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The 50 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2021, Ranked

Naming and ranking the 50 best bourbons of 2021 is a fun, if difficult, task. I was lucky enough to get to sample a lot of whiskeys this year and narrowing all those drams down to 50 beloved bottles proved to be a little harder than expected. That being said, if you try just a handful of these bourbons, you’ll be glad you did. I vouch for the whole list, top to bottom.

Our parameters for which bourbons made the list are simple:

  1. Did the expression land this year (either as a completely new drop or this year’s release of a classic)?
  2. Did it taste any good?

That’s all there is to it. Of course, the latter point is pretty specific to my particular palate. But mine’s a pretty evolved palate, too — just ask the guests on Expression Session.

One final word before we jump in, price and accessibility are not factors here. Some of these bourbons will be easily found at stores, others only surface in Kentucky or their local regions, and some are probably already buried deep in the vaults of collectors.

We’re including them all anyway! These are the best 50 sips of bourbon I tasted in 2021, no holding back!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

50. Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Bourbon

Redwood Empire Bourbon
Redwood Empire

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

While this whiskey is a blend of sourced juice, it really shines as a classic bourbon from a new brand. The juice in the bottle is a blend of bourbons from California, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana that are four to 12 years old. The final blend means the whiskey is made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and only four percent barley.

Tasting Notes:

This is a classic bourbon. The nose opens with a build of vanilla pods next to caramel, a touch of oak, and a thin line of fresh maple syrup. The palate has a pecan pie vibe with the maple syrup turning into Caro syrup as the oak gets a little toasty, with rich buttery toffee and a dollop of creamy vanilla pudding. The rye comes in late with a mild pepperiness and a slight savory fruit vibe.

Bottom Line:

This really feels like a great place to start this list. This bourbon is a pure classic that will feel familiar yet refined. It’s also a testament to the power of blenders taking whiskeys from different regions and making something a bit more elevated.

49. Brough Brothers Bourbon

Brough Brothers Bourbon
Brough Brothers Bourbon

ABV: 41%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This tiny and new distillery was founded in West Louisville by brothers Victor, Chris, and Bryson Yarbrough. The distillery is the first African-American-owned brand working in the state. For now, this bottle is contract-distilled (distilled at a big distillery based on their own recipe/concept) in Indiana from a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four percent malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with dried roses, marzipan, and creamy eggnog on the nose with a hint of apple and corn. That apple drives the taste with more orchard fruit (think pears) as the nutmeg really spikes and the marzipan takes on a rosewater note next to a very distant flutter of pepper spice in the background. The finish sweetens with a spoonful of fresh and floral honey as those orchard fruits affix to a mildly spicy and vanilla-forward tobacco leaf.

Bottom Line:

Brough Brothers definitely has me excited for what’s next from the brand. The first Black-owned and operated distillery in Louisville, Kentucky is putting out quality juice at affordable, everyday prices. That’s a win-win.

48. Ezra Brooks 99

Ezra Brooks 99
Luxco

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $26

The Whiskey:

This whiskey, distilled at Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown, is kind of like a Tennessee whiskey made in Kentucky. The juice has a pretty standard mash bill corn, rye, and barley. But once the spirit comes off the stills ,it’s filtered through charcoal, just like Tennessee whiskey, before it’s filled into the barrels.

That whiskey is then batched, proofed down with limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This also leans very classic bourbon with hints of corn on the cob with melty salted butter next to hints of soft leather pouches filled with roasted peanut shells, a touch of caramel, and a vanilla/chocolate ice cream vibe. The palate keeps things super easy as that rich vanilla ice cream leads towards holiday spices, tart green apples, and a freshly baked cornbread bespeckled with dried chili flakes and black pepper. The finish is soft and fast with that spice leading back towards a leather tobacco chew.

Bottom Line:

I really enjoyed this sip. It was very easy-going and makes a killer cocktail.

47. Still Austin “The Musician” Bourbon

Still Austin

ABV: 49.2%

Average Price: $46

The Whiskey:

The folks at Still Austin have spent the last six years perfecting their grain-to-glass whiskey experience. The juice is rendered with grains from Texas and water from the ground beneath their feet, all imbued with a crafty Texas vibe in every sip. The actual whiskey is a two-year-old bourbon that’s batched to highlight the bright fruits of this new and craft-forward whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

This is really fruity. Think a tropical, hazy IPA with clear notes of pineapple, lemon-lime, and maybe a slight hint of savory papaya next to more a-typical bourbon notes of vanilla, holiday spices, and caramel. There’s a clear sense of those spices on the palate with a hint of dark chocolate leading back to all that fruit, a touch of marzipan, and a dash of vanilla cream pie. The end warms a bit with the fruitiness waning towards a spicy, choco-tobacco end.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a fruity and young bourbon, then this is the bottle for you. Overall, this is a lighter bourbon by Texas standards and that helps it stand out amongst the crowd.

46. Thomas S. Moore Finished In Port Casks

Sazerac Company

ABV: 49.45%

Average Price: $76

The Whiskey:

Barton 1792 doesn’t release their mash bills to the public. Though it’s very likely this is a low-rye bourbon mash. The barrels are pulled from various, undisclosed age ranges and vatted. That juice then goes into ex-port casks for an additional maturation of one to three years. That whiskey is then married, slightly proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is beautiful — rich with hints of red berries, sweet and dry dates, a touch of vanilla tobacco, and a whisper of soft leather. The palate has a jammy presence with a plum compote spiked with cloves and allspice next to a touch of port-soaked cedar planks, vanilla cream, sultanas, and … I want to say … mulled wine cinnamon sticks. That spice does start to build towards the medium-length finish but doesn’t overheat. The fade is nice and mellow with more dried and red fruit leading towards a creamy veneer of spicy vanilla custard with a very distant tobacco vibe on the end of the tail.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those whiskeys that grew on me as the year passed by. The silken hues seemed to mellow into a nice, sweet, and approachable bourbon. While I’ve used it more in cocktails, it works well on the rocks if you’re looking for something a little different.

45. Redemption Cognac Cask Finish

Redemption Cognac Cask Finish
Deutsche Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

Master Blender Dave Carpenter built this small-batch bourbon off the back of barrels of very high-rye bourbon (60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malted barley) from MGP of Indiana. Carpenter then moved that juice into Cognac barrels from Ferrand Cognac which held Cognac for 30 years. The bourbon spent 12 months finishing in those old-school barrels before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear pecan pie vibe on the nose with a buttery crust, plenty of holiday spices, a touch of apricot, and a whisper of dried hibiscus petals. The palate takes the apricot and stews it with the spices to create a jammy compote next to an earthy and wet cellar beam dripping with cobwebs as the hibiscus brightens and leads towards a hint of raisin, prune, and white pepper. The mid-palate leans into that sweet dried fruit/peppery edge as the pecans return in a bowl of Caro syrup and dusted with nutmeg-heavy eggnog spices and a final flourish of that wet yet fruity wood.

