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What Is The Best Bourbon Whiskey

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Top 10 Budget-ish Bourbons (according to whiskey lovers)

Best whiskey for novices

ABV: 45%

Weve kicked off with Makers Mark as its a great bourbon for new whiskey drinkers. It has a mellow character due to the high proportion of corn and winter wheat in its mash bill of 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% malted barley. The mash bill adds a hint of sweetness, making this an approachable, easy-drinking but satisfying bourbon.

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By far the youngest brand on this list, Bulleit was widely introduced to US markets in 1999. Nonetheless, the 90-proof liquid was at the right place at the right time. Namely, the start of the 21st Century bourbon boom. Its been a wild ride since then. Originally produced on contract at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, parent company Diageo opened its own facility for the brand in 2017. The 300-acre compound in bourbon country will eventually crank out 1.8 million proof gallons, annually. So expect to see a lot more of it on shelves in the years to come.

Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey


Jimmy Russell truly is the grandad of modern bourbon making. The legend has been in making whiskey in this part of Kentucky since 1954. And for much of that time he has set the standard for what a solid, mid-shelf liquid should look, feel, and taste like. Driving most of the sales today is this flagship label, high in corn, full of barrel spice, and assertive in the sip at 101-proof.

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

Beam Suntory

Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Heaven Hill

Jim Beam ‘White Label’ Bourbon

Beam Suntory

Best Irish: West Cork 8

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Region: Ireland | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Dried apples, Honey, Baking spices

While some American consumers regrettably limit their consumption of Irish whiskey to the occasional shot purchased by a casual acquaintance at a sports bar, there’s also a vibrant and growing list of Irish craft whiskies that deserve our attention. West Cork produces a gorgeous single-malt that sees Irish barley and local spring water going into a hand-built copper pot still, with the resulting distillate matured for eight years in first-fill, flame-charred bourbon barrelsleading to far more depth and character than fans of other whiskies may typically associate with the category. The well-balanced palate features pretty notes of dried apple and honey segueing to a baking-spice finish, and all at an approachable 80 proof. You won’t want to shoot this one.

Region: Ontario, Canada | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Raisin, Coffee

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The Best Bourbon Under $50

Precisely how this mish-mash of corn and malt with rye became Bourbon is unknown. But what matters is that its delicious. So long as you get the right brand at the right price.

But look no further, here we present the best bourbon under $50:

Part of the allure of small batch mixtures is they will change over the years, evolving as the blended mix evolves to alter the taste landscape. With Four Roses bourbon, dark fruits and cinnamon come on quick, bringing a maudlin sense that is rapidly expunged by citrus peel backers and lots of rye. Then it slides into sweet caramel and toffee.

What’s The Difference Between Bourbon And Whiskey

These Are The 50 Best Bourbons, Ryes, And Single Malt Scotch Whiskeys ...

All bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. For a whiskey to be considered a bourbon, it must meet specific legal requirements. The chief requirements are that it be made of at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Additionally, distillation and bottling must occur in the United States. The bottled bourbon must be at least 80 proof. The distillate cannot be more than 160 proof and can’t enter the barrel at more than 125 proof.

If a whiskey doesn’t meet these requirements, it cannot be called bourbon.

Check out our full article on the difference between whiskey and bourbon.

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Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Price: roughly $37 per 750 ml

Distillery: Beam Suntory

Flavor Profile: The tasting notes denote maple syrup sweetness with spicy cinnamon and salty butter.

Why We Like It:

Knob Creek is one of the best bourbons for us because of its bold and complex, perfectly balanced flavors.

The sweetness of brown sugar, black chocolate, and caramel blends well with black pepper spice. It is also bottled almost at its cask strength, giving it more character. Here are other Knob Creek bottles to try.

High West American Prairie Bourbon

High West American Prairie is a blend of straight bourbons aged from two to 13 years. Rich and earthy on the palate, it reveals pleasant notes of candy corn, honey nougat and sweet corn bread biscuits, closing out with a flash of Granny Smith apple. Every purchase comes with a karmic boost, as wellHigh West donates 10 percent of profits from the sale of each bottle to the American Prairie Reserve, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving Americas natural resources.

