Best Bourbon Brands: Top Picks for Whiskey Lovers
If you’re a bourbon fan, you know that the world of American whiskey can be overwhelming. With so many brands and types of bourbon available, it can be challenging to know where to start.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best bourbon brands available in 2023, so you can find your new favourite bottle.
Understanding bourbon is key to finding the right brand for you. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made from a mash of at least 51% corn, aged in charred oak barrels, and distilled to no more than 80% alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s a versatile drink that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.
Whether you’re a seasoned bourbon drinker or a newcomer to the world of American whiskey, there’s a bourbon brand out there for you.
In this article, we’ll provide tasting notes and information on the top bourbon brands, as well as the different types of bourbon available. We’ll also include a buying guide to help you choose the right bottle for your budget and taste preferences.
So, sit back, pour yourself a glass of your favourite bourbon, and let’s dive into the world of American whiskey.
- There are many types of bourbon available, each with its own unique flavour profile.
- The best bourbon brands of 2023 offer a range of options for both seasoned bourbon drinkers and newcomers to the world of American whiskey.
- Understanding the different types of bourbon and having a buying guide can help you choose the right bottle for your budget and taste preferences.
If you’re new to the world of bourbon, there are a few things you should know to help you appreciate this classic American spirit. Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is made primarily from corn.
To be considered bourbon, the mash bill (the mixture of grains used to make the whiskey) must contain at least 51% corn. The other grains used can include wheat, rye, and barley.
The process of making bourbon involves distilling the mash and then aging the resulting spirit in charred oak barrels. The charred oak imparts flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak to the whiskey, making it a unique and complex spirit.
One important thing to note is that bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years to be considered “straight bourbon.” However, many bourbons are aged for much longer, with some of the best bottles being aged for over a decade.
Another factor that can affect the flavor of bourbon is the rye content of the mash bill. Bourbons with a higher rye content tend to have a spicier, more complex flavor profile, while those with a lower rye content are often smoother and sweeter.
Some bourbons are also bottled in bond, which means that they have been produced according to strict regulations set forth by the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.
These regulations require that the whiskey be produced by a single distillery in a single distilling season, aged for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and bottled at 100 proof.
Finally, it’s worth noting that bourbon has a rich history, particularly in Kentucky where it is often associated with the state’s heritage.
During Prohibition, many distilleries were forced to shut down, but bourbon continued to be produced illegally in small batches, often referred to as “prohibition-style” bourbon.
Overall, bourbon is a complex and fascinating spirit with a rich history and unique flavor profile. Whether you’re a seasoned bourbon drinker or just starting to explore this classic American whiskey, there’s always something new to learn and appreciate about this timeless spirit.
Top Bourbon Brands
If you’re a bourbon enthusiast, you’re probably always on the lookout for the best brands to try. Here are some of the top bourbon brands that you should consider adding to your collection.
Four Roses is a brand that has been around since the 1800s and is known for its smooth and mellow taste. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including single barrel and small batch options. Four Roses Small Batch is a great choice for those who are just starting to explore the world of bourbon.
Woodford Reserve is a premium bourbon brand that is known for its rich and complex flavour. This brand uses a unique combination of grains and is aged in barrels that are specially crafted to enhance the flavour of the bourbon. If you’re looking for a high-quality bourbon that is perfect for sipping, Woodford Reserve is definitely worth trying.
Buffalo Trace is a brand that has been around since the 1800s and is known for its smooth and balanced flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Eagle Rare Bourbon.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a great choice for those who are looking for a classic bourbon flavour, while Eagle Rare Bourbon is perfect for those who want something a little more complex.
Jim Beam is a classic bourbon brand that has been around for over 200 years. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Jim Beam Bourbon and Jim Beam Black Bourbon.
Jim Beam Bourbon is a great choice for those who are looking for a classic bourbon flavour, while Jim Beam Black Bourbon is perfect for those who want something a little more complex.
Wild Turkey is a brand that is known for its bold and spicy flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Wild Turkey 101 and Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
Wild Turkey 101 is a great choice for those who are looking for a bold and spicy flavour, while Wild Turkey Rare Breed is perfect for those who want something a little more complex.
Elijah Craig is a brand that is known for its smooth and rich flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Elijah Craig Small Batch and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.
Elijah Craig Small Batch is a great choice for those who are looking for a smooth and rich flavour, while Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is perfect for those who want something a little more intense.
Pappy Van Winkle
Pappy Van Winkle is a brand that is known for its high-end bourbons. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year and Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year.
These bourbons are aged for a long time and have a rich and complex flavour that is perfect for sipping.