Bottom Line:

This new release from Redemption feels perfect for the end of the year and all the feasting that comes along with it. It’s deeply flavored with that finishing barrel which ends up really amping up the holiday vibes. I’m looking forward to trying this in a nice eggnog soon.

44. Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

So this is a “small batch” in theory and name more than practice. The expression is a marrying of 200 barrels of bourbon from Heaven Hill’s warehouses. The new bottling also comes with a new proof of 90, bumping this up from the previous version.

Tasting Notes:

This is soft on the nose with a hint of vanilla next to new leather, cornmeal, and a touch of orchard fruit. The taste is all caramel apples, buttered cornbread, mild cherry, and a hint of eggnog spice. The end is sweet to the point of a honey candy with a touch more of that apple but fades really quickly.

Bottom Line:

This reimagining of Evan Williams Small Batch hit high marks this year. The amped-up ABVs helped it shine in cocktails and on the rocks while still holding on to that “Evan Willams” vibe (think approachable, affordable, and very drinkable).

43. Belle Meade Single Barrel

Nelson Green Brier

ABV: 54.65%

Average Price: $89

The Whiskey:

This expression is all about the prowess of the team at Nelson Green Brier. Each of these MGP barrels is hand-selected for its beauty and then bottled at cask strength to let that barrel shine through in the finished product.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with deep vanilla that mingles with hints of dark chocolate sugar cookies with a touch of mint. The palate centers the creamy vanilla while adding in a cinnamon bark vibe with notes of black pepper and floral honey moved into the background. The end is long-ish and carries more of that vanilla cream while that cinnamon becomes slightly chewy with a dried choco-mint tobacco buzz on the tip of the tongue.

Bottom Line:

This bourbon is a great example of how important barrel selection can be. It also helps shine a light on how diverse the bourbon coming out of MGP really is. On top of all of that, it’s also delicious and makes for a great sipper with a little water.

42. Pinhook Bohemia Bourbon High-Proof

Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon
Pinhook

ABV: 57.25%

Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

Pinhook’s contract distilled bourbon is all about refinement. The expression is made from 100 barrels that are matured for 34 months before being small-batched by Pinhook’s Master Taster Sean Josephs. The juice is barely touched with that soft Kentucky limestone water to take the edge off.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a lemon curd vibe with a buttered bread — nearly croissant — feel next to a mild dose of spiced fruits. The taste is toffee sweet but is countered by a powdered dark chocolate bitterness, marzipan smoothness, and plenty of that creamy citrus. The sip ends quietly and fades quickly, leaving you with a nice touch of lemon oils next to dark chocolate powder and a hint of spicy stewed oranges.

Bottom Line:

These releases have been getting better/more refined every year. This year’s release was a showcase of the masterful blending happening under Sean Josephs. Mix this into a cocktail or pour it over some rocks and you’ll be set.

41. New Riff Single Barrel

New Riff Single Barrel
New Riff

ABV: 55.8%

Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

These releases from New Riff will vary from location to location as they’re largely reserved for retailers. The juice in the bottle is New Riff’s standard bourbon mash of 65 percent corn, 30 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. The spirit is aged for four years before they’re bottled individually without cutting or filtration.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on these tends to be soft, kind of like freshly baked rye bread, with notes of eggnog spices, slick vanilla flan, thin caramel sauce, and hints of spicy orange zest. The palate amps everything up as the orange peel becomes candied and attaches to a moist holiday cake, dried cranberry and cherry, more dark spice, a touch of nuttiness, and plenty of that vanilla. The end takes its time as the whole thing comes together like a rich and boozy fruit cake as little notes of leather and tobacco spice keep things interesting on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

New Riff always delivers. Plus, we’re looking at a one-off single barrel for around $50. That’s a great price for a really solid and unique whiskey.

40. Paul Sutton Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Paul Sutton

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

Paul Sutton is a new bourbon from an old family recipe. I know, we’ve all heard it before. The new whiskey is not a blend of sourced bourbons. The brand took the time to release its own contract distilled juice. The bourbon mash bill has a touch of rye in it and it aged for up to five years in medium char barrels. It’s then proofed with that famously soft Kentucky limestone water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this has a distinct barnyard funk tied to wet bales of straw that leads to a salted caramel sweetness with a twinge of a pine box full of cherry pits. The taste veers away from most of that towards sweet corn cakes with a touch of vanilla cream and eggnog spice. A Caro syrup-soaked pecan sweetness and nuttiness drive the mid-palate towards a cherry tobacco finish with a hint of dark cacao powder.

Bottom Line:

Paul Sutton’s launch this year has been a solid one. The juice is another classic that hits a little higher price point but pours really well, especially if you’re looking for a craft Kentucky bourbon gift this year.

39. Bardstown Discovery Series #6

Bardstown Discovery
Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 55.55%

Average Price: $129

The Whiskey:

This limited release from a couple of months ago is a blend of heavy-hitting bourbons. The lion’s share, 68 percent, is derived from an eleven-year-old Kentucky bourbon that’s made with 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. That’s batched with 16 percent from a 17-year-old Tennessee whiskey that’s made with 84 percent corn, eight percent rye, and eight percent malted barley. The final 16 percent is a seven-year Indian bourbon made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four perfect malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

The age comes through with a big medley of dark cherries sitting in a big cedar bowl with a dark leather jacket imbued with decades of cigarette smoke and perfume next to a hint of dark chocolate orange balls. That orange and dark chocolate drive the taste as the dark cherry becomes brandy-soaked and the cedar feels more like an old cigar humidor full of cigars laced with vanilla, orange, cherry, and chocolate individually, creating a bigger whole on the palate. The finish takes its time as the tobacco spice and fruit slowly fade out, leaving you with a dry woody note and a touch of sweet and buttery toffee.

Bottom Line:

Bardstown is doing some of the most interesting blending (and contract distilling) in the game. Their Discovery series continues to wow this year with another homerun whiskey that feels as special as it tastes.

38. Bib & Tucker 10-Year-Old Small Batch Bourbon

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

Bib & Tucker is another classic example of what great blending can do with sourced juice. The Tennessee whiskey is a marriage of ten-year-old whiskeys aged in the lowest char barrels available, allowing more direct contact with dried wood rather than black char. Those barrels are blended and then proofed down with soft Tennessee water.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of vanilla bean (pod, seeds, essence) up top with hints of spicy chewy tobacco, dry oak (almost pine), and a distant note of fresh corn husks. The palate really holds onto that velvety vanilla as the corn husks dry out and notes of orange-infused dark chocolate mingle with that spicy tobacco, which starts buzzing on your tongue. The end is long-ish, has touches of that dry pine, and holds onto both the vanilla and dried corn husks.

