The Absolute Best Easy-To-Find Bourbons For Cocktail Mixing, Ranked

There’s a massive misconception out there about what booze — bourbon, scotch, rum, tequila, etc. — to use in your cocktails. It’s the idea that you should never use expensive or elite bourbon, scotch, gin, or whatever. Because it’s just mixed drinks, right? Using a Pappy 20 in an old fashioned is seen as sacrilege. Pearls will be clutched.

The thing is, you want your drinks to taste good, right? To that end, you always want to use the best ingredients available for any recipe you’re making. Cocktails included.

To that end, I’m calling out the 20 best widely available bourbons for making cocktails below. And I’ve separated this list into two very distinct categories. The first is a list of 10 bourbons that are perfect for beginners. These are the bourbons that you use at home to practice with while refining your cocktail mixing skills. This is the stuff that you drink when you’re making more mistakes than not. That does not mean these are inferior bourbons. It just means that they’re not going to blow your mind when mixed into your favorite cocktails.

The second list is the bourbons that you use when you want an amazing cocktail that will blow some minds. These are the bourbons that you should be using to make cocktails with once you have the knowhow to make a great cocktail.

One last thing before we dive in, I kept this list open to bourbons that are widely available at liquor stores nationwide. These are all bourbons that you can find at their MSRP (mostly). Look, I mix my cocktails with crazy delicious whiskeys that can cost hundreds of dollars a bottle — again, because the better the ingredients, the better the end product — but I’m not here to give you a list of bourbons that you can’t even get for mixing cocktails (I’ll save that for another day).

The point is that you should be able to find these bourbons easily (your state may vary). Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

Part 1 — The “Practice” Bourbons for Cocktails (All under $50)

10. Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

Beam Suntory

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $24

The Whisky:

This is Maker’s signature expression made with Red winter wheat and aged seasoned Ozark oak for six to seven years. This expression’s whiskey is sourced from only 150 barrels (making this a “small batch”). Those barrels are then blended and proofed with Kentucky limestone water before bottling and dipping in their iconic red wax.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose has classic hints of caramel and vanilla with a grassy underbelly next to soft cherry, hints of oak, and a touch of apple orchard.

Palate: That grassiness becomes vaguely floral as slightly spiced caramel apples arrive, along with a chewy mouthfeel that leads towards a soft mineral vibe — kind of like wet granite.

Finish: The end holds onto the fruit and sweetness as the oak and dried grass stay in your senses.

How To Use It:

This is kind of the perfect beginner bourbon for home mixologists. It’s very forgiving and works for pretty much anything. You can make sours, smashes, old fashioneds, and Manhattans with this very easily. The low ABVs mean that you’ll be getting the beauty of the mixed-in ingredients a little more brightly while the body of the wheated bourbon will still shine through.

9. Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

Heaven Hill makes great whiskey, especially inexpensive bottled in bonds. This “b-i-b” is tailored for the Evan Williams flavor profile. Still, this is Heaven Hill, so we’re talking about the same mash bill, same warehouses, and same blending team as beloved bourbons like Elijah Craig and Heaven Hill releases. This is simply built to match a higher-end Evan Williams vibe.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a lovely nose at play with soft taco mix spice next to creamy vanilla, caramel-dipped cherries, a hint of pear skins, and plenty of nutmeg.

Palate: The palate has a minor note of cornbread muffins next to cherry-vanilla tobacco with a dash of leather and toffee.

Finish: The end leans into some fresh gingerbread with a vanilla frosting next to hints of pear candy cut with cinnamon and nutmeg.

How To Use It:

This is a great utility mixer to have on hand for practicing and refining skills. Play around with highballs with this pour. Try a Kentucky Libre — bourbon, Coke, and a squeeze of lime. Or a classic Highball with really good fizzy water and a nice bold garnish (think grapefruit peel or dry lavender).

Once you master the balance of the highball, use this for sours, smashes, and juleps. Experiment with different berries, citruses, and herbs. The spice in the bourbon is subtle but plays well with fruit.

8. Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Kirin Brewery Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $28

The Whiskey:

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of four whiskeys. The blend is split evenly between the high and mid-ryes with a focus on “slight spice” and “rich fruit” yeasts. The whiskey is then blended, cut with soft Kentucky water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Soft and sweet apple and cherry woods greet with a good dose of sour red berries dusted with brown winter spices, especially clove and nutmeg.

