OVERALL GRADE:  A
VALUE GRADE:  B
Oregon price:  $40-42
This is part of the "Small Batch Bourbon" line done by the Jim Beam Distillery, a line of premium bourbons which includes this one, Knob Creek, Baker's, and Booker's.  The Small Batch collection bourbons are, most notably, aged longer than your "everyday" bourbons such as Jim Beam white label (4 years) and are, commonly, of a higher proof.  Basil Hayden's, however, is just 80-proof, which keeps the whiskey from seeming too heavy on the palate.  This is a gorgeous bourbon that is well worth the money if you feel like giving yourself a treat.
OVERALL GRADE:  A
VALUE GRADE:  A-
Oregon price:  $30-32
Don't look for any other bourbon once you have found this one, because this may be the best.  It is the lightest 90-proof bourbon you will find, packaged in an elegant, flat bottle that will have your guests asking where in the hell you heard about it.  Woodford is not intrusive like some other "premium" bourbons are, as it mellowly flows over the tongue and down the hatch.  At a reasonable $30/fifth, Woodford could become a habit before you know it.  How much do I like it?  My black lab's name is "Woodford."
OVERALL GRADE:  A-
VALUE GRADE:  A
Oregon price:  $24-26
Let me reiterate that I like the lighter bourbons.  Therefore, Maker's Mark was the bourbon that turned me into a bourbon drinker.  With the complete absence of rye in the whiskey, it is noticably softer than other bourbons that do use rye.  But it is soft and rounded, making Maker's one of the more popular bourbons today.  Five years ago, when all of my friends and I were drinking Maker's, it was $17 a fifth and mostly unknown in these parts.  But, showing that all it takes is a taste, Maker's caught on and was jacked up to $23 a fifth and is probably the most often ordered Kentucky bourbon on the market.
OVERALL GRADE:  A
VALUE GRADE:  A-
Oregon price:  $22-25
Corner Creek bourbon has been around for a few years now, having only been brought in by my state around 2002.  It is a remarkably smooth bourbon, rivaling Woodford and Basil in taste at a nice, affordable price.  People ask me if it's better than Maker's Mark and I give them an absent look and say, "Sometimes."  It depends on which one I've had most recently.  Corner Creek was my bourbon of choice to toast in the new year, and I can say that it certainly deserved to be.  It is another lighter bourbon (at only 88 proof), but a well-crafted mellow affair.  I may go away from it for a while...but I always seem to come back.
OVERALL GRADE:  A-
VALUE GRADE:  B
Oregon price:  $50-55
A completely uncut and unfiltered bourbon (it goes from the barrel to the bottle), this bad boy will put hair on your chest...while still being smooth.  That alcohol percentage isn't a typo, this sucker clocks in at 126 proof, so don't go spittin' it on your campfire.  I understand the draw of such a pure bourbon...and, don't get me wrong, it is dangerously good...but I'm just more of a fan of the lighter stuff that won't have me seein' elephants after a glass or two.  It's a remarkable whiskey, all things considered, if you've got $50+ to spend.
OVERALL GRADE:  B+
VALUE GRADE:  B+
Oregon price:  $30-34
I go back and forth on Knob Creek, but generally I think it's a great whiskey.  Its 100-proof will make sure you notice what you're drinking, and sometimes it has a Wild Turkey-ish kick to it that can be unpleasant.  But, other times, Knob Creek is just what the doctor ordered (or asked you to stay away from).  It is rich, dark, and dense, which commands your mouth's attention with every sip.  It is in stark contrast to the only Small Batch not listed, Baker's, which is somewhat flowery and sweet.  Those words don't even come to mind when Knob Creek is going down.
OVERALL GRADE:  B+
VALUE GRADE:  A
Oregon price:  $20-22 (12 yr.)  $40-42 (18 yr.)
Elijah Craig 12-year gets a range of reactions.  Some say that it is one of the best bourbons they've ever had...others say it's just okay.  I, myself, don't feel it rivals many of the other bourbons on this list...but can't deny the value of it.  Aged 12 years and costing under $20, the taste of E.C. seems to me that it should be a bit more complex than it is.  While it starts nice, caramel and rye being most noticeable, it finishes with a punch that, to me, is not altogether pleasant.  But for the price, Elijah Craig deserves a toast and a try.
