The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
It's nice to keep your home bar stocked with some special bottles, but for day-to-day drinking, inexpensive options that don't taste like lighter fluid are a real boon. With that in mind, the Drunken Vegan has picked out three bourbons that taste a lot better than their price tag suggests. Just peel off the sticker, and your guests will be none the wiser.
The best deal in town may be Schnucks (multiple locations) Private Stock Bonded Bourbon. It's just $8.89 a liter, and it's 100 proof. While that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it has a spicy nose and offers vanilla, caramel and lots of spice on the palate. The mouthfeel, though, is a little thin, and there is noticeable alcohol heat. This is not a whiskey to be taken neat, but it is a perfectly fine mixer.
For the price ($12.99 a fifth at Randall's (multiple locations)), Four Roses Bourbon has a solid reputation among bourbon bargain hunters, and for good reason. It has a slightly spicy nose, then hits the palate with lots of fruit and a little vanilla. It has a fairly lush mouth feel, especially for this price point. The finish is long and smooth, and it definitely drinks like a more expensive whiskey. It's 80 proof and works well as a mixer, though you can sip this one neat.
Noted wine critic Robert Parker recently compared Old Bardstown Black Label to Pappy Van Winkle. To be perfectly honest, to us this seemed like a stretch. It is a perfectly solid whiskey, with some pleasant earthy spice notes and vanilla. It's medium bodied but finishes a little lean, with an astringent quality from the wood coming through. It's 90 proof and makes a decent mixer -- find it for $17.99 at Starrs (1135 Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-781-2345).
Stock up on good cheap bourbons, pack a pint glass with crushed ice and top it up. Then find a nice shade tree and start sipping. The drink will make you feel relaxed, and the price will make you feel wise.