Palate: The palate leans into soft and salted caramel with a hint of those berries underneath while the spices get woodier and a thin line of green sweetgrass sneaks in.

Finish: The finish is silky and boils down to blackberry jam with a good dose of winter spice, old wood, and a hint of vanilla tobacco.

How To Use It:

This is a great standard bourbon for mixing. It has great fruitness already, so try it highballs with bright berry or fresh fruit garnishes or maybe a little dry herbs or spices (think clove buds or cinnamon sticks). This also works wonders in fruit-forward shakers like sours and smashes. I like making a blackberry smash with a little lemon, rosemary, and mint with a nice maple syrup add-in. It’s delightful.

You can of course also use a whole bottle to refine those stirring skills by making a dozen old fashioneds with this too.

7. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey

Jack Daniel's Whiskey Review
Brown-Forman

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $21

The Whiskey:

This is classic Jack Daniel’s made with their iconic mash bill of 80% corn, 8% rye, and 12% malted barley. That mashed juice is then sent through massive column stills before it’s slowly dripped through 10 feet of pebbly sugar maple charcoal, which is also made on-site at Lynchburg, from local lumber. After that, the whiskey is left alone for up to five or six years across Jack Daniel’s vast warehouses before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Buttery banana bread with walnuts and raisins (with a hint of the cardboard box they came in) next to bright red cherry and fresh tart apples dominate the nose with a light hint of old cinnamon powder next to the faintest hint of chewing tobacco.

Palate: The palate is thin, there’s no getting around that thanks to the proofing water. But it also presents as a lush banana milkshake cut with fresh vanilla and dusted with nutmeg and plenty of apple and cherry pie with very mild oakiness.

Finish: The proofing water amps up on the finish as the flavor washes out, leaving you with a sense of an empty apple pin tin, hints of banana bread, and an echo of cherry pipe tobacco.

How To Use It:

Jack Daniel’s is the perfect smash and sour base. Use big citrus notes with honey, maple, or a nutty syrup base. Then layer in some fresh herbs. It’ll shine.

On the flip side, this is also a great candidate for highballs with sweet or neutral fizzy drinks. Though given the low ABV, I’d go 50/50 on the soda/whiskey split on any highball recipe. Here’s a pro tip, try Jack with good dry tonic water. It’ll help the fruitier notes in the whiskey pop while offering a botanical counterpoint that just works.

6. Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $18

The Whiskey:

This expression replaced the old Jim Beam Black Label 8 Year, which was a huge favorite amongst the old-school Beam heads. The whiskey in this bottle is aged longer than your average four-year-old Beam, but there is no age statement on exactly how long. I’ve heard things, but only rumors. The best way to think of it is that it’s aged for as long as it needs to be before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: A clear sense of expensive vanilla beans next to apple cotton candy, honey-buttered cornbread, soft oak staves, and Dr. Brown’s Cherry work through the nose.

Palate: The taste has a hint of sourdough apple-cinnamon old-fashioned doughnuts next to vanilla pound cake with a hint of poppy seed and orange zest, a whisper of clove and anise, and a smidge of pecan pie.

Finish: The end has a dried vanilla tobacco vibe by way of spiced apple cider and old cinnamon sticks next to a hint of raisins and bruised peach skins.

How To Use It:

This is a great whiskey to refine those old fashioned skills. You should be able to get 12 cocktails out of the bottle. Buy a case of this and just keep stirring and refining until you get your skills dialed.

This also makes a great 50/50 soda water/bourbon highball with a twist of orange and a dash of bitters. Add a splash of ginger ale on top and you have a delectable Horse’s Neck.

5. George Dickel Bourbon Whisky Handcrafted Small Batch Aged 8 Years

Diageo

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $31

The Whisky:

The whisky in the bottle is the same Dickel Tennessee whiskey but pulled from barrels that leaned more into classic bourbon flavor notes instead of Dickel’s iconic Tennessee whisky notes. The barrels are a minimum of eight years old before they’re vatted. The whiskey is then cut down to a manageable 90-proof and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with creamy vanilla next to spiced tobacco with plenty of apple pie vibe and winter spices with a butter underbelly.

