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The Best Bourbon Whiskeys To Drink Neat, From $50 On Up

Drinking bourbon whiskey “neat” is considered the purest form of the bourbon tasting experience. For whiskey purists, the idea is that the distillers, nosers, and blenders painstakingly toiled to create the exact whiskeys they wanted and we should honor that. While that idea is certainly valid (in some cases), all whisk(e)y changes with a few drops of water or a rock and that’s also a crucial (and fun) part of the tasting experience.

Today, we’re looking past the whiskeys that demand a rock or two to help them go down a little easier and staying focused on those bourbons that are pure silk all alone. Untouched. No fuss.

These 15 bottles aren’t always affordable or easy to find. But they are great sipping bourbons, smooth as can be, straight out of the bottle. We’re not saying these aren’t nice in cocktails, either — we just prefer these picks neat. Click the prices to order the expressions that look best to you! Let’s get into it!

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Brown-Forman

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $58

The Whiskey:

This expression takes the standard Woodford bourbon (triple distilled, matured for six to seven years in a climate-controlled warehouse) and gives it a finishing touch. The bourbon is blended and moved into new barrels that have been double toasted but only lightly charred. The juice spends a final nine months resting in those barrels before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a welcoming aroma of marzipan, blackberry, toffee, and fresh honey next to a real sense of pitchy, dry firewood. The taste drills down on those notes as the sweet marzipan becomes more choco-hazelnut, the berries become more dried and apple-y, the toffee becomes almost burnt, and the wood softens to a cedar bark. A rich spicy and chewy tobacco arrives late as the vanilla gets super creamy and the fruit and honey combine on the slow fade.

The Neat Experience:

What’s beautiful about this bourbon is you kind of get lost in it. The silken edges keep leading you down new flavor paths as you swing back and forth between the nose and the sip. It’s weirdly light (for a double oaked) as well, making it very easy to take straight.

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

This expression from Jim Beam’s high-end shingle is a masterful blend. The juice is small-batched from barrels that meet just the right flavor and texture profiles. That mix is then proofed all the way down to 80 proof, creating an incredibly accessible whiskey sip for beginning sippers.

Tasting Notes:

Classic notes of vanilla and caramel lead towards a hint of oak with a touch of dried fruit on the nose. The taste delivers on those promises while adding in layers of brown sugar sweetness and mild pepperiness. There’s a slight return to those dark dried fruits on the fast finish as you’re left with the vanilla and oak ringing on your senses.

The Neat Experience:

Beam was wickedly smart in making this a 40 percent ABV sip. There are zero rough edges. You’re left with a well-rounded and classic bourbon experience. It’s also much softer than a standard Beam, naturally. That softness goes a long way towards making you want to refill your glass once it’s emptied.

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This high-end brand from the legendary Buffalo Trace campus is crafted as a sipper at a (fairly) accessible price point. The juice is aged specifically in Warehouse C, which was built by E.H. Taylor, Jr. back in the 1880s. The barrels live under federal regulations of bottling in bond. Once they’re ready, they’re small batched and proofed down to 100 proof.

Tasting Notes:

The nose greets you with a mild vanilla woodiness that leads towards a kettle corn vibe with a hint of caramel. The taste delivers on the caramel corn while counterpointing with a black licorice essence (similar to rye whiskey) and a hint of buttery toffee. The end brings about chewy and spicy tobacco with hints of that buttery and sweet corn lurking in the background with the woody vanilla.

The Neat Experience:

This is interesting in that it’s almost… cooling on the first sip. As you nose and sip, it starts to warm towards that spicy tobacco chew. But it takes a minute to get there. In the end, this is kind of fun to drink neat and feels like you’re on a journey along the way.

Four Roses Small Batch Select

Kirin Brewing

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This expression uses six of Four Rose’s ten whiskeys in their small-batching process. The idea is to blend both high and low-rye bourbons with yeast strains that highlight “delicate fruit,” “slight spice,” and “herbal notes.” The whiskeys spend at least six years in the barrel before blending and proofing with just a touch of Kentucky’s soft limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

Raspberry and cloves mix with old oak on the nose and — boy, does it draw you in. The palate amps up the dark berry sweetness with a bit of tartness, as a stone fruit vibe comes into play. The spice heightens and leans more Christmas spice with a focus on nutmeg. Finally, a wisp of fresh mint arrives to counterpoint the whole sip as the oak, vanilla, fruit, and spice all slowly fade out.

The Neat Experience:

This expression will grow on you. At first, it’ll feel like a solid bourbon, maybe even a good cocktail base (it is, by the way). But as you go back to it, it’ll mellow while expanding in flavors when taken neat. More of those mints and fruits will surface, creating a refreshing sip of whiskey.

Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old

Castle Brands

ABV: 41%

Average Price: $58

The Whiskey:

Jefferson’s Reserve is a masterclass in the power of blending. This expression is a marriage of only eight to 12 barrels from three different bourbons which are, for the most part, very old. How old you ask? There are 20-year-old barrels in the mix.

Tasting Notes:

The spice comes through with a slight nod to eggnog (especially nutmeg) with a rounded sense of fresh honey on the nose. The taste holds onto the spice but starts leaning towards a cinnamon bark while butter toffee adds a nice sweetness and vanilla almost hides in the background. The spice amps up to a tobacco chewiness as the sip slowly fades out, leaving you with a mouth coated in silk.

The Neat Experience:

The idea behind the blend is to create the ultimate sippable whiskey. And they hit it out of the park. This is the sort of dram where you’re sipping and nosing and you completely forget to add water.

Michter’s 10 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Chatham Imports, Inc.

ABV: 47.2%

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

Michter’s 10-yo Bourbon is a very sought-after and beloved bottle of booze. The barrels are hand-selected by Michter’s team for their taste and texture. Then the booze is bottled with only a touch of water just to take the edges off and make it more pleasant on the tongue.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a maple syrup sweetness with spicy tobacco, creamy vanilla, and burnt toffee next to leathery oak. The taste hints at a charred bitterness (burnt espresso bean?) next to a touch of caramel-meets-fruit that meanders back through that tobacco, leather, vanilla, and maple. The end is soft but surprisingly short while touching on the sweeter notes of maple and vanilla and leaving the spice, tobacco, and oak behind.

The Neat Experience:

You’ll take a sip and realize what bourbon can be when left alone for ten years. This is just a well-rounded whiskey in every way. It’s also the sort of whiskey that you can offer someone looking to take that next step from “I think I like bourbon” to “Oh, I really f*cking like bourbon.”

Woodinville Bourbon Port Cask

Woodinville

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

This expression is Woodinville’s award-winning five-year-old bourbon taken up a notch. That means you’re getting that grain-to-glass experience of local Washington craft along with the bespoke barreling process on those snowy Cascade Mountains. The juice is then finished for six to 12 months in port casks, adding a whole new dimension to the bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

Candied fruit, roasted nuts, and bourbon vanilla entice you into the sip. Those notes lead right into a Christmas cake full of dried fruits, spice, nuts, and plummy sherry depths. The end shines in all of those notes, adding a warming feeling that revels in all the candied fruit, cake, spice, nuts, and oak as it slowly fades away — leaving you with a silken mouthfeel and sweet warmth.

The Neat Experience:

This is probably the best workhorse bourbon on the list. We’d argue it works wonders in cocktails, but it really shines as a neat sipper. It’s so complex yet remains wholly inviting. It’s like a warm hug after a long rainy walk.

I.W. Harper 15

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

I.W. Harper has a long history with a new feel. The booze is made at Heaven Hill’s New Bernheim Distillery but aged at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery — a classic contract distilling partnership. The juice spends 15 years mellowing before it’s married and proofed down to a very approachable 86 proof.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of almost fresh off-the-stalk sweet corn and bright berries on the nose with hints of orange zest, oily vanilla, and cedar. The palate leads with the cedar towards tobacco spiciness, more of that concentrated vanilla, and a very mild whisper of minty dark chocolate nibs. The finish takes its time and starts with the dry cedar, passes through that spicy tobacco buzz, and ends up on a sweet vanilla/caramel softness.

The Neat Experience:

This really starts off bold on the fruit and corn. As you go back and forth on the nose and the sip, it just keeps getting deeper and more interesting. The dry-leading-to-sweet end is what’ll keep drawing you back in for more.

Elijah Craig 18

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $250

The Whiskey:

This is what you get when you take standard Elijah Craig and let it rest in just the right spot for 18 years. The 18-year-old barrel is hand-selected after a long search through the warehouses. Once chosen, the juice is cooled slightly with that soft Kentucky limestone water and then bottled.

Tasting Notes:

You get a sense of oak with a touch of a rock-hewn cellar, next to notes of dark chocolate oranges, mild brown spices, a touch of vanilla cream, and a hint of honey. That vanilla takes on a nutty edge as the spices build and the wood softens towards cedar with a hint of fruity tobacco chew. The vanilla creaminess really drives the finish towards a silken mouthfeel with plenty of spicy/fruity tobacco leaving you with a mild buzz across your senses.

The Neat Experience:

This feels like one of those expressions where you should “respect” the barrel selection process. It’s just … so refined. It’s also a dram where you’ll be so enthralled by what’s in the body of the whiskey that you’ll forget water is even needed to let it bloom even more.

