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The Best Bourbons To Drink Right Now, According To The Masses

Finding the best bourbon is a lifelong endeavor. There are so many bottles on the shelves these days from big-name producers to small-time local craft distillers that it’s hard to know where to start. We’re not complaining. All we’re saying is that it’s a good time to be a whiskey drinker. Still, the dearth of choices can lead to a lot of head-scratching. That’s why we write about bourbons so damn much.

This time, we’ve gone to the masses to find out which bourbons they think are the best. Over on Ranker folks cast a whopping 54,000 votes, and a clear top ten bourbons emerged. It’s a mainstream list, for sure. But all things considered, it’s a solid selection, too.

Hopefully, this list will help you the next time you find yourself perusing whiskey pages from your local delivery service. The bourbons featured are all winners and each has a little twist or nuance that makes it special.

10. Booker’s

Entry Bottle: Booker’s Bourbon
Distillery: Jim Beam, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
ABV: 63%
Average Price: $79.99

The Whiskey:

Booker’s makes great bourbon overall. This heady bourbon from Jim Beam is a blending of six and eight-year-old barrels from deep in their rickhouses. The quality is top-notch, making this a bottle that won’t disappoint even the snobbiest of whiskey “lovers.”

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweet toffee nose that gives way to bright cedar, stewed apples, spicy red and black pepper, and a flourish of sour cherries. It’s as complex as it is satisfying and will linger on your senses with all that spice and fruit.

9. W.L. Weller

Entry Bottle: Weller Special Reserve Bourbon
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac Company)
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $39.99

The Whiskey:

This expression from Buffalo Trace’s distillery is billed as the “Original” wheated bourbon. The wheat replaces rye in the mash bill and creates a subtly softer bourbon that’ll entice your senses.

Tasting Notes:

Caramel shines brightly on the opening. That caramel ebbs towards butterscotch and then rich notes of fresh honey as florals and sweet fruits kick in. The sense of oak and vanilla help those sunny spring flowers mingle with the honey on the long, warming finish (that classic “Kentucky hug”).

8. Eagle Rare

Entry Bottle: Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac Company)
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $37.99

The Whiskey:

This expression is a blending of ten-year-old Buffalo Trace whiskeys, giving this one a deep nature. The master blenders look for well-known bourbon flavors in each barrel in the rickhouse so that they can dial those notes into one of the tastiest bottles of bourbon available today. It’s a fascinatingly complex whiskey in this price range.

Tasting Notes:

This one opens boldly with orange rind and maple syrup sweetness. Then the oak char and vanilla kick in, giving it a classic old-leather-chair-in-a-smoky-library vibe. There’s a very distant tartness on the back end that hints at very big red fruits. The finish is short but sweet in all the right ways.

7. Elijah Craig

Entry Bottle: Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
Distillery: Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, KY
ABV: 47%
Average Price: $31.99

The Whiskey:

Elijah Craig is one of Heaven Hill’s premier brands. The bourbon is a blend of eight to 12-year-old bourbons from Heaven Hill’s rickhouses, each hand-selected. The end result is a whiskey that’s as drinkable as it’s affordable.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a rush of a cedar forest just after a rain shower alongside echoes of honeycomb. That turns into honey-soaked baked apples with spicy cardamom and cinnamon. Finally, that charred oak kicks in — tying the whole drink together wonderfully.

6. Maker’s Mark

Entry Bottle: Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky
Distillery: Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto, KY (Beam Suntory)
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $29.99

The Whiskey:

Maker’s Mark cuts the corn mash with red winter wheat, giving it a subtlety that makes this bourbon very drinkable and mixable. This is a good bourbon to use as a base for any cocktail application from an old fashioned to a Manhattan to a mint julep.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a burst of spice, botanicals, fruit, and honey sweetness that lean towards sweet vermouth. There are clear bourbon notes of oak char, vanilla, and a slight, wheat-y spice that all give way to a rich butterscotch. The sip draws to a close rather quickly with a nice return of the spice, fruit, and warmth.

5. Knob Creek

Entry Bottle: Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
ABV: 50%
Average Price: $34.99

The Whiskey:

Jim Beam’s Knob Creek is a blend of bourbons from the Beam rickhouses that have aged up to nine years. That’s a good amount of time for bourbon in this price range, especially given that bottles just ten to 15 bucks cheaper are usually only aged four years.

Tasting Notes:

The dram starts with a sense of buttery toast and echoes of rye spice. That rye leads to charred oak and maple syrup essence that mellows into delightful hints of apple orchards. The oak, spice, and fruit bring about a long finish with plenty of warmth.

4. Pappy Van Winkle

Entry Bottle: Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac Company)
ABV: 53.5%
Average Price: $1,399.99

The Whiskey:

Pappy Van Winkle is the mountaintop of “great” bourbon. The bottles are only released twice a year and will set you back — checks notes — over $1,000 since they’re bought up quickly by retailers and collectors who hold on to them, increasing their “value.” Look, if you have an extra $1,300 laying around for this, more power to you. But, let’s be honest, there are very good bourbons on this list you could buy ten or more bottles of for that same price. Do that, instead.

Tasting Notes:

Having had the pleasure of tasting this expression, there’s a richness from the present-yet-subtle oak next to a nutty toffee essence. Caramel and vanilla mingle with echoes of sharp spice, toasted oak, wild florals, and orchard fruit. Everything in this bottle just works as the finish sits on your senses and reminds you why you love bourbon in the first place.

3. Buffalo Trace

Entry Bottle: Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac Company)
ABV: 45%
Average Price: $29.99

The Whiskey:

The low-rye mash bill lets the corn shine with a softer nature and smoother experience. The price point also makes this a very accessible bottle to have on hand for pretty much any application — from a neat nip at the end of the day or a longer cocktail-making-session over the weekend.

Tasting Notes:

The dram starts off bold with caramel, dark chocolate pastry butteriness, Christmas spices, and malt-forward earthiness. Then bursts of raw sugars, wet oak, bitter roasted coffee beans, and apple orchards shine through. The end tends to linger without overpowering on the warmth.

2. Woodford Reserve

Entry Bottle: Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Brown Forman Distillery, Shively, KY
ABV: 45.2%
Average Price: $37.99

The Whiskey:

The whiskey has a slightly high rye content (18 percent) which gives it a unique drinkability and a nice hit of spice. It’s twice distilled in pot and column stills before being mellowed in oak for six to eight years. The final blend tends to be complex yet a very easy-drinking whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear feel of old leather, rich pipe tobacco, raw cacao, and creamy vanilla-laced butterscotch. That’s followed by marzipan, darkly roasted coffee beans, rye spiciness that’s more fresh ginger than pepper, and an aged rum sweet edge. The final notes let you know it’s bourbon — with more spice, vanilla, bitterness, and oak resting on your senses.

1. Blanton’s

Entry Bottle: Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac Company)
ABV: 46.5%
Average Price: $79.99

The Whiskey:

Blanton’s bourbon is taken from the best cuts from the stills. The hot juice then goes into barrels and is stored in Buffalo Trace’s famed warehouse H. Singel barrels are hand-selected to represent the deep virtues or a great bourbon. The result? This is one unique bottle of booze.

Tasting Notes:

This is a single barrel expression, so results will vary. Still, in my experience, this bourbon is dialed into damn near perfection. There’s a bold caramel depth that gives way to just the right amount of peppery spice. There are hints of barrel char, toasted vanilla, bright fruit orchards, and fields of malts. Everything is balanced as the warm embrace of the finish adds wisps of tobacco smoke and a hint of worn leather to the mix.

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