20 years into America’s historic bourbon boom and the class continues to evolve with no indicators of slowing.
As heritage distilleries experiment with pleasurable new expressions, the quantity and high quality of craft producers solely proceed to develop. Whereas there’s no disputing Kentucky’s standing because the spirit’s heartland, with manufacturing going down in all 50 states, it’s in no way the one supply of fantastic bourbon.
This tasting for VinePair’s annual roundup of America’s native spirit included dozens of bottles and provided no scarcity of nice surprises. For the ultimate listing, we restricted inclusion to at least one bottle per model and have shared common costs primarily based on on-line knowledge (as a result of value gouging, sadly, is alive and properly).
With spectacular examples from Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, and — in fact — Kentucky, and a spread of proofs, age statements, and progressive ageing strategies, this listing guarantees one thing for each drinker.
Listed below are the 30 greatest bourbons for each finances to purchase proper now.
Previous Forester 86 Proof
Whereas others in Old Forester’s spectacular lineup declare the hearts of bourbon geeks (such because the 1920 Prohibition Model) this bottle stands head and shoulders above every little thing at this proof and value level. It oozes fragrant appeal and follows with a palate that’s lithe however under no circumstances missing taste. Common value: $19.
Larceny Small Batch Kentucky Straight
The entry-level providing of Heaven Hill’s wheated mash-bill bourbons, Larceny invitations you in with attribute candy aromas and a touch of vanilla custard. The palate provides refined spice and offers out much more vanilla. This bourbon over-delivers for its value and continues to be among the best worth picks in the marketplace. Should you come throughout its charged, barrel-proof older sibling, you should definitely choose up a bottle, too. Common value: $24.
Previous Grand-Dad 114 Barrel Proof
It could possibly be straightforward to take a go on this quirky-looking, historic Beam Suntory bourbon that’s usually discovered knocking across the decrease cabinets at liquor shops. And that is precisely what whiskey geeks need you to do. Recognized to insiders merely as OGD 114, this can be a characterful if barely brash high-rye bourbon that’s stuffed with taste and never afraid to serve some spice. We maintain a bottle on our cabinets always. Common value: $29
Evan Williams Single Barrel Classic 2013
Every encounter with this Heaven Hill launch leaves us shocked at how a lot of a steal it’s. Perhaps it has one thing to do with its retro and comparatively low 86.6 proof, however don’t be tricked by the numbers: The alcohol content material solely provides to its approachability and in no way does it fall brief on taste. If it’s digits that concern you, contemplate that this launch is 7 years previous, was drawn from a single barrel, and prices little greater than $30. Add this to your listing of shelf staples. Common value: $33.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel
The Russell’s Reserve line is known as in honor of Wild Turkey’s father-and-son master-distiller staff Jimmy and Eddie Russell. There actually is not any unsuitable selection between the 10-year-old and single-barrel bottlings. However the place the previous boasts a double-digit age assertion and clocks in $10 cheaper, the latter delivers 20 further proof factors (110 versus 90), which provides it the sting from a taste focus standpoint. Count on darkish chocolate, vanilla, and caramel aromas, and vibrant berries on the palate. Common value: $55.
Bowman Brothers Small Batch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Virginia’s A. Smith Bowman distillery is owned by Sazerac Firm. For years, it was believed that the distillery sourced new-make distillate from Sazerac’s Buffalo Hint distillery, earlier than operating it two extra occasions by way of its proprietary copper nonetheless. That now not appears to be the case — however regardless, this small- batch bourbon has its personal distinctive profile. Spicy however not scorching, and fruity with out being candy, that is an intriguing dram. Common value: $37.
Legent Kentucky Straight
Beam Suntory’s Legent represents the collaboration between Jim Beam grasp distiller Fred Noe and Suntory chief blender Shinji Fukuyo. Touted as a celebration of “Kentucky Custom and Japanese Element,” the 47 p.c ABV bourbon succeeds by the use of refined appeal. Gentle wafts of espresso and vanilla precede sips of toasted oak and spicy rye. Drink neat at room temperature to take pleasure in all it has to supply. Common value: $39.
Maker’s Mark Cask Power (Batch 20-01)
Candy wheat notes shine all through this batch of Maker’s Mark Cask Power. Its ABV is relatively low for a barrel-proof providing, making it probably the most approachable examples in that realm. The palate delivers extra complexity than its candy, oaky nostril, serving licorice and natural notes earlier than a charred end that lingers however by no means verges on being too scorching. A current packaging change noticed its nationwide SRP drop by round $10, making this a bona fide discount. Common value: $40.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111
This Tennessee high-malt bourbon challenges the notion of the significance of ageing. With an age assertion floating someplace simply above 2 years previous, it’s surprisingly complicated, wealthy, and full bodied. Dried raisins and candy honey set the tone, adopted by the unmistakable character of malt. At this age, it could be straightforward to speak when it comes to potential however Chattanooga 111 is already delivering. Common value: $47.
