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The Best Bourbon Whiskeys Released In The First Half Of 2022, Ranked

With the year half over, I figured it was high time to talk about some of the best bourbon whiskeys of 2022. And ho-boy, it’s been a good year so far. It’s also been an overwhelming year. New bourbons are dropping left and right and, spoiler alert — a lot of it is shit. Those are the breaks of an increasingly saturated market. Lucky for you, I’ve taken one for the team and narrowed the year (so far) down to good stuff.

For this list, I’m keeping it simple. Was the bourbon good? Yes? It’s on the list! Price be damned. While I haven’t tasted every single release (yet), I have tasted hundreds of bourbons over the past five months. These are 40 that stood out.

As for the ranking, I’m keeping that simple too. Consider 40 through 31 as bottles that I find perfectly fine but will likely not be reaching for myself. Read the tasting notes — maybe you’ll dig it. 30 through eleven are all killer pours but lean more toward everyday mixers/sippers. Ten through one are the magic bottles that transcend.

Sound good? Let’s dive in!

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

40. Thomas S. Moore Cabernet Cask Finish

Thomas S. Moore Cab Cask Bourbon
Sazerac Company

ABV: 47.65%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This release from Sazerac’s other distillery, Barton 1792 Distillery, has become a yearly release. The juice in the bottle is generally kept under wraps. What we do know is that the bourbon is finished in a Cabernet Sauvignon for a spell before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Stone fruit and vanilla lead on the nose with hints of sugar cookies, bright peach, and old-yet-soft oak. The palate leans into cherry bark with plum, mulled wine, vanilla, and sharp sassafras. The spice on the mid-palate leads to some old leather, more of that soft oak, and a hint of sweet potting soil with a plummy finish.

Bottom Line:

These releases are squarely in the “fine” category. Look at it this way, if you want something unique, try this. It’s not going to be mind-blowing, but it will be satisfying.

39. Luca Mariano Single Barrel Bourbon

Luca Mariano
Luca Mariano

ABV: 51.5%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This whiskey marries Italian-American heritage with bourbon in Kentucky’s horse country. The juice is a contract-distilled high-rye bourbon that spends six years resting in new American oak. That juice is then just barely touched with local water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose feels like walking through a peach orchard on a sunny day with blossoming honey suckles wrapped around cinnamon sticks in your hand. The taste builds on that spiced honey with a mild root beer vibe next to overripe peach, a touch of vanilla cream, and a whisper of fresh mint. The finish stays fairly mellow with the creamy honey and mild spices blending with a soft touch of vanilla/mint tobacco warmth.

Bottom Line:

This is another unique bourbon with a familiar flavor profile. I always like grabbing one of these simply to have something different around. Overall, it works best over rocks.

38. Castle & Key Small Batch Bourbon

Castle & Key Bourbon
Castle and Key

ABV: 49%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

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 barrels are chosen for this small-batch expression and proofed down with local water.

Tasting Notes:

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. 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. 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.

Bottom Line:

I didn’t really like this on the first sip. It’s grown on me over the months but still feels more like a mixer than a sipper. I tend to pour it in highballs.

37. Green River Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Green River
Green River

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $38

The Whiskey:

Green River Distillery has been pumping out contract distilled juice for a while. In the spring of 2022, they finally released their much anticipated Green River Bourbon to much hoopla. The bourbon is a blend of five years and older barrels of bourbon made from a mash bill of 70% corn, 21% winter rye, and nine percent malted two-row and six-row barley.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a hint of dry cornmeal on the nose with clear and rich butterscotch (which feels a little young) alongside vanilla pudding cups, wet brown sugar, and a hint of an old leather jacket. The taste holds onto that leather note as a foundation and builds layers of sticky toffee pudding with vanilla buttercream, a handful of roasted almonds, and a thick buttery toffee sauce tying it all together. The finish is green with a big note of fresh mint that leads back to the leather with a whisper of dark fruit leather and Red Hots.

Bottom Line:

This is a nicely complex bourbon that is very average overall. Average price with classic/average taste, if you will. But it does nail that classic vibe, especially in a cocktail.

36. I.W. Harper Cabernet Cask Finish

I.W. Harper Cabernet Cask Finish
Diageo

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This Diageo whiskey is a sourced Kentucky bourbon that’s aged at the famed Stitzel-Weller distillery for four years. The whiskey is then finished in red wine barrels from California before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Buttery caramel, rich vanilla, sweet cherry, and dried red wine in the bottom of a wine glass mingle with a hint of dry porch wicker on the nose. The taste is more about tart cherries, soft oak, and plenty of spicy yet sweet mulled red wine. Nutmeg and vanilla cream mix on the backend as dark chocolate, a hint more of that sweetgrass, and a soft cherry bark end the sip a little short.

Bottom Line:

There are a lot of wine casks coming out lately (this is the second on this list already). I’m still very much on the fence. That said, this is. perfectly fine on the rocks or cocktail bourbon.

35. Daviess County French Oak Finish

Daviess County
Lux Row

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $54

The Whiskey:

This sourced bourbon from Lux Row is a blend of wheated and rye-heavy bourbons. Those barrels are blended and then filled into French oak casks for a final six-month maturation. That whiskey is proofed and bottled without any fussing.

