Single-barrel bourbon whiskey is typically a masterclass-level experience from whichever distillery the bottle hails from. Single barrel expressions of any whiskey offer a chance to see, taste, and feel what the people working the mash tanks, stills, and blending rooms truly believe is the best of their stocks. There’s no blending out certain flavor notes or blending in other notes to create something more than the whiskey’s individual parts. These are whiskeys that come from single barrels and are just right as-is — maybe with a little water added to really let those profile notes shine.
If you can’t tell from my effusing, I like single-barrel whiskeys — especially bourbon versions — a lot. To that end, I gathered a whole bunch of new and a few classic single-barrel bourbon whiskeys from all over the U.S. to blind taste-test them. I had only tasted a lot of these newer single-barrel bourbons in standard tasting settings and found myself legitimately curious to see what might pop once they were tasted blind, especially against some stone-cold classics.
Our lineup today includes the following single-barrel bourbon whiskeys:
- Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Tom’s Foolery Ohio Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Green River Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Full Proof
- Yellowstone Hand Picked Collection Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel by ReserveBar
- E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Bottled In Bond
- Frank August Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Still Austin Whiskey Co. Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Kirkland Signature Single Barrel by Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Michter’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old
- Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Vintage
- Lost Lantern Single Cask Series New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Boulder Spirits Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel
- Baker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel
- Jefferson’s Very Rare Twin Oak Custom Barrel Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by ReserveBar
- Barrell Bourbon Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel#Z5G2 by ReserveBar
After the blind tasting, I’m going to rank these based on taste alone. And look, these were all very good whiskeys. There isn’t a loser in the bunch. That doesn’t mean they’re all equals though. There are some seriously tasty bourbons that transcend on this panel so let’s dive right in!
Part 1 — The Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey Blind Tasting
Nose: There’s a rich nuttiness on the nose that veers from marzipan to walnut cake (with plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice) before a rich and creamy peaches and cream ice cream takes over with a hint of a buttermilk biscuit.
Palate: Fresh sourdough old fashioned doughnuts with a cinnamon frosting drives the palate toward honeyed Graham Crackers, caramel malts, and a deep sense of leathery pipe tobacco.
Finish: The end is lush with a sense of bourbon vanilla and dark cherry next to malted vanilla and cakey doughnuts cut with winter spices and light notes of pecan.
This is really good bourbon. It’s a tad grainy, so I’m guessing this is a crafty. It’s a good one whatever it is.
Nose: Cream soda and honeycomb greet you on the nose with a light sense of spiced holiday cakes, vanilla sheet cake, soft-dried chili, and old woody spice.
Palate: The honey and vanilla bond on the palate to create a luscious mouthfeel that leads to balanced notes of sharp dried chili spice, soft worn leather, pipe tobacco, and rich walnut bread with plenty of butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Finish: The end leans toward the leather and tobacco with a chili-choco vibe that’s accented by soft walnut and even softer vanilla.
This is delicious. No notes!
Nose: Soft brown sugar fresh from a new bag mingle on the nose with honey-dipped Graham Crackers, candied orange rinds, soft powdered baking spices, and a hint of roasting herbs with a sliver of fresh and bright mint.
Palate: That orange edges toward bitter on the palate as Cinnamon Toast Crunch drives the taste toward mulled wine spices, dark apple butter, vanilla lushness, and a sense of brandied cherries.
Finish: The cherry inches toward Cherry Coke on the finish before old apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks and allspice berries veer the end toward old oak staves wrapped in leathery tobacco leaves.
This is quintessential and delicious bourbon.
Nose: Dried dark fruits and a hint of vanilla wafers mingle with fig fruit leather, a touch of earthy orchard wood, and a deep caramel on the nose.
Palate: The palate holds onto those notes while layering in dark berry tobacco with sharp winter spices, new leather, and a singed cotton candy next to a cedar box filled with that tobacco.
Finish: The finish lingers on your senses for a while and leaves the spice behind for that dark, almost savory fruit note with an echo of blackberry Hostess pies next to soft leather pouches that have held chewy tobacco for decades and a final hint of old porch wicker in the middle of summer.
This is earthy and full of dark notes that make for a unique bourbon experience. I like it a lot.
Nose: This is a very classic Kentucky bourbon nose with big winter spice notes tied to barks and buds with a hint of nutmeg before leaning into oily vanilla pods and salted caramel chews with a nice hint of apple cider and black cherry cola.
