Though not an essential component of sales enablement, bourbon is always a welcome part of the sales process. After hours of discovery, rounds of presentations, and overcoming objections, there is no better way to celebrate a hard-won sale. For those with the taste, nothing tops the relaxing warmth of good bourbon, neat or chilled, as they reflect on a process that started with an unknown prospect and culminated in a successful solution and trusted partnership. In a year that featured a global pandemic and a wholesale shift into virtual selling, all our successes should taste a little sweeter—with a touch of vanilla and a hint of wood. In honor of your top virtual wins, we raise a glass and present Janek Performance Group’s best bourbons under $50 for celebrating.
First, however, to avoid confusion, whiskey (with an “e” in the US and Ireland, without the “e” in Canada, Scotland, and Japan) is a distilled spirit made from fermented grains and aged in wooden barrels that is produced around the world. According to federal law, however, bourbon must be produced in the United States and must be at least 51 percent corn. Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, and it is still home to 95 percent of the bourbon in the US. With a price range into the thousands, we choose under $50 as standard for readily available high-quality bourbon that’s within range of most. Without further ado, here’s our list:
Named after a bonded US treasury agent, John E. Fitzgerald, who used his federal rickhouse key to steal barrels of bourbon he’d then sell under the name Old Fitzgerald. For $25, this is everything you could expect at twice the price. Deep in color, this wheated bourbon has a taste of vanilla, caramel, and cherries, with just the right amount of spice. Far smoother than expected from the color or the fact that it’s 92 proof.
Four Roses Small Batch
Though the name dates to 1884 and the brand continued producing during prohibition, it disappeared from the US market after 1943, becoming popular in Japan. It returned to the US in 2002. The flagship version comes in at 90 proof and is smooth and even fruity, with apple and orange added to the usual vanilla flavor. In the $30-$35 range, this is just a good, affordable, everyday bourbon that is perfect for a new sales rep’s first sale with your organization.
From Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, Eagle Rare was introduced in 1975 and is aged ten years in virgin American white oak barrels. Though it started at 101 proof, its current offering is 90 proof. This has a great and complex character with the usual caramel, vanilla, and a hint of wood, but you also get toffee, cocoa, and mint. Simply put, this has a lot of flavor, and at right around a $30-$35, it is perfect for toasting those consistent, always pleasant team Zoom happy hour calls.
Maker’s Mark 46
Aged longer than regular Maker’s Mark, 46 also features French oak staves seeped in toward the end of the aging process. For about $30, 46 is more complex than the usual Maker’s, which almost deserves a spot here in its own right. Tasting of cherry, cinnamon, and wood–lots of wood, and I mean that in a good way—it’s still remarkably smooth for its 94 proof and extra aging. This is the Maker’s you pour after finally closing that challenging client on a late Friday afternoon.
At 90 proof, this packs a punch but doesn’t bite. The taste is chocolate, cinnamon, and orange. Launched in 1996, its history dates to 1812. Distilled in pot stills, not the customary column still, it is also unique for being aged in stone warehouses. None of that matters, however. Around $35 a bottle, this is a bourbon for those sales professionals who love bourbon and have seen Glengarry Glen Ross several times. It is not, however, for beginners. Pour this one when your rookie rep wins their first big account.
Michter’s Small Batch
Small batch in the truest sense as each is tightly controlled and comes from a tank that holds a minimum of 20 barrels. Aged about eight years and 91 proof, this is fire-charred in oak barrels and has a great sweet flavor of caramel and fruit. Smoky with a spicy oak finish, you can usually find it in the range of $40-$45 per bottle. This is one you share with a client who is also a friend.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Usually hovering from 116 to 120 proof, this should taste stronger than it does. That’s not to say it lacks flavor, but the fact that a good sip does not make one involuntarily shake is a tribute to its smoothness. A little on the sweet side, this tastes of cherry, wood, and even peppermint. Right around $50 a bottle, this should be in the collection of every successful sales pro.
Smoke Wagon Small Batch
We have to give a shout out to Las Vegas’ own Smoke Wagon. Produced and bottled in Vegas, this high-rye bourbon is aged in a century-old brick warehouse away from the harsh, dry desert and is getting a lot of attention from bourbon enthusiasts. At 100 proof, this is bold, sweet, and spicy, with a real kick of cinnamon and strudel and a nice, smoky finish. One of the more expensive bourbons on our list, this is not for kids, and at $50 a bottle, you might save it for the big deals or just keep it for yourself.
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage all sales professionals to find their own and, of course, drink responsibly. After all, the best part of winning is celebrating, and like your sales process, you should try new bourbons to find what works. As there’s a bourbon for every taste, there’s also one for every win. We hope you’ll include bourbons in your search for opportunities, and please share some of your favorites below. Cheers.