4 perfect bourbon whiskeys for the holidays, according to an expert

Two glasses of bourbon on the rocks clinking together on black background

Of all the styles of whiskey, few are more elegant and approachable than bourbon.

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“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” So wrote Mark Twain, sharing a vital piece of wisdom while omitting other crucial information. He failed to specify which whiskeys he thought were good.

To fill in that gap, we turn to another spirits expert, John O’Farrell, lead sommelier at Desert Mountain, a private golf club and community in Scottsdale, Ariz

“Whiskey is a very broad term these days,” O’Farrell says. It can refer to scotch, rye, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Japanese whisky (note the missing ‘e’), to name a few, all of which come in different styles.

Then there’s bourbon, another whiskey subset, which O’Farrell says, makes an especially good choice for everyday consumers, as its corn content lends it an accessible sweetness. 

Because there’s no such thing as too much of these good things, we asked O’Farrell to highlight a handful of his favorites, just in time for the holidays.

(Note: Prices may vary)

Elijah Craig

A Baptist preacher, educator and entrepreneur, Elijah Craig was also a skilled distiller. In Kentucky His name lives on with this readily available, traditional bourbon, which O’Farrell describes as being slightly “on the sweeter side, being corn-heavy, silky and smooth, with no burn.” From $34.99 


This Louisville-based distillery traces its roots to 1753, a legacy that links it to the oldest American whiskey company. Michter’s whiskeys are bonded, meaning they must be aged for at least four years and bottled at 100-proof. “It has kick to it,” O’Farrell says. “Better for people who like heat or spice.” From $29

Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch

Produced by the same people who make Pappy Van Winkle, a cult favorite that can be as hard to come by as a tee time at Cypress Point, this small-batch whiskey is “softer in style but has excellent flavor,” O’Farrell says. He recommends it neat, but says it’s also suitable for mixed drinks, such as Manhattans. From $65

Eagle Rare

Every Eagle Rare bourbon is aged for a minimum of 10 years, and the older it gets, the harder it can be to find. But in any iteration, O’Farrell says, “it’s a delicious, softer-style, but bolder than the Colonel.” It’s worth tracking down. From $35

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