Possibly owing to the resurgence in popularity of ’70s things like Star Wars and Bruce Springsteen (or maybe because it’s just plain great), the bourbon industry is experiencingits greatest boom in production and demand since 1977, when the combined powers of all of America’s greatest distillers produced over 5mill barrels. Bourbon is back — even those trendsetting hep cats at the Associated Press say so — and it’s showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
In fact, in the last 15 years in the state of Kentucky alone, bourbon has made a 150% jump in production. And the industry, just last year, made around $2.4bill. Of course, it’s not all good news: some distillers have expressed concerns that this could signalanother bourbpocalypse, just like the one that happened in the ’70s when they got a bit carried away with all the producing and the market tanked. The business “is weird,” says Chicago-based whiskey writer Charles Cowdery. “Since the distilleries are producing whiskey that won’t be mature for 4-6 years, there is fear that demand could waver, and we will be in an over-production situation.”
Still, with more brands making small-batch bourbons, that means you’re going to see more bourbon on the market. You’ve got some choices ahead.
Six great bourbon recommendations
So, with the “bourbon boom” looming, which ones are worth having in stock on yourpersonal shelf? We asked Cowdery, author of Bourbon, Strange: Surprising Stories of American Whiskey, to give us the low-down on his favorite bottles.
“You’ll have to dig a bit deeper for this one, but it’s worth it. Bourbon made the old-fashioned way.”
1792 Ridgemont Reserve
“Still the dark horse in the super-premium class. Try it. It’s good.”
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond
“You’ve heard people talking about rye whiskey, but you haven’t tried it. This is a good place to start.”
“You won’t be disappointed.”
Jim Beam Black Label
“Probably the best value in the Beam portfolio. It’s eight years old and around $20.”
Weller Special Reserve
“Wheated bourbon uses wheat instead of rye, and Maker’s Mark isn’t the only distillery that makes it. Again, a good whiskey at a good price.”