Tasting Notes:

This feels like descending into a cellar from the jump with cobwebs, a dry dirt floor, old cellar beams, dried flowers, a hint of rusty iron, and a whisper of grape must. The palate builds on that grape must with oatmeal raisin cookies with ground walnuts and plenty of nutmeg as a hint of pear candy sweetens the mid-palate. A hint of anise arrives late and leads to wet oak staves, more of that cellar floor, and a tiny dash of dried chili pepper.

Bottom Line:

This has a nice clarity to the flavor profile. It’s a little funky for a bourbon. But they make it work here. Still, this is very much a mixer for cocktails over a sipper.

34. Redemption High Rye Single Barrel Select

Redemption High Rye Bourbon
Redemption

ABV: 52.5%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

These bottles are the masterwork of chef-turned-master-blender David Carpenter. The juice is hand-selected MGP single barrels that provide a classic bourbon base that then leans a little softer on the palate.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla wafers with flecks of orange zest open up toward red berries that are slightly tart yet sweet and dusted with cinnamon, clove, and anise. The palate refines those notes toward dried cherries dipped in chocolate next to a black pepper spice with a touch of lemon, a hint of cedar, and some old glove leather. The finish softens toward a chocolate-mint ice cream pipe tobacco on the very end while the cherry, lemon pepper, and cedar all slowly fade away.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the better cocktail base bourbons on the list. The flavor notes are solid and will provide a good foundation for any cocktail.

33. TX Texas Straight Bourbon Cognac Casks

TX Texas Bourbon
TX Texas Bourbon

ABV: 50.8%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This Texas bourbon is made at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company with an undisclosed mash bill. What we do know is that this whiskey spends two years maturing under the hot Texas sun before it’s transferred into Cognac casks for a final 17-month rest.

Tasting Notes:

Apricots and floral honey mingle on the nose as a hint of raw oats, soft leather, and plum pudding round things out. The palate leans into the spices from the wintry plum pudding with plenty of lush vanilla and salted caramel sweetness on the mid-palate. The finish ramps up the dark brown spices with a Red Hot vibe as the floral honey returns with a hint of grape seeds and skins on the dry backend.

Bottom Line:

This has a lovely and pronounced profile. It’s a little sweet for my palate but might be your jam.

32. Pinhook 2022 Vintage High Proof Bourbon

Pinhook 2022
Pinhook

ABV: 58%

Average Price: $56

The Whiskey:

This contract distilled juice from Pinhook celebrates the young racehorse “Bourbondini.” The whiskey in the bottle is made from a mash of 75% corn, 15% rye, and 10% malted barley. After a long rest, the whiskey is just touched with water and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a big nose full of hot apple cider spiked with clove, raisins, and molasses next to a soft bar of high-quality marzipan all with a whisper of figgy jam in the background. The palate leans toward that savory fruit with a hint of dry tropical fruit before a chili-infused dark espresso takes over with a dash of powdered dark chocolate. The finish sweetens with a rich toffee and brown butter vibe as the charred barrel makes an appearance at the very end.

Bottom Line:

These continue to get better and better year after year. While I’d likely only use this for cocktails, it works perfectly well on the rocks too.

31. FEW Bottled in Bond Bourbon

FEW Bottled-in-Bond
FEW Spirits

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This expression from Illinois’ FEW Spirits marks the 125th anniversary of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. The juice is made from 70 percent corn, 20 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley. That whiskey spends four years resting before it’s proofed down to 100 proof and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a sense of vanilla cream pie with an extra thick vanilla pudding next to dry cedar bark with a touch of white moss, a touch of black licorice, and a hint of barrel smoke. The palate leans into cherry bark with a light cherry tobacco spiciness that melds with the vanilla pudding, a pan of fresh sticky buns with plenty of cinnamon and walnuts, and a hint of black pepper and more of that dry cedar bark. The finish has a bit of an oatmeal cookie vibe that leads back to the spicy cherry tobacco and white moss.

Bottom Line:

This is nice and complex. There’s a good balance. It just didn’t quite grab my attention. Overall, I kind of feel like this one that’ll grow on me as the year winds down.

30. Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition

Uncle Nearest Masters Select
Uncle Nearest

ABV: 59.2%

Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

While Uncle Nearest is distilling their own juice these days, this is still the work of Master Blender Victoria Eady Butler with carefully sourced Tennessee whiskey barrels. In this case, Eady Bulter hand-selected the best-of-the-best from their inventory to create the perfect whiskey to exemplify the brand and Tennesee whiskey traditions.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with a piping hot fresh batch of cinnamon rolls with plenty of white sauce frosting, cinnamon and brown sugar filling, a touch of nutmeg, pecans, firewood bark, and a hint of pipe tobacco. The palate delivers on the bigger notes of the nose with pecan shells, cinnamon sticks dipped in cherry syrup, wet corn husks, old leather gloves that have worked in dirt and firewood, and mild yet spiced cherry tobacco. That mild cherry sweetness drives the mid-palate toward a hint of maple syrup that leans woody as firewood piled in black dirt rounding out the finish with an echo more of that peppery tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This might be one of the best Uncle Nearest releases to date. If you dig the brand, you’ll love this. It’s great over a single rock or as the foundation for a killer cocktail.

