25 Best BOURBON BRANDS to Try Out in 2023 (Updated)

Bourbon Brands best top-shelf good
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Exploring the vast world is one of the most fun things that a man can do. If you disagree, you’ve probably never had the best bourbons in the world. Or maybe you’ve tried a few of them but not the ones that will change your life. We have 25 of the best bourbon brands to choose from, as well as top-shelf bourbon brands, to provide you with options for the best bourbon you can go for and assist you in making an informed purchase.

25 Best Bourbon Brands

Have you been confused about which bourbon brand to choose? Here is a list of the best bourbon brands you can go for:

#1. Knob Creek

In 1992, when bourbon was battling for popularity, former master distiller Booker Noe developed Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection (hard to imagine now). The phrase “small batch” has no real meaning, so for many businesses, it simply refers to a smaller volume of whisky than they manufacture for other products. Booker’s, Basil Hayden, Baker’s, and Knob Creek are the four small batch expressions that are offered. Even though this last whiskey isn’t the most visually appealing, it’s one of the best of all time.

After being removed for a few years, this 100-proof bourbon (and rye) gained its nine-year-old age statement back in 2020, and certain limited-edition 12 and 15-year-old expressions also hit the market. Regardless of age, Jim Beam’s distinctive nuttiness and flavorful caramel and brown sugar stand out. If you want something with a higher ABV that is more akin to Booker’s, you have a number of single-barrel releases to pick from. And if flavored whiskey is your thing, don’t let anyone make fun of you.

#2. George T. Stagg

George T. Stagg is a brand made by Buffalo Trace that has the name of the person who constructed one of the largest distilleries in the 19th century (now known as Buffalo Trace). There are two different versions of this uncut, unfiltered, barrel-proof bourbon brand named for the pioneer of whiskey. The first, George T. Stagg, spent at least 15 years maturing in brand-new, charred oak casks. The result is a whiskey that tastes like charred wood, vanilla, raisins, and pipe tobacco. The second, George T. Stagg, Jr., has lovely flavors and has matured for at least eight years.

#3. Wild Turkey

Before Matthew McConaughey was appointed creative director in 2016, Wild Turkey was a well-known, unpretentious American bourbon brand that had already ingrained itself in people’s minds. The distillery’s entry-level flagship expression is bottled at 101 proof, giving it a small edge over other similar whiskeys. In order to let the whiskey’s flavor develop as it ages, Wild Turkey typically bottles liquor that has been aged for at least six years. The barrels are then given the No. 4 “alligator” char, which is more powerful.

However, there are certain premium releases like Master’s Keep, whose most recent offering. One of the Master’s keep was aged in toasted oak barrels (the new edition is due out this fall). Then there are smaller batch releases like the single-barrel Kentucky Spirit and the barrel-strength Rare Breed to sample. Having said that, a simple bottle of 101 is truly the best option you have.

#4. Woodford Reserve

The name Woodford Reserve comes from the county (Woodford) in which it is situated. It is smack dab in the middle of Kentucky’s horse country. Even though the brand didn’t start until 1990, the distillery has been around since 1812 and is a National Historic Landmark. The company is known for its small-batch bourbons. They also make rye whiskey, straight malt whiskey, and a number of other limited-edition and experimental expressions. Its roots are definitely in bourbon, and that’s what it does best. Chris Morris, who is the master distiller for Woodford Reserve, says that the best stock comes from Warehouse C, which is one of the oldest rooms in the Versailles house where stock is aged.

I adore hearing claims that Warehouse C is where the “magic” takes place. “That statement is accurate in certain ways,” he said. “A lot has been learned about both the effects of the oak barrel and the science of aging.” Although there is still some uncertainty surrounding how it occurs, we now understand a lot about the effects of oak exposure. Also, we now understand the maturation process, temperature variations, time spent in the barrel, barrel entry evidence, and more. We simply don’t know. Therefore, the best way to explain maturation is as “art and science.”

