The 5 Best Bourbon Buys for Kentucky Derby Day

Bruce Watson
mint julep
mint julep

Kentucky Derby weekend is coming, bringing bourbon-fueled parties and a renewed interest in one of America's most famous cocktails, the mint julep.

While many julep lovers will be diving for their high-priced "small batch," "single barrel" and "heritage" bourbons, the truth is that this is one drink where expensive bourbon definitely takes a back seat to lower-shelf brands. After all, the South's favorite cocktail carries a hefty dose of mint and sugar, and is cooled with a lot of ice, a recipe guaranteed to leave even the most rugged bourbon struggling to keep its identity. As for all those delicate hints of "raisins" and "creme brulee" that higher-priced bourbons allegedly carry -- well, they tend to disappear when mixed with anything stronger than water.

And there's an added plus to trolling the bottom shelf for your Kentucky Derby whiskey: Less expensive bourbons tend to carry a wealth of tradition. In fact, the five spirits that we've profiled below -- all of which cost less than $20 a bottle -- are rich with legend, and loaded with wonderful tales that you can relate while sipping your cool cocktail and watching the ponies!

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Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at@bruce1971.