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The Best Four-Grain Bourbon Whiskeys In The $40-$80 Range

One of bourbon’s most elusive styles is the unique “four-grain” expression. Standard bourbon tends to be a mix of majority corn, with rye and malted barley cast as supporting characters in the mash bill (recipe). Then there’s wheated bourbon which jettisons the rye and replaces it with, you guessed it, wheat.

Four-grain bourbons bridge those two worlds by keeping both the rye and wheat, along with the malted barley, to support the majority-corn mash bill. (Sometimes other grains are used instead of rye or wheat; we’ll get to that.) Typically, four-grain bourbon is made by having all four grains in the mash; other times, it’s achieved by blending rye bourbons with wheated ones. The result is a complex spirit that deserves to be savored.

To give these expressions some love, we dug deep into our tasting books to pull out ten four-grain bourbons that have grabbed our attention. Most of these bourbons are going to be a little harder to find but the prices aren’t too dire (thankfully the bourbon hype machine hasn’t latched onto the style… yet). We’re basically looking at a $40 to $80 range, depending on where you’re living. If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag one of these bottles in your area by clicking on the prices below.

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits and Hudson Whiskey has become a bit of a classic in the craft distilling world. This expression is made with the standard corn, wheat, rye, and barley in the mash. The hot juice is then aged in small-format three-gallon barrels. For context, the average American whiskey barrel is 53 gallons. This concentrated interaction between the whiskey and the wood speeds up the maturation process and, naturally, intensifies it.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this bounces between orange zest, eggnog, and cream soda with a hint of dried wood chips that are weirdly stale. That orange lingers on the tongue as a cinnamon toast vibe arrives next to a minty tobacco that leads towards a final dark chocolate feel at the back of the throat. The end takes its time and circles back to that slice of cinnamon toast but it’s the mint tobacco that sticks with you the longest.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t really going to be for everyone and that’s kind of the point. There’s a lot to take in but it all makes sense. Though, we’d definitely recommend pouring this over a rock first to calm it down a little.

Black Button Four Grain Small-Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Black Button Distilling

ABV: 42%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Staying in New York for a moment, Rochester’s Black Button is putting out one of the more interesting four-grains at the moment. The mash is only 60 percent corn that’s supported by 20 percent wheat, eleven percent barley, and nine percent rye. The bottle doesn’t carry an age statement but it is “small-batch.”

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn into this one with a rich and buttery toffee next to soft and sweet peach with a light touch of old leather and pine. The palate holds onto the sweetness while adding in a layer of vanilla ice cream cut with salted caramel stripes as a line of walnut oat cookies dries out the otherwise light sip. The fade is longish and brings about a mild rye peppery spice that lingers and overwhelms that sweetness finally.

Bottom Line:

This feels like it was built to remind you that while it’s still bourbon, there’s complexity in this juice. It’s not so much that the build of this blend is obvious or trying to fit too much in, it’s more that you’re very aware that four distinct grains are in play.

Laws Four Grain Bonded

Laws Whiskey House

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $74

The Whiskey:

A.D. Laws out in Colorado could have filled this list. The distillery is renowned for its award-winning four-grain bourbons. This, to us, is the most accessible of the bunch. The juice is made from 60 percent corn, 20 percent heirloom wheat, ten percent heirloom rye, and ten percent heirloom malted barley. That hot juice is then aged for over six years before it’s batched and cut down to 100 proof per bonded whiskey laws.

Tasting Notes:

This feels more crafty on the nose with a balance between bitter black tea that’s been cut with a summer-y and floral honey as touches of cinnamon and orange pop in the background. The orange and spice thickens and leans into an orange pound cake with a buttery and spicy streusel crumble as that black tea bitterness circles back to cut through all that butter, spice, and orange. The end leans into the spice with more of a cinnamon candy vibe that leads towards a final dusting of dark cocoa.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid bottled-in-bond that also happens to be a great example of four-grain bourbon. It’s a pretty easy sipper overall but really shines as a cocktail base thanks to the slightly higher ABVs.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bottled-in-Bond

Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $88

The Whiskey:

Buffalo Trace’s E.H. Taylor line rarely disappoints. This expression has the usual corn, wheat, rye, and barley base but Buffalo Trace doesn’t release the exact mash bill. What we do know is that this one is aged for over 12 years before it’s batched, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

That salted caramel and vanilla ice cream is front and center on the nose with a light hint of kettle corn and maybe a whisper of pipe tobacco smoke. The taste really leans into the vanilla and caramel as a fruity base arrives with a mix of red berries and pear swimming in vanilla cream next to an old cedar tobacco box. The end has this whisper of peppery spice that’s way more powdery white pepper than freshly cracked black pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is really complex yet very subtle. There are no rough edges and the dram doesn’t need any water to cool the warmer end down. It’s just … interesting. Intriguing. Tough to pin down. All in ways that will have you going back for more.

Penelope Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

Penelope Bourbon is a blending house that pulls in barrels from MGP Indiana to create their line of whiskeys. This entry-point expression from the brand is a blend of three bourbons that equates to a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 15 percent wheat, seven percent rye, and only three percent barley. The bourbons are aged two to three years before Penelope starts tinkering with the final blend.