#5. Evan Williams

Evan Williams is living proof that decent bottles of bourbon don’t have to cost a fortune. Bourbon enthusiasts are aware of this. The Jim Beam White Label is good, but this Heaven Hill whiskey, which is about the same price and slightly stronger at 86 percent, simply has more taste and punch. Evan Williams is a fantastic, affordable cocktail bourbon that is definitely drinkable on its own. Nevertheless, there are a few other excellent expressions to explore outside the traditional Black Label.

There is the Bottled in Bond edition, which increases the ABV to 50%, the elusive “small batch” 1783 that is bottled at 90 proof, and last but not least, the underappreciated Evan Williams Single Barrel. This is a really fantastic and reasonably priced whiskey that you should taste and compare tasting notes to the traditional Black Label, even though the bourbon will certainly vary depending on which barrel it comes from.

#6. W.L. Weller

Buffalo Trace frequently names its whiskey products after early whiskey makers, and W.L. Weller is no exception. Seven of the most sought-after whiskeys on the market are part of the brand named for William Larue Weller, a whiskey merchant who once hired Pappy Van Winkle to work for him. The W.L. Weller Special Reserve, William Larue Weller, and W.L. Weller C.Y.P.B. bottles fall under this category. Few companies have more elusive, recognizable expressions than W.L. Weller.

#7. Four Roses

Even if the label is no longer yellow, Four Roses Yellow Label ought to be your cheap bourbon. One of the best bourbons for the money, it works well in cocktails and on its own. Although the Single Barrel is a great whiskey, the Four Roses Small Batch is a good option at a cheaper rate. Ten separate recipes are produced by the distillery using two mash bills, and five yeast strains and four of these recipes are used to produce Small Batch.

The more recent Small Batch Select is non-chill filtered, bottled at a higher proof of 104, and uses six different recipes. The bourbon is usually between 6 and 8 years old, and the high rye content in Four Roses’ mash bill perfectly balances the spicy flavors with the fruity flavors from the yeast. Naturally, this distillery has its own unicorn-themed bottle, which is available every year as the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch. It’s quite difficult to get this combination of older liquor, chosen by master distiller Brent Elliott, but it makes for a delightful drinking bourbon if you do.

#8. Russell’s Reserve

The world of bourbon is familiar with Wild Turkey. The brand that has garnered the most praise over the past ten years, however, is its spinoff, Russell’s Reserve. Bourbon drinkers are familiar with Jimmy Russell, who has been the master distiller of Wild Turkey for a long time. He is known as an icon of whiskey. Eddie, though, has his own experience of more than thirty years. Because of this, he made Russell’s Reserve to honor their more than 90 years of experience making spirits. Since its launch in 1998, the brand has grown to include a wide range of bourbons and ryes, such as the highly sought-after Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old.

#9. Michter’s

Although the Shively distillery, which is much larger, continues to be the primary production facility, Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery in Louisville is a modest but lovely enterprise with stills producing small volumes of bourbon. And after years of switching between different manufacturing stages, Michter’s is now at the point where its own bourbon, together with sourced and contract-distilled stock, is entering the bottle. Bourbon, rye, American whiskey, and sour mash bourbon are among the varieties offered by Michter’s. Although they are not the cheapest bottles available, these are some of the best.

The US-1 Straight Bourbon’s flavor profile hits all the right notes: sweetness, spiciness, vanilla, cocoa, and more. If you can locate it, go ahead and buy a bottle of the robust Barrel Strength Rye or the 10- or 25-year-old bourbon, but for everyday sipping, Michter’s US1 is what you should choose. 

#10. Maker’s Mark

If you’ve ever gone into a dark cocktail bar and asked for a bourbon cocktail, you’ve probably already tried Maker’s Mark. Alcohol is a mainstay in bars all over the world and one of the most adaptable substances available, which makes it the perfect partner for cocktails. In particular, Maker’s Mark uses wheat rather than the more common rye as a flavoring grain in the mash bill, creating a smoother finish that is much more approachable for new drinkers. The Maker’s 46, which is probably the company’s most well-known product, is one of our favorites because it uses a variety of special wood staves to give it a much more well-rounded taste.

