Spring is bourbon season. Brand-new releases and new batches of classic bourbons are hitting shelves at a nearly nonstop pace. Basically, we’re in the middle of spring break and the run-up to summer, which means whiskey companies are clamoring to get your attention with splashy new expressions. Small batch releases, bottled in bonds, single barrel bourbons, special oak cask finishes, and unique grain mash bills dominate the season alongside the many, many, MANY bourbons that are already on the shelf.
And with all that booze… Look, it can’t all be good. “New” doesn’t always mean something is worthwhile.
So to help you sort through all the new labels and new batches of classic bourbon hitting shelves, I’m pulling 10 brand-new bourbon whiskeys (all of these were just released or the current batch that was just dropped) from my shelves and blind tasting them. Our lineup today features the following bottles:
- Michter’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old
- Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon Leo Topflight Series By ReserveBar
- Castle & Key Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2023 Batch 1
- Green River Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Sour Mash Whiskey
- Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey, Batch 1
- Swilled Dog Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Strength
- Doc Swinson’s Alter Ego Triple Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Lost Lantern 2023 Single Cask #3 Watershed Distillery Ohio Straight Bourbon Whiskey 7 Years Old
- 15 STARS Triple Cask Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Jack Daniel’s 10 Years Old Tennessee Whiskey, Batch 2
The ranking for this is very straightforward. This is about what tastes good right now. It’s really that simple. Luckily, there are a lot of great whiskeys hitting shelves (spoiler alert: all of these whiskeys were pretty damn tasty). Still, when it came to ranking these bourbons, I didn’t hesitate. There were clear winners from the jump so scroll down and find the perfect whiskey to add to your bar cart this spring!
Part 1 — The Bourbon Tasting
Nose: There’s a peppery sense of cedar bark and burnt orange next to salted caramel and tart red berries with a moist and spicy sticky toffee pudding with some brandy butter dancing on the nose.
Palate: The palate blends vanilla tobacco with salted dark chocolate-covered marzipan while espresso cream leads to new porch wicker and black peppercorns.
Finish: The end has a pecan waffle vibe with chocolate chips, maple syrup, blackberry jam, and minced meat pies next to old tobacco and cedar with a sweet yet toasted marshmallow on the very end.
Well, this is going to be hard to beat. This is classic deep Kentucky bourbon that’s delicious.
Nose: The nose opens with a classic sense of spiced cherry with cinnamon cookies cut with raw brown sugar and vanilla next to a hint of taco seasoning spice packets.
Palate: The palate is lush with a sense of dark creamy chocolate, smoldering marshmallows, honey-dipped Graham crackers, and a light sense of peach tobacco.
Finish: The honey sweetens the finish with a sense of old oak and a dirt cellar floor next to a walnut cake and a mild warming buzz.
This is pretty damn nice too. It’s not quite as deep as the first sip, but very enjoyable overall.
Nose: This opens with a sense of unbaked sourdough cinnamon rolls next to Graham Crackers dipped in vanilla-creamed honey served with a warm can of peach soda.
Palate: The palate leans into the fruitiness with a pink taffy vibe that’s countered by slight pepperiness, a touch of “woody,” and more of that creamy honey laced with vanilla.
Finish: The fruity take on a savory essence — think cantaloupe — on the mid-palate before circling back to the pepperiness with a bit of woody spice on the short end.
This is nice and light. It feels like a solid cocktail base that also works as a sipper, kind of like a classic table whiskey that you don’t have to overthink.
Nose: This pops on the nose with rich caramel next to soft roasted peach and apricot next to a rush of cinnamon bark and nutmeg with a creamy vibe.
Palate: Toffee drives the palate toward Nutella and honey over buttermilk biscuits with an apple/pear tobacco aura that leads to a soft orange.
Finish: The end is rich and full of stewed fruits — peach, pear, orange, raisins — and a mild sense of oaky spice and a mild graininess.
This is another one that’s just nice. It’s a tad on the lighter end (and very fruity) but well-built and deep.
Nose: The nose is creamy with deep notes of old boot leather, dark and woody winter spices, black-tea-soaked dates, plum jam with clove, and an underbelly of chewy toffee-laced tobacco.
Palate: That creaminess presents on the palate with a soft sticky toffee pudding drizzled in salted caramel and vanilla sauce next to flakes of salt and a pinch of orange zest over dry Earl Grey tea leaves with a whisper of singed wild sage.
Finish: The end leans into the creamy toffee chewy tobacco with a hint of pear, cherry, and bananas foster over winter spice barks and a deep embracing warmth.
