While our pursuit to find the best bottle of bourbon whiskey at every price point isn’t over (there are still the stratospherically expensive unicorn bottles to get to), we think it’s time to reflect a little before moving on. Over the course of this year, we’ve highlighted 120 bottles of bourbon whiskey — ranging from $8 to $200. There’s no way that every single one of those bottles is going to be for everybody. In fact, we tried to highlight bottles that had varying flavor profiles as much as possible, to give you a wide range of tasty expressions to choose from.
Now we’re looking at those 120 picks and narrowing them down to the one bottle from each price point between $10 and $200. One bottle that we (technically, I) love best. Each of these 12 bourbons was listed in one of our price-point roundups. They’re also the ones I actually stock in my bar cart at home. Meaning that while we dig all the bottles we highlighted, these bourbons keep us coming back.
If any of these bottles catch your interest, click on the prices to snag a bottle for yourself. After all, only you can figure out if a bottle of bourbon fits your distinct palate by actually giving it a shot.
$10-$20 — Heaven Hill Green Label
Average Price: $13
Heaven Hill’s Green Label Old Style Bourbon is always affordable and very palatable. This expression adds an extra two years (or so) of aging to the entry-level juice. Beyond that, we’re talking about a very standard bourbon that’s meant to be mixed, shot, and enjoyed without breaking the bank.
Sweet oak comes through on the nose with a hint of dried mint and maybe some brown sugar. The palate holds onto that oak and gets a little bitter, thanks to the char of the wood, while vanilla arrives with a touch of pancake syrup. It’s really the oak that holds on the longest, as the sip creates a warm buzz on your senses and slowly fades out.
$20-$30 — Old Tub
Average Price: $24
Last year, Jim Beam released their “distillery-only” Old Tub expression on the national market. The juice is an unfiltered and higher ABV version of classic Beam, giving you more of the brand’s depth in each sip of whiskey.
There’s a sense of cornmeal next to sawdust, oily vanilla, and a hint of fresh honey sweetness that entices your senses. The sip takes on a caramel corn sweetness as the vanilla carries you towards sweeter woods and cherry fruits. The end is short and sweet (like most Beam), with a distant wisp of orange oils next to a slight minerality.
$30-$40 — Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon
Average Price: $30
This is a true Texas grain/corn-to-glass experience. The whiskey is made from Texas grains and corn in old-school stills and then matured under the warm Waco, Texas sun in Balcones‘ own warehouse. The results are small-batch blended, slight proofed, and bottled.
You get a real sense of kettle corn covered in caramel next to hints of oak, sweet apples, and worn leather. The taste veers away from these notes slightly, with pecan pie topped with vanilla cream, more of that leather and oak, and a touch of honey. The end is chewy and lingers as almost-spicy tobacco arrives late to accentuate the oak.
This is a divisive whiskey in the bourbon world. We’d argue it’s a great bottle to expand your palate outside of the “classic” bourbon notes that play on repeat for a lot of bottles in this genre. Just make sure to add a little water or ice to really open it up.
$40-$50 — Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon
Average Price: $47
Michter’s really means the phrase “small batch” with this expression. The tank they use to marry their hand-selected eight-year-old bourbons can only hold 20 barrels, so that’s how many go into each small-batch bottling. The blended juice is then proofed with Kentucky’s famously soft limestone water and bottled.
Buttery caramel and peaches mix with creamy vanilla and oak on the nose. The vanilla really shines as the peach almost takes on a grilled edge — growing sweeter and adding a whisper of smoke next to peppery spice. The spice kicks up and warms the senses, as the slow fade embraces stone fruit, toffee, and more vanilla then gets a final kick of charred oak.
This is another whiskey that’s built as a workhorse bourbon. And while we dig it as a sipper on the rocks, it’s truly a killer cocktail base for any whiskey cocktail.
$50-$60 — Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof
Average Price: $50
This is a classic bourbon from a classic distillery. Rare Breed is comprised of hand-selected barrels that hit just the right marks, according to master distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell. The barrels are then married and bottled as is, allowing the beauty of the barrel to shine through in every sip.
There’s a deeply nuanced nose, with hints of crème brûlée spiked with Christmas spices next to mild tobacco, orange zest, and a touch of fresh mint. The palate holds onto all of that, adding a pine resin dankness that softens to cedar. The end is long, warming, and holds onto the spice and cedar while creating a well-rounded mouthfeel — pure silk.
This might just be the best expression of Wild Turkey on the shelf right now. It’s got an amazing depth of flavor while remaining smooth. It’s also a workhorse and shines as brightly in a cocktail as it does neat or on the rocks.