#11. Old Forester

An iconic bourbon brand called Old Forester is renowned for producing affordable bourbon that doesn’t skimp on flavor or quality. In addition to the 117 Series, which has the most recent Whiskey Row Fire, the distillery has also released some great new Whiskey Row expressions, such as the 1920 Prohibition Style and the 1897 Bottled In Bond. Moreover, there is the yearly Birthday Bourbon, one of those sought-after unicorn bottles that draw crowds outside of liquor stores the night before it goes on sale. But there have always been plenty of good choices in the core lineup. The Signature 100 Proof is a bartender’s greatest buddy, while the Classic 86 Proof has a slightly higher alcohol concentration (and more flavor) than your typical basic bourbon. Don’t forget to sample Old Forester Rye, a mellow, sweet whiskey made with 65 percent rye.

#12. Eagle Rare

Eagle Rare is well-known to bourbon lovers. There may not be a better name for a bourbon brand than this one, which is very popular and has won many awards over the years. Both for its great quality and for being hard to come by in the wild, this small-batch bourbon brand is well renowned. While finding its 10-year-old expression online and at liquor stores isn’t too tough, finding its 17-year-old and Double Eagle Rare bourbons are practically impossible without paying exorbitant secondary market prices.

#13. Booker’s

No list of bourbons would be complete without a brand that only makes barrel-proof bourbon, and Booker’s, which is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection along with Knob Creek, is one of the best. This is the first batch of the collection. It was made by the famous master distiller Booker Noe at a time when high-proof bourbon wasn’t very popular.

The bourbon is typically aged between six and seven years and clocks in at between 120 and 130 proofs. It is released in four batches per year, albeit occasionally less. Although it’s strong, you may still drink it; if you want to tone it down, add some water, or if you want to go all out, mix it up in a cocktail. Although the cost of these bottles has increased over time and the variations between each batch are small and subtle, Booker’s is still one of the best barrel-proof bourbon brands available.

#14. Parker’s Heritage

The late Master Distiller Parker Beam’s name is on this line of bourbons, which are known for their unique, limited-edition, and very popular flavors. The releases over the years have included rye, wheat bourbons, and most frequently, bourbons. It is currently in its 15th incarnation. The 2020 edition was a ten-year-old bourbon with flavors of candied orange peels, maple sugar, vanilla, and oaky wood char, while the 2021 version was a wheat bourbon.

#15. Barrell Bourbon

There are some bourbon brands that just purchase their bourbon, name it, and move on. Then there are companies like Barrell Bourbon (a division of Barrell Craft Spirits), which carefully chooses ingredients from different states and nations that produce whiskey, tastes and blends avant-garde concoctions, and regularly releases new batches without worrying about failing to hit the mark.

However, Barrell doesn’t frequently experience such issues, as is the case with Batch 033, the most recent batch of bourbon (a blend of 5- to 9-year-old bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee). But the company offers more than just bourbon. There is rum and rye whiskey. Rye whiskey is aged in different kinds of casks and is used in the Seagrass series, which is always interesting. Check out the Gold Label line of bourbon if you want to spend some money. The most recent is a 16-year-old bourbon mix that will probably cost you around $500.

#16. Jefferson’s Bourbon

Unlike many of the larger brands, Jefferson’s Bourbon was first established in 1997 by Trey Zoeller and his father, Chet, a bourbon historian. It would be an understatement to say that the company is known for trying new things and pushing the limits. Although Jefferson’s produces various whiskeys, it is most known for its Jefferson’s Ocean, Aged at Sea. Actually, this bourbon is aged at sea. On a ship, while it sails around the world, it ages in barrels. The most recent iteration will spend up to eight years in open water.

#17. Woodinville Whiskey

This very tiny distillery in Washington State is competitive with the greatest in the bourbon industry. Craft bourbon tastes a lot like well-known brands, but Moet Hennessy now owns the company that makes it. There are some excellent craft whiskeys available, but there are also many that just have an underdeveloped palate and could benefit from spending a few more years in a barrel. However, the flavor of Woodinville Straight Bourbon is mature and fully formed.

The grains come from a farm in Quincy, Washington, and the whiskey is made at the Woodinville Distillery, which is nearby. The barrels are then moved over the Cascades to Central Washington, where they age in the changing weather so that the whiskey and wood can get to know each other. There are a few limited-edition barrel-finished bourbons, such as port and moscatel, as well as a cask-strength version. However, you should become more familiar with the 95 proof core bourbon, a lesser-known bottle.