This is great-tasting whiskey.
Nose: Leather and spiced cherry drive the nose toward meaty dates and wet brown sugar with a very classic bourbon vibe.
Palate: That brown sugar turns a little molasses-y on the palate as vanilla cream pie drizzled in toffee leans toward spiced milk chocolate powder and a hint of hazelnut cream.
Finish: That creaminess drives the finish toward leathery dried fruits and dates next to a cherry/vanilla/spiced tobacco buzzing warmth.
This was another nice, classic bourbon.
Nose: Dark oak and leather dance with caramel peanuts and peanut brittle with a good dose of spiced cherries dipped in dark chocolate.
Palate: Rich marzipan leads on the palate with more of that choco-cherry feel next to vanilla-laced whipped cream, nutmeg, clove, red berry fruit leather, and a whisper of fresh and sharp spearmint.
Finish: Brandied cherries with orange peel and clove settle on the finish with a nice sense of buttery salted caramel and creamy nuttiness.
Again, this is just good. It’s a very bourbon-y bourbon. It doesn’t grab me as fully as pours 5, 2, and 1 but this isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.
Nose: This smells rich and lush with deep creamy eggnog next to sweet dark fruit leather, old oak cellars, and a sniff of vanilla cake bespeckled with crumbled-up hard-toffees covered in dark salted chocolate.
Palate: Those toffee chocolate candies drive the palate toward spiced oatmeal cookies with walnuts and raisins dipped in vanilla buttercream and dashed with brown sugar and salt with a fleeting sense of orange and vanilla.
Finish: Spiced cookies with plenty of fatty nuts appear on the finish as a matrix of orchard fruits — cherry, plum, orange — slowly fade toward burnt ends of rock candy dipped in winter spice liqueur with a brazen heat to it.
F*ck, this is delicious. It’s a tad hot at the end, but I kind of love it. It’s that classic “burn so good” vibe.
Nose: Woody huckleberry jam over raisin scones mingle with eggnog spices and brown sugar cookies, spiced cherry fruit leather, and a twinge of sweet yet old oakiness.
Palate: That dark fruit leather leans into brandy-soaked dates and prunes with a sense of old oak cellars next to rich vanilla, soft apples, and sticky toffee pudding.
Finish: There’s a dark cherry spiced vibe to the finish that leans into fresh chewy tobacco packed into an old oak box and then wrapped in leather with a burnt orange rind and winter spice bouquet on top.
This is another winner. It just feels classic.
Nose: This opens with a rich matrix of cherry syrup, apple cores, sticky toffee, vanilla ice cream, and a bold line of wet and sweet oak with a mild earthiness.
Palate: The palate opens up towards the dark fruit but dries it out and marries it to a woody and spicy tobacco leaf alongside toasted cedar soaked in salted caramel paired with dry corn husks that are just singed.
Finish: The finish really takes its time as the cherry attaches to an old cinnamon stick and the tobacco takes on a sticky chewiness with an almost smoked oak woodiness.
This is sweet and oaky but nicely balanced. It’s a really easy-going sipper for sure.
Part 2 — The Bourbon Ranking
10. Castle & Key Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2023 Batch 1 — Taste 3
Average Price: $50
Castle & Key Distillery is the renovated Old Taylor Distillery outside of Frankfort, Kentucky. This distillery has spent years contract distilling for other brands, until this year when they released their first batch of this expression in April. The juice is a mash of 73% white corn, 17% malted barley, and a scant 10% rye. After four years, 80 or so barrels are chosen for this small-batch expression and proofed down with local water.
This is really good, standard bourbon. If you’re looking for a great cocktail base for spring cocktails, get this. It plays well with citrus, Campari, and mint.
9. Green River Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Sour Mash Whiskey — Taste 4
Average Price: $37
This new release from Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Green River distillery is a wheated classic. The whiskey in the bottle is made from a mash bill (recipe) of 70% Kentucky-grown corn, 21% wheat, and 9% malted 6-Row barley. That whiskey then spends four to six years mellowing before batching, proofing, and bottling as-is.
This is another no-brainer if you’re looking for a cocktail base. I’d also argue that this makes a good table whiskey for everyday sipping over a lot of ice too.
8. Doc Swinson’s Alter Ego Triple Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 7
Average Price: $56
This whiskey from out in Washington is a blend of two bourbons with an array of finishings. The blend is a mix of a 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley bourbon with a 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley bourbon. After several years, those whiskeys were refilled into European oak casks, namely cognac, Olorosso sherry, and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks from anywhere from three to 16 months of finishing before batching and bottling.