Palate: The palate has a light bran muffin with a molasses vibe next to vanilla/nougat wafers that then lead to peach skins and gingerbread.

Finish: The end leans into the nutty chocolate and vanilla wafer with a touch of orange zest, marzipan, and mint tobacco with a hint of garden-store earthiness.

How To Use It:

This is a nice change of pace that still feels classic. I tend to use these for sours and smashes primarily. The citrus helps the spices and earthiness shine. I would also use this in tropical cocktails in place of the rum. The nuttiness, spice, and chocolate notes really bring a nice rummy dimension to very fruit-forward shakers.

4. Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 9 Years

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $44 (one-liter)

The Whiskey:

This is Jim Beam’s small batch entry point into the wider world of Knob Creek. The juice is the low-rye mash that’s aged for nine years in new oak in Beam’s vast warehouses. The right barrels are then mingled and cut down to 100 proof before being bottled in new, wavy bottles.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this feels classic with a bold sense of rich vanilla pods, cinnamon sharpness, buttered and salted popcorn, and a good dose of cherry syrup with a hint of cotton candy.

Palate: The palate mixes almond, orange, and vanilla into cinnamon sticky buns with a hint of sour cherry soda that leads to a nice Kentucky hug on the mid-palate.

Finish: That warm hug fades toward black cherry root beer, old leather boots, porch wicker, and a sense of dried cherry/cinnamon tobacco packed into an old pine box.

How To Use It:

This is a great bourbon to practice stirring skills — old fashioneds, Manhattans, and Sazeracs. The depth and warmth of Knob Creek stand up to the dilution while the floral botanicals and sharp spiciness meld damn near perfectly with this bourbon.

3. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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Campari Group

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

Wild Turkey 101 starts with Turkey’s classic 75/13/12 mash bill. The hot juice then spends at least six years in the cask before it’s batched and just kissed with Kentucky limestone water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This is a cherry bomb on the nose with deep notes of burnt orange, buttery toffee, old oak staves, and cumin-heavy taco seasoning with a hint of old leather gloves and clove buds.

Palate: The palate has a vanilla pudding cup vibe next to butterscotch candies, nougat, and a twinge of menthol tobacco next to clove-studded oranges on the mid-palate.

Finish: The end of this is a classic cascade of bourbon notes: caramel, vanilla, cherry, winter spices, and light woodiness.

How To Use It:

This is another universal cocktail base that you should always have on hand. You can make any cocktail with this and it’ll shine through. So once you start looking for the bourbon in the cocktail (trust me, your palate will start seeking more and more as you go along), Turkey 101 will start to deliver.

I’d also argue that this is strong enough to stand up to a boulevardier application. The heft of the 101 can withstand the boldness of the Campari and the softness of the sweet vermouth while still giving you a clear sense of the bourbon mixed in.

2. Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Heaven Hill

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

This is Elijah Craig’s entry-point bottle. The mash is corn-focused, with more malted barley than rye. The whiskey is then rendered from “small batches” of barrels to create this proofed-down version of the iconic brand.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a light sense of rickhouse wood beams next to that mild taco seasoning on the nose with caramel apples, vanilla ice cream scoops, and a hint of fresh mint with a sweet/spicy edge.

Palate: The palate opens with a seriously smooth vanilla base with some winter spice (especially cinnamon and allspice) next to a hint of grain and apple pie filling.

Finish: The end leans towards the woodiness with a hint of broom bristle and minty tobacco lead undercut by that smooth vanilla.

How To Use It:

Like all of the other bourbons in this section, this whiskey is made for mixing. You can really make anything with this whiskey and it’ll shine through in all the right ways. It’s versatile while still being accommodating to a wide array of flavor notes. Start with an old fashioned and go from there.

This is bold enough that you can even use this in heavy-duty flavor-forward cocktails like eggnog and espresso martinis. That bourbon note will not get lost.

1. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Michters Distillery

ABV: 45.7%

Average Price: $43

The Whiskey:

Michter’s means the phrase “small batch” here. 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.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this is very fruity with a mix of bruised peach, red berries (almost like in a cream soda), and apple wood next to a plate of waffles with brown butter and a good pour of maple syrup that leads to a hint of cotton candy.