#18. Knob Creek

Knob Creek is one of Jim Beam’s small-batch bourbons. Like Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden, Knob Creek is known for its high-quality bourbons and ryes that are aged in deeply charred American oak barrels. The high alcohol content of this line of bourbons is among its most intriguing features. There are no other expressions under 100-proof than Smoked Maple Bourbon, which has a strength of 90.

#19. Elijah Craig

Some people say that Elijah Craig, a former Baptist pastor, invented bourbon when he put his corn whiskey in charred oak barrels to age. However, this is probably just a myth. It doesn’t really matter whether this rumor is accurate or not because he still has a brand of bourbon and rye whiskey named after him. Elijah Craig Small Batch, an award-winning and widely accessible whiskey, is the house bourbon.

#20. E.H. Taylor, Jr.

Few bourbon brands are more difficult to locate than E.H. Taylor (besides Pappy Van Winkle). This series of bourbons, which bears Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr.’s name, is matured in barrel houses that E.H. Taylor himself built. E.H. Taylor, Jr., Single Barrel, E.H. Taylor, Jr., Barrel Proof, and a few additional whiskeys are among these smooth, easy-to-sip, extremely limited bourbons.

#21. Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon

This bourbon is full of allspice and cinnamon flavors, with vanilla, yeast, and a hint of wood around them. Toasted pecan and brûléed sugar flavors are also present, and they meld with the soft notes of caramel and cream.

Noah’s Mill, which was aged for 15 years, is one of the best things that the Willett Distillery in Kentucky makes. According to Vitacca, “This excellent bourbon is basically cask-strength at 114.3 proof, yet there’s so much taste in this bourbon that you don’t realize you’re sipping on such a high-proof spirit.” Although there is a burn, it is a good burn.

#22. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Most people in the wine business know that “estate wines” are made by the same person, family, or winery that planted the grapes. The majority of consumers, however, are unfamiliar with the term “estate spirits,” and for the majority of the last century or more, it has been virtually impossible for a person in the US to buy a bottle of whiskey that was (legally) distilled by the same small family business that produced the grains. But now that the farm-to-glass revolution is well underway, estate distilleries all over the country are producing intriguing and complex spirits.

Despite having had a farm in Nevada since 1854—long before it was even a state—the Frey family has just recently started setting aside some of their grain for distillation. Because they grow their own grain, the family has complete control over the production process. As a result, their distinctive four-grain bourbon, which has a mash bill that includes 66.6% maize, 12% malted barley, 11.4% rye, and 10% wheat, is a study in complexity and terroir. A creamy tongue with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dried banana follows an unusual bouquet that bursts with cherries and sourdough.

#23. Kings County Distillery

A lesser-known brand of bourbon whiskey, Kings County Distillery is a true love letter to American distillation. The company, a favorite of bourbon specialist Shuttleworth, is best recognized for producing one-of-a-kind drinks using traditional methods that have been developed over many years in Kentucky. In a unique move, this brand also provides a peated bourbon choice that bridges the gap between regular Kentucky releases and Islay Scotch. Before moving to its current location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2012, the Kings County Distillery was the smallest commercial distillery in the United States, he explains. Scottish copper pot stills, open fermentation, and local grain result in an utterly original interpretation of the genre.

#24. Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

The barrel numbers, the time it went into the barrel, and the time it was bottled are all listed on each bottle of this Evan Williams bourbon. One of Heaven Hill Distillery’s most well-known bourbons, this single barrel bourbon has a middle-of-the-road price and is big, balanced, spicy, sweet, and has a honey and citrus base.

#25. 1792 Bourbon

In the bourbon community, 1792 Bourbon is a well-known brand. The traditional 1792 Small Batch is strong, rich, and a superb combination of vanilla beans, butterscotch, and spicy cracked black pepper. It is renowned for its hand-selected barrels and high-rye recipe. The company further creates limited-edition expressions such as Sweet Wheat, Aged 12 Years, High Rye, and Full Proof in addition to the Small Batch expression.

Top-Shelf Bourbon Brands

Top-shelf bourbon brands make whiskey from high-quality ingredients and are usually expensive and hard to find. Bar owners use the phrase “top shelf” to highlight their selection of premium brands.

Top-shelf bourbons are placed at the top of the rack to show that they are rare and good. Because they are more expensive and rarely ordered, they are kept on top of the shelf behind the bartender.

#1. Russell’s Reserve

Jimmy Russel, who used to be the head distiller of Wild Turkey whiskey made Russell’s Reserve.

The bourbon that the Russells have made over the years combines time-honored customs with cutting-edge innovation.

The premium bourbon brand offers four options of straight bourbon whiskey with a flavor that is both complex and delicate.

#2. Old Grand Dad

Fans of bourbon and bartenders give Beam Suntory’s bourbons a lot of praise, and Old Grand Dad is one of their most proud products. Despite its modest price, it has a very noticeable rye spice aroma.

The company was founded in the early days of bourbon production and was given the name Basil Hayden in memory of Raymond B. Hayden’s grandfather.

If the name Basil Hayden bourbon by Booker Noe seems familiar, it’s because the whiskey’s bourbon recipe was influenced by Hayden’s Sr high rye.

#3. Pappy Van Winkle

Since Pappy Van Winkle has always been the most highly recommended top-shelf bourbon brand, it never comes as a surprise. No one should pass up its rich, savory, sweet, and smooth taste.

The special wheat recipe used by the Van Winkle family is used to manufacture each bottle. A rich and powerful flavor of wood, leather, and dried fruit results from it being unopened for fifteen years.

#4. Blanton’s Bourbon

Original single-barrel bourbon Blanton’s has won numerous honors for its superior quality. In honor of Colonel Albert Blanton, Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee made the first single barrel that was mass-produced.

Every bottle has the same consistency of the traditional bourbon flavor profile, making it a friendly bourbon to enjoy. The rich vanilla, oak, and caramel flavors of the top-shelf pure bourbon make it a favorite.

What Makes A Top-Shelf Bourbon Brand? 

The following are what makes a bourbon brand top-shelf:

#1. Expensive

Top-shelf bourbon brands are typically costly since they are made with high-quality ingredients. A typical bourbon, which costs a lot of money, is aged differently than most other bourbons.

#2. High-Quality

High-quality ingredients and production techniques are used to create premium bourbons. Because the whiskey is made from quality grains, it tastes far better than standard and mass-produced whiskey goods.

Top-shelf bourbons are made with the best corn, wheat, or rye, as well as malted barley.

The aging process gives it a smoother, more complex flavor that you won’t get in bottom- and mid-shelf bourbons.

#3. Hard To Find

It might be challenging to get top-shelf bourbon because it is typically manufactured in small batches and is in such high demand.

While there are many bourbon brands available today, some are well-known and end up on the top shelf. Pappy Van and Blanton’s are well-known brands that people stick with because they are good.

The popularity of top-shelf bourbon is due in part to its superior quality; this is not to say that lesser-known brands are of inferior quality.

As a result, Jim Beam remains the market leader in the bourbon category even if Jack Daniel’s considers itself a Tennessee whiskey, despite the fact that Jack Daniel’s is officially a bourbon.

Is Jack Daniels Whiskey or Bourbon?

Since Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey, it is unquestionably whiskey. Even the name indicates that. Whiskey is the most general name for distilled grain that has been aged in oak barrels. This is true no matter what kind of grain is used, what kind of barrels are used, or anything else.

Is Crown Royal a Bourbon?

In particular, Crown Royal is a Canadian whiskey, and while it theoretically has a mash bill similar to bourbon (64% maize, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley), bourbon can only be produced in America. Despite first approving the label, the TTB later changed its mind and ordered the company to stop calling its product “Bourbon Mash.”

Is Southern Comfort a Bourbon?

No, is the short response. Southern Comfort is not a bourbon. Actually, it’s a liqueur made using whiskey that has been flavor-infused with fruits and spices.

Conclusion

It would be nice to try a bottle from our list of top-shelf bourbon brands if you want to appreciate bourbon to the fullest. Make your choice wisely!

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