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Bourbon Terms To Know

Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon that is stored in charred new oak for at least two years. It can be a blend of multiple straight bourbon whiskeys as long as they’re all produced in the same state.

Bottled in Bond: Under the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, a bottled-in-bond spirit must be produced by one distillery in the same distilling season, then aged under federal supervision and cut and bottled at 100 proof.

Sour Mash: A fermentation technique used by almost all bourbon distillers that employs pre-fermented mash from a previous distilling in a new mash. The sour mash prevents wild yeast from entering the mash and causing infections.

Proof: The percentage of alcohol, displayed as double that of the alcohol percentage.

High Rye: A bourbon with a higher than normal percentage of mash bill made up of rye . This tends to produce spicier flavors in the bourbon.

Wheated: A bourbon with a higher than normal percentage of mash bill made up of wheat . This tends to produce a softer, less spicy whiskey.

Small Batch: A subjective term signaling a bourbon made using a select number of barrels or recipes in a blended bottling.

Single Barrel: A bourbon made using single barrels, providing a higher range of variation in flavor, and the chance at specific, unique characteristics.

Non-Distiller Producers : Companies that purchase their whiskey from someone else rather than making it themselves. This is not a new phenomenon and it plays a large role in blended bourbons.

How It All Begins

The Absolute Best Bourbon Of 2021

When the grains are purchased, they come in dry form and are carefully quality- controlled. Now, many distilleries usually share a common grain source, and so if there is anything wrong with the grain such as the presence of mold or must they will inform one another.

Musty and moldy flavors can go a long way all through both the distillation as well as the aging processes, thus ruining a whole batch quickly and easily. So it is vital to avoid buying musty and moldy grains.

After purchasing the high-quality grains, after they have been processed, they will be transferred to what is referred to as a beer well where the cooking process will begin.

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Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel

This one is without a doubt the most obtainable on the Not So Obtainable list but can be quite expensive. The Four Roses Single Barrel is a great bourbon.

Multiply that by 10 and thats how good this is. You should be able to get a bottle to try if you have the Benjamins to spare and we urge you to do so if so.

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

This signature expression from Heaven Hill has been hailed as one of the tastiest bourbons in the market, with a distinctive flavor of spice & smoke. Named after a Baptist preacher, Elijah Craig became an early player in the craft whiskey movement and is now a favorite of Bourbon connoisseurs and casual whiskey fans.

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a premium Bourbon whiskey with an exceptionally smooth finish. It’s slow-aged in new, charred oak barrels, where it develops its distinctive warm spice and subtle smoke flavor. The result is a small-batch Bourbon well worth the wait.

The high-rye bourbon is a burnished copper color. On the nose, it’s delightfully complex with notes of vanilla bean and sweet fruit. The palate is smooth and warm, with spice, smoke, and nutmeg accents. Its long finish is sweet and slightly toasty, making it the perfect whiskey for sipping.

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Best Bourbon Whiskey At A Glance

  • Best bourbon whiskey for novices: Maker’s Mark Kentucky straight bourbon, £24.50
  • Best bourbon for an old fashioned: Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky straight bourbon, £32.95
  • Best bourbon whisky with caramel notes: Wild Turkey Rare Breed Kentucky straight bourbon, £53.95
  • Best spicy bourbon: Woodford Reserve Distillers Select Kentucky straight bourbon, £35.95
  • Best vintage bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage straight bourbon, £47.49
  • Best toasty bourbon: Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky straight bourbon, £52
  • Best buttery bourbon: Four Roses Kentucky Small Batch straight bourbon, £31.95
  • Best popular bourbon: Jack Daniels Old No.7 Tennessee whiskey, £30
  • Best oaky bourbon: Yellowstone Select bourbon whiskey, £39.95
  • Best sweet bourbon: Sonoma Distilling Co. cherrywood smoked bourbon, £54.85

Age: At Least 8 Years

These Are The 50 Best Bourbons, Ryes, And Single Malt Scotch Whiskeys ...

The Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon is an instantly likable and pleasantbourbon tastingexperience with notes of caramel, honey, orange vanilla. The nose balances these flavors well while also providing an underlying layer of oak woodiness that complements the drink immensely.

This mellow and sweet whiskey boasts hints of brown sugar and vanilla on its palate. Some might find the sweetness too much for their taste but surely several people will still enjoy this smooth spirit that has some oak and rye spice to round out all those flavors in your mouth!

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The Bourbon Bucket List: The 20 Best Bourbons You Need To Try At Least Once

No other drink is as American as bourbon. Eastern Europeans can carry the vodka flag, the Scottish can bring the best scotch, but well take a bottle of bourbon and a pigskin-loving bald eagle any day. And when youre stocking your home bar with some Kentucky classics , there are bottles that deserve a spot on a shelf. Not all of these are hard to find , but theyre all extremely tasty, interesting, and worthy of a sip once in your life. Heres our list of the best bourbon around.

Best Splurge Whiskey: Mortlach 20 Year Old Cowies Blue Seal Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Mortlachs Speyside single malts are notable for a number of reasons, including arriving without the influence of peat, being distilled 2.81 times, and the fact that they form one of the components of the Johnnie Walker Blue blend. This release is also notable for being absolutely superb and carrying a dazzling array of flavors and aromas that span the spectrum of fruit, flowers, nuts, spices, and oak. Heavy sherry cask influence ensures each sip lands and finishes as smooth as a ride in a Rolls Royce. Average price: $240.

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Best For Sipping: Aberlour A’bunadh

Region: Speyside, Scotland | ABV: Varies by batch | Tasting Notes: Sherry, Spice, Vanilla

This scotch has something of a cult following, and with good reason: it’s a high-proof, sherry cask single malt that is consistently delicious. This is a rare example of a single expression being recognized and sought after by consumers, while the rest of the brand lineup is mostly , says Vacheresse. Add a bit of water or drink it neathowever you prefer, Aberlour ABunadh does not disappoint. Take your time with this as you sip to unveil layer after layer of flavor.

Four Roses Single Barrel

Top 5 “CLASSIC” Bourbons (according to whiskey lovers)

I became a huge fan of this stuff a while back, and working with distillery manager Al Young at Google back in 2018 was a treat and made me an even bigger Four Roses fan. Every year, they put out their core range, and always have something limited that gets snapped up quickly. And while this is not a limited-edition bottle, it’s arguably the best one in the 2020 lineup. The complexity here is superior to the small batch, and slightly more so than the 2020 limited edition. Beautiful notes of maple and vanilla come through on the nose, but it’s the palate that really hits you. An incredible amount of flavor comes across your mouth and coats it perfectly. The maple and brown sugar that hits reminds me of a warm bowl of oatmeal. The finish is long, spicy, and has a touch of raisins to it. Easily an everyday drinker. Find it:

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What Makes For Good Bourbon Whiskey

While everything from ingredients, equipment, climate, distillation methods, and more can play a role when distinguishing one bourbon from the next, most good bourbons are the result of proper aging. Specifically, the highest-quality, top-shelf bourbon is usually aged no less than seven years, and no more than 12. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule , but generally speaking, 7-12 years of aging allows the distillate to suck up a perfect amount of flavour and texture from the oak, without resorting to overkill. In turn, the bourbon retains a beautiful colour of dark or golden amber, while deftly balancing flavour, smoothness, and texture that you would expect from a high-end bourbon whiskey.

That said, not all the best bourbons are automatically smooth per se, at least not in the traditional sense. Indeed, some of the foremost whiskey brands mark their respective territory by way of robust flavour, ample spice, and a high proof. As a result, theres going to be some heat present on every sip, the kind of which you can feel in your chest. Nevertheless, the spirit still qualifies for the list of what is good bourbon, sometimes even top bourbon. Its when the whiskey goes down hot, lacks complexity, and retains thin texture, then its likely bourbon of low quality. This most commonly occurs when the distillate isnt aged for a long enough period of time, or when an expert isnt overseeing the whole process, to begin with.

