Asking us to choose between whiskey (we’re talking bourbon here, made primarily with corn and aged in charred oak barrels) and whisky (single malt scotch) is like posing the question, “Would you prefer to drive a C2 Corvette Split Window or a Jaguar E-Type?” The answer is always “both and yes”. But if you’re a single malt devotee, you’d do right to expand your taste horizons, and the best way to experiment with bourbon is to go small batch — the complexities are pleasing, and you’ll find yourself a worshiper in many different temples. Small batch bourbons are, essentially, the cream of the crop, having emerged from a relatively low number of oak aging barrels. Though there’s no hard and fast rule about what that number is, small batch bourbons typically consist of no more than about 10-20 barrels and are aged for as few as 5 years and as many as 23.
Of course, age doesn’t always equate to great — our individual palates respond differently. But cue the ceremonial horns when a good small batch with rich amber hues and fragrant notes makes it to your glass. You’re getting something exclusive, something doted over by loving makers. The variety available now is impressive, and the flavors and drinking experiences (mixed, as well as straight) run the gamut. There’s a lot to love. Here are tasting notes on five small batch bourbons we recommend to warm your palate (and maybe a share with a few lucky friends).