Knob Creek is a brand that is known for its bold and full-bodied flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Knob Creek Bourbon and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve.
Knob Creek Bourbon is a great choice for those who are looking for a bold and full-bodied flavour, while Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is perfect for those who want something a little more complex.
Maker’s Mark is a brand that is known for its smooth and sweet flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Maker’s Mark 46.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon is a great choice for those who are looking for a smooth and sweet flavour, while Maker’s Mark 46 is perfect for those who want something a little more complex.
Old Forester is a brand that is known for its rich and spicy flavour. This brand offers a range of bourbons, including Old Forester 86 Proof and Old Forester 100 Proof.
Old Forester 86 Proof is a great choice for those who are looking for a rich and spicy flavour, while Old Forester 100 Proof is perfect for those who want something a little more intense.
These are just a few of the top bourbon brands that you should consider trying. Whether you’re a seasoned bourbon drinker or just starting to explore the world of bourbon, these brands are sure to offer something that will appeal to your taste buds.
When it comes to tasting bourbon, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, take a look at the colour of the bourbon. The longer a bourbon is aged, the darker it will be.
Next, give it a good sniff. You should be able to pick up on notes of caramel, vanilla, and maybe even a bit of spice. Take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue for a moment before swallowing. This will allow you to pick up on the different flavours and complexities of the bourbon.
Some bourbons have a sweet, honey-like flavour, while others have a more complex, nutty taste. If you’re looking for a bourbon with a spicy kick, look for one that has been aged for a longer period of time. You may also want to try a bourbon that has been double-oaked, which will give it a more intense flavour.
If you prefer fruity notes in your bourbon, look for one that has been aged in a barrel that previously held wine. This will give it a unique flavour profile that is sure to please. For those who enjoy a bit of sweetness, try a bourbon that has been aged in a barrel that previously held maple syrup.
No matter what type of bourbon you prefer, there is sure to be one out there that will suit your taste. Just remember to take your time when tasting and enjoy the unique flavours and complexities that each bottle has to offer.
Types of Bourbon
When it comes to bourbon, there are several types to choose from. Each type has its own unique flavor and characteristics, making it important to understand the differences between them. Here are some of the most common types of bourbon:
Small Batch Bourbon
Small batch bourbon is made by blending a small number of barrels, typically between 5 and 10. This allows for greater consistency in flavor and quality. Some popular small batch bourbons include Knob Creek Small Batch and Four Roses Small Batch.
Rye bourbon is made with at least 51% rye in the mash bill. This gives it a spicier flavor profile than traditional bourbon. Some popular rye bourbons include Bulleit Rye and Rittenhouse Rye.
Wheat bourbon is made with at least 51% wheat in the mash bill instead of rye. This gives it a softer, sweeter flavor profile. Some popular wheat bourbons include Maker’s Mark and Larceny.
Single Barrel Bourbon
Single barrel bourbon is made from a single barrel, rather than being blended like small batch bourbons. This means that each bottle will have a unique flavor profile. Some popular single barrel bourbons include Blanton’s and Elijah Craig Single Barrel.
Wheated bourbon is made with wheat instead of rye in the mash bill. This gives it a softer, smoother flavor profile. Some popular wheated bourbons include Old Weller Antique and Maker’s Mark 46.
Barrel Proof Bourbon
Barrel proof bourbon is bottled at its original proof, straight from the barrel. This means that it is not watered down like other bourbons. Some popular barrel proof bourbons include Booker’s and Stagg Jr.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made in Kentucky and aged for at least 2 years. It must also be made with at least 51% corn in the mash bill. This is the most traditional type of bourbon.
Small Batch Select
Small Batch Select is a newer type of bourbon that is made by blending a small number of barrels, typically between 8 and 12. It is then aged for at least 6 years. Some popular Small Batch Select bourbons include Four Roses and Elijah Craig.
Expensive bourbon is typically aged for a longer period of time and made with higher quality ingredients. Some popular expensive bourbons include Pappy Van Winkle and Old Rip Van Winkle. These bourbons can be quite expensive, with some bottles costing thousands of dollars.
Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed straight or mixed in cocktails. Here are some classic bourbon cocktails that you should try:
The Old Fashioned is a classic bourbon cocktail that has been around since the 19th century. It’s a simple yet delicious cocktail that consists of bourbon, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus.
To make an Old Fashioned, muddle a sugar cube with a few dashes of bitters in a glass, add ice, pour in your favourite bourbon, and garnish with a twist of orange or lemon.
The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and it’s a refreshing cocktail that’s perfect for a hot summer day. To make a Mint Julep, muddle fresh mint leaves with sugar in a glass, add ice, pour in bourbon, and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy.