How Is Bourbon Made

Bourbon is made with grains, primarily corn. The milled grains are cooked to make a porridge-like mash. The mash is fermented for a few days and then distilled. The distillate is then put into charred oak barrels and aged.

Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. Almost all bourbons contain malted barley, and most have rye or wheat as a secondary grain. Once the ground grains are mixed with water and cooked, the sour mash is cooled before entering a fermenter where yeast is added. The yeast feeds on the sugars in the mash, turning them into alcohol. The distilleries I visited ferment the mash for three or four days.

The fermented mash is essentially beer. The “beer” goes to the still from the fermenters, where it is heated to extract the alcohol. The distilled spirit is known as “white dog.” The white dog goes into new charred oak barrels and is aged for between a few months and several years.

When the aged bourbon is ready, it’s filtered and usually “proofed down” by adding purified water to lower the alcohol percentage.

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Hirsch Selected Whiskeys The Horizon

Price: roughly $39 per 750 ml

Distillery: Hotaling & Co

ABV: 46%

Flavor Profile:

Well-balanced tasting notes of cinnamon, vanilla, rye spice, and toasted oak. It also has hints of cornbread, spice cake, and honeyed biscuits.

Why We Like It:

Hirschs The Horizon is made of the traditional blend of corn, rye, and barley mash bill. The flavors incorporated during its four years of aging are interestingly delicious.

It holds enough choco-like sweetness that has gathered toasted oak flavors. It is great to sit and sip and holds the port even when mixed in cocktails.

Best Kentucky Bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

The Best Irish Whiskeys for Bourbon Lovers to Buy

Courtesy of Drizly

Region: Kentucky | ABV: 43.3% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Cinnamon, Oak

Each bottle of this Evan Williams bourbon lists the barrel numbers, the date it entered the barrel, and the date of bottling. One of Heaven Hill Distillerys most-awarded whiskeys, this reasonably-priced single barrel is big, balanced, spicy and sweet, and enjoys a backbone of honey and citrus.

Its straightforward, flavorful, not heavy-handed, and terrific neat, says Jeff Moses, a Charleston-based spirits entrepreneur. I like it best when I have it with a meal like a barbecue or a rotisserie chicken.

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Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Straight Bourbon

Best vintage bourbon

  • Available from

ABV: 43.3%

Each year, the Evan Williams master distiller selects barrels for that year’s vintage bottling, with each bottle marked with the date it was put into barrel, along with the year it was bottled. Naturally, every year, and indeed every barrel, is slightly different but this full-bodied bourbon tends to have flavours of toasty maple, vanilla and chargrilled sweetcorn with roasted almonds, earthy apple and enlivening spice.

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Buffalo Trace: Best Budget Bourbon

Price: £23 | Buy now from Master of Malt

Although regarded as a cheap bourbon, Buffalo Trace is extremely enjoyable both neat and in cocktails. Its exact mash bill is undisclosed but many believe the rye content to be quite low. This is definitely a sweeter option, with prominent vanilla, caramel and honey flavours. Theres a bit of oakiness too, but it doesnt linger and despite its low ABV, it still has quite a bite to it.

All in all, Buffalo Trace is a real crowd pleaser, both because of its affordability and its classic flavour profile.

Key details Small batch or single barrel: No ABV: 45%

Price: £55 |

While most bourbons are typically made up of at least three different types of grain, sometimes a distiller will buck this trend and create a unique mash bill that changes the way you think about the spirit. Kovals single-barrel does just this, with a simple blend of 51% corn and 49% millet. Unlike most traditional bourbons, there is no rye or barley involved, creating a bourbon that is sweet, smooth and incredibly clean.

On the nose and tongue Koval has a simple sweetness, with the corn really shining through. Theres a slight earthiness too and the finish is long and slightly oaky its bourbon, but lighter. Ideal if you want to try something that moves away from the classic bourbon flavours, while still being smooth and very drinkable. Oh, and its organic and gluten-free too.

Key details Small batch or single barrel: Single barrel ABV: 49%

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