Palate: The sweetness ebbs on the palate as vanilla frosting leads to grilled peaches with a crack of black pepper next to singed marshmallows.

Finish: The end is plummy and full of rich toffee next to a dash of cedar bark and vanilla tobacco.

How To Use It:

Gun to head, this is the best cocktail bourbon that’s widely available and under $50. It works in everything from a simple highball to a complicated AF cocktail.

This is also the only bottle that I’d argue belongs in both categories. It’s inexpensive enough that you can train yourself with it while being refined enough to wow anyone looking for a great cocktail.

Part 2 — The “Master” Bourbons for Cocktails (At Any Price)

10. Baker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel 1007 Proof 8 Years 1 Month

Baker's Single Barrel
Beam Suntory

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $59

The Whiskey:

Baker’s is pulled from single barrels in specific warehouses and ricks across the Beam facility in Clermont, Kentucky. The bourbon is always at least seven years old. In this case, it was aged eight years and one month before bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose leans toward old leather tobacco pouches before hitting a classic cherry vanilla cake vibe accented by green herbs and old sourdough bread crusts with a hint of caraway.

Palate: That cherry vanilla stays moist on the palate as sharp cinnamon, allspice, and clove drive the palate back toward green floral rye dill, caraway, and fennel with a sweet pear candy cider vibe.

Finish: The end holds onto the fruit candy as a rush of soft nutmeg eggnog arrives and is countered by a slow warmth from Hot Tamale candy-laced tobacco.

How To Use It:

I’d argue that this is the bourbon you use when you want a rye-forward vibe without using rye. Make a Manhattan with this. It’ll be spectacular. But then that winter spice and creaminess speaks to winter warmers like nogs or toddies. The point is that you can go hot, creamy, light, citrusy, or whiskey-forward with this one and it’ll always be a winner.

9. Garrison Brothers Small Batch Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Garrison Brothers

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $86

The Whiskey:

Garrison Brothers is a true grain-to-glass experience from Hye, Texas. The juice is a wheated bourbon made with local, Texas grains. That spirit is then aged under the beating heat of a hot Texas sun before the barrels are small-batched (with only 55 barrels per batch), proofed with local water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a caramel apple note on the nose next to a bit of dry straw, worn leather, and … what feels like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Palate: That cereal nature continues through the palate with a sugary and buttery shortbread note mingling with hints of vanilla cake frosted with lemon cream leading to a touch of orange oils.

Finish: The end is very long and warm with a bit of cinnamon that ultimately leads back to the caramel apples plus just a touch of dry campfire smoke at the very end.

How To Use It:

This is the bottle you get when you want something completely different. The bready graininess with the sharp spice and deep hues means that you’re going to get a bold cocktail that’s pure Texas in a glass.

If you do make a highball with this, use real Dr. Pepper (the stuff you get in Texas made with real sugar) and cut it with some orange oils. It’s fantastic.

If you’re making cocktails, lean toward summer berries, floral garnishes, and smoky notes in old fashioneds, Manhattans, or boulevardiers.

8. Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky 1920 Prohibition Style

Old Forester Bourbon
Brown-Forman

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $62

The Whisky:

Getting back to the years on the bottles, this expression “celebrates” the Volstead Act of 1920, which pretty much-banned alcohol in the U.S. What this is really celebrating is that Old Forester was one of only six distilleries that was able to keep making and selling whisky (for medicinal purposes) during Prohibition. And that era’s production is what this blend mimics.

Tasting Note:

Nose: That classic choco-cherry note that a lot of Old Forester has come through on the top of this nose with maple syrup-soaked cedar next to a faint touch of caramel apple.

Palate: The palate is slightly nutty, bordering on Pecan Sandies, with a continuation of that maple syrup leading towards light pepperiness that’s almost like cumin as the cedar comes back into play.

Finish: The mid-palate sweetens pretty dramatically with a Caro Syrup feel to it as the spice hits on a wintery vibe and the taste ends with a finish of (almost smoked) dark chocolate powder on the very backend.