29. A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength 10-Year-Old Straight Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 70.55%

Average Price: $100 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

This release from Sazerac is all about the boldness of the Virginia spirit. The juice is from a few hand-selected 10-year-old barrels from Master Distiller Brian Prewitt from the lowest ricks in warehouses A and A1 at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. The juice is vatted and then bottled as is, at what is clearly an extremely high cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

I’m not going to lie, the ethanol is absolutely there on the nose. But it doesn’t overpower the deeply-rooted flavors — starting with buttery pie crust that’s well toasted leading towards a few layers of toasted and honeyed pecans, dark Karo syrup-soaked brown sugar, and toasted off, dark spice-filled streusel. The spice really leans into woody cinnamon sticks, plenty of old leather pouches that held decades of tobacco, dry cedar bark ripped from the woodpile, and … the creamy vanilla base and toasted coconut from a coconut cream pie. That creamy mid-palate leads towards a very dry and charred finish that’s cut with bitter espresso oils and the darkest of chocolates that turns into a burnt caramel sweet/bitter heat that torches you down to your soul.

Bottom Line:

This Hazmat bourbon is a big one. Yes, it needs a rock or two to calm it down. But once you get past the ABVs, you’re in for a real treat. That said, this is a one-off pour for when you have friends over.

28. Clyde May’s Special Reserve Straight Bourbon Six-Year-Old

Clyde May's Special Reserve
Clyde Mays

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

This Alabama whiskey (distilled in Indiana) is a small-batch product of hand-selected barrels. Those barrels are expertly blended by the Clyde May’s team to highlight classic bourbon notes in this special edition from late last year.

Tasting Notes:

This is all about the spicy apple pie filling on the nose with clear notes of cinnamon and clove next to tart apples, plenty of brown sugar, a pad of butter, and a whiff of raw sourdough yeast rolls. The apple becomes stewed on the palate with an almost apple fritter vibe as the spices really amp up with extra hot Red Hots and a hefty dash of that clove. The end is a mix of packed brown sugars and dark winter spices with a long, warming buzz that nearly washes everything out.

Bottom Line:

This is a very classic bourbon. I’d go so far as to call it “chill.” For me, it’s a nice everyday pour that’s never challenging but always hits the spot.

27. Middle West Spirits Straight Wheated Bourbon Michelone Reserve Cask Strength

Middle West
Middle West

ABV: 63.95%

Average Price: $47

The Whiskey:

This Ohio whiskey is all about grain-to-glass. The juice is made from a mash of sweet yellow corn, soft red winter wheat, dark pumpernickel rye, and Two-Row malted barley. The whiskey spends about four years in oak before it’s bottled as-is at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

Coconut cream pie dominates the nose with a lard crust, a touch of black banana, and almond-covered toffees round things out. The palate leans into the creaminess of the pie while adding in soft dried fruits, a touch of winter spice, and a whisper of cedar. The finish arrives with a Honey Nut Cheerios vibe as the wintry spices amp up toward a warm end.

Bottom Line:

This feels a little crafty with that banana vibe but is so well-rounded that you can’t help but like it. Still, I’d use this more for cocktails and as a sipper in a pinch.

26. Broken Barrel Cask Strength

Broken Barrel Cask Strength
Broken Barrel

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $48

The Whiskey:

This whiskey, from Owensboro Distilling Co., is all about the finish. The whiskey is finished in casks with staves from ex-bourbon, sherry, and French oak barrels. Once that whiskey hits the right point, it’s vatted and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Dark chocolate powder opens the nose up to fresh raspberry, vanilla husks, buttery toffee, and those candy orange wedges with the sugar coating. The palate leans into the berries as oatmeal cookies dipped in Earl Grey tea lead to almond shells and dark earthy soil. The mid-palate re-sweetens with a vanilla shortbread that ends up at an eggnog creaminess and spiciness next to a very mild and dry cornmeal finish with a hint of dark chocolate pipe tobacco.

Bottom Line:

I like the dryness and bitterness of this one. It’s unique but never overwhelming. Makes a nice old fashioned too.

25. Redwood Empire Grizzly Beast Bottled-in-Bond

Redowood Empire Grizzly Beast
Redwood Empire

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

This California whiskey is a four-grain bourbon with a mash bill of 69 percent corn, 22 percent rye, five percent malted barley, and four percent wheat. That juice spends five years mellowing in oak before only 26 barrels are small-batched and proofed down for bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Raspberries and cinnamon sticks mingle with freshly cracked walnuts, browned butter, and a hint of orange zest on the nose. The palate leans into that bright orange zest as salted caramel is cut with a hint of unbaked buttermilk biscuits, an inkling of orchard wood, and plenty of wintry spice. The finish marries a lot of that toward an oatmeal cookie with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg, raisins, and vanilla next to soft pine and a hint of walnut-laden tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

I’ve started reaching for this one a little more lately. It’s solidly built and hits a nice balance between fatty and fruity with plenty of earthy undertones. That’s all to say that this is a nice sipper every now and then.

24. Kentucky Owl Wiseman Bourbon

Kentucky Owl Wiseman
SPI Group

ABV: 45.4%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This new release from Kentucky Owl is meant to be an affordable and accessible Kentucky Owl from the otherwise elite brand. The juice is a blend of contract distilled whiskey from Bardstown Bourbon Company and sourced barrels from around Kentucky that are four to eight years old.

