It’s a great time to find a new bourbon whiskey. With the gifting and partying seasons nearly here, new releases are hitting shelves almost daily. That keeps me pretty busy, as I taste new whiskey after new whiskey these days. To that end, I’m grabbing eight new bottles of bourbon that dropped very recently and putting them to a blind taste test. Some of them have been on shelves since, gasp, September — which feels like years ago in whiskey years — while others are hitting shelves in the next days/weeks.
For the list below, I’m keeping the parameters pretty wide. There are crazy-priced new releases we’ve never seen before next to affordable and acquirable new batches of classics. Overall, I’m looking at tasty bourbons that offer something new-yet-familiar. As for the ranking, I’m going on taste alone. There are some great bourbons on this list, so the ranking was very tight, especially in the top five bottles. Still, this isn’t about whether you can find these bottles in whatever part of the country you live in or how much they cost according to individual state laws.
This is all about what tastes best in a blind taste test. Our lineup today is:
- Remus Gatsby Reserve
- William Larue Weller (BTAC 2022)
- Widow Jane The Vaults Aged 14 Years 2022 Release
- Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Batch no. 21-08
- Booker’s 2022-03 “Kentucky Tea Batch”
- Nashville Barrel Company Hand Selected Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch One Cask Strength
- Savage & Cooke The Burning Chair Bourbon Whiskey
- Breckenridge PX Cask Finish High-Rye Bourbon Batch no. 7
Let’s dive in!
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Part 1: The Tasting
The nose on this is classic old-school bourbon with dark dried cherry and cranberry next to caramelized pecans inside a waffle, soft leatheriness, and rich maple syrup cut with lush vanilla and subtle woody tobacco spiciness. The palate leans into brandied cherries with a hint of blueberry syrup next to leathery notes of tobacco and dark berries with a hint of woodiness that leads to huckleberries and mulled wine spices. The end has a lovely softness that leans into apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks, singed cherry bark, and pipe tobacco loaded into an old oak barrel.
This is great whiskey.
Coconut cream pie and sour cherries tossed in sea salt mingle with butterscotch candies, old leather boots, menthol tobacco, and brandied cherries dipped in dark chocolate. The palate has a creamy and luxe eggnog creaminess with plenty of nutmeg, clove, and allspice next to a white vanilla cake cut with poppy seeds and cinnamon dust. Theres’ a cedary woodiness on the end that leads to Mounds bars and old lawn furniture.
Another classic and delicious whiskey right here.
There’s a mild sense of graininess on the nose with a hint of vanilla wafer honey sandwiches with mild winter spices — woody cinnamon, allspice, star anise — next to a hint of sweet tobacco layers of cherry and apple pie filling. The palate has a very Tennessee vibe with soft bran muffins next to vanilla wafers layered with nougat and cinnamon with a hint of root beer cut with cherry syrup. The end has a mild chocolate milk powder feel next to old oak, worn leather, and root beer-laced tobacco leaves.
This is another excellent pour.
Burnt caramel candies and lush vanilla lead the way on the nose with hints of dry straw, sour cherry pie, and spiced apple cider with a touch of eggnog lushness. The palate has a sense of spicy caramel with a vanilla base that leads to apricot jam, southern biscuits, and a flake of salt with a soft mocha creaminess. The end is all about the buzzy tobacco spiciness with a soft vanilla underbelly and a hint of cherry syrup.
This felt classic but not quite as deep as the last three.
There’s a clear sense of sour cherry and vanilla cookies on the nose with a supporting cast of dark tobacco packed into old cedar boxes with a rough and worn leatheriness tying everything together. The palate opens with a vanilla white cake frosted with cherry and chocolate — a bit like a Black Forest cake — that leads to orange oils, clove, and old pine boards with a touch of sap. The end has a fruitiness that leans towards a spicy star fruit with a fresh vibe next to light pear tobacco with a pine humidor edge.
This is another killer pour.
There’s a soft fruitiness to the nose with a sense of blackberry jam next to marmalade with a hint of nutmeg next to Cherry coke and fresh orange zest nearby. The palate leans into the sweeter side of the orange — almost tangerine — before a hint of rye bread sneaks in with salted butter and some cinnamon sugar. The end has a warm spiciness that leans into winter cake spices and candied fruit before a sense of candied citrus peels leads to a finish of spiced tobacco and old oak staves.
This was fruitier for sure, but that balance of citrus really made it work.
There’s a nice layer of wet brown sugar on the nose next to toffee candies, toasted wood, and a hint of dark spice. The palate is lighter but hits notes of that dark spice next to pancake syrup, apple pie, and caramel drizzle with a hint of vanilla cookies. The end has an orchard fruit vibe with a touch more of that wood and vanilla before the fruitiness kicks back in.
This was perfectly fine but just didn’t jump out at me.
There’s a distinct chocolate malt vibe on the nose (think milkshakes not malted grains in whiskey) that leads to dark prunes and figs with a hint of nuttiness. The palate has a note of orange zest next to black licorice with vanilla cookies and almonds making appearances. The end is short and sweet with a hint of vanilla lushness, meaty raisins, and Almond Joy vibes with a heavy dark chocolate coating.