Bottom Line:

This really is the sweet spot for Bib & Tucker. While the six-year is a great cocktail bourbon and the 12-year is a fine sipper, this Tennessee whiskey is comforting neat, blooms nicely with a little water or on a rock, and will make one hell of a Manhattan.

37. Five Brothers Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This brand new bourbon from Heaven Hill celebrates the five brothers who started the distillery back in 1935. The bottle was released to celebrate the brand-new visitor’s center at Heaven Hill and is largely only available there. The juice in this bottle is a blend of five bourbons of varying ages between five and nine years old made with Heaven Hill’s classic mash bill of 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and ten percent rye.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with maple syrup, apple tobacco, resinous pine, and a touch of unpopped popcorn kernels. The palate is pecan-loaded waffles smothered in butter and syrup with vanilla ice cream, light brown spiciness, and maple-infused sweet tobacco on the end.

Bottom Line:

This distillery-only release came out of nowhere and proved to be one of the easiest drinkers of the year. I always look at which bottles are almost empty at the end of the year to see which ones I actually like drinking, and this bottle only has a few ounces left in it.

36. Knob Creek 12

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This is classic Beam whiskey with a low-ish rye mash bill of 77 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley. The juice is then left alone in the Beam warehouses for 12 long years. The barrels are chosen according to a specific taste and married to create this high-proof expression.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with that classic Beam cherry that has dark chocolate and brandy candy depth alongside clear Christmas spices next to a hint of menthol tobacco. The spirit carries on those paths as it layers in buttery and sugary streusel over tart berries with plenty of that spice next to a nice dose of salted caramels covered in a bit of bitter dark chocolate. The finish is spicy and sweet and fades gradually.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bourbons that seems to get better with each passing year. The new bottle design this year helped add to the aesthetic pleasantness of the bourbon for sure. But the bourbon in that bottle is what really shined as a great day-to-day sipper.

35. Wilderness Trail High Rye Bourbon

Wilderness Trail

ABV: 56%

Average Price: $86

The Whiskey:

Wilderness Trail is the whiskey nerd’s whiskey. Their High Rye Bourbon is a mash of 64 percent corn, 24 percent rye, and 12 percent barley grains that are fermented with a proprietary Wildness Trail yeast using the sweet mash process. The whiskey then spends four years and nine months aging before it’s bottled without any filtration and barely proofed.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a mild holiday cake vibe with brown spice, nuts, and dried fruit mingling with touches of oak, chocolate-covered berries, and biscuits. The taste becomes a sort of buttered-biscuit-smothered-with-berry-jam that’s been touched with spice as a note of sweetened vanilla lurks in the background. The end is long and leans back into the fruit as the vanilla and spice create a silken mouthfeel.

Bottom Line:

Every bar cart should have at least one Wilderness Trail on it. And I really got into mixing Manhattans and Sazeracs with this one this year. It’s a great, bold whiskey that truly shines when mixed.

34. Maker’s Mark 101

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $42

The Whisky:

This is Maker’s Mark classic wheated bourbon that’s bottled at “a higher proof” to bring about a “richer flavor.” Well, that’s what the label says anyway. Beyond that, this was a “Traveler’s Exclusive” up until the pandemic. Now, you can find it on most shelves, making this one finally accessible to the masses. This is classic Maker’s that’s treated with a little less of that limestone water to let the barrel techniques shine a bit more while still holding onto the Maker’s vibe.

Tasting Notes:

This is a bowl of stewed apple over vanilla ice cream that’s been drizzled with extra caramel. The taste really focuses on that caramel, with hints of oak next to roasted almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, dry wicker, and a drop of soft mineral water. The end lingers while it fades through salted caramel apples towards a mellow floral spiciness with a dried reed finish and a touch of vanilla tobacco chew.

Bottom Line:

Speaking of bottles I actually finish over the course of the year, I finished two of these since they hit the open market. This hits very classic “bourbon” notes with a real depth that just doesn’t end.

33. Garrison Brothers Balmorhea

Garrison Brothers

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

This much-lauded Texas bourbon is the highwater mark of what great whiskey from Texas can be. The juice is aged in Ozark oak for four years and then finished in oak from Minnesota for another year, all under that blazing West Texas sunshine. The bourbon is then small-batched, proofed with Texas spring water, and bottled at a healthy 115 proof.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a real sense of a corn-syrup-laced pecan pie next to hazelnut bespeckled cinnamon rolls and creamy milk chocolate. That chocolate drives the taste towards a mint-chocolate ice cream vibe (heavy on the chocolate part) with small dashes of holiday spices, hard toffee candies, worn leather, and a flourish of cedar boxes full of dried tobacco leaves. The end circles back around to all that sweet and chocolatey creaminess with a final slice of pecan pie on a slow fade.

Bottom Line:

I struggled with which Garrison Brothers was going on this list. And while I dig the Cowboy Bourbon and Guadalupe, this is the one that stuck out in my mind for a heavy-duty yet accessible flavor profile that whisked me back to the dry grass plains of Texas. You’re definitely going to want to pour this one over some rocks though.

32. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Heaven Hill

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is all about finding the best barrels in the Heaven Hill warehouses and letting that whiskey shine on its own. These are released three times a year (we’re tasting the January 2021 release below) and the various expressions have been winning award after award. The whiskey in the bottle is generally at least 12 years old and bottled with no cutting down to proof or filtration whatsoever.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real throughline of sunny berry brambles (blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry) next to orange oils and a touch of oakiness on the nose. That fruit and oak will carry through on the palate as hints of buttery toffee, rich vanilla, and peppery spice mingle on the tongue and set your lips abuzz. The end tends to be slow and velvety with the spice, fruit, oak, and vanilla all blending nicely until the very last.

Bottom Line:

This was my favorite of the three releases this year. Part of that may be due to just spending more time with this one. I mixed it into quite a few cocktails and really got to know it. Still, this was a great whiskey that I want more of and that’s what this list is about.

31. Barrell Armida

Barrell Bourbon

ABV: 56.05%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

Barrell puts out a lot of whiskeys every year. We forgive you if you can’t keep up (we barely can!). This edition is a mix of whiskeys finished in pear brandy, Jamaican rum, and Sicilian Amaro casks that are then batched. The juice then goes into the bottle uncut to help highlight the disparate yet similarly cozy flavors given by each of the barrels.