Thomas S. Moore Port Cask

Sazerac Company

ABV: 49.45%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This new release from Barton 1792 Distillery aims to highlight bourbons with unique finishings from the iconic distiller. This expression draws on the ever more popular port cask finish (they also released a Chardonnay and Cabernet cask finish this year, too). That port wood adds a nice layer to the bourbon, making it very sippable.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a nice softness on the nose that leads towards hints of Christmas spices, creamy vanilla, and light red fruit. The palate delivers on those promises and adds in a Christmas cake vibe with plenty of spice, nuts, dried fruit, and more of that velvety vanilla. The end is medium-length and warms up towards a mellow tobacco chewiness with a jammy depth.

The Neat Experience:

This is one of the easier, more approachable bourbons on the list. It’s not going to take you anywhere new. But what it does, it does well. It sort of feels like a nice end-of-the-day dram to take the edge off.

Pursuit United

Pursuit Spirits

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $63

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a new release from one of our favorite bourbon podcasts and whiskey reviewers, Bourbon Pursuit. The juice is a blend of three whiskeys hailing from Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky, Finger Lakes Distilling out in New York, and an unnamed Tennessee distiller. The blend is crafted to be an accessible whiskey — or well-crafted “table bourbon,” if you will — that’s high proof and very drinkable.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is subtle, with notes of crème brûlée next to warm cornbread dripping with butter and honey and a touch of oak and spice. The taste is bold — hints of soft-almost-leathery wood, dark chocolate (especially with a little water), honey mouthfeel, light orange citrus, buttered popcorn, and… I want to say, Red Vines. The end is just the right length as the orange becomes jammy and hints of red fruits in pine boxes drop in.

The Neat Experience:

This bourbon has really grown on us as a sipper. Unfortunately (though great for the team behind the bottle), the initial run has sold out. You can still find a bottle on Drizly, though. It’s really worth diving into as a sipper to get a sense for the tastes of people who truly love bourbon and are now getting a chance to make some of their own.

We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2020 Limited Release

Beam Suntory

ABV: 54.1%

Average Price: $69

The Whiskey:

This limited edition expression from Maker’s Mark takes everything up a notch with a focus on vanilla and caramel, specifically. The whiskey is cask strength Maker’s that’s then re-barreled with two different staves in the barrels. The first is a virgin French oak stave that’s lightly toasted and roasted in a convection oven on medium heat. The other barrels have staves dropped in that are virgin American oak that have been baked in a convection oven low and very slow.

Tasting Notes:

This expression is meant to highlight caramel and vanilla and it sure does — while also adding a slight Christmas spice warmth. The body of this wheated bourbon is like eating the creamiest vanilla ice cream on top of a very caramel and molasses-forward pecan pie, with the butteriest crust ever. The whole experience is warm and spicy with hints of cedar next to vanilla pod skins and an almost smoked salted caramel on the very slow fade.

The Neat Experience:

This is a wonderful after-dinner sipper. The vanilla creaminess is like a digestif. It’s complex on its own and every time you go back for another sip, you’re going to find another nuance to enjoy.

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

This is the “original” single barrel bourbon. Buffalo Trace’s Blanton’s is hand-selected single barrels that meet the sky-high standards of former Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee, who created the expression back in 1984.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of Christmas spices right away, leaning towards eggnog spiked with vanilla. The taste holds onto the spice, especially nutmeg, as caramel kettle corn, fresh honey, and vanilla husks dominate the palate. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome as hints of eggnog spice, dry vanilla, and popped corn fade away.

The Neat Experience:

This whiskey is built at Buffalo Trace to be the ultimate single barrel sipper. The juice is just so damned refined and accessible on its own. Sure, we like being a little cheeky and making cocktails with this one, but really, this is the perfect neat dram of bourbon.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 025

Barrell Bourbon

ABV: 56.7%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

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.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a fruity note on the nose that leans slightly savory — like a fall melon. 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 mineral water note in the mix.

The Neat Experience:

The great thing about Barrell Bourbon is you know that these whiskeys are crafted to be drunk slowly, explored, argued over, dissected, and most importantly enjoyed. There are a lot of great batches from Barrell, especially in the last ten releases. But this one really reaches a new high in drinkability and taste that keeps us going back for more.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Wild Turkey

ABV: 58.4%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This is the mountaintop of what Wild Turkey can achieve. This is a blend of the best barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. It’s just a classic bourbon with nothing to hide and no frills (in the best way possible).

Tasting Notes:

Crème brûlée greets you with a nice dose of Christmas spices, mild pipe tobacco, orange zest, and a distant hint of fresh mint sprigs. There’s a pine resin nature to the woody flavors on the palate that accents the orange oils, spices, vanilla, and sweetness. The sip takes on a Christmas cake-feel late, with a velvet end that is just the right amount of everything “classic” that you want from a traditional bourbon.

The Neat Experience:

This is our favorite Wild Turkey product. The main reason is that it’s just so easy to drink. There’s a real balance between bold bourbon notes and enticing and soft vibes that keep your attention. It’s also one of the best value-for-dollar bourbons out there.

This could easily cost twice as much and no one would bat an eye.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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