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National Bourbon Heritage Month calls for the celebration of bourbon as America's "Native Spirit" during the month of September.  It is dedicated to celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.

Badger Liquor's Director of Sales Training & Development, and bourbon enthusiast, Ben Schneider, shares a few bourbons that you should give a try this month... and beyond.

Here are the Criteria

  • For a whiskey to be properly labeled as a bourbon, most “purists” will tell you it has to come from Kentucky. Others will say it simply must be American. The truth is that it can come from anywhere in America, but it must come from America. Yes, 95% comes from Kentucky, but it can come from any state and still be bourbon.
  • Bourbon must be created from a mash that is at least 51% corn. The other 49% is usually a mixture of barley, rye, or wheat.
  • Bourbon must be aged in new American oak barrels.
  • Bourbon must go into the barrel at no more than125 proof and it cannot enter the bottle at anything less than 80 proof.
  • Nothing but water can be added, and that is only at the end to proof the whiskey down.

So now that we know what makes bourbon bourbon, here are are the bourbons that Ben thinks you should try this month.

And for Badger Liquor's entire bourbon portfolio:

134.4 Proof

"Rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingle in perfect balance with the bold rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness."

Stagg Jr. is the most complex bourbon I’ve ever had in a number of ways. Complex in the sense it takes on extremely different flavors if you are drinking it straight versus adding one drop of water versus two, or if served on ice. This was the first bourbon that I noticeably saw opened up even more after the bottle was open for a few months.   It's just full of surprises and you could have a different experience every time you enjoy it.  

94 Proof

"Very intense flavors; a big crescendo of wood blending perfectly with deep, complex and rich notes of vanilla and caramel."

This is one that I always try to keep around. It takes what Maker's Mark does so well with their standard offereing and tweaks it enough to be a stand alone great bourbon.  It take the Maker's recipe, adds a specifically French Oak stave to give it a unique flaovr. 47% alcohol is slightly higher than the standard Maker's, but this is not harsh by any means.  For me, it gives off an aroma of chocolate, toasted coconut and spice on the palette, with some vanilla tones as well.  You can easily drink it straight or on the rocks.  I haven't personally tried them, but I know their Private Select and Cask Strength offererings are phenomenal as well.

100 Proof

"Aromas of vanilla, caramel, oak with a light herbaceous note, while the taste is smooth oak, sharp spices, honey and sweetness with a long, sweet and spicy finish."

This is a great example of a tremendous bottled-in-bond bourbon, which essentially means higher quality standards than non-bottled-in-bond offerings. This can be great straight up or used in an Old Fashioned, and has a bold yet not harsh flavor profile. This is a natural bourbon for Old Fashioneds because it already has a bit of orange peel flavor, with a larger rye focus than other bourbons.

86 Proof

"This bourbon whiskey spends years longer being aged in our American White Oak barrels than our original Jim Beam. It’s those extra years of aging that give Jim Beam Black its full-bodied flavor with notes of smooth caramel and warm oak."

This bourbon has won many awards and is deserving of it for sure. It has some sweetness on the nose with some caramel and corn aromas, and the taste follows suit with some spice and fruit flavors. Jim Beam Black does have a slight, delightful burn which carries to a long finish of caramel and oak.

93 Proof

"A delicate fusion of flavors including leathered cherries, smoked caramel, smoky oak and brown sugar."

This is one I’ve only tried once recently but really enjoyed it and will be coming back to it for sure. It has a nice dry cider smell on the nose, and the first taste has a good amount of the spice you would expect from a high rye bourbon. The flavor has some burnt sugar offerings and also finishes with some additional spice.

Ben Schneider is the Director of Sales Training and Development and leads the Diversity and Inclusion Team at Badger Liquor.  One of Ben's favorite parts of his job is taking groups of new hires to either the Bourbon Trail of Kentucky or the vineyards of the Napa Valley to visit our suppliers and closely learn about the products we distribute.

"The last time I took a group to Louisville to tour some of our bourbon distilleries, I immediately became fascinated with the complexity and vast offerings of bourbon. Once you start to explore the different flavors, brands and styles, it is very easy to develop a palate and want to continue to try more!" -Ben Schneider