How To Use It:

Normally, I’d stick to classic whiskey-forward stirred cocktails like old fashioneds and Manhattans with this one. But I recently had this in an apple cider whiskey sour and it was spectacular. So I’d use this for cocktails that are elevated beyond the norm. Think a Black Manhattan or a Apple Cider Whiskey Sour or a 50/50 cognac/bourbon Sazerac.

7. Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey

Jack Daniel

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This was first introduced in 1997. The whiskey is hand-selected from barrels on the upper floors of Jack’s vast rickhouses. The whisky is bottled at a slightly higher proof to allow the nuance of the single-barrel whiskey to shine.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The banana notes are drawn way back here and replaced by a clear sense of toasted oak, dark cherry, apple tobacco, and a hint of molasses.

Palate: That oak is the underpinning for notes of caramel corn, mild winter spice barks, and plenty of oily vanilla beans that are all countered by a soft cherry soda with a whisper of clove.

Finish: The sweet banana fruit is there on the end and marries well to a peppery spice, cherry gum, and mulled wine that amps up as the end draws near with plenty of that toasted wood lingering the longest.

How To Use It:

This makes a great old fashioned that tastes so unique. So do that. Then play around with it. I like a mole old fashioned with this, creme de cacao, and a few dashes of chili bitters. Add some orange oils and you’re set. The dark fruit and nuttiness of the Jack will accent those flavors perfectly.

6. Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jim Beam Single Barrel
Beam Suntory

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

Each of these Jim Beam bottlings is pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability, according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this juice is pulled from less than one percent of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens with classic notes of vanilla sheet cake, salted caramel, wintry mulled wine spices, and a sense of cherry pie in a lard crust next to a hint of dried corn husk, old broom bristle, and dark chocolate pipe tobacco.

Palate: The palate layers in floral honey and orange zest next to sticky toffee pudding, old leather, and cherry tobacco layered with the dark chocolate with this lingering sense of coconut cream pie lurking somewhere in the background.

Finish: The finish leans into more woody winter spices (especially cinnamon bark and nutmeg) with rich toffee and cherry-chocolate tobacco braided with dry sweetgrass and cedar bark.

How To Use It:

This is one of those bottles that has no business costing what it does. This blows bottles five times the cost out of the water. So use this to make really good whiskey-forward cocktails. Any of them. It always works. And then sit back when you serve cocktails made with this and watch your friends try and guess what amazing expensive bourbon you must be using.

It’ll be fun when you reveal what you actually used.

5. Noah’s Mill Small Batch Genuine Bourbon Whiskey

Screen-Shot-2021-06-02-at-10.12.59-AM.jpg
Kentucky Bourbon Distillers

ABV: 57.15%

Average Price: $67

The Whiskey:

This is the bigger and bolder sibling of Willett’s Rowan’s Creek Bourbon. It’s the same whiskey — a no-age-statement bourbon that’s made from four to 15-year-old barrels — that’s barely proofed down with local Kentucky water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Maple syrup-covered walnuts greet you with a sense of dark dried cherries and a hint of rose water next to old leather books and holiday spices.

Palate: The taste holds onto those notes while adding in a stewed plum depth with a whisper of caramel apple and orange oils.

Finish: The vanilla and sweet oak kick in late with a rich depth and well-rounded lightness to the sip fade towards lush cherry tobacco, soft leather, and winter spice matrix tied to prunes and dates.

How To Use It:

There’s a lot of great stuff for cocktails coming out of Willett these days but this is the pinnacle. Again, this is a bottle you need for very simple whiskey-forward cocktails where the whiskey is the star of the show. Don’t go big here. Go precise, subtle, and delicious. But make sure you know what you’re doing before you start using this one as it can overpower a mixed drink very easily.

4. Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Kirin Brewery Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $57

The Whiskey:

This Single Barrel Four Roses is a slightly proofed version of their famed OBSV recipe. That’s a bourbon recipe with delicate fruit yeast and a high-rye mash bill. A single barrel of that was picked from the north side of Warehouse P (a beloved position for Four Roses’ single barrel fans — yes, barrel position and warehouses make a big difference).

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Woody maple syrup and cinnamon sticks lead to a hint of pear candy with a vanilla underbelly on the nose.

Palate: The palate lets the pear shine as the spices lean into woody barks and tart berries next to leathery dates and plums with a butteriness tying everything together.

