure and pendulous red necktie away from being the archetypal American bad guy?

But hold your horses. You may think bourbon a rootin’, tootin’, cowboy spirit — and one with no place in your cultured drinks cabinet — but American whiskey is actually well worth a shot. Just ask Karina Elias, the resident whiskey expert at JW Grosvenor House London, which has recently launched an exquisite bourbon tasting journey, which features some of the most luxury and rarest bourbons in the world.

That’s what we did — tasking Elias with choosing eight of the finest whiskeys to convert any scotch diehards. “It’s very different and not peated or smoky like a lot of scotch whiskies,” she tells Gentleman’s Journal. “It’s sweeter on the nose and palate, and has a warmer aftertaste. Bourbon possesses an oaky flavour — but scotch is more smoky”.

So, for all you doubters out there, here are the six best bottles that we guarantee will get your saloon doors swinging. Whether rare or from well-known names, they balance value with taste, and will have you shirking Scotch in no time. Yee-haw.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon

What we say: If the bottle wasn’t enough to grab you — seriously, look at those wings — then the whiskey will. With a period of inspired ageing in port casks, this bourbon takes a lead out of the scotch playbook, and ends up flying with flavours including rich dried fruit, dark chocolate, and the sticky, plummy notes of raisins.

What Elias says: “This one’s aged in new old casks — but then aged for 3 to 6 further months in port barrels. They love experimenting with new oak”. 

Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon

What we say: There’s a heritage look to this bottle that means you could slide it onto your scotch shelf and it would blend in with your blends. On the palate, it’s similarly scotch-y, with a good dose of sweetness thrown in for good measure. Think oak, smoke and a whole sweet shop of toffee notes.

What Elias says: “This one is perhaps a bartender’s favourite bourbon. It’s sweet and spicy — and great for making memorable cocktails”.

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon

£54.00

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Whistlepig Rye Farmstock

What we say: The second release from the brand (which is attempting to create a whisky entirely grown, distilled and matured from one farm), this whisky zips across the tongue with a surprising amount of zest. There are hints of pine and brown sugar syrup, sure — but look out for minty, zingy liquorice flavours.

What Elias says: “This one’s from Vermont — not Kentucky, where most bourbons come from. And it’s one of the few distilleries that makes everything in one place: grow crops, distil, age and bottle on their farm. They also made the best maple syrup. A Whistlepig Old Fashioned, made using the farm’s maple syrup, is amazing!”

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Whistle Pig Rye Farmstock

£75.00

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Willett's 4 Year Old Family Reserve Rye

What we say: Another bottle that looks a little like a single malt. But don’t let the label fool you. There’s nothing peaty about Willett’s whiskey. This bottle is like a distilled desert, buzzing with notes of cherry tart, cinnamon buns and baking spices. But nose a little deeper, and you’ll also reap a more natural, grassy note. 

What Elias says: “If you’re looking for older Willett’s, you will never find it — as they have some of the rarest, oldest whiskeys in the US. The young 2-to-4 year ryes are a good start if you want to acquaint yourself with Willett’s flavour profile as a whiskey brand”.

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Willett's 4 Year Old Family Reserve Rye

£87.00

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EH Taylor Small Batch

What we say: Named for Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor — who pioneered modern methods used in whiskey distillation — this noteworthy whiskey is as creamy as clear spirits come. On the nose, you’ll pick up butterscotch, on the palate there’s cream sweetness and, on the finish, a long, lingering vanilla warmth.

What Elias says: “What’s the best distillery in the world? Buffalo Trace. They make amazing whiskies. And this is a pre-prohibition brand; EH Taylor was very important in the history of bourbon. It tastes great. Spicy!”

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

EH Taylor Small Batch

£90.00

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Four Roses Barrel Strength

What we say: Four Roses is in the top twenty whiskey brands in the USA. But this bottle, the Barrel Strength bourbon from 2021, is not the distillery’s usual fare. Drenched in flavours from vanilla blossom and violets to cinnamon and cedar wood, it brings together bold fruity notes with floral flavours and spicy touches. 

What Elias says: “This limited edition bourbon is released annually, always at a different ABV. It’s high-proof, so very powerful (57.1%). Four Roses distillery only ages their whiskey in warehouses with one level floor — which is quite unusual for whiskies”. 

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Four Roses Barrel Strength

£190.00

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Blanton’s Original Single Barrel #400

What we say: Buy it for the bottle alone. There may be some corkers on this list, but Blanton’s Original Single Barrel #400 features a waxy, show-stopping stopper that’s worth every penny. The whiskey itself is also wonderfully smooth; with a nutty profile of pecans and vanilla hazelnuts and a sharp orange zest finish.

What Elias says: “The first single barrel whiskey in the world was created by Elmer T Lee (Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller). Blanton’s spin on the style is aged in metal warehouses and it is one of the most sought-after bourbons in the world. Master of Malt tend to have a small stock of Blanton’s in the UK”.

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Blanton’s Original Single Barrel #400

£65.00

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Peerless Rye Small Batch

What we say: The clue’s in the name; Peerless. There are few whiskeys that would appeal so universally — even to scotch drinkers. This spirit has soaked up the oaky flavours of its cask, but is also imbued with an endless roster of unexpected tasting notes; coconut, marshmallow, fennel, black tea and even Dr Pepper.

What Elias says: “This one’s got a high ABV, but you can’t tell because it’s just so smooth! Really impressive and very warm. Also, from Kentucky!”

These are the best bourbons to make you cheat on scotch

Peerless Rye Small Batch

£78.00

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Still a devout scotch man? Here are 10 of the tastiest little-known scotch whiskies…

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