Tasting Notes:

This is very interesting on the nose with a mix of circus peanut, garam masala, sweet grass, and pine resin next to a hint of rich and buttery toffee sauce with a flake of salt. The palate leans into that toffee and then layers in raspberry sorbet, vanilla beans, masa azul, and wet cedar planks. A leathery tobacco pouch rounds out the sip near the end with more of that cedar, dry sweet grass, and a hint more of the spice.

Bottom Line:

This is pretty solid all around. The balance is tight and the whiskey works well as a cocktail foundation or on the rocks sipper.

23. Frey Ranch Small Batch Bourbon Batch #5

Frey Ranch Bourbon
Frey Ranch

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

Frey Ranch is all about the farm behind the whiskey. In this case, that’s a 165+-year-old farm in the Sierra Nevada basin near Lake Tahoe. The grains (corn, wheat, rye, and barley), fermentation, distilling, aging, and bottling all happen on-site at Frey Ranch.

Tasting Notes:

Fruity cherry gummies mingle with raw sourdough bread dough, vanilla beans, dry firewood, and burnt brown sugars on the nose. The taste has a very crafty corn chip vibe that leads to tart cranberry, more of that vanilla, and a cinnamon-spiced oatmeal raisin cookie. This all coalesces on the finish with the spice, oats, tart red fruit, and vanilla playing second fiddle to the dry firewood and slightly spiced tobacco end.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the better crafty bourbons on the shelf. It feels classic and centuries-old with real ease to it. It’s a smooth sipper and mixer that always shines.

22. Kirkland Signature Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Kirkland Single Barrel Bourbon
Costco

ABV: 60%

Average Price: $34

The Whiskey:

This Costco release is sourced from Sazerac’s other Kentucky distillery, Barton 1792 Distillery down in Bardstown, Kentucky. The whiskey in the bottle is very likely the same distillate/barrels as 1792 Full Proof, which won double gold as well from San Francisco this year. However, this is proofed down a tiny bit below that at 120 proof instead of 125 proof, adding some nuance to this release.

Tasting Notes:

This is, again, classic from top to bottom with a nose full of oily vanilla, thick caramel sauce, and a sense of almond shells by way of sweet oak with some dark fruit lingering in the background. The palate builds upon those promises with mulled wine-soaked cinnamon sticks, corn husks, nutmeg-heavy eggnog, creamy vanilla, a touch of dark cherry tobacco, and a dusting of dark chocolate powder. The finish brings it all together with a spicy/hot finish that’s part spicy chocolate pipe tobacco and part brandied cherry with an oaky base.

Bottom Line:

If your local Costco has this on the shelf, buy a case. That price for a single barrel from Barton 1792 is wild. Plus, it’s a good sipper or mixer that really does stand up to scrutiny.

21. Larceny Barrel Proof Batch No. A122

Larceny Barrel Proof A122
Heaven Hill

ABV: 62.2%

Average Price: $86

The Whiskey:

Larceny is made from a mash bill of 68 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, and 12 percent malted barley, which is Heaven Hill’s wheated bourbon standard mash. The whiskey in the bottle is a blend of six to eight-year-old barrels that are vatted and bottled at cask strength as-is. It’s as easy as that, folks.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with full-tree cedar beams next to a fire cracking away in a huge river rock fireplace. That woody note is supported by touches of warm brown butter, maple syrup, pancake batter, and a hint of sticky buns with walnuts and orange pith lurking in the background. The palate starts off sweet and nutty, kind of like almonds dipped in that maple syrup and then rolled in holiday spices with an echo of warmth. The mid-palate leans into ripe figs and spiced prunes before a vanilla husk woodiness arrives with whispers of hazelnuts, dry sweetgrass, and woody spice with a hint of cedar-infused tobacco leaves. On the very backend, there’s a bit of a sweet straw with a touch of that spicy warmth.

Bottom Line:

Of the two Larceny releases so far this year, this one falls a little lower for having a bit more heat on the mid-palate. It doesn’t blow anything out, but it does need a little ice to calm it down, preferably in a good cocktail.

20. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B522

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B522
Heaven Hill

ABV: 60.5%

Average Price: $59 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

The second Elijah Craig Barrel Proof of 2022 is a combination of 12-year-old barrels from the Heaven Hill rickhouses. The vatted barrels go into the bottle with no fussing — no filtration, no cutting with water, no nothing. This is classic, as-is bourbon from top to bottom, straight from the barrel.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is so heavy with dry cedar kindling that it feels like it might catch on fire. There’s a line of vanilla shortbread underneath that wood that leads to a hint of sweet orange blossom, a drop of Cherry Coke, a fleeting hint of dried chili, and dark toffee with a minor note of nuttiness somewhere deep in that nose. The palate starts off like velvet — almost innocently — and slowly builds towards a crescendo while passing through notes of vanilla beans, cherry skins, digestive biscuits, and, eventually, woody spice with allspice and clove berries next to sharp cinnamon sticks that feel wet on the finish. That finish lingers and builds some real warmth that falls off into a mix of wet denim and cedar.

Bottom Line:

The first Elijah Craig release of 2022 was such a killer (more on that later), that it was nearly impossible for this one to live up to that. Still, this is a perfectly good sipping whiskey with a lot going on.

