Bourbon, the Great American Spirit, is not as straightforward as one might believe. Eastern Europeans can hoist the vodka flag, and the Scots can deliver the best scotch, but we’ll take a bottle of bourbon and a pigskin-loving bald eagle over a bottle of bourbon and a pigskin-loving bald eagle any day. And when it comes to stocking your home bar with some Kentucky classics (though not always from Kentucky), there are a few bottles that merit a place on the shelf. So, we made a list of the Best Bourbons You Need To Try.
Other characteristics differentiate Bourbons, including a distinct sweetness from the maize, which is lacking in other American spirits such as rye whiskey. These characteristics also help distinguish it from Scotch and other popular types of whiskey, such as Canadian and Japanese whisky.
We don’t believe there is a single “best” bourbon, but there is a bourbon that is ideal for specific occasions. If you’re mixing cocktails, we recommend the mild and peppery Four Roses bourbon. We enjoy New Riff’s attention to Bottled-in-Bond whiskey-making and complex taste profiles if you’re looking for craft bourbons. Looking for a low-cost option? For the money, Evan William’s Black Label is difficult to beat. Told ya, one for every moment. Now, let’s cut to the chase and get right into the good stuff!
Knob Creek Small Batch
Knob Creek’s classic small-batch bourbon stands out in a whiskey industry that has grown increasingly fragmented and allocated. It’s our top overall bourbon not because of life-changing tasting notes, but because it stuffs the stat sheet as no other bourbon can. It is widely available and so immune to the price gouging associated with brands like Buffalo Trace. Its 100 proof keeps its full body and mixing prowess without setting your mouth on fire. If you’re seeking the best value in bourbon, this is the one to purchase.
George Dickel 8-Year Bourbon
Dickel goods are legally Tennessee Whisky, not bourbon. The brand, like its in-state rival Jack Daniel’s, is careful to remind drinkers that the two are not the same (even though they kind of are). Dickel 8-Year Bourbon, which will be released in 2021, is the company’s first official entry into bourbon whiskey, and it’s a value-driven powerhouse.
For roughly $30, you receive a masterfully blended whisky that has been aged for at least 8 years and is bottled at a relaxed 90 proof. Its price, proof, and age all point to it becoming your new home bar staple.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
Have you tried the Double Oaked version of Woodford Reserve yet? Here’s your cue to go ahead and do it! This 45.2% ABV bourbon has a well-balanced flavor profile of vanilla, caramel, honey apple, and spices to take you on the ride you deserve.
Widow Jane 10 Year Old Bourbon
Not all great whiskey comes from Kentucky; consider this New York-based bourbon, which uses limestone-rich water from New York’s Rosendale Mines (the same type of stone that proponents say gives Kentucky bourbons their distinct flavor) to create a mildly tannic, sweet flavor profile rich in spices.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel
The Russell’s Reserve line is named after Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey’s father-and-son master-distiller pair. There is no wrong answer when it comes to the 10-year-old and single-barrel bottlings. Whereas the former has a double-digit age statement and costs $10 less, the latter has 20 more proof points (110 versus 90), giving it the edge in taste concentration.
Aromas of rich chocolate, vanilla, and caramel can be expected, as well as bright cherries on the palate.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111
This Tennessee high-malt bourbon calls into question the notion of aging. With an age statement of just over two years, it is remarkably complex, rich, and full-bodied. Dried raisins and sweet honey set the tone, followed by the distinct malt flavor. It’s easy to speak about promise at this age, but Chattanooga 111 is already delivering.
Eagle Rare 10 Year
Eagle Rare 10 Year, from the Buffalo Trace distillery, is slightly overshadowed by its 17-year-old elder sibling. But it would be a shame to talk about this whiskey in terms of what it isn’t, especially because the other bottling in question costs about 20 times as much.
This is a pleasant and mellow bourbon that shows hints of maturation. Its orange peel and toffee scents are a tad understated, but the tongue delivers robust sweet and spice flavors with a toasted finish. Few basic goods from this era are still so widely available — especially at this price point.
Four Roses Small Batch Select
For this flagship offering, Four Roses employ six of its ten patented formulas. It has a traditional bourbon flavor profile, with vanilla, caramel, and rich wood overtones. Layers and nuance abound, with a jasmine tea smell on the nose and juicy fruit and deep spice on the palate. The 52 percent ABV is barely discernible, and its profile evolves with time in the glass.
Bardstown Discovery Series #4
The fourth chapter of Bardstown’s Discovery Series is a superb exhibition of age, combining three genuine Kentucky bourbons aged between 10 and 15 years old. With undertones of leather, tobacco, and licorice, each sip is rich in dried fruits and delicately roasted almonds. This is a complex, high-proof drinking bourbon with a long finish.
Sweetens Cove Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Since its release in the spring of 2020, this Tennessee bourbon has quickly become a fan favorite. While its celebrity status undoubtedly helps (it’s supported by sports stars Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick), it’s master distiller Marianne Eaves’ intricate combination of robust coffee and rich toffee brittle notes enhanced by whispers of dried fruit that keeps admirers coming back for more. Their releases tend to sell out quickly, so grab a bottle whenever you can.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
This batch of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength features sweet wheat aromas throughout. Its ABV is modest for a barrel-proof product, making it one of the more palatable options in that category. The taste is more complex than the fragrance, with licorice and herbal flavors before a scorched finish that persists but never becomes too fiery.
Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey
Solera aging, which is typical in fortified wines such as sherry and Madeira, makes its way to the world of bourbon in this award-winning bottle. The whiskey is moved through a number of barrels in a precise manner, so that each barrel is constantly regenerated and enriched with both aged and young spirits, resulting in a complex, subtle flavor.
Ta da! Enjoy stacking your shelf with the Best Bourbons You Need To Try. Don’t miss out on the good stuff and share this list with your friends.