Tasting Notes:

Sweet corn is still very present on the nose with hints of pancake syrup and vanilla pancakes with a touch of salt. A bright and sweet red cherry drives the palate as notes of wet cedar, soft leather, and vanilla tobacco lingers in the background. The corn makes a comeback late with a grainy sweetness as the tobacco warms up but doesn’t necessarily get spicy on the fairly quick fade.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid example of MGP’s bourbons that feels like it was built specifically to be a mixing bourbon.

Davidson Reserve Four Grain Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Pennington Distilling Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $46

The Whiskey:

Davidson Reserve took a different route on their four-grain bourbon. The lion’s share of this batch is their wheated bourbon which is 60 percent Tennessee corn, 22 percent Tennessee red winter wheat, and 18 percent malted barley. That’s cut with their 100 percent rye whiskey and their signature Tennessee Whiskey (which is made with 70 percent Tennessee white corn, 25 percent Tennessee white cereal rye, and five percent barley).

The result is a four-grain bourbon that’s all about the craft.

Tasting Notes:

This is a rich scoop of real vanilla ice cream that’s drizzled with a buttery salted caramel that drips all over your hand as you hold the waffle cone. The taste holds onto the sweetness with a date-rich sticky toffee pudding with plenty of allspice and Earl Grey tea next to ripe plums and a dry dark chocolate button at the end. The finish dries out those Earl Grey tea leaves and the sip gets fatty, kind of like an apple bacon schmalz spread on a piece of dark rye.

Bottom Line:

This is just a fascinating sip. It’s not really like anything I’ve had before, while still reminding me of something comforting. That’s an interesting magic trick to pull off in a glass of bourbon.

Woodford Reserve Four Grain 2020

Brown-Forman

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $50 (half-bottle)

The Whiskey:

Woodford Reserve is in the interesting position of already bottling a bourbon whiskey, wheat whiskey, malted barley whiskey, and rye whiskey. So as an experiment, they created their four-grain whiskey by combining barrels from each of those expressions. Technically, that makes this a blended American whiskey. But this was Woodford’s official release for last year’s Bourbon Heritage Month, so it gets a pass from us.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of Graham Crackers on the nose with a touch of dry cedar and a little drop of creamy eggnog. The palate picks up on those spices and leans into clove as drops of dried and candied fruits and citrus mingle with a savory fruit note and a touch of caramel chews. The finish is medium-length and hints at a dry cedar box that’s filled with apple tobacco leaves and a little hint of vanilla blossom.

Bottom Line:

This is probably the easiest drinking whiskey on the list. Each flavor is concise and pulls your attention for just long enough to enjoy until the next note comes along.

New Southern Revival Bourbon Whiskey Made with Four Grains

High Wire Distilling

ABV: 42%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This South Carolina craft distiller does four-grain its own way and keeps the grain-to-glass experience very local. The juice is rendered from heirloom white corn, red winter wheat, malted barley, and Carolina Gold rice bran. That last ingredient makes this an outlier from all the rye on this list.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a cherry spiked vanilla ice cream on the nose that leads towards a sort of honey-roasted almond and a very distant billow of hickory smoke. The palate really amps up the creaminess of the vanilla while the nuttiness goes full pecan pie with plenty of buttery crust and Caro corn syrup, helping this feel very “southern.” The end is silky soft with hints of the nuts, creamy vanilla, and delicate cherry all making an appearance on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those drams that can catch you off guard. It’s very mellow while also packing in fairly bold flavor notes. Still, there’s nothing rough or hot on this sip, making it very agreeable.

Deerhammer Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Deerhammer Distilling Company

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

We’re back in Colorado and we’re still eschewing rye in the mash bill with this whiskey. The juice is made from a mix of 65 percent Colorado corn, 20 percent San Luis red spring wheat, ten percent cold-smoked oats, and five percent roasted barley that’s boiled in a mash over a fire-heated pot still.

The juice then goes into lightly charred oak for a two-year rest in a rickhouse sitting about 8,000 feet above sea level in the Rockies.

Tasting Notes:

Those oats come through on the nose with a dry edge but it’s the nuttiness that really draws you in with an Almond Roca vibe. The palate has a slight cinnamon cake feel next to more nuttiness, a hint of wet oak, marshmallow char, and powdered hot chocolate. The finish is young and short and really leans into the cocoa powder and nuts with a dollop of spicy warmth.

Bottom Line:

Deerhammer is well-known for its single malts. This foray into four-grain bourbon is an interesting entry that’s sure to get more and more dialed in as years go by. Still, it’s a fascinating dram to try now to see where it all starts.

Smooth Ambler Contradiction

Smooth Ambler

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $43

The Whiskey:

Smooth Ambler Contradiction is a blend of two whiskeys that make it a four-grain bourbon. The first bourbon is a sourced whiskey with a corn, rye, and barley base. The second bourbon is Smooth Ambler’s own wheated bourbon, made on their West Virginia stills. The average age of the whiskeys in the blend is nine years old and only 50,000 bottles are produced each year.

Tasting Notes:

Apples stewed in holiday spices, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla counterpoint a cherry cream on the nose. The taste has a thin line of cedar next to a rye bread crust and old leather tobacco pouches with a touch of cherry soda. The peppery spice kicks in late as the whole sip thickens and warms towards a tobacco buzz end.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting expression that feels like a wheated bourbon and high-rye bourbon are fighting it out in the glass. It’s a slugfest and you kind of want both of them to win.


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