Tasting Notes:

Pear drives the nose with a pear compote or pear butter made with plenty of dark spice and just a hint of dark chocolate and tobacco. The taste is warm but slightly rummy with a clear eggnog note acting as a driving force, leading towards hints of black licorice next to creamy toffee next to hefty chocolate bars filled with nougat and walnuts. A slight black tea bitterness takes over on the end as the nuttiness, spiciness, and sweetness all come together for a big finish with plenty of warmth and boldness.

Bottom Line:

This is delightful and one of the most unique expressions on this list. It’s a dream on the rocks when a little water really starts to open up the flavor profile. You really can’t beat this bottle, especially if you’re looking for a one-off bourbon gift.

30. Bulleit Bourbon Blender’s Select

Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This new expression was created by Bulleit’s Master Blender Eboni Major. The expression is a blend of nine-year-old bourbons that are hand-selected by Major for their precise taste and texture. The juice is then just touched with Kentucky limestone water to bring it down to a robust 100 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Salted peanut shells lead towards soft cedar next to a dose of vanilla and Christmas spices on the nose. The taste embraces those notes while adding a bright cherry sweetness next to dried tobacco leaves, worn leather, rye black pepper, and plenty of buttery toffee. The finish takes its time as it ebbs and flows with those spices, the oak, and all that vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This might be the best Bulliet on the market. Take that as your cue if you’re a fan of the brand and go out and find this bottle.

29. Larceny Barrel Proof B521

Heaven Hill

ABV: 60.5%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

These barrel blends from Heaven Hill are meant to highlight the precise quality of the distillery’s prowess from grain to bottle. This small batch of wheated bourbon is derived from barrels between six and eight years old. The juice then goes right into the bottle with no cutting or filtering, allowing the masterful craft to shine through in every sip.

Tasting Notes:

This has a mellow nose that ebbs and flows between soft maple syrup cut with cinnamon sticks, a light touch of brioche, new leather gloves, and bruised apples. The palate offers a warm rollercoaster ride through figgy puddings touched with burnt sugars, dried fruits and nuts, holiday spices, and a brandy butter silkiness. The taste has a hint of almond or walnut shell on the end that marries to a dry mouthfeel, vanilla notes, and a touch of tobacco chewiness. The warmth lingers pretty long but never overpowers and almost becomes something halfway between fizzy and buzzy as it fades, leaving you with a woody, bourbon vibe and a very late wet straw note.

Bottom Line:

This is another one that grew on me. I thought it was a little hot when I first tried and now it’s hitting just right. This might be the perfect old fashioned bourbon.

28. E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof

Sazerac Company

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

This much-lauded and beloved bottle from Buffalo Trace is classic whiskey making. The spirit is from Buffalo Trace’s low-rye mash bill. The juice is then aged in warehouses built by the Colonel over 100 years ago. Each year, the best barrels are selected yearly for batching and bottling with no fussing whatsoever.

Tasting Notes:

The sip draws you in with a spicy berry jam next to a perfumed note (kind of like wet potpourri) and buttery toffee sweetness. The taste, on the other hand, leans into vanilla oils, dry cedar, and a dusting of white pepper that leads back to the spice without the jam. The end is kind of long and really smoothes out, thanks to the vanilla and toffee as the peppery spice builds towards a tobacco-filled cedar box and a very distant hint of fresh mint.

Bottom Line:

I really can’t find any faults in this bourbon. It’s very distinct yet welcoming. This is one of those whiskeys where you’ll likely say “Ah, I get it now…” when drinking it.

27. Cecil + Coleman Pursuit United

Pursuit United

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

As mentioned above, this is a vatted from 40 total barrels from three different states. While the team at Pursuit United doesn’t release the Tennessee distillery name, we know the juices from Kentucky and New York are from Bardstown Bourbon Company and Finger Lakes Distilling, respectively. This final release of 2021 from Pursuit United put 9,342 bottles on the market in six states (Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, and Kentucky).

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a rush of cedar next to Christmas spices steeped in sweet red wine. That sweetness tends to lean into fresh honey with a touch of caramel and maybe a little dark chocolate on the end. The taste holds onto the honeyed sweetness with burnt sugars, light cedar, chocolate tobacco leaves, and a hint of orange oils. That orange is what builds and powers the finish to its silken end, concluding with an orange-choco vibe and a very soft landing.

Bottom Line:

This is another masterclass in what great blending can do across state lines. The sip is an easy one that brings the depth you want from an almost old-school-tasting bourbon while still being fun to drink and mix.

26. Old Forester The 117 Series High Angels’ Share

Old Forester 117
Brown-Forman

ABV: 55%

Average Price: Sold Out ($700)

The Whiskey:

Old Forester’s Master Taster Jackie Zykan released this new line from the iconic brand last spring. The whiskey is a blend of barrels that all lost a lot of juice to evaporation (or the angel’s). Those barrels were then vatted and just proofed to 110 before bottling in half-bottles.

Tasting Notes:

A dark and deep spice layer draws you in with that classic Old Foresters vibe of tart red berries, coconut cream pie, and plenty of wet brown sugar on the nose. The palate leans into the dessert vibes as the berries turn into a sweet blueberries pie with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg next to dry cedar and anise. The finish really takes its time as the thick juice coats your mouth, leaving you with hints of spicy absinthe, cherry tobacco, and dark roasted coffee beans.

Bottom Line:

This was a hell of a first drop from Zykan. The whiskey is so deeply hewn that you’ll definitely need a rock to open it up. But once you start digging around in the nose and taste, you won’t want to stop.

25. Booker’s Bourbon 2021 Batch 3, “Bardstown Batch”

Booker's Bardstown Batch
Beam Suntory

ABV: 62.75%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

The whiskey in the bottle is the classic Jim Beam mash bill of 77 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley. The barrels were aged for exactly six years and five months before the juice went into the bottle untouched at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

“Classic” would be the best descriptor of the nose. It’s full of old cherry, dry leather, vanilla-laced tobacco leaves, rich caramel that’s almost chewy, and maybe a touch of sassafras that’s just leaning into root beer territory. A cherry sasparilla maybe? The taste veers away from that with deeply stewed apples that are almost a warm apple sauce with cinnamon, clove, and allspice kicking up some heat as minor notes of marzipan, cornmeal, and cacao lurk far in the background. The mid-palate explodes with heat that then mellows pretty quickly as the finish leans into creamy vanilla pudding spiked with cloves, leather, and a wet cedar vibe with mild cherry tobacco.

Bottom Line:

Sipping this bourbon is like coming home after getting stuck in a storm. It’s comforting but really deep and worn — kind of like wrapping up in an old blanket next to a wood stove.