19. Old Elk Four Grain

Old Elk Four Grain
Old Elk

ABV: 52.95%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from out in Colorado combines two whiskeys from Indiana (MGP) with Colorado’s Rocky Mountain vibe. The whiskeys are a corn/rye/barley mash bill combined with a corn/wheat/barley mash to create a four-grain experience from blending instead of scratch. That whiskey then spends six to seven years aging in the Rocky Mountain state before it’s bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Dark fruit and almonds play with sweet apple wedges and vanilla sheet cake on the nose with a hint of leather, oats, and toffee lurking underneath it all. The taste is all about the creamy and nutmeg-heavy eggnog with a nice counterpoint of sweetgrass and vanilla pipe tobacco. The mid-palate has a sweet winter spice vibe that leads to a raw and sweet carrot and apple cores next to a hint of new wicker.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bottles that end up finished far more quickly than a lot of others. It’s just super easy drinking with a nice yet complex profile.

18. Eaves Blind, 291 “E” Colorado Whiskey

Eaves Blind 291
291 Colorado Whiskey

ABV: 64.8%

Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

This whiskey — a collaboration between Kentucky’s first female master distiller, Marianne Eaves, and Colorado’s famed 291 Distillery — just dropped in February. The juice in the bottle was blended by Eaves over weeks as she tasted through 291’s aspen stave-infused bourbon barrels. The end result is a blended bourbon of aspen stave finished whiskey at barrel proof.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this one opens with freshly cut green sweetgrass with hints of savory herbs, wet cornmeal, winter spices, apple cores, and sweet and soft pine resin. The palate leans into the greenness with more of that sweetgrass leading toward a green pepper vibe next to cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg with a stewed apple pie filling edge to it. That soft and fruity mid-palate leads back to the sweet pine resin and now dried sweetgrass, dried mint, and a hint of spicy apple tobacco and stringy cedar bark on the end.

Bottom Line:

This is another killer bottle that’s both unique and nostalgic. The only reason it’s a little lower is that it’s a tad hot on the palate and benefits greatly from a single rock.

17. Jeptha Creed Four Grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jeptha Creed
Jeptha Creed

ABV: 49%

Average Price: $53

The Whiskey:

This four-grain bourbon is all about the farm-to-glass experience. The juice is made from a mash with Bloody Butcher corn — a sweeter red corn used by Indigenous Americans throughout the Midwest and South for millennia — grown right outside the still house on an expansive Kentucky farm. The red corn is mixed with malted rye, wheat, and barley in the mash and aged for an undisclosed amount of time before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is like your grandmother’s garden on berry picking day on the nose with huge notes of rhododendrons and wisteria next to blackberry jam, blueberry pie, and mason jars of apricot jam with plenty of dark spices layered in. The palate holds onto the jammy notes but adds in rich vanilla pudding, candied walnuts, nutmeg dusted eggnog, and a tiny echo of cherry sasparilla. The dry spices circle back around on the finish with a touch more of that vanilla and a whisper of fresh mint from the garden with a little dirt still on it.

Bottom Line:

This utilizes floral notes really well (trust me, a lot of crafty producers do not). Overall, this is a great bottle to reach for when you’re looking for something different from Kentucky.

16. Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Bourbon

Starlight Single Barrel
Huber Winery

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

These barrel picks from Huber Winery’s Starlight Distillery are starting to light up the craft bourbon scene. The Indiana juice is real craft from a family going back to the mid-1800s on the same farm (this isn’t MGP). Depending on the barrel, the mash here is a unique one with 58 percent corn, 27 percent rye, and 15 percent malted barley. That whiskey is aged for at least four years before it’s considered ready for these barrel picks.

Tasting Notes:

Expect a big nose with vanilla birthday cake, sprinkles, and a scoop of chocolate ice cream next to a touch of peppery spice, old leather, and a hint of soft wood. The palate leans into the pepperiness and layers in orange and lemon oils with cream soda and subtle berries vibes. The end dries out a tad as the black pepper gives way to that vanilla cake with a mild dose of dry wood and black soil.

Bottom Line:

Starlight is one of those distilleries that’s blowing up with industry folks right now, so you’ll be seeing it more and more over the next few years. These bottles are pretty stellar and always hit a great balance between sweet, spice, and lush.

15. Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength Batch 10

Penelope Barrel
Penelope Bourbon

ABV: 57.9%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

Penelope Bourbon is another great example of what a master blender can do with MGP whiskey. In this case, three barrels were blended — aged three to five years — to create a barrel strength expression that highlights the quality of those casks. The final product ended up being a four-grain bourbon with a mash bill of 74 percent corn, 16 percent wheat, seven percent rye, and three percent malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this bursts forth with peaches, red berries, blueberry, and an almost savory gooseberry next to cotton candy, a touch of toffee, and very light-yet-sweet oak. The palate shines as the peaches and berries combine to make a sort of summer fruit crumble with plenty of butter, dark sugar, and spice alongside a thin line of soft leather, rich vanilla, and more of that sweet oak. The mid-palate sweetens with more cotton candy before diving into a warming and spicy finish that keeps the spice sweet and subtle.

Bottom Line:

I know I said the top ten were all the magical bourbons, but we’re already getting close with this one. This is just killer juice that’s hard to beat. Pour it neat or over a rock and take your time enjoying this one.

