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Best Value Straight Bourbon Whiskies Reviewed

Updated on September 14, 2013

Black Tooth Grin Recipe

Fill an old fashioned or highball glass with ice. Pour in a double shot of bourbon. Add just enough Coca-Cola to color it black. Drink it down and grin.

Looking for a good Whiskey?

I have been partial to Kentucky Bourbon for some time now and have found some good- and not so good spirits at the local liquor store. I like a good aroma, great taste and awesome effect. I have tried just about everything that's under $20 a fifth, and I am quite confident that I can list the best of these.

Kentucky Straight Bourbon is corn whiskey that has been aged in new charred oak barrels for at least 2 years. It must be made from a "mash" of at least 51 percent corn. It must contain no "neutral spirits" as the entirety of the alcohol must be barreled and aged and can only be diluted, or "tempered" with pure clean water.

Barrels may be "married" and even blended in the bottling process. "Single barrel" or "Barrel strength" is usually a higher-priced whiskey, such as Bookers. (Named after Booker Noe, a longtime CEO of the James W. Beam distilling co.) These whiskies are not the focus of this article, just providing some insight as to what straight bourbon is- as defined.

  • Old Crow

Old Crow is Kentucky straight bourbon as defined. Crow is drinkable, sort of a watered-down whiskey. 80 proof. On the cheap side of cheap. Better than "blended whiskey" like Kentucky Deluxe, or Beams eight star. It's not bad, just leaves you wanting more intense wood flavor and aroma. It's a "value Bourbon" so it is surely made according to the minimum specs to be sold as a true straight Bourbon. I rate it a 4, on a 1 to 10 scale.

  • Ezra Brooks

Ezra Brooks black label is a Jack Daniels clone made by Luxco.(Luxco also makes Everclear grain alcohol) Ezra Brooks black label is 90 proof.(same as the original J.D.) The label says "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" It also says "Charcoal Filtered" and has a cork stopper, instead of a screw-top. It is very smooth. Well-aged. Smells like a saloon in 1850. The bottleneck makes a characteristic glug-glug sound when poured. Strong, clean shooting whiskey. Not too sweet. Taste fades fast- makes you want another shot. Clean, no hangover. I give Ezra Brooks black label an 8 on the Bourbon scale.

  • Old Grand Dad

Old Grand Dad is a well-known brand. Orange label, 86 proof. Plastic screw top. Glass bottle. Raymond B. Hayden's Grandfather, Basil Hayden Sr, is who is depicted on the bottle. These men have connections with the James Beam family. Old Grand Dad is now a Beam Brand. OGD has very nice, rich aroma. and a sweet, very woody flavor. Better in my opinion than many much more expensive brands. This stuff has a sweeter, fuller taste than Makers Mark, at half the price. Highly regarded booze in my book. Will not disappoint. I will boldly rate this at a 9, since it's what I have on hand right now.

  • Jim Beam White label

Jim Beam white label is a bit more expensive than the brands above, (just over $20 for a fifth). The label states "This Whiskey is four years old." There are pictures of former company bigwigs on the bottle. Glass bottle, metal screw cap, 80 proof.(Beam just started making Jim Beam "Devils Cut" 90 proof. It's not the "Angels Share," it's what's left in the barrel after that.) Let's get to the 80 proof review. Good whiskey. Goes straight to your head. Rich, woody, and warm. Very smooth. It's always available in any bar. An 8 on my whiskey scale.

  • Evan Williams Black label

I don't have much to say about this one other than "its cheap." I tried this several years ago in the pint sized bottle and was quite impressed. I liked it so much that I went out and bought a 1.75 liter of it. This was different whiskey. It had an awful smell. Like tolulene glue or melted plastic. It was horrible. Probably a bad run or something. I just have not been able to buy this one since. Inconsistent. I am rating this one at "you be the judge" because I won't buy it.

  • Jim Beam "Jacob's Ghost"

Jacob's Ghost is a clear, slightly tinted whiskey. Although it appears un-aged, it is a fully aged whiskey. It has been processed by filtration yielding a sweet and aromatic, yet virtually colorless beverage. The bottle has a "holographic" moving at an angle type decal. Very nice for bottle collectors. (It may one day be a collectors item) Overall, not something I want to buy again, however I did drink all of it. Drinkable, not as good as the original, -a novelty- rating 5.


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    • peeples profile image

      Peeples 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Curious if that Old Grand Dad is available here. My husband just took to whiskey and has been trying to find something that lives up to Jim. Nice Hub!

    • Brandon E Newman profile image

      Brandon E Newman 5 years ago from North Texas

      I've been kicked in the liver more than once by my Old Grand Dad.

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      I don't drink a lot of whiskey anymore but your advice sounds useful.