Whether you prefer it neat or on the rocks, bourbon is a wonderful winter sipper. With oak-kissed vanilla and caramel notes, good bourbon can smell like a freshly baked batch of booze cookies. Here are three small-ish batch bottles perfect for popping open and savoring near a crackling fire.
Bib and Tucker, $60
Named for an old term used to describe one's "finest attire," Bib and Tucker is crafted with a blend of 70 percent corn, 26 percent rye and 4 percent malt, this elegant 92-proof bourbon is aged for six years. Bright hints of vanilla and cinnamon dominate the nose, along with a dusty charcoal character. The palate is smooth and buttery, with sweet caramel flavors and a round, mellow finish.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, $55
According to the bottle, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon is matured in a custom barrel, then "re-barreled in a heavily toasted, lightly charred barrel for finishing." The result is a robust oakiness—heavy notes of vanilla, toasted marshmallow and Werther's candies come through on the nose, followed by creamy caramel on the palate. Some tasters enjoyed the overt oakiness, others decried its lack of subtlety.
Produced by Jim Beam, this limited high-grade bourbon is barrel-strength, clocking in at a searing 128-proof, but you wouldn't know it from the super caramely, intoxicatingly sweet nose, which carries through on the remarkably smooth palate. Tasters called this bourbon "nicely balanced" and "agreeable," comparing it to "a freshly washed cowboy in a new suit."