This was pretty fine too. The chocolate note was a nice change of pace.
Part 2: The Ranking
7. Savage & Cooke The Burning Chair Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 7
Average Price: $68
This whiskey is made from sourced barrels that are at least four years old. The whiskey — made from a combine mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley — comes from Tennesee, Kentucky, and Indiana before being sent out to Napa Valley to be finished in Cabernet barrels. Those barrels are vatted and proofed down with local springwater from the Alexander Valley in Northern California.
As I mentioned above, this is fine whiskey. There’s just nothing to draw your attention to it in a lineup like this though. That all said, this would make a perfectly suitable cocktail whiskey.
6. Breckenridge PX Cask Finish High-Rye Bourbon Batch no. 7 — Taste 8
Average Price: $62
This Colorado whiskey is made at high altitudes. The bourbon is then re-barreled into PX sherry casks that held sherry in Spain for decades. Once the flavor profile is just right, the barrels are batched and the whiskey is proofed with that Rocky Mountain water for bottling.
Again, fine. The PX sherry cask comes through nicely albeit in a very straightforward or average way. Once again, this feels like a fine choice for mixing cocktails.
5. Nashville Barrel Company Hand Selected Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch One Cask Strength — Taste 6
Average Price: $89
This brand-new release from the much-loved Nashville Barrel Company is Indiana whiskey that’s at least six years old. The small batches are made from a handful of barrels and bottled as-is without filtering or proofing.
This is where things get good. Each whiskey from here on down is a winner. This one had a little warmer mid-palate, which could have used a rock if sipping. Sipping whiskey aside, I really want to try this in an old fashioned next. It’s complex, fun, and full of good dark citrus notes that’ll suit that cocktail.
4. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Batch no. 21-08 — Taste 4
Average Price: $45
This special release from Maker’s Mark is their classic wheated bourbon turned up a few notches. The batch is made from no more than 19 barrels of whiskey. Once batched, that whiskey goes into the barrel at cask strength with no filtering, just pure whiskey-from-the-barrel vibes.
I really like classic Maker’s Mark already, especially for easy Manhattans. This amps that up. It’s a really solid sipper either neat or on a rock that makes a hell of a Manhattan.
3. Widow Jane The Vaults Aged 14 Years 2022 Release — Taste 3
Average Price: $250
This sourced New York whiskey is made from 14 to 19-year-old barrels of whiskey from Tennessee and Indiana. Those barrels were sent out to Brooklyn and blended and then re-barreled into Missouri Ozark casks that were air-seasoned for three years before they were coopered and charred. Finally, the whiskey was blended in a small batch and bottled as-is without filtering but was cut with limestone mineral water from the Rosendale Mines in New York.
This is really good whiskey. It does have a distinct Tennessee grain/vanilla/wafer vibe but it’s part of a bigger whole and layered so nicely with classic bourbon flavors. Overall, I can see this being a super easy and rewarding sipper neat or with a single rock.
2. William Larue Weller (BTAC 2022) — Taste 2
Distilled back in the spring of 2010, this whiskey was made with a mix of Kentucky corn and wheat and barley from North Dakota with that Kentucky limestone water. The distillate was filled into new white oak from Independent Stave from Missouri with a #4 char level (55 seconds) and stored in warehouses C, K, and N on floors 2, 3, and 4 for 12 long years. During that time, 64% of the whiskey was lost to hungry angels. Those barrels were then batched and this whiskey was bottled as-is.
Yup, delicious, perfectly balanced, deep, fun, and rewarding. This whiskey is pretty much perfect. I almost made a three-way tie for first place with this. But there’s just a little bit more accessibility to the next two that eeked out a win for them.
1. (tie) Booker’s 2022-03 “Kentucky Tea Batch” — Taste 5
The latest Booker’s is a nod to “Kentucky Tea” which isn’t tea at all. It’s when you add a little whiskey to a glass of water and then that looks like tea. The juice in this case is a blend of bourbon barrels from seven locations across six different warehouses. The final product was bottled without any fussing at cask strength.
This is delicious. It might be my favorite Booker’s of the last two years. It’s purely classic Kentucky bourbon vibes next to a real depth and soft beauty. This is a great sipper.
1. (tie) Remus Gatsby Reserve — Taste 1
Average Price: $229
From the newly minted Ross & Squibb Distillery (formerly just MGP of Indiana), this whiskey combines barrels that were filled in 2005 and 2006. Those carefully selected barrels were small batched into this fine whiskey. The final blend was bottled as-is at cask strength.
This was everything you want from a bourbon. It’s delicate yet bold. It’s classic but feels kind of fresh too. It’s an amazingly easy sipper that just works. You feel like you’re drinking a great and classic bourbon from the first nose to the last sip.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
I try not to do ties on these rankings. But those top three pours were just too good. I stand by all of the top six ranked above. Each one offers something a little different and each one is a great pour.
The Booker’s is probably going to be the easiest to find amongst the top three. It’s 100% worth the price of entry. The Great Gatsby is also worth that price tag if you’re looking for a one-off special bottle to gift or show off to whiskey lovers. It’s really delicious.
If you are looking for something a lot more affordable, then the Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is the way to go. You’ll be able to find it and it’ll be a crowd-pleaser.