The Whiskey Sour is a classic cocktail that can be made with bourbon or any other whiskey. To make a Whiskey Sour, mix bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and enjoy.
The Boulevardier is a classic cocktail that’s similar to a Negroni, but made with bourbon instead of gin. To make a Boulevardier, mix bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a twist of orange and enjoy.
Bourbon cocktails are perfect for any occasion, whether you’re sipping a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby or enjoying an Old Fashioned at a cocktail party. Experiment with different recipes and find your favourite bourbon cocktail. Cheers!
When it comes to choosing the best bourbon brand, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key features to look for when buying bourbon:
Bottle and Label
The bottle and label of a bourbon can give you an idea of its quality and authenticity. Look for a well-designed label that includes information about the distillery, age, and alcohol content. A sturdy and well-crafted bottle can also indicate that the bourbon has been aged properly.
Bourbon comes in a variety of styles and flavours, so it’s important to choose one that suits your taste preferences. Some popular varieties include single barrel, small batch, and limited edition. Consider trying different varieties to find the one that best suits your taste.
Aromas and Flavours
The aromas and flavours of a bourbon can vary greatly depending on the brand and variety. Look for a bourbon with a complex and well-balanced flavour profile, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. Aroma is also important, with a good bourbon having a rich and inviting scent.
The alcohol content of a bourbon can range from 40% to 60% ABV. Higher alcohol content can give a bourbon a stronger flavour and aroma, but can also make it more difficult to drink. Consider your personal tolerance when selecting a bourbon with a higher alcohol content.
There are many rankings and reviews of bourbon brands available online. These can be a helpful guide when choosing a bourbon, but keep in mind that taste is subjective. It’s important to try different brands and varieties to find the one that you enjoy the most.
By considering these factors, you can choose a bourbon brand that suits your taste preferences and budget. Whether you prefer a smooth and mellow bourbon or a bold and complex one, there is a bourbon out there for you.
History of Bourbon
Bourbon whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is distilled from a mixture of grains, including corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley. The spirit is named after Bourbon County, Kentucky, where it is said to have originated in the late 18th century.
The history of bourbon is closely tied to the history of the United States. In the early days of the country, farmers in Kentucky found that they could easily grow corn in the fertile soil of the region.
They began using the corn to make a type of whiskey that was sweeter and smoother than the rye whiskey that was popular at the time.
As the popularity of bourbon grew, so did the number of distilleries in Kentucky. Today, there are over 70 distilleries in the state, including some of the most popular and well-known brands in the world.
One of the most famous distilleries in Kentucky is the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Founded in 1775, it is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States.
The distillery produces a number of popular bourbon expressions, including the award-winning Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve.
Another popular bourbon brand is Larceny Bourbon, which is produced by the Old Fitzgerald Distillery. The brand is known for its smooth, caramel flavour and is a favourite among bourbon enthusiasts.
In recent years, the popularity of bourbon has grown significantly, both in the United States and around the world. Today, bourbon is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, and is often used in cocktails and other mixed drinks.
Overall, the history of bourbon is a fascinating one, and is closely tied to the history of the United States. Whether you are a bourbon enthusiast or simply enjoy the occasional glass, there is no denying the impact that this spirit has had on American culture and history.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some recommended bourbon brands for those on a budget?
If you’re on a budget, there are still plenty of great bourbon brands to choose from. Some of the best budget-friendly options include Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon, and Jim Beam White Label Bourbon. These bourbons offer great taste and quality without breaking the bank.
What are the top bourbon brands for the money?
If you’re looking for a bourbon that offers great value for the money, there are several options to consider. Some of the top bourbon brands for the money include Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, and Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon. These bourbons offer a great balance of taste and affordability.
Which bourbons are considered top shelf?
When it comes to top shelf bourbons, there are several brands that come to mind. Some of the most highly regarded top shelf bourbons include Pappy Van Winkle, Blanton’s Single Barrel, and Booker’s Bourbon. These bourbons are known for their exceptional taste, quality, and rarity.
What is the smoothest bourbon to drink neat?
If you prefer to drink your bourbon neat, you’ll want to choose a bourbon that is smooth and easy to drink. Some of the smoothest bourbons to drink neat include Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. These bourbons offer a smooth taste and finish that is perfect for sipping.
What is the number one selling bourbon brand?
The number one selling bourbon brand is Jim Beam Bourbon. This brand has been around for over 200 years and is known for its smooth taste and affordability. Jim Beam offers a range of bourbons to suit different tastes and preferences, making it a popular choice for bourbon lovers around the world.