14. Lost Lantern 2022 Single Cask #1: Smooth Ambler West Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Lost Lantern Smooth Ambler
Lost Lantern

ABV: 61.5%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

Lost Lantern just dropped their spring 2022 collection of single cask selections from some seriously big hitters in the craft whiskey world. For their first edition, the bottler chose a barrel from Smooth Ambler in West Virginia. This bottling is from one 53-gallon barrel of wheated bourbon from West Virginia that’s bottled as-is without filtering or cutting down with water. That means there are only 190-odd bottles of this around.

Tasting Notes:

You’re taken to a confectionary on the nose with dried cranberries and cherries rolling through rich, bitter, yet creamy dark chocolate that’s just been touched with dark and chili spices and bespeckled with crushed almonds. The palate builds on that with a Christmas cake spice mix next to more dried and candied fruits — think brandied cherries and candied orange peels — that leads toward a deep cacao note that’s nearly waxy. The end is all about the black cherry tobacco and old pine boxes that hold that tobacco.

Bottom Line:

The flavor profile on this one is very dialed. Each note is distinct. It’s a wonderful pour.

13. Larceny Barrel Proof B522

Larceny Barrel Proof B522
Heaven Hill

ABV: 61.9%

Average Price: $59 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

The second batch of Larceny Barrel Proof of 2022 is batched from barrels of Heaven Hill’s iconic wheated bourbon (68 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, and 12 percent malted barley). Those barrels are chosen for their specific flavor profile and blended as-is and bottled at barrel proof.

Tasting Notes:

A hint of red berries hits your nose first and then the nose goes full “classic” with notes of rich caramel, fresh leather, vanilla beans, raw pancake batter, and a soft note of kindling. The palate feels high-proof but not “hot” — that means it coats your mouth with a buzzing sensation but there’s no burn — as grassy mid-palate leads to subtle Christmas cake spice, salted caramel sauce, and a layer of cherry compote between two sheets of vanilla cake. The end is silky and lush with that cherry and vanilla fading toward damp and supple wicker that ultimately leaves you with a velvet mouthfeel and warm Kentucky hug.

Bottom Line:

This will be hard for Larceny to beat when the third bottle drops in the fall. This pour has a ton of depth but keeps things classic and nostalgic from top to bottom. Add one rock and you’ll be set.

12. American Highway Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

American Highway
American Highway

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

This whiskey from country music legend Brad Paisley actually crisscrossed the country with the star. The juice in the bottles is largely from Bardstown Bourbon Company, with four whiskeys aged three to 15 years with both low and high rye bourbons in the mix. The team at Bardstown worked closely with Paisley — a whiskey nerd himself — to select, blend, and finish the bourbon according to Paisley’s palate.

After a 7,314-mile trip across America, the barrels were vatted, proofed, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lightness at first whiff that gives way to a soft apricot jam on a buttered Southern biscuit next to a hint of cinnamon-spiked caramel and apple cider-soaked oak staves. The palate really does burst forth with firework pops of old leather, toffee candies, Red Hots, peanut brittle, nougat, milk chocolate, and vanilla pipe tobacco. The mid-palate sweetness fades as the pipe tobacco takes on a little warmth and spice while brioche, black pepper, and braided dry cedar bark round out the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is far better than any other stunt bourbon out there. Real care was given when building this bourbon and shows from the nose to the finish. Though I do prefer this one over a few rocks.

11. Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon

Nelson Bros. Bourbon
Nelsons Green Brier

ABV: 46.65%

Average Price: $69

The Whiskey:

This new release from Nelson’s Green Brier is a big evolution for the brand. This high-rye bourbon is aged for four years before it’s masterfully blended into his expression. It’s then bottled without any fussing or meddling.

Tasting Notes:

A vanilla wafer with soft nougat greets you on the nose with a hint of burnt orange zest, Christmas cake, candied cherry, and a little bit of apple pie filling. The taste has a moment of grilled pineapple that leads to brandy-soaked dark chocolate-covered cherries with a supporting act of zucchini bread, pecan pie, and a whisper of lemon meringue pie — it’s kind of like being in an old-school diner. A mild dusting of white pepper ushers in the finish with a smooth green tea cut with menthol tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This instant-classic bourbon from Tennessee is a hit. The juice has real depth while not overdoing the profile with extraneous notes and textures. It’s just easy and good. What more could you want?

10. Jack Daniel’s Bonded Tennessee Whiskey

Jack Daniel's Bonded
Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is from Jack’s bonded warehouse. The mash of 80 percent corn, 12 percent barley, and eight percent rye is twice distilled before it’s run through Jack’s very long Lincoln County process of sugar maple charcoal filtration. The spirit then goes into the barrel for at least four years — per bonded law — before it’s batched, cut down with that Jack Daniel’s limestone cave water, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla comes through with a bold sense of the oil and beans in the pod as cherry Jolly Ranchers, a light touch of sweet oak, a hint of fresh leather, and an echo of orange peels round out the nose. Going back in on the nose after a minute or two, a sense of potting soil and maybe the vitamin aisle at a health food store alongside more of that fresh leather leads to a little bit of sweetgrass, apple blossoms, and a vanilla cookie with a touch of oat in the mix. The palate is immediately sweet with apple fritters and maple bars next to brown sugar and vanilla cream. The mid-palate adds in a little winter spice with a lean toward cinnamon and clove and a dusting of nutmeg. The finish arrives with brown sugar and butter mixed into Cream of Wheat as a minor note of wood and apple cider kicks in late and lingers the longest on the end.