KOVAL Single Barrel
From Chicago’s KOVAL distillery, this bourbon bounds off the crushed monitor with the inclusion of millet in its mash invoice. The left-field grain interprets to vibrant potpourri aromas, and a juniper-like high quality. With wealthy berries all through its core, the profile will enchantment to followers of red-wine-barrel-finished whiskeys, or these merely trying to attempt one thing new. Common value: $49.
Eagle Uncommon 10 Yr
From the Buffalo Hint distillery, Eagle Uncommon 10 Yr lives considerably within the shadow of its 17-year-old elder sibling. However it could be a disgrace to speak of this whiskey when it comes to what it’s not, particularly when the opposite bottling in query retails for round 20 occasions extra. This can be a candy and mellow bourbon with particular indicators of maturity. Its orange peel and toffee aromas are a little bit shy however the palate serves sturdy candy and spice notes and a toasty end. Few core choices of this age stay so available — particularly at this value level. Common value: $51.
New Riff Single Barrel
From Newport, Ky., craft distillery New Riff has constructed a popularity for providing excellent single-barrel whiskeys. Aged at the least 4 years, this high-rye bourbon delivers round 10 further proof factors than New Riff’s customary Kentucky Straight. It’s complicated and nuanced from begin to end, serving caramel, oak, and black pepper on the nostril and cloves, tobacco, and a faint menthol be aware on the palate. This producer ought to be in your radar if it isn’t already. Common value: $51.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
As you may count on from the title, this twice-barreled bourbon is a straight-up oak bomb. The excessive toast and light-weight charring of its second maturation barrel lend inviting candy oak notes, current within the type of vanilla and toffee popcorn aromas, and toasty caramel on the palate. Daring however versatile, this bourbon might be sipped neat, combined, or loved over a giant dice of ice. Common value: $55.
Nevada’s Frey Ranch has a hand in all points of this bourbon’s manufacturing, together with rising the corn, wheat, rye, and barley that make up its mash invoice. (The barley can be malted on website.) The character from these grains shines all through, with the affect of oak ageing taking a again seat. This bourbon exhibits nice depth and complexity for its 45 p.c ABV and is a real grain-to-glass gem. Common value: $55.
Pinhook ‘Bourbon Struggle’ Vertical Collection 5 Years
Pinhook’s Vertical Collection is an experiment in monitoring the evolution of 1,350 barrels of sourced MGP bourbon. Every yr, the model pulls 150 barrels from that lot, with this being the second of 9 deliberate releases. Whereas the 2019 4-Yr launch had a definite tropical character, 12 further months in barrel have introduced the bourbon’s rye spice to the fore and added wealthy, caramel notes. Common value: $55.
Bulleit Blenders’ Choose (Batch 001)
Launched in 2020 and crafted by Bulleit’s grasp blender Eboni Main, this limited-edition bourbon incorporates three distillates every aged a minimal of 9 years. A daring, flavorful whiskey, the nostril gives darkish fruits and nuts, whereas the palate delivers darkish chocolate, black pepper, and oak. This inaugural launch is a convincing success and has us excited for what’s to come back. Common value: $57.
Rabbit Gap Cavehill
This four-grain Kentucky bourbon contains three malted secondary grains in its mash invoice. Batched in a number of not more than 15 barrels, it has a wealthy, vibrant, fruity character. Banana and caramel aromas give option to a black pepper- and toffee-rich palate, with a stream of golden honey woven all through. Common value: $60.
4 Roses Small Batch Choose
Four Roses makes use of six of its 10 proprietary recipes for this flagship providing. It’s classically bourbon in character, with no scarcity of vanilla, caramel, and wealthy oak notes. There are layers and nuance too, with a scent of jasmine tea on the nostril, and ripe berries and wealthy spice on the palate. The 52 p.c ABV is barely noticeable and its profile continues to evolve with time within the glass. Common value: $61.
Baker’s 7-Yr-Previous Single Barrel
One of many 4 bourbons that comprise Jim Beam’s Small Batch assortment, this single-barrel launch arrives at 107 proof and at the least 7 years previous. The profile has a definite nutty character — a trademark of Beam distillates — and a wealthy darkish chocolate and cherry pie core. The excessive proof emerges on the palate however solely serves to focus on and intensify its flavors. Common value: $62.