This is where we get into the easy-sipping bourbons. This is really good but also… sorta felt like a typical $50 bourbon.
7. Swilled Dog Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Strength — Taste 6
Average Price: $54
First off, this has a great name and reimagined logo (these are the new bottles for 2023). Secondly, the whiskey is made from a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley so we know this is MGP distillate, and that usually means high-quality booze.
This was a really nice, high-proof bourbon. It had a stone-cold classic flavor profile. If you’re in West Virginia, pick yourself up a bottle.
6. 15 STARS Triple Cask Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 9
Average Price: $179
This new release from 15 STARS is a blend of two bourbons with a big finishing run. The whiskey is made from an eight and 16-year-old blend that was finished in Kentucky in port, cognac, and rum casks for eight additional months before batching and bottling.
This is getting pretty close to excellent. I can easily see sipping this on a sunny day next to a smoker or grill in the backyard.
5. Jack Daniel’s 10 Years Old Tennessee Whiskey, Batch 2 — Taste 10
Average Price: $199
This age statement released from Jack Daniel’s is a throwback to a bygone era in Tennessee Whiskey. The whiskey is aged for at least 10 years before batching. 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 batched, proofed, and bottled.
This was an oaky whiskey with a nice fruitiness to balance things out. I’d say if you’re looking for something oaky but more fruity than spiced, then get this.
4. Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon Leo Topflight Series By ReserveBar — Taste 2
Average Price: $52
This single-barrel pick from Stellum utilizes a classic sourced bourbon with 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley from Indiana. Those barrels are transported over the Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky where they finish their four to six-year-long rest. This release was chosen by the team at ReserveBar and released as a single barrel pick in their Topflight Series.
This is a really good sipping bourbon at a great price point. This could easily be $100 and no one would blink an eye. So in that case, get two.
3. Lost Lantern 2023 Single Cask #3 Watershed Distillery Ohio Straight Bourbon Whiskey 7 Years Old — Taste 8
Average Price: $119
The latest Lost Lantern single barrel release is a five-grain bourbon from our in Ohio. Watershed Distillery used corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, and locally-grown spelt for the mash of this bourbon. The whiskey then spent five years mellowing in Ohio before the barrel was shipped to Vermont for two more years of mellowing. Finally, the team at Lost Lantern thought this one was ready and bottled it as-is only yielding 65 bottles.
This is a great whiskey. Great. It was a tad hot on the finish, which is why it’s third instead of first. Otherwise, add some water and let this beauty bloom in the glass and take your time with it. Just hurry, this will be sold out very soon. And then that’s it — forever.
2. Michter’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old — Taste 1
Average Price: $185
The whiskey barrels sourced for these single-barrel expressions tend to be at least 10 years old with some rumored to be closer to 15 years old (depending on the barrel’s quality, naturally). Either way, the whiskey 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.
This had a balance to it that the rest of the whiskeys on this panel just didn’t. This is quintessential and bold Kentucky bourbon from top to bottom and felt like a warm hug from an old friend. Plus, it’s hitting shelves right now, which means you might be able to snag a bottle if you’re savvy.
1. Jack Daniel’s 12-Year-Old Tennessee Whiskey — Taste 5
Average Price: $80 (MSRP)
Jack Daniel’s doesn’t hide any of its processes. The mash at the base of this whiskey is a mix of 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye. Those grains are milled in-house and mixed with cave water pulled from an on-site spring and Jack Daniel’s own yeast and lactobacillus that they also make/cultivate on-site. Once fermented, the mash is distilled twice in huge column stills. The hot spirit is then filtered through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal that’s also made at the distillery. Finally, the filtered juice is loaded into charred new American oak barrels and left alone in the warehouse. After 12 years, a handful of barrels were ready; so they were batched, barely proofed, and bottled.
This was the stand-out of the panel. It’s so well-balanced, nuanced, and just freaking tasty. It leaned more into the sweet fruit yeasty flavor notes while still holding onto classic and deep bourbon flavor notes. This is the good stuff, folks, that’s also just hitting shelves and still might be findable.
Part 3 — Final Thoughts on New Spring Bourbons
There isn’t a bad bourbon on this list. Seriously, Castle & Key and Green River are excellent mixing whiskeys for cocktails. Don’t sleep on those. Tastes eight through four are all stellar pours. Go back through the tasting notes and find the whiskey that speaks to you and then get it. You won’t be disappointed by any of those.
But, wow, the top three whiskeys were all stone-cold killers. You’ll be in good hands whiskey-wise after grabbing any of those gems.