Finish: A spicy tobacco chewiness leads the mid-palate toward a soft fruitiness and a hint of plum pudding at the end with a slight nuttiness and green herbal vibe.

How To Use It:

This is another one where you want to let the whiskey shine in the glass, so don’t go too crazy with the add-ins. The bright orchard fruits do support some special and seasonal sour applications while also shining brightly in light seasonal Manhattans — think pear sours and gingerbread Manhattans.

3. Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 12 Years

Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $74

The Whiskey:

This is the classic Beam whiskey. The whiskey is left alone in the Beam warehouses in Clermont, Kentucky, for 12 long years. The barrels are chosen according to a specific taste and mingled to create this aged expression with a drop or two of that soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This opens with clear notes of dark rum-soaked cherry, bitter yet creamy dark chocolate, winter spices, a twinge of a sourdough sugar doughnut, and a hint of menthol layered with smudging sage and orchard barks.

Palate: The palate leans into a red berry crumble — brown sugar, butter, and spice — with a hint of dried chili flake, salted caramels covered in dark chocolate, and a spicy/sweet note that leads toward a wet cattail stem and soft brandied cherries dipped in silky dark chocolate sauce.

Finish: The end holds onto that sweetness and layers in a final note of pecan shells and maple candy before leaning into a creamy vanilla cream spiked with tobacco and stewed prunes, dates, and figs.

How To Use It:

This is such a beautiful bourbon on its own that you don’t want to go too far with the cocktails. That said, make a clean and beautiful old fashioned with this one and you might not ever go back to any other expression again. The same goes for Manhattans.

2. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon
Campari Group

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $83

The Whiskey:

This is a high water mark of what standard Wild Turkey can achieve. The Russells select the “honey barrels” (those special barrels that are as much magic as craft) from their rickhouses for single barrel bottling. The resulting whiskey is non-chill filtered but is cut down slightly to proof with that soft Kentucky water.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Vanilla cream spiked with orange oils and sprinkled with toasted coconut mingle with spicy oak and buttery cake on the nose with an underpinning of winter spices by way of a sour mulled wine.

Palate: The palate opens with easy notes of marzipan, subtle dried roses, vanilla pods, more winter spices, and singed cherry bark.

Finish: The end arrives with a sense of Almond Joy next to cherry tobacco dipped in chili-infused dark chocolate with a flake of salt and a pinch of cedar dust and old leather saddles.

How To Use It:

This is another product that stands up well to anything while still holding onto its integrity. The bourbon will shine through when layered correctly whether it’s a funky and fresh seasonal sour or smash or a simple but well-stirred old fashioned, Sazerac, or Manhattan.

I’d also argue that this is one of the best bourbons on this list to batch with. It just never fails.

1. Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 10 Years

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Sazerac Company

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $47

The Whiskey:

This might be one of the most beloved (and still accessible) bottles from Buffalo Trace. This whiskey is made from their very low rye mash bill. The hot juice is then matured for at least ten years in various parts of the warehouse. The final mix comes down to barrels that hit just the right notes to make them “Eagle Rare.” Finally, this one is proofed down to a fairly low 90 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Old leather boots, burnt orange rinds, oily sage, old oak staves, and buttery toffee draw you in on the nose before a sense of old fallow fruit orchards with falling leaves hints at old brick barrelhouses in the distance with a whisper of dried apple.

Palate: Marzipan covered in dark chocolate opens the palate as floral honey and ripe cherry lead to a winter cake vibe full of raisins, dark spices, and toffee sauce before deep and earthy barrel warehouse vibes arrive with a sense of the cobwebs, mold, and ancient wood takes over.

Finish: The end has a balance of all things winter treats as the marzipan returns and the winter spice amp up alongside a hint of spicy cherry tobacco and old cedar wrapped with smudging sage, old fall leaves, and bourbon-soaked oak stave from decades ago.

How To Use It:

This will actually make the best whiskey-forward cocktail of any bourbon on this list. I’d steer clear of citrus-based cocktails or shakers but not always. This makes a great New York Sour with a good red wine float, but it’s in an old fashioned or Manhattan where Eagle Rare 10 truly shines.

This is one of those bourbons that’ll wow in any cocktail.

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