Legal guidelines 4 Grain (Batch 21)
The 4 heirloom grains included on this small batch Colorado bourbon are milled, cooked, fermented, distilled, and aged on website — resting a minimal of three years in oak earlier than launch. The vibrant character of the grains is complemented by an undercurrent of toasted oak and ripe berries. That is an pleasurable departure from conventional types of bourbon and a must-try for these trying to broaden their horizons. Common value: $65.
Heaven Hill 7-Yr-Previous Bottled-in-Bond
Revamped in 2019, Heaven Hill’s eponymous launch is one in all many who show the distillery’s proficiency on the 100-proof mark. It’s properly rounded and locations on the lighter finish of the spectrum with out missing focus. There are shocking indicators of maturity given its age, with leather-based and savory tobacco notes intertwining with candy oak and butterscotch. Common value: $67.
Knob Creek 12 Yr
This small-batch Beam Suntory launch turns to age over proof within the numerical race. At 50 p.c ABV and 12 years previous, it’s a nice reminder that bourbon needn’t arrive at cask power to ship energy and depth. Darkish chocolate, peanuts, orange peel, and toasted oak comprise only a fraction of the notes current in its beneficiant profile. That is the definition of a must-buy bottle. Common value: $68.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A121)
The standout providing from Heaven Hill’s spectacular Elijah Craig line frequently delivers. The first of the three iterations for 2021 has a perfumed nostril that’s loaded with cloves, vanilla, licorice, and toasted oak. There’s no avoiding the 120-plus proof on the palate, nevertheless it’s a wild pleasurable journey. That is high-octane bourbon and about as massive because it will get on the ABV entrance. Common value: $78.
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea
The intriguing ageing course of for this bourbon sees it cross the equator 4 occasions and go to 5 continents throughout a prolonged ocean voyage. It’s laborious to pinpoint the precise affect of this “hyper-aging” method, however the high quality of the spirit is simple. This bourbon is fruit-forward and floral with a heat, lingering end. Common value: $82.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Years
This lauded Heaven Hill launch delivers every little thing you need from a single barrel, bottled-in-bond bourbon. The vigorous nostril gives fruit, oak, and light-weight spice. It’s the same story on the palate, solely with every part dialed up. At 10 years previous and 50 p.c ABV, this occupies a superb candy spot between age and proof and displays distinctive stability all spherical. Common value: $86.
Basil Hayden’s 10 Yr
In a sea of cask-strength choices, Basil Hayden’s stays true to its 80 proof roots. The excessive rye content material of its mash invoice prices the nostril and palate with notes of caraway and spice, whereas 10 years within the barrel have added leather-based and a pretty nuttiness. Should you aren’t wanting for excessive proof, this can be a outstanding bourbon — simply don’t add ice. Common value: $87.
Barrell Bourbon (Batch 26)
This cask-strength mix options 9-, 10-, 11-, 13-, and 15-year-old bourbons, sourced from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. Intensely flavorful but harmoniously balanced, it gives a spectrum of contemporary and dried fruits and a wealthy, candy core. Regardless of the complicated mix, it delivers a quintessential bourbon profile. That is merely unbelievable. Common value: $90.
Splurge (Over $100)
Booker’s Pigskin Batch (2020-03)
Booker’s third and remaining launch of 2020 is bound to please cask-strength followers with its 63.65 p.c ABV content material. As with each launch within the collection, it packs an intense punch and delivers immense focus of flavors. There’s a definite cinnamon be aware to this iteration backed up by mocha, chocolate, and baked apples. It’s equally spectacular as a dessert or evening cap, and including an ice dice or two doesn’t damage. Common value: $100.
Bardstown Discovery Collection #4
Combining three sourced Kentucky bourbons aged between 10 and 15 years previous, the fourth installment of Bardstown’s Discovery Collection is a superb exhibition of age. Every sip is wealthy in dried fruits and frivolously toasted nuts, with hints of leather-based, tobacco, and licorice. That is nuanced, high-proof sipping bourbon with an exceedingly prolonged end. Common value: $139.
Previous Fitzgerald 14-Yr-Previous Bottled-in-Bond (Fall 2020 Launch)
Heaven Hill’s flagship bourbon delights with its refined grace. The wheated mash invoice types a nice candy core, with accents of brilliant berries, vanilla, caramel, and delicate oak. The slender mouthfeel glides throughout the palate, adopted by a delicate however persistent end. Like loss of life and taxes, you may count on to pay above the MSRP for this coveted launch, however don’t suppose twice about it. Common value: $140 (MSRP).