$60-$70 — Belle Meade Reserve Bourbon
Average Price: $65
Belle Meade, the blending arm of Nashville’s Nelson Green Brier, sources some of the best barrels for their expressions. This whiskey is a hand-selected, marrying of high-rye (30 percent) seven to eleven-year-old bourbons that are bottled at nearly barrel strength (it’s just touched with water, as needed) — allowing the juice in the barrel to speak for itself.
Cornmeal that’s been spiked with stewed and spicy peaches, caramel, softwood, and vanilla greet you. The sip really leans into the classic bourbon vibes on the palate with starring apple pie with plenty of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg inside a buttery crust paired with hints of cedar, library leather, and tobacco chew. Notes of raisins and walnuts arrive late in that apple pie as the sip slowly fades, leaving you warmed and wanting more.
This kind of feels like that ultimate slow sipper. Please add water to really let those deep buttery apple pie notes bloom in the glass and take your time basking in them.
Alternately, use this in a simple bourbon cocktail. It’ll shine, especially given the high proof.
$70-$80 — Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Average Price: $75
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.
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.
This is a fine damn dram of whiskey. It’s bold, drinkable neat (though it is warm without water or a rock), and will expand your palate. Those berry notes really do shine with a bridge between the stems/leaves and the actual ripe berries on their vines.
$80-$90 — Barrell Bourbon Batch 025
Average Price: $89
Barrell Bourbon is one of the best blenderies in the bourbon game right now. This fairly new batch marries bourbons from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana that are anywhere from five to 15-years-old. The juice is then bottled at cask strength, allowing what was in those barrels to shine the brightest.
There’s a fruity note on the nose that leans slightly savory towards melon as creamed corn with a bit of maple syrup offers up a counterpoint. The taste touches on notes of dark chocolate-covered marzipan as that savory fruit feel dances between rhubarb and fig, with dried orange tobacco chew and maybe a whisper of black licorice. The end is shockingly short and reveals an espresso bean bitterness and… almost saltiness… with a little water in the mix.
This is one of those drams that causes you to pause. There’s a lot going on that doesn’t sound like it’ll work on paper. But once you add a little water, go back and forth on the nose and really dive in, you’ll find a great goddamn whiskey.
$90-$100 — Redemption 9-Year-Old Barrel Proof
ABV: 54.1% (varies)
Average Price: $99
This sourced whiskey from Indiana (MGP) is one of the best examples of how a unique shingle can make whiskey shine. Redemption’s team painstakingly searches the warehouses for just the right barrels to meet their taste requirements. In this case, that was a nine-year-old single barrel of bourbon with a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four percent malted barley.
The nose really gives you a sense of oily vanilla pods with touches of wildflower honey, rich and buttery toffee, and a hint of dark roasted espresso beans. The palate holds onto those notes as the vanilla and honey both become creamy, while adding a slight black pepper spiciness with a hint of salty smoked bacon fat lurking way in the background. The end is medium-length and touches back on that vanilla, toffee, pepper, and bitterness as it fades.
This yearly limited release is yet another reason to stop bashing sourced whiskey. This juice really shines and has a unique taste that feels like classic bourbon with palate expanding depths.
$100-$125 — Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof
Average Price: $120
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. The best barrels are selected yearly for batching and bottling with no fussing whatsoever.
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 winds 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.
This is a very hyped whiskey (its MSRP is $75). The prices are going to vary wildly and reach very high, depending on which release you find. All of that being said, this whiskey deserves the buzz it gets. It’s amazingly smooth and easy-drinking for a barrel-proof. Though, adding water really does let this one bloom.
$125-$150 — Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Chocolate Malted Rye
Average Price: $135
No, this isn’t a rye whiskey. It’s a one-off Woodford Reserve bourbon that uses chocolate malted rye grains in its mash bill. The mash is made from 15 percent rye that’s been malted/toasted until it takes on a dark and rich chocolate-y taste (think of the malts used for Guinness or any porter).
The bourbon was released in late fall 2019 and is a one-of-a-kind whiskey that we’ll likely never see again.
You’re greeted with a sense of cornmeal that’s been dusted in dark cacao next to a vanilla pudding base with a hint of marzipan and savory fruit. The taste really holds onto that dark chocolate, taking it into full-on cacao nib territory with dryness and bitterness, while hints of chili spice and very mild pine mingle on your tongue. The finish lingers for a good spell as the cacao veers into a spicy yet dry tobacco chew, leaving your senses buzzing.
This is one of those bottles we wish could be an everyday dram. It’s just so silky and full of distinct-yet-well-balanced flavors.
Not for nothing, but this makes a crazy good Manhattan with some Antica Formula vermouth and a touch of orange oils.
$150-$200 — Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Average Price: $197
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.
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.
This is one of those bottles that just … delivers. Yes, it wins all the major awards and comes with a ton of hype. But, goddamnit, it’s just f*cking delicious. It’s so tasty and truly easy-drinking that we wish it was affordable enough to be an everyday dram.
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