HomeBlogNewsBourbon and American Whisky Christmas Buying Guide for Novices

Bourbon and American Whisky Christmas Buying Guide for Novices

Bourbon and American whisky Christmas buying guide for Novices


Buying whisky – any type of whisky – if you are a beginner can be a daunting experience. That is the case if you are buying for yourself or as a Christmas present. It is a bit like those first romantic experiences you had as a teenager, with the constant angst and sheer panic that you might be doing something wrong while everyone else appears to be an expert and is laughing at you.

If you want to buy a bottle of bourbon or American whisky for someone you know for Christmas, help is at hand. And here is the first tip – the world of bourbon and American whisky is much less stuffy than its Scottish counterpart. It is very welcoming, but there are a few things that are helpful to know so that you make an informed choice this Christmas.

And you never know: you might even surprise the recipient of your present with the depth of your knowledge!

So here is our Christmas buying guide for bourbon and American whisky novices in the UK.


The Basic Choices

Even if you know nothing about American whisky you will probably still have heard of Jack Daniels. It is not only one of the best selling whiskies in the world; it is also a global brand. So, Jack Daniels is a good place to start.

You might also have heard of Jim Beam, but don’t worry if you haven’t. It is also a hugely popular whisky and one of the best selling in the world.

So here are some basic pointers you should know. Firstly, Jack Daniels is not bourbon. It looks like bourbon, smells like bourbon, and many people believe it tastes very much like bourbon, but it is not bourbon. It is technically a Tennessee Whisky but don’t let that put you off - if you know the person you are buying for likes Jack Daniels, why change?

You have several good options to choose from in the Jack Daniels range that are different to the standard Jack Daniel’s that you see in the off license and on the t-shirt of every rock group who has ever played.

Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack is a good choice. It goes through an extra process of refinement during production to make it even smoother.

If you want to get genuine bourbon, good basic choices (apart from standard Jim Beam) are Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Maker’s Mark or Wild Turkey.



There are different styles of bourbon and American whisky the further up the premium scale you go. The more expensive bourbons are more difficult to make and are often aged longer. The most important general factor, however, is the barrel.

American whisky and bourbon is all about the barrel – the barrel gives the whisky its distinctive sweet taste. Mass produced bottles (like Jack Daniels) are produced by mixing together all of the aged whisky and then bottling it.

More expensive bourbons and American whiskies are made from fewer barrels. Small batch whiskies are made from mixing together the contents of a handful of barrels. Single barrel whiskies are made with the contents of just one barrel.

A good example of small batch bourbon that is readily available in the UK is Elijah Craig 12 Year old.

For single barrel, try Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel or for bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel.


American Whisky Alternatives

We have focused on bourbon and American whisky so far, but there are other alternatives if you want to try something completely different:

Rye – until recent decades rye whisky was the dominant whisky style in the United States. It is now making a comeback with more brands available than ever before. A good choice for a Christmas present would be Rittenhouse Straight Rye.

Wheat – wheat whiskies are a super-smooth style of whisky made with high wheat content in the recipe. Try Woodford Reserve.

Single Malt – just like the Scottish variety, but made in the United States. Go for Wasmund’s Single Malt.

Moonshine – moonshine has a romantic reputation and now it can be bought legally - kind of. It is really a clear whisky that has not been aged, but that does not affect its appeal. One of the best is Georgia Moon.

All of the examples listed on this guide are less than £50. Many are less than £30. This means you can buy a unique Christmas present, make it something the recipient will love, and not spend too much money.

What are you waiting for?!


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