24. Bomberger’s Declaration 2021

Michters Distillery

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

This whiskey heralds back to Michter’s historical roots in the 19th century before the brand was even called “Michter’s.” The juice on the bottle is rendered from a very small batch of bourbons that were aged in Chinquapin oak which was air-dried for three years before charring and filling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with this rich and meaty plum presence next to a hint of buttery toffee and creamy vanilla with a touch of wood lurking in the background. The palate goes full crème brûlée with sticky burnt sugar over the top and a slight touch of allspice and nutmeg next to a dark cacao powder dryness with a touch of smoke salt and light, dry cedar. The mid-palate leans back into the dark stone fruit and sweetness as it only slightly dries out.

Bottom Line:

This is always a pleasant surprise whenever I get to drink it. It’s one of those bourbons that I wish more people knew about and had a chance to try.

23. Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon 101

Yellowstone Limtied
Limestone Branch

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

This year’s drop from Stephen Beam’s Yellowstone line is a mix of seven-year-old and 15-year-old bourbons. The 15-year barrels are high-quality bourbons hand-selected by Beam. The seven-year barrels were finished by Beam in Amarone red wine casks before this batch was put together, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a balance of dark stewed fruits — think holiday cake spices with dates, prunes, figs, and raisins — next to this bright burst of bright red berries with a slight tartness and powdered sugar sweetness swimming in vanilla cream with mild hints of old leather, dark cacao powder, and toffee lurking in the background. The palate really embraces that vanilla cream base while the berries go full dark and sweet cherry with more of that buttery toffee, dark cacao, and meaty fig adding a dark depth to the sip. The finish builds on the sweet and dark fruits of the mid-palate towards an end that’s full of bright cherry tobacco and small lines of cedar plank that’s lightly singed on the edges.

Bottom Line:

Stephen Beam is doing some amazing work out of a tiny distillery in rural Kentucky. This limited edition drop is the best example of how heritage, prowess, and crafty vibes combine to make one of the easiest sipping bourbons of the year.

22. Dettling Small Batch Six Grain Bourbon

Dettling 1867

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This juice is a “field-to-glass” craft whiskey from a state that’d likely be a better spot to age rum than whiskey. The whiskey starts off with locally sourced corn that local chefs use in their cornbread. That’s supported by flaked rye, rolled oats, malted barley, and heavily roasted wheat alongside a sixth, undisclosed grain. That bourbon is then aged for two short years before it’s small batched and bottled at a very approachable 80 proof.

Tasting Notes:

That cornmeal comes through on the nose with a sense of candied orange, salted butter, and pancake syrup with a hint of brewer’s yeast. The taste holds onto the corn while that orange sweetens towards a touch of toffee before the mid-palate shifts towards bitter chocolate with a note of spicy black peppercorns. That dry pepper holds as a light dry herbal note lingers on the senses.

Bottom Line:

This bourbon from Alabama seemed to come out of nowhere this year and shook up the whole scene. It’s going to be very interesting to watch (and taste) where this bourbon goes. Until then, get in on the ground floor right here.

21. Stellum Bourbon

Stellum Bourbon

ABV: 57.49%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

Stellum Bourbon is the new kid on the block. The juice in that bottle is a cask-strength blend of whiskeys from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This whiskey is all about the blending process that Stellum employs to make this special and award-winning bourbon. It’s a delicate balance of mixing great whiskeys to make something better than the individual parts.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a holiday cake with fatty nuts next to woody spice barks — think anise, clove, and cinnamon — with a nice dose of dried red fruits and honey-dipped over-ripe Granny Smith apples. The palate edges away from the spice towards a powdered sugar sweetness with a hint of dry vanilla. Then a counterpoint bursts onto the scene with a hit of spicy, dried chili pepper flakes next to blackberry pie with a nice dose of cinnamon and nutmeg. The end lingers for just the right amount of time as the spice fades back towards the honeyed sweetness and a final touch of vanilla tobacco buzz lands in the back of the throat.

Bottom Line:

This is another bourbon that seemed to come out of nowhere this year. The minimalist design and the Pappy bottles quietly gave us a classic mixing bourbon that, again, is really hard to find any issue with. It’s just damn good bourbon from a top-tier blender.

20. Russell’s Reserve 13

Russell's Reserve 13
Campari Group

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $550

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was made by Master Distiller Eddie Russell to celebrate his 40th year distilling whiskey with his dad, Jimmy Russell. The juice is a collection of a minimum of 13-year-old barrels that Eddie Russell hand-picked. Those barrels were married and then bottles as-is with no proofing or filtration.

Tasting Notes:

Sweet and dried fruits invite you in the nose as a touch of Black Forest cake mingles with mild holiday spices. That dark chocolate and cherry fruit drive the palate as a hint of charred cedar lead towards vanilla tobacco with more of that dark chocolate and a small touch of honey. That honey leads back to the warmth and spice with a whisper of smoke lurking on the very backend with more bitter chocolate, buttery vanilla, and dark cherry.

Bottom Line:

This was a fleeting release this summer. Now, it’s more of a collector’s item. That’s a shame because this is a hell of a sipper and more folks should be able to get their hands on this one.

19. Blue Run 13.5-Year Barrel #3 “Honey Barrel”

Blue Run

ABV: 63.41%

Average Price: $230

The Whiskey:

The juice in the bottle is hand-selected by Jim Rutledge and barreled as a single barrel at cask strength with less than 150 bottles per release. That makes each release extremely unique… and fleeting. Beyond that, very little is known beyond the age statement.

Tasting Notes:

You get a deep sense of buttery toffee on the nose that leads you down a rocky path through a cherry orchard as soft notes of vanilla, worn leather, and warm, spicy tobacco leaves gently settle in your senses. The taste leans into the dark and bold cherry with a deeper dark berry underbelly that’s accentuated by heavily roasted cacao beans, singed vanilla husks, and a sticky toffee pudding made with rich dates. The end softens the leather as the dark chocolate lingers the longest on your senses with a final touch of almost peppery spice.

Bottom Line:

These older age statement bourbons were a tee-up to Blue Run releasing their own-make whiskeys going forward. These bottles serve as an introduction to the flavor profile that Jim Rutledge has created for the brand and it’s pretty damn exciting.

18. High West A Midwinter Night’s Dram

High West Distillery

ABV: 49.3%

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

Each year, this limited drop varies slightly. Last year’s release was a mix of MGP rye (95 percent rye) and High West rye (100 percent rye) finished in French oak barrels that held port. The barrels picked for this batch were between four and seven years old.

