This Veterans Day, make a toast to those who serve our country in proper fashion -- with a fine bourbon.
"It's not just your dad's drink anymore," says Jerald O'Kennard of Tastings.com and the Beverage Testing Institute. "Although I think it'd be a great gift for your dad -- whether he's a veteran or not. Bourbons are on fire as a category -- they've never been more popular."
O'Kennard notes bourbons have gone through a sort of rollercoaster in popularity. Although it was the drink of choice from the 1930s through the 1950s, vodkas and rums took its place during the 1960s, he says. Bourbon distilleries shut down and brands disappeared. Bourbons made their comeback in the late 1980s in the form of smaller-batch bourbons -- catching the taste buds of scotch and cognac lovers, he says.
Adding that this September was named National Bourbon Heritage Month by the U.S. Senate, O'Kennard says the comeback is complete.
"Bourbons are back to stay, and I think they're never going to die away again," he says.
Toast to Our Veterans With Bourbon
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Describing what he deems to be the world's most popular bourbon, O'Kennard says
Jim Beam Black is the next step up for the bourbon novice. At a recommended retail price of $20.99, the 86-proof Black was the highest-rated brand by the Beverage Testing Institute among leading North American whiskies "for its overall nose, depth of flavor and finish," according to Jim Beam's Web site.
"It's aged eight years, it's a little mellower, smooth but still has an intense kick to it," O'Kennard says. "You know you're drinking bourbon."
For an old dog with a new trick, O'Kennard recommends
Old Forester Signature. The brand, distilled by
is one of the oldest bourbon brands, but it's dressing itself up in a more modern style. The packaging is simple -- a stout bottle, with bold black labels and its name proudly scrawled across the middle.
"It's been around for 100 to 120 years, and this is a new bottling for them," O'Kennard says. "Even old brands are putting on a new face to trick young consumers."
Tastings.com details its "rich peppery brown spice, vanilla, and buttery toffeed nuts and a long spicy fade." At 100 proof, Old Forester will run you about $24.99 per 750-milliliter bottle.
For a nice gift on Veteran's Day, O'Kennard recommends
Woodford Reserve, a fancy bourbon that he says has been around for almost 10 years. "It's really elegant, kind of smooth," he says. "A lot of people compare it to cognac. It's that kind of depth of flavor and smoothness." The bottle is a wide, sleek shape, with small, elegant writing. At about 90.4 proof, the bourbon from
( BF-B) goes for $29.99 per 750-milliliter bottle.
Noting the spirit works nicely in a bourbon peach tea cocktail, Tastings.com describes attributes including "toffee, mocha, and white pepper flavors with a pronounced copper tang."
If you're feeling patriotic, the packaging of
Sam Houston alone will set the tone for a Veteran's Day celebration. Named for the first president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston's photo is emblazoned on the front, with stars sprinkled up the top of the bottle. It is a gold medal-winner of both the San Francisco World Spirits competition and International Review of Spirits.
Tastings.com describes Sam Houston, distilled by
, as having, "buttery caramel, roasted nut, vanilla bean, and coconut aromas. A round supple entry leads to a dryish medium-full body of toffee, nuts, and rich, peppery brown spices. Finishes with caramel, toasted coconut, and spice and a warming, mineral fade." Though hard to find, O'Kennard says Sam Houston, which goes for about $35 per 750-milliliter bottle, is well worth the search.
Named for the third U.S. president,
Jefferson's Reserve is a slow-aged, very small-batch bourbon.
"It's a tribute to our founders," O'Kennard says. "Our nation's founders were mostly distillers and farmers. George Washington had the first still as far as I know -- and they're resurrecting that still right now and it's
Jefferson's Reserve, also made by Castle Brands, is best served on the rocks or with a splash of water, according to Tastings.com. The site says the bourbon has "sexy aromas of dark chocolate, dried cherries, and roasted nuts. A vibrant supple entry leads to a fruity-yet-dry medium-full body of rich toffee, nut, and dried cherry and golden raisin flavors with a long, hearty and sweet finish." Given a gold medal by the International Review of Spirits, O'Kennard calls this $50 750-millilter bottle a really special gift.
O'Kennard says you'll be able to find Jim Beam Black, Old Forrester and Woodford Reserve in any good liquor store in your area, but make sure you look up Jefferson's Reserve and Sam Houston in a specialty liquor shop or online in time for Veterans Day.
Brittany joined TheStreet.com TV in November 2006 after completing a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers College. Previously, Brittany interned at the local ABC affiliate in New York City WABC-TV 7 where she helped research and produce On Your Side, a popular consumer advocacy segment.