Bottom Line:

This might be a big surprise for a lot of folks who don’t take Jack Daniel’s seriously. If you were already into the brand, you knew their Bonded-in-Bond expression slaps. This whiskey follows that tradition and has no business being as good as it is for under $40.

9. Blue Run Bourbon Reflection I

Blue Run Reflections
Blue Run

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

And we’ve officially come full circle. This whiskey was distilled at Castle & Key back in 2018. 200 of those barrels were hand-picked for this release to take a look back at the past two years and “reflect” upon the trials they brought.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a distinct note of tart yet slightly sweet cherry on the nose with a supporting cast of butterscotch candies, mild firewood, and a hint of pancake batter. That batter becomes a stack of pancakes with vanilla-laced butter, maple syrup, and a few nuts thrown in that lead to a herb garden full of rosemary bushes. That savory note mellows out through the mid-palate as a dusting of nutmeg rounds out the finish with hints of woody maple syrup and a final echo of that tart cherry.

Bottom Line:

This feels a bit like the greatest hits album of Blue Run, which has only been around for about two years. Still, those hits are huge and this whiskey delivers.

8. Nashville Barrel Co. Single Barrel Bourbon

Nashville Barrel Co. Bourbon
Nashville Barrel Co.

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

Nashville Barrel Co. is doing some of the best work in the bottling game, full stop. They’re sourcing incredible barrels (a lot from MGP) and bottling them as-is without any cutting, filtering, or fussing — they let the whiskey speak for itself and it’s kind of magical. This expression tends to be five to eight-year-old barrels that will vary slightly in the flavor profile while always leaning into bold and distinct flavors.

Tasting Notes:

Depending on which bottle you come across, expect a nose full of cotton candy, buttered popcorn, vanilla beans, freshly baked cherry pie with a lard crust, and plenty of caramel sauce, mild leather, hints of oak, and a dollop of orange oil. The palate will lean into the spice with plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice with maybe a hint of anise and sweetgrass before a mid-palate of Almond Joy and salted caramel candies take over. That sweet mid-point will give way to a finish with nutty dark chocolate clusters with hints of dried fruits, old leather, sweet oak, and plenty of wintry spices.

Bottom Line:

This is one of the more exciting bottles in bourbon right now. While there will be some serious variation, these always hit it out of the park with serious depth and true, unadulterated high quality.

7. Bardstown Bourbon Company Founders KBS Stout Finish Bourbon

Bardstown Bourbon Founders Stout Cask
Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $160

The Whiskey:

This new whiskey from Bardstown Bourbon Company leans into beer barrel finishing. The juice is a ten-year-old Tennessee whiskey (which is, technically, bourbon) comprised of 84 percent corn, eight percent rye, and eight perfect malted barley (which, coincidentally, is the same mash bill as Dickel). That whiskey is then transferred to KBS Stout barrels from Founders Brewing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The whiskey spends an additional 15 months mellowing with the stout-infused oak before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a balance of almost waxy cacao nibs next to oily vanilla beans, dry roasted espresso beans, milk chocolate malts, a hint of Nutella, and a bright burst of orange oils. The palate builds on that foundation and layers in hazelnuts, mulled wine spices, and a dark, thick, and spicy cherry syrup with a woody backbone. The sweetness of the cherry on the mid-palate ebbs as the woody spices and bitter dark cacao kick in late and bring about a dry finish with plenty of Nutella, espresso cream, and spicy cherry tobacco chewiness with a hint of citrus oils cutting through everything.

Bottom Line:

This is the best stout finished whiskey I’ve ever had.

6. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch No. A122

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A122
Heaven Hill

ABV: 60.4%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

This year’s first Elijah Craig drop is a 12-year-old whiskey made from Heaven Hill’s classic bourbon mash of 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and a mere ten percent rye. Those barrels are masterfully blended into this Barrel Proof expression with no cutting or fussing. This is as-is bourbon from the barrel.

Tasting Notes:

Caramel draws you in on the nose with a slight sourdough cinnamon roll with pecans, a touch of floral honey, and a soft and woody drug store aftershave with an echo of vanilla candle wax and singed marshmallow. The palate rolls through a soft leather and vanilla pie note as cinnamon ice cream leads to spicy oak. The mid-palate leans into a sweeter, almost creamy spice (think nutmeg-heavy eggnog) which, in turn, leads to a dry cedar bark next to a dry stewed-apple tobacco leaf folded into an old leather pouch for safekeeping.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey is pure classic bourbon. It’s just delicious and will remind you of how beautiful bourbon can be.

5. Barrell Bourbon New Year 2022

Barrell New Year 2022
Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 57.67%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

Okay, bear with me. This is a bourbon blend made with five, six, seven, nine, and 14-year-old bourbons from Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wyoming, New York, and Texas. All of those bourbons are expertly blended in Barrell’s Louisville facility and then bottled as-is at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

I swear, this has a nose that’s exactly like a rich, moist, and spicy carrot cake smothered in cream cheese frosting, and it works. The nose is rounded out my Meyer lemons, honeydew melon, grassy sugar cane, and a touch of white peach. The palate is part of apple Jolly Rancher and part raspberries in cream with some brown sugar and cinnamon in the mix. The mid-palate has a banana cream pie vibe that leads to a little bit of waxy cacao bean and a fleeting sense of granite countertop covered in oak staves. The finish has a mix of green tea and mint chocolate chip ice cream with this small whisper of salty pretzel wrapped in banana leaves.

