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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Jeff the Green's Avatar

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    Default Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    I've been playing around with infusing liquors lately, and I've gotten good enough at it that I want to give some as gifts. My grandparents' anniversary is coming up, and since they both like an occasional drink part of their present is gong to be a couple of my experiments. They unfortunately have entirely different tastes, so I'm doing two: a honey orange brandy for grandma and a bourbon gin—that is, a bourbon with gin spices (juniper, anise, lavender, and coriander)—for my grandpa.

    My problem is that I don't drink much of either liquor, whiskey only in sours and brandy only in sidecars, and even then basically as well drinks, so I have no clue what brands would work best. I do have a list of requirements, though, so I was hoping the Playground might be able to help. Both of them would ideally be:
    • Smooth
    • Mild in flavor
    • No more than $20 for a 750 ml bottle

    Anybody have some recommendations of specific brands, or failing that, any other advice for making my selection?
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    Gnoman's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    I have no idea how well an infusion would work, but Maker's Mark (which can be distinguished by a distinctive wax seal on the bottle) is a fairly smooth cheap bourbon.

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    JustPlayItLoud's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    I'm a picky snob when it comes to brandy. I typically only by cognac. If you can find any cognac in that price range, good luck. It tends to be expensive. When I'm making sangria I typically just buy E&J. It's cheap, and the opinion of myself and others that with basic brandy, just don't buy a knock off. If there's something better in that price range, I wouldn't know but someone else might.

    As far as bourbon, in the $20 range you'd probably be best served trying to shop around a bit for sales. If you're lucky you could probably find Maker's Mark on sale for $20-25. If you can't find Maker's Mark for cheap enough, it's tough to beat Jim Beam in the sub $20 bourbon market. It has a negative reputation, but it's undeserved. It's a solid bourbon. In that price range, you could probably find some of the premium varieties. The 7 year is tough to find (white label, red cap) but usually about the same price as the 4 year (white label, white cap) when you do find it. The 8 year is usually not that expensive either. It's in a black label. If you can't find either one, the 5 year is a decent option. Its green label is unattractive, but it's often the same price as the four year, and the charcoal filtering tends to give it a smoother taste more on par with an older bourbon. Avoid the Red Stag varieties. They all taste terrible to me.
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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    I'm not sure about the price (I think it may be above the range you gave though) but Blanton's Bourbon is by far my favorite. It's single barrel, which makes it so smooth, and has just enough burn to let you know your drinking liquor.

    Also, all their caps have horses on them (It's made in Kentucky), and there are 8 different horses, each with a letter of the name in the bottom corner (2 different N's) that if you put them next to each other, show a horse running. Makes you feel like a collector instead of an alcoholic, lol.
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    Jeff the Green's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    Wow, I thought asking here wold be a bit of a long shot. Thanks, guys!

    JustPlayItLoud, what is it that makes a cognac better than a garden variety brandy? I'm going to be turning it nearly into a liqueur, so if what I'm getting is just subtle flavor I don't want to pay more.
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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    Cognac is named after a city in France. The big thing that makes cognac cognac is that it's made to exacting standards. It has to be made from certain grapes, in a certain region of France, made in the right copper stills, stored and aged the proper way. It's not that cognac is itself superior to brandy, it's that cognac is made to such exacting standards that even the lowest grade VS (very special) cognac is top shelf brandy. For me I'm just not that fond of brandy, so when I drink it, I drink really high quality stuff. It's expensive, but I usually don't buy less than a VSOP (very superior old pale) when I buy it.

    For someone that actually likes brandy, I wouldn't sweat trying to find affordable cognac. You might be better served reading some reviews online to see if there's a particular standout brand in your price range. Alternatively, you can go to your friendly neighborhood liquor store. At least in Albuquerque, most places that only sell alcohol have fairly knowledgeable people behind the counter. If the clerk doesn't know what you want, there's usually a manager/owner/other person that does. I know I had great success receiving a single malt scotch recommendation for a gift by asking the owner of the nicest liquor store in town.
    Last edited by JustPlayItLoud; 2012-11-21 at 07:05 AM.
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    Default Re: Help me choose a bourbon and brandy to give my grandparents

    Given the requirements you describe (smooth and mild) I'd be inclined to suggest Armagnac rather than Cognac or undifferentiated brandy. However, Armagnac can be difficult to find and can be more expensive (it is produced in much smaller volumes).

    I'm not familiar with the brands available in the US so can't really advise on that, particularly as regards price. Three Barrels seems to be pretty widely distributed and is decent enough for a mass-market Cognac.

    Regarding whisky, I don't drink a lot of bourbon, but Maker's Mark is fine and, afaik, not too pricey.

    Either way I'd suggest scouting around online and/or asking the owner of a local shop, as suggested above (if there is one).
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