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The 12 Best Bourbons to Buy Right Now
When seeking the best bourbon, it's essential to consider various factors such as style, cask finishes, alcohol content, and mashbill. While the bourbon category has strict definitions, the diversity within the market allows for a wide array of choices. With numerous outstanding bourbon brands available, Robb Report has compiled a list to guide enthusiasts toward some of the finest bourbons in different categories. Whether exploring unique styles, distinct cask finishes, or specific mashbills, this curated list aims to assist individuals in finding the perfect bourbon to suit their preferences. Shop Bourbons!
Best Overall Bourbon: Knob Creek 12
Knob Creek, a standout within the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, has garnered praise for its excellent nine-year-old bourbon. However, the limited-edition 12-year-old variant, introduced a few years ago, elevates the experience even further. Utilizing the same mashbill and maintaining a robust 100 proof, this expression boasts the familiar rich and complex flavor profile characterized by vanilla, caramel, and spicy notes. The additional three years of barrel aging contribute a heightened level of complexity, placing the 12-year-old Knob Creek in a coveted middle ground that distinguishes it as one of the finest bourbons available. Buy it now!
Best Barrel-Proof Bourbon: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Barrel proof, though lacking a precise legal definition, typically signifies that the whiskey in the bottle hasn't been diluted before bottling, providing a near-authentic experience of drinking straight from the cask. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, crafted at Kentucky's esteemed Heaven Hill distillery, stands out as one of the finest in this category. Released thrice annually, it consistently delivers excellence, with variations in both proof and age. Connoisseurs can explore the unique characteristics of different releases by sampling them side by side. Buy it now!
Best Cask-Finished Bourbon: Angel’s Envy
Angel’s Envy stands out as one of the most renowned and readily accessible cask-finished American whiskey brands. The primary offering involves a bourbon aged for four to six years, culminating in a finishing period of up to six months in ruby port wine barrels. This process imparts a rich hue and syrupy hints of candied fruit to the whiskey. While numerous cask-finished bourbon options abound, beginning with a brand that boasts over a decade of expertise is a solid choice for enthusiasts. Buy it now!
Best Bourbon Under $100: Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Wild Turkey 101 is undeniably among the finest budget-friendly bourbons available. However, for those willing to invest a bit more, exploring Rare Breed, the exceptional cask-strength variant from this esteemed Kentucky distillery, is highly recommended. A masterful blend of six, eight, and 12-year-old bourbons, this offering stands out as one of the top choices under the $100 mark. Just under 113 proof, it boasts formidable strength without overpowering with alcohol, gradually unveiling a spectrum of intricate flavors layer by layer. Buy it now!
Best Bourbon Under $50: Old Forester 100 Proof
Old Forester has built a reputation for delivering quality bourbon at an accessible price point, offering two choices under $50: the 86 proof and the 100 proof variants. Opting for the latter is advisable, as the higher alcohol by volume (ABV) translates to more robust flavor and reduced dilution. Representing the essence of classic Kentucky bourbon, it features delightful notes of brown sugar, oak, caramel, and vanilla. Whether enjoyed neat or in a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned, this offering stands out as a fantastic bargain. Buy it now!
Best Bourbon for Cocktails: Dickel Bourbon
Nicole Austin's influence at the Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., home to George Dickel Tennessee Whisky, has been transformative for the brand. With a string of notable releases under her guidance, including bottled-in-bond whiskeys, a collaborative rye with Colorado's Leopold Bros., and the boutique Cascade Moon collection, one standout creation is Dickel Bourbon. Aged for eight years, this whiskey adheres to the production standards of Tennessee whiskey but boasts a flavor profile closer to a classic bourbon, according to Austin. Regardless of nomenclature, it proves to be an excellent choice for elevating your favorite cocktails, particularly an Old Fashioned. Keep a bottle on your home bar for a touch of whiskey sophistication. Buy it now!
Best Craft Bourbon: Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon
In the realm of craft distilleries, not all succeed in producing exceptional whiskey, but Frey Ranch in Nevada stands out with both creativity and innovation. Their five-year-old, grain-to-glass bourbon exemplifies the excellence of the old guard. Crafted from a four-grain mashbill featuring corn, rye, wheat, and barley, this bourbon, bottled at 90 proof, showcases the complexity and rich flavors synonymous with top-tier whiskey. Frey Ranch proves that dedication to quality and a commitment to craftsmanship can yield outstanding results in the world of craft distillation. Buy it now!
Best High-Rye Bourbon: Redemption Cognac Cask Finish
This bourbon can be considered a cask-finished expression, but its distinction lies in its high-rye mashbill. While the interpretation of "high rye" may vary among distilleries, a mashbill exceeding 20 percent rye is generally deemed high for bourbon. In this instance, the mashbill boasts an impressive 36 percent rye, contributing a delightful layer of spice that complements the flavors of dried fruit, sweet orange, and dark stone fruit acquired during its Cognac cask finish. Buy it now!
Best Wheated Bourbon: Maker’s Mark
The wheated bourbon category, where wheat serves as the secondary grain instead of rye, boasts renowned members like Pappy Van Winkle. However, Maker's Mark exemplifies that superior quality doesn't always correlate with higher price and rarity. This wheated bourbon stands out with a gentle sweetness complemented by notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for sipping neat or using in cocktails. Buy it now!
Best Single-Barrel Bourbon: Four Roses Single Barrel
Single barrel bourbons inherently exhibit flavor variations based on their cask of origin. However, this characteristic adds to the pleasure of enjoying whiskey sourced from an individual barrel rather than a blend from multiple casks. Kentucky's Four Roses distinguishes itself by crafting ten different recipes utilizing two mashbills and five yeast strains. The single barrel release highlights a chosen recipe, typically aged for seven to nine years, and is bottled at 100 proof. This bourbon consistently delivers excellence, regardless of the specific barrel selected. Buy it now!
Best Blended Bourbon: Barrell Bourbon
In the contemporary bourbon landscape, the negative connotations associated with "blended" have vanished, thanks to producers like Barrell Craft Spirits, which adeptly source and blend whiskey from diverse origins to create a product greater than the sum of its parts. The recently released Batch 35 of Barrell Bourbon exemplifies this approach, comprising straight bourbon whiskeys sourced from Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, spanning six to thirteen years of aging. Bottled at a robust cask strength of 117.5 proof, this blend stands as one of the finest bourbons in the market today. Buy it now!
Best Splurge Bourbon: Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon
The return of Michter's 10 Year bourbon in last year's release marked a celebratory moment for enthusiasts, as it was the first appearance since 2021. This exceptional single-barrel bourbon, aged for a decade, has garnered admiration for its richness and complexity. Although being a single-barrel expression introduces variations between release years and individual bottles, the overall quality has consistently impressed. While the whiskey's age suggests sourcing rather than distillation at the Michter's facility, the expertise of the master distiller and maturation master shines through in the selection of barrels, some exceeding a decade, ensuring a profound and intricate sipping experience that justifies the investment. Buy it now!