Bottom Line:

This is funky, fun, and fantastic. Pour it over a rock to let it bloom a touch in the glass and take your time enjoying this one.

4. Knob Creek 15

Knob Creek 15
Beam Suntory

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $149

The Whiskey:

Knob Creek is what Jim Beam becomes with a little massaging, the right aging locations in warehouses, and some luck from the whiskey angels. The juice is made from Beam’s standard low-rye mash. Then it’s left alone for 15 years in the Beam warehouses on specific floors in specific locations. The best barrels are then small batched and proofed down to 100 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Saddle leather, cobwebs, cellar beams, dark fruit leather, vanilla husks, and salted caramel all lead to cherry tobacco on the nose. The dark fruit leather continues on the palate as cedar boxes full of sweet tobacco lead to apple cider on the mid-palate. The finish, on the other hand, is all about cherry tobacco oatmeal raisin cookies with nutmeg, and a hint of soft and silky vanilla cream that’s just touched with mint.

Bottom Line:

Fred Noe (Beam’s Master Distiller) really struck gold with this expression. It’s deep, slightly funky, and yet very nostalgic. Over a single rock, it’s unbeatable for this price point.

3. Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon

Barrell Gold Label Bourbon
Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 56.77%

Average Price: $621

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a blend of Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky bourbons. Each barrel in that blend is a minimum of 16 years old. The barrels were specifically chosen for their cherry, nutty, high-proof, and chocolate profiles. Half of those barrels were then finished in new American oak for a final touch of maturation before vatting and bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a sense of wet oak staves (think rained on barrels) next to freshly pressed sugar cane juice, damp, almost still unharvested cherry tobacco leaves, the seeds from a vanilla pod, rainwater, stringy cedar bark, and fresh apricot next to Bing cherry. Dark cherry leads to candied ginger on the opening of the taste as orange marmalade mingles with toasted sourdough, sticky yet subtle fir resin, and creamy key lime pie filling with just a hint of the butter in the crust of that pie. The mid-palate leans into the sugar in that pie filling as the cherry kicks back in with a sliver of tartness next to overripe peaches, dried hibiscus, mild anise, allspice berries, sassafras, and dried cacao nibs. The finish gently steps through a field full of orange blossoms as that cacao dries out more, leaving you with dried choco-cherry tobacco that’s been inside of a cedar box wrapped in decades-old leather.

Bottom Line:

These top three are all in a different dimension. This is funky, hell weird even. But it works amazingly well and has such a deep and fresh flavor profile that it’ll stick with you for life.

2. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 17-Year Spring 2022 Edition

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 17
Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $1,276

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was distilled and laid down in barrels back in 2004. The barrels were vatted after 17 years and proofed down to the bottled-in-bond standard of 100 proof and then bottled in the iconic Old Fitz decanter for a Spring 2022 release.

Tasting Notes:

A hint of woodiness comes through on the nose via cherry tree bark with the faintest echo of dried rose next to soft vanilla oil, a hint of cedar, a distant thought of old leather, and a touch of burnt orange peels. The palate starts off softly with a lush vanilla cream that builds towards a winter spice matrix of nutmeg, allspice, and clove with a touch of cherrywood that sweetens toward dried cherries. That mid-palate builds on the cherry with spices (nutmeg and allspice) and sticky tobacco vibes as the finish arrives next to a super creamy dark cherry in vanilla cream feel with a dusting of dark chocolate and more of that dry cherry tree bark.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfect bourbon whiskey. Its balance and depth are incredible. Pour a big Glencairn and really take your time exploring all this has to offer.

1. Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 17-Year-Old Barrel Proof Bourbon, First Edition

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection Bourbon Whiskey
Heaven Hill

ABV: 59.1%

Average Price: $3,200

The Whiskey:

The base of the spirit is Heaven Hill’s classic bourbon mash of 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and a mere ten percent rye. This particular whiskey is built from several barrels from four warehouse campuses in the Bardstown area. In this case, three different ages were pulled with 17 years being the youngest. The whiskey is made from 28 percent 20-year-old barrels, 44 percent 19-year-old barrels, and 28 percent 17-year-old barrels. Once those barrels are vatted, the bourbon goes into the bottle as-is, without any cutting or fussing.

Tasting Notes:

The age is apparent from the first nose with old glove leather next to a soft hint of cobweb-draped cellar beams leading towards a dark and thick cherry syrup that’s laced with cinnamon, clove, and allspice. The nose then grows with an almost cherry-maple syrup with a buttery base pushing it toward a toffee creaminess. The palate leans into those spices with a winter-spice-laced chewy (almost wet) fistful of tobacco leaves jammed into an old cedar box. The mid-palate bursts with spiced cherry crumble with baked brown sugar and nutmeg dusted nuts, creating a velvety texture. The finish carries the spice from that mid-palate towards a sweet finish that feels like a marrying of toffee syrup and cherrywood tobacco with that dry cedar tobacco box echoing on the far backend.

Bottom Line:

This is going to be the bourbon to beat this year. It is perfect. But it’s also engaging and takes you on a journey through your own palate and memories as you nose, sip, and ruminate on the pour. We’ll see what the fall releases bring but — to be real — it’ll be hard to beat this one.

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