Palate: Clove buds, cinnamon bark, and allspice berries lead on the palate with a hint of chili pepper spiciness before a lush sense of vanilla white cake with toffee frosting and burnt orange creates a luxurious mouthfeel with a hint of alcohol warmth.
Finish: The end arrives with a deeply classic vibe that’s slightly tied to old oak cellars next to cherry bark, old bottles of vanilla, and easy-going salted caramel sweetness next to a hint of apple cider tobacco rolled with cinnamon bark and cedar.
This takes classic to new heights with a delectable bourbon profile that just keeps going. It’s excellent.
Nose: There’s a deep nose full of burnt orange and vanilla cake that leads to a hint of chili-choco-laced tobacco with a hint of woody spice and old leather boots.
Palate: The spice builds on the palate as soft nuttiness leads to candied orange and cherry with a touch of ABV heat sneaking in a buzzing sensation.
Finish: The ABV warmth builds on the finish as the winter spices melt into a walnut bread with a buttery vanilla underbelly and a dash of red berry tobacco spice.
This is pretty nice overall. It gets a little hot around the mid-palate toward the end. But a rock would cure that ill.
Nose: This is a deep nose with salted caramel cut with dried red chili flakes, Mounds bar, sour mulled wine full of star anise, clove, and allspice, and creamy malted vanilla ice cream cut with candies cherry and tobacco crumbles.
Palate: The palate lets those cherries sour toward cranberry as a woody sense of huckleberry arrives with brown sugar and butter next to dark chocolate-covered espresso beans dusted with cinnamon and orange zest.
Finish: The end arrives with burnt orange, marzipan, and woody clove edge as fir firewood bark with a twinge of black soil in it arrives next to cherry-apple tobacco with a buttery and rummy feel.
Again, this is just really freaking good bourbon. It’s deep, delicious, and delightful.
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.
This is an incredibly well-balanced whiskey. It hits a tad soft but that just makes it easier to enjoy neat.
Nose: This has a really nice nose full of woody cherry and salted caramel with a tart apple edge and a soft leatheriness.
Palate: The palate feels and tastes “classic” with notes of wintry spices (eggnog especially) with a lush creaminess supported by soft vanilla, a hint of orange zest, and plenty of spicy cherry tobacco.
Finish: The end is supple with a hint of tart apple tobacco with a light caramel candy finish.
This was nice and succinct. If I had to find one thing to complain about it was maybe the soft finish. It didn’t peter out exactly, I just wanted a bit more.
Nose: There’s a nice spiciness that leans toward chili, winter baking spices, and sharp herbs on the nose with a sense of oak staves and cherry.
Palate: Dark cherry comes through on the palate with deep vanilla buttercream and rummy molasses next to candied mint and lemon pound cake cut with poppy seeds.
Finish: That lemon, cherry, and vanilla vibe darkens on the warm finish with sharp mint and old winter spice barks wrapped up in tobacco leaves and worn leather.
This was another nicely balanced whiskey with a classic bourbon profile. Good stuff. But maybe not exciting stuff.
Nose: Huge chocolate brownie notes drive the nose toward chili-chocolate tobacco hot chocolate with marshmallows before bold apple pie filling arrives with plenty of winter spice.
Palate: The ABVs instantly numb my whole mouth on the smallest of first sips — seriously, even my lips and outer cheeks are numb this is so hot. Once the bombastic warmth fades slightly, there are notes of rich apple crumble, Cherry Coke, spiced pipe tobacco, and soft vanilla.
Finish: Those notes fade as the finish just gets hotter and more buzzing on the senses until everything is muted.
This was almost painfully hot. It truly numbed my face and I had to take about five minutes to fully reset my palate. The annoying this is that there’s a good-tasting whiskey buried under all that heat, fighting to get out.
Nose: You’re met with creamy depths of vanilla next to pound cake, spicy tobacco, sweet oak, and a clear hit of orange oil.
Palate: That vanilla really amps up as hints of rose water-forward marzipan lead towards cedar, more vanilla, and a dash of Christmas spices.
Finish: On the finish, a really deep dark chocolate smoothness arrives with a more nutty almond that’s reminiscent of an Almond Joy straight from a special candy shop.
This was good standard bourbon with a nice balance and depth.
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.
This was nice and funky with a sweet vibe that just worked. This isn’t a “wow” whiskey but it’s a really damn good one that felt truly unique.
Nose: Oak comes through with moments of firewood, cedar, and woody winter spice accented by vanