The month of May brings spring flowers, but it also brings us “The Run for the Roses,” otherwise known as the Kentucky Derby. This annual horse race is held the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. The event is the first leg in the Triple Crown and has run every consecutive year since 1875—yes, even through both World Wars.
Tradition for the Kentucky Derby involves Mint Juleps and extravagant hats, along with wearing your Sunday best. Naturally, Kentucky bourbon is also a huge part of the event, second only to the horses themselves. If you’re fortunate enough to attend a party, you would be wise not to show up empty handed. So while you’re out shopping for your new duds, why not pick up something special? These Kentucky Derby bourbon picks are sure to be a success, even if your bets are not.
Blanton’s is known as “The Original” single barrel as it was the first bourbon to be bottled in such a way for commercial release back in 1984. The bourbon matures in the “center-cut” of Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace. Beginning in 1999, each bottle is enclosed with one of eight different stoppers displaying a jockey on a horse at different points in the race. The eight stoppers also spell out “Blantons”, and yes there are two different “n” toppers. This is a must-have Kentucky Derby bourbon.
This non-chill-filtered bourbon from Four Roses hit select markets this spring. Small Batch Select marks the fourth permanent addition to the brand’s portfolio and its recipe was selected by Master Distiller Brent Elliott. Spicy oak, leather and caramel cream are just a few of the flavors found in this bourbon. Any bourbon displaying roses for this “Run for the Roses” are a solid choice in our book.
Woodford Reserve is the official Kentucky Derby bourbon, so it’s a no-brainer to bring to your party. But if you can find it, the Double Oaked is a great gift as well. It’s made just like the standard Woodford Reserve Bourbon, but this expression gets a final bit of maturation in toasted, then charred barrels for a further nine months. That extra bit of aging gives the standard Woodford just a bit more pep in its step.
Released in March 2019, Legent is a Kentucky bourbon with a Japanese touch. It was made in Kentucky by Beam’s master distiller Fred Noe and blended by Suntory chief blender Shinji Fukuyo. The wine casks used in its maturation give Legent a fruity influence, but doesn’t overwhelm the bourbon’s classic vanilla and oak flavors. Definitely not and expected Kentucky Derby bourbon, which is why you should bring it along!
Unfiltered and uncut, this Barrel Proof Bourbon is released three times a year from Heaven Hill. The first release is “A”, second is “B”, and the third is “C.” The number following the letter is the month of release (e.g. September is “9”). The last two digits are the year of release. Regardless of batch, expect a flavorful and robust bourbon bottled at around the 130 proof range. Go big or go home.
Wild Turkey recently updated the Kentucky Spirit packaging, making it much more bartender-friendly with its sleek design. What hasn’t changed is the spirit of the bourbon itself, pardon the pun. It’s still an 8-9 year straight Kentucky bourbon selected by Master Distillers Eddie and Jimmy Russell. It’s bottled at 101 proof making this a suitable Kentucky Derby bourbon to use in your Mint Julep.