Tasting Notes:

This bursts forth with bright red berries covered in rich and bitter dark chocolate with sultanas, burnt orange peels, and nutmeg-heavy French toast custard. The palate really holds onto the berries while savory rhubarb cobbler mingles with dates, old leather tobacco pouches, and vanilla pudding with a salted caramel drizzle. The end leans into eggnog spices with a touch of bitter black tea, more leathery tobacco, and a whisper of fresh mint.

Bottom Line:

These releases never fail to wow and this year was no different. This was one of those whiskeys where from the first sip you almost automatically say, “wow, that’s nice” and then immediately relax. After that release, pour this over a single rock or add a little water to really dive into the flavor notes.

17. Jack Daniel’s 10

Jack Daniel's 10
Brown-Forman

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $195

The Whiskey:

This brand new age statement released from Jack Daniel’s feels like a throwback to a bygone era in Tennessee Whiskey. The whiskey is aged for at least ten years. During that time, the barrels spend time in the “Buzzard’s Roost” at the top of the rickhouse. Once they hit the right flavor profile, those barrels are moved to the bottom floors of other warehouses to slow the aging down. Finally, the whiskey is vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a rich matrix of cherry syrup, apple cores, sticky toffee, vanilla ice cream, and a thin line of wet and sweet wood. The palate opens up towards the dark fruit but dries it out and married it to a sticky and spicy tobacco leaf while toasted cedar soaked in salted caramel vibes with dry corn husks that are just singed. The finish really takes its time as the cherry attaches to an old cinnamon stick and the tobacco takes on a sticky chewiness with a mild savory fruit edge.

Bottom Line:

I’m on the record as being a big Jack Daniel’s fan. This is Jack that has an extra layer of refinement while still feeling familiar and welcoming. It’s almost refreshing while still delivering on some deeply built “Jack” flavors.

16. Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Years Old

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Michters Distilling

ABV: 47.2%

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

The juice in this bottle is a little under wraps. Michter’s is currently distilling and aging their own whiskey, but this is still sourced. The actual barrels sourced for these single barrel expressions tend to be at least ten years old with some rumored to be closer to 15 years old. Either way, the juice goes through Michter’s bespoke filtration process before a touch of Kentucky’s iconic soft limestone water is added, bringing the bourbon down to a very crushable 94.4 proof.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with subtle notes of soft wood and worn leather next to light touches of dark berries, orange oils, egg nog spice, and slight toffee sweetness. The palate starts off equally soft with something more akin to maple syrup sweetness which then leads into a rush of berry brambles. The mid-palate hits on a bit of dark spice, vanilla tobacco, and dark cacao bitterness. The finish leans into a dry-yet-almost-sweet oak with a touch of an almond shell and dry grass coming in at the very end.

Bottom Line:

The real beauty is in the softness of the taste. There are no rough edges whatsoever and the whole sipping experience is like a silken dream. This is the epitome of a slow-sipping bourbon with real depth.

15. William Larue Weller

Sazerac Company

ABV: 62.65%

MSRP: $99 ($800)

The Whiskey:

Distilled back in the fall of 2009, this barrel-strength bourbon skips the Minnesota rye and instead uses North Dakota wheat with that NoDak barley and Kentucky corn. The juice spent 12-and-a-half years mellowing in warehouses C, D, K, L, and Q on floors one through three. While maturing, 64 percent of the whiskey was lost to the angels before it was small-batched and bottled as is.

Tasting Notes:

The creaminess of the vanilla on the nose is extraordinary. Imagine the softness and richest crème anglaise with a touch of salted caramel syrup, eggnog spice, and a towering croquembouche with all the spun hard sugar holding the whole thing together. That light yet buttery cream puff drives towards a slight shortbread vibe with toasted cinnamon sticks, moist cherry tobacco, more vanilla cream, and a soft echo of dried smoked stone fruits. The finish drives back towards the sweetness of that salted caramel but this time it’s covered in dark chocolate and sitting inside an old cedar box that once held fistfuls of menthol-laced tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

This feels like it should be higher. But there are some killers to come. Still, this is a great bourbon and the best Weller there is. You can’t go wrong investing in one of these bottles either for your vault or your bar cart.

14. 2021 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Four Roses 2021 LE
Four Roses

ABV: 57.2%

Average Price: $150 (Lottery Only)

The Whiskey:

This year’s LE Small Batch is a blend of four bourbons. Four Roses is renowned for its ten distinct recipes with two mash bills and five yeast strains. This whiskey marries four of those recipes with two from Mash B (very high rye) and two from Mash Bill E (high rye). The yeasts at play are “delicate fruit,” “spice essence,” and “floral essence.” The barrels ranged from 12 to 16 years old, making this a fairly old bourbon, all things considered.

Tasting Notes:

The nose has a mix of honey next to buttery biscuits, rich vanilla, a touch of tart red berries, dry cedar, and a very faint hint of dry mint. The palate dives into a dark plum jam with a spicy edge of allspice and nutmeg. That fruit gives way to a spritz of orange oils next to a light touch of dark chocolate on the mid-palate that leads to a rich finish. That finish leaves you with warming spice, more of that orange/choco vibe, and another mild hint of green, dry mint.

Bottom Line:

This year’s LE release was a great reminder of wonderful bourbons coming out of Four Roses. I fully admit that I don’t always reach for this brand but this bottle made me want to more. It’s delicious and really feels … bespoke.

You can tell you’re drinking something special with every sip.

13. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

Jimmy Russell hand selects eight to nine-year-old barrels from his warehouses for their individual taste and quality. Those barrels are then cut down ever-so-slightly to 101 proof and bottled with their barrel number and warehouse location.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a roundness to this sip that’s enticing. The nose is a classic mix of bold vanilla, baking spice, oak, and fruity sweetness. That fruit edges towards dark berries with notes of worn leather, aged oakiness, and a sweet and rose-water-forward marzipan nuttiness shining through. The end lasts awhile on your palate and in your senses, leaving you warmed up and wanting more.

Bottom Line:

The last few years, Rare Breed from Wild Turkey has all anyone in bourbon seems to talk about. That’s great. But this expression really is something special. It’s Wild Turkey with no flaws. It’s also a single barrel you can actually still find.

12. Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel (Barrel No. 159)

Sazerac Company

ABV: 65.15%

Average Price: $400

The Whiskey:

Blanton’s is “The Original Single Barrel” bourbon, and this expression is the purest form of that whiskey. The juice in this case is from the barrels that need no cutting with water and are perfect as-is, straight from the barrel. All the barrels will come from Warehouse H (where Elmer T. Lee stored his private stash of barrels back in the day) and arrive with varying proofs.

