The Upgrade

Like the Cheap Jim Beam Bourbon? Try These Upgrade Whiskeys

November 21, 2019 Drinks By

Everybody has a go-to bourbon, but sometimes, whether by choice or by limited selection at the liquor store, a backup bottle is needed. OG Jim Beam — the one with the white label — is about as popular as a bourbon can get. It’s the most popular bourbon worldwide and one of the most popular stateside. Aged a minimum of four years and available widely from $15 to $20, it’s the epitome of macro-bourbon. But drinking one whiskey for the rest of time isn’t exciting. Here are three whiskeys to reach for next.

Knob Creek Small Batch

Price: ~$30
Proof: 100

Older Sibling: Get Knob Creek if you don’t like drastic change. A part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection (which also includes Baker’s, Booker’s and Basil Hayden’s), all Knob Creek bourbon is made using the same mashbill — or recipe — as good ol’ JB. Plus, the Small Batch expression is in the same proof neighborhood. The biggest difference is maturation time; where Jim Beam is aged four years minimum, Knob Creek Small Batch containes whiskey older than nine years.

Evan Williams Straight Bourbon

Price: ~$15
Proof: 86

Like-for-Like: Evan Williams black label is Heaven Hill Distillery’s version of classic Beam. From the company behind Elijah Craig, it’s a lightweight bourbon that’s aged four or five years and available for under $20. It also happens to be one of the most complex bottom shelf bourbons available.

Basil Hayden’s

Price: ~$50
Proof: 80

Spicy-Smooth Upgrade: Basil Hayden’s gets a bad wrap. Not by regular drinkers — it’s one of the most popular premium bourbons in America — but by bourbon drinkers. Those who identify as bourbon-smart bemoan its low proof and light body as weak and unworthy of the $50 or so you’ll spend on a bottle. Maybe they’re right, but there’s no arguing its merits as an easy-drinking whiskey for those just getting into sipping the good stuff. A part of the Beam Small Batch Collection, it’s made with a slightly higher percentage of rye than traditional Jim Beam.

Love Buffalo Trace Bourbon? These Are the Next Whiskeys to Try

Sometimes you can’t find Buffalo Trace. Sometimes you want something different, but not too different. Here are three whiskeys for those moments. Read the Story

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Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol's home and drinks editor. He's from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He's interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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