The 18-year-old is one of the oldest bourbons on the market...which is why I was disappointed it wasn't better.  It's still a good whiskey, make no mistake...but it has some of the same downfalls as the its 12-year-old cousin.
OVERALL GRADE:  B
VALUE GRADE:  B
Oregon price:  $19-20 
A bourbon with a great name...and a nice taste to complement it.  Somewhat hard to find (it's a special order in Oregon), this bourbon shows up in, what seems to be, about 1 in every 10 bars...but it's worth a try when you find it.  The Cock has a noticeable "rye" kick and is a whoppin' 103 proof...so it ain't for sissies (as the name suggests).  It is usually priced near Maker's Mark...and is certainly worth the foray off the beaten path...if you can handle it!  My girlfriend looked like someone punched her in the stomach when she tried a shot.
OVERALL GRADE:  B
VALUE GRADE:  A
Oregon price:  $13-14
If someone asks me what the best bourbon value is, I always tell them Old Forester.  Although Oregon only carries its 86-proof version, Forester also has a 100-proof version that is, I believe, more common.  I have not had the higher-proof one, but can say that its milder cousin is still a fine bourbon for the cost.  Don't expect to transition from the Small Batch bourbons to this one seamlessly, but Forester is of much higher quality than bourbons that are more expensive.  It is an intense whiskey, without being intrusive.  And, at this price, even your cousins could enjoy a GOOD bourbon and cola, for once.
OVERALL GRADE:  A-
VALUE GRADE:  B+
Oregon price:  $26-30
Full and complex, Eagle Rare Single Barrel is new to my arsenal and deserves to be near the top.  The oaky tones of the original Eagle Rare 10-year-old are still here in this single barrel version, but the hard edges have been smoothed resulting in a luxurious beverage.  Neat (always my choice), on the rocks, or in a Manhattan...this bourbon isn't a beginner's whiskey, but the rewards will be ready when you are.
OVERALL GRADE:  B
VALUE GRADE:  A
Oregon price:  $20-24
Bulleit has just hit the scene, so to speak, as it has been brought in recently to Oregon liquor stores.  You may have had it around for years (even 175 worth of them) in your parts, but its fairly new to me.  With its cool medicinal elixir bottle and "Deadwood" look and taste, Bulleit is a nice bourbon with a nice aura.  Heavy on the rye with sweet caramel punchiness, Bulleit isn't a super-refined bourbon...but it's good sippin' whiskey all the same.
OVERALL GRADE:  B+
VALUE GRADE:  B
Oregon price:  $25
It took me a while to crack a seal on Buffalo Trace and, after taking a sip, I had no idea why.  It is a nice bourbon with vanilla aroma and (not surprisingly) a sweet taste.  It's a hearty 90-proof affair with some oaky spikes at the end of its run.  The Trace is not a top-shelf bourbon, in my opinion, but it's well-rounded and tasty enough to be rubbing elbows with the likes of Maker's Mark and Elijah Craig.
OVERALL GRADE:  B
VALUE GRADE:  A-
Oregon price:  $13-15
What?  Like you haven't taken a sip of Rebel Yell and thought, "Damn.  For this price, I was expecting a mouthfull of crap.  But, y'know...this isn't half bad!"  All right, all right...I realize the irony of  Blanton's not being on this list but Rebel Yell is.  But I can't pass up the value of Rebel Yell.  It is often under $15 and is a tasty, well-crafted whiskey for the budgeting bourbon drinker.  My brother drinks a steady diet of Rebel Yell (because the liquor store by his house doesn't carry Forester)...and I usually have a shot when I'm over at his place.  And do I bitch about it?  No way.  Rebel Yell is just fine by me.  So climb down off of that high horse and take a swig...it won't kill ya.
OVERALL GRADE:  A
VALUE GRADE:  B
Oregon price:  $32
After hearing its praises on the message board, I finally got my local liquor store to wrangle me up a bottle...and it was well worth the trouble.  Although Barton is most noted for some bottom of the heap sewer swill (Ten High, Fleischmann's) this is certainly at the top of their product list.  This is an extremely bold bourbon...rich and velvety.  My girlfriend, who usually scoffs at anything over 90 proof, belted this one back and gave no sign of "whiskey face."  Amazingly smooth with a higher proof, 1792 is a worthy entry on this list.

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