The through-line is the excellent taste of that single, unadulterated barrel in each sip.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is full of very bespoke dark chocolate-covered salted hard caramel toffees encrusted with almonds and pecans — the kind you get from a chocolate shop that imports their goodies from somewhere like Belgium. The nutty toffee carries through into the taste as oily vanilla pods mingle with cedar boxes of dried tobacco leaves and a touch of floral honey. The end is very long and lingers in your senses, with a hot buzzing that subtly fades through all that sweetness.

Bottom Line:

Speaking of single barrels, you’re probably only going to find these at auctions these days. Still, this bourbon is a must-have that hides its ABVs so well that I doubt you’ll even realize that it’s barrel strength.

11. Peerless Double Oak Bourbon

Peerless Distilling Co.

ABV: 53.55%

Average Price: $134

The Whiskey:

The whiskey is around five to six years old and comes from one barrel that lets the grains shine through before it goes into another barrel that lets the oak shine through. That final barrel is bottled at cask strength, as is.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a nose full of salted butter next to hints of very soft leather, light notes of vanilla bean, a touch of toffee sweetness, and freshly cracked walnuts with a dry edge. The taste leans into that oak barrel with dashes of woody spices (think allspice berries, star anise, and cinnamon sticks), dry cherry tobacco leaves, salted caramel, and more of that super soft leather. That leads towards a mid-palate of dark red fruits stewed in mulled wine spices and cut with a dollop of fresh honey before the (long) finish dries out towards an old wicker chair, a very distinct hint of a cellar funk, and a touch of dried mint.

Bottom Line:

A lot of Peerless drops could be right here. But this new release just hit too many high marks to be overshadowed this year. It’s highly sippable and really blooms when you add a little water, so take your time enjoying this one.

10. BTAC 2021 Eagle Rare 17

Screen-Shot-2021-10-21-at-10.23.29-AM.jpg
Sazerac Company

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $1,390

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was produced in the spring of 2003. Since then, it lost 73 percent of its volume to the angels as it rested in warehouses C, K, M, and Q on various floors. The barrels were then vatted, proofed down, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose has this matrix of dark holiday spices that layer into a Black Forest cake with the finest stewed cherries, the moistest chocolate sponge cake, and the richest cream with a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate shavings and a whisper of pink finishing salt. The palate really leans into the cherry with a bright but saucy vibe that’s spiked with nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon (and maybe a hint of ground ginger) while little firecrackers full of salted black licorice, dry cedar bark, and Cherry Coke fill in the background. The finish takes its time as the mid-palate cherry sweetness slowly dissolves into an old wooden garden box full of fresh dark potting soil bursting with fresh mint and spicy nasturtiums.

Bottom Line:

This might have been my favorite Eagle Rare in a while had it not been for another Eagle drop that happened. That aside, this is just delicious goddamn whiskey. It’s beloved for a reason and this year’s BTAC release was a great reminder of the brand’s prowess among the greats of bourbon.

9. Remus Repeal Reserve Series V Straight Bourbon

Luxco

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $94

The Whiskey:

This year’s Remus Repeal Reserve V is a hell of a whiskey. The MGP of Indiana (now Ross & Squibb) signature bourbon is comprised of nine percent 2005 bourbon with a 21 percent high-rye mash, five percent 2006 bourbon with a very high-rye mash of 36 percent of the sticky grain, 19 percent 2006 bourbon with the same 21 percent high-rye mash, 13 percent 2008 bourbon with that 21 percent rye mash, and 54 percent 2008 bourbon with the 36 percent high-rye mash.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is brilliantly fruity with touches of fresh raspberries, strawberries resting in dry straw, candied cherries, freshly peeled mandarins, apple cores and stems, and a touch of caramel malts. That caramel sweetness merges into a fresh honeycomb next to Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda vanilla flavor and pep while the fruit dries out, leaving you with meaty dried figs, dates, and prunes driving the midpalate toward the finish. A touch of candied ginger spices things up as a fruity but dry tobacco leaf rounds out the end with the faintest touch of walnut shells.

Bottom Line:

There was a minute there where this might have been number one. It’s really that good. Grab a bottle and try for yourself.

8. Woodinville PX Sherry Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Woodinville

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This whiskey takes Woodinville’s signature (and much-lauded) five-year-old straight bourbon and gives it a new finishing touch. The juice is finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, making a sort of sibling to our favorite bourbon of 2020, the Port Cask Finish. But while there are similarities between the two, this feels like a step up in many small, tough to define ways.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a bouquet of dark spices next to dried orange rinds, soft Christmas cake, and a slight floral underpinning that’s more “damp” than “dried out.” The taste embraces the holiday spice matrix with a creamy veneer of dark chocolate oranges, eggnog spice, and a velvety mouthfeel with a hint of orchard fruit and toffee drizzle. The finish is long but doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s a sense of the woody spices that’s more akin to cinnamon sticks once stirred in hot apple cider, leaving you with a dry note of spicy tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This could have been this year’s Port Cask finish, which was my personal favorite from last year. But this really took the bourbon from Washington up another notch with this finishing. If you’re out in Washington, give this bottle a try.

7. Heaven’s Door Redbreast Master Blender’s Edition

Heavens Door

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a collaboration between Heaven’s Door Master Blender Ryan Perry and Redbreast’s legendary Master Blender Billy Leighton. The duo worked long and hard to create multiple whiskey expressions, which Bob Dylan taste-tested and granted final approval on.

The juice in the bottle is Heaven Door’s low-rye ten-year-old Tennessee bourbon. They take that whiskey and fill it into Redbreast whiskey casks that had previously aged Irish whiskey for 12 years. After 15 months of final maturation, those barrels are vatted and slightly proofed down with soft Tennessee spring water.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with this medley of marzipan, soft leather, prunes and dates, Gala apples, a hint of cedar, and a whisper of ripe red cherry. There’s this body of nutmeg that leads towards a light vanilla pound cake full of candied and dried fruits with a soft Niederegger marzipan center. That then draws towards subtle pops of orange oils, floral honey, walnuts in buttery brown sugar syrup, and this mild touch of spiced apple tobacco leaf. The end lasts for just the right amount of time and leaves you with a walnut shell dryness, soft warmth, and slight tobacco chew buzz that all circles back towards a raisin sherry sweetness and a final morsel of that vanilla pound cake.

Bottom Line:

I also thought this would end up my favorite bourbon of the year since it marries Kentucky and Ireland. But what can I say? It was a great year for bourbon releases and this simply ended up among the top tier.

6. Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon Aged 15 Years

Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 52.5%

Average Price: $270

The Whiskey:

Barrell Craft Spirits is another craft blendery that’s sourcing some of the best barrels in the game and expertly marrying those barrels. This expression blends 15-year-old bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennesse into a final product that reaches new heights for blended bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot to draw you in with this nose of rich tobacco spiciness next to soft cedar, tart cherry pie filling, saffron stewed pears, salted toffee, and what almost feels like the salted water left after boiling artichokes (seriously). The fruitiness really builds as the cherry leads towards a bowl full of ripe raspberries swimming in cream with a dusting of dark spices and brown sugar that’s countered by a dose of floral tea leaves, culminating with a mildly bitter coffee bean. The end is long and really holds onto the cherry and raspberry fruit while a note of that soft cedar dips back in with a hint of menthol tobacco buzz.

Bottom Line:

This is unique and just … interesting. It’s one of those pours that sticks with you. You think about it. You go back to it. You find new things every time you taste it. This is a gem.

5. George Dickel Bottled in Bond, Fall 2008

Screen-Shot-2021-08-19-at-4.35.35-PM.jpg
Diageo

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Nicole Austin has been killing it with these bottled-in-bond releases from George Dickel. This year’s release is a whiskey that was warehoused in the fall of 2008. 13 years later, this juice was bottled at 100 proof (as per the law) and sent out to the wide world where it received much adoration.

Tasting Note:

The nose on this one is mildly sweet with almost earthy maple syrup next to pecans from a pie with a touch of dried apple and old leather. The taste runs deep with vanilla leading the way next to a touch of apple and pecan crumble. The mid-palate takes a turn away from all of that and dives into a candied cherry that’s dusted with dark chocolate and a ground-up fruit Neco Wafer or Flintstone’s multivitamin (that’s also cherry-flavored) before the finish gets this browned butter vibe with a touch of soft, sweet oak.

Bottom Line:

This remains one of my favorite sips of the year. It stands out. It’s highly drinkable neat or with some water. It also makes a great cocktail. There’s really little more you could ask for.

4. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 8 Years Aged, Spring 2021

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $85 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

This year’s spring release is a marriage of eight-year-old whiskeys produced in the spring of 2013. That distilled juice rested in barrels spread throughout three warehouses on several different floors. In spring of this year, those barrels were vatted and whiskey was proofed down to 100 (per bottled-in-bond law). Then the whiskey was filled into Old Fitzgerald’s signature decanters and sent out into the world.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with warming eggnog spice, creamy vanilla pudding, rich toffee, mild fruit, and a hint of wet cedar and very muted citrus. To say this is “smooth” would be an understatement. The silky taste dances around oven-hot pans of pecan and maple-glazed sticky buns with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg next to caramelized orange peel vibes and lightness that’s almost hard to believe. The finish is long, effervescent, and leaves you with this soft sense of having just eaten the best oatmeal raisin cookie of your life with just the right amounts of oats, spice, raisins, brown sugar, and crumble.

Bottom Line:

This is pretty much a perfect whiskey. In fact, the rest of this list is the same. So, take this being number four instead of two or one as splitting some pretty fine hairs.

3. Michter’s 20-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Michters Distillery

ABV: 57.1%

Average Price: $8,000

The Whiskey:

Master Distiller Dan McKee personally selects these 20-year-old (at least) barrels from their rickhouses based on, well, excellence. The juice is bottled as-is with no cutting with water.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine dark and sweet cherries smothered in rummy molasses with a touch of dried roses, nuts, and cedar all leading towards the soft — almost wet — tobacco leaf. That’s just the nose. The palate doesn’t veer too far from those notes but adds in a touch of burnt ends from vanilla pods with a light spice that leans more towards that tobacco than woody brown spices. The finish really embraces the cherry but more towards the stem and seed as the nuttiness leans marzipan and the tobacco takes on an ever-so-slight chewiness.

Bottom Line:

This year’s 20-year drop helped solidify the excellence of this expression. I’d also argue that this is one of those “Ah-Ha!” bourbons that’ll advance your palate and understanding of the seriously “good stuff.”

2. Little Book Chapter 5: “The Invitation”

Beam Suntory

ABV: 58.4%

Average Price: $125 MSRP ($175)

The Whiskey:

The juice is a blend of four whiskeys — three straight bourbons and one straight rye. The rye is a 100 percent malted rye that’s three years old. The bourbons are two, five, and 15 years old.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a Pecan Sandie vibe with a flake of salt, spiciness derived from fresh ginger juice, and dark chocolate laced with raw sugar and apple-soaked cinnamon sticks that have been ground to a fine powder. The palate builds on that cinnamon spice with a touch of nutmeg and clove that ties to a vanilla pudding-esque svelte body next to little pops of dried pecan shells, faux maple syrup, cinnamon toast with plenty of butter, more of that ginger, and a touch of subtle red fruit. The mid-palate leans creamy with light milk chocolate that leads back to the warmth with a dried red peppercorn pepperiness next to a rush of cedar boxes full of vanilla tobacco leaves with the slightest echo of menthol and dried reeds on the very deep back end.

Bottom Line:

Freddie Noe hit this one out of the park. It’s crazy-sippable neat while really going deep when you bloom it with a little water. It’s just excellent in every respect.

1. Double Eagle Very Rare

Double Eagle Rare
Sazerac Company

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $18,900

The Whiskey:

This whiskey ups the Eagle Rare game up in two ways. First, this is “double” aged, meaning that the whiskey spends 20 years mellowing in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses — or twice as long as standard Eagle Rare. That makes the barrels that go into this expression super rare. The second aspect is the decanter. The crystal decanter has two eagles, one as a stopper and one that is blown into the bottom of the bottle. It’s a striking bottle and only 199 were produced.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this gently draws you in with mellow hints of cherry liqueur, dry cedar tobacco boxes, rich vanilla pods that feel oily, and a buttercream toffee candy that’s more sticky than brittle. The nose then leans towards a woody spice matrix of cinnamon sticks soaked in cherry syrup next to a slight note of anise that’s more absinthe green than licorice dark. On the palate, very dark cacao dust opens up your taste buds as dates soaked in floral Earl Grey create a base for a moist and very sticky toffee pudding with a small dollop of the silkiest vanilla ice cream you’ve ever had. The spices in that date-filled cake slowly rise after the sweet mid-palate veers into a soft and velvety finish that echoes with the woody spices but doesn’t carry forward the heat from them.

The very end leaves you with this dry cedar box that once held allspice berries, anise, and cinnamon but now holds a very dry leaf of cherry-choco tobacco.

Bottom Line:

A new Double Eagle Very Rare is always a special occasion. This year’s 199 bottles are going to be super tough to find. If you do, treat yourself to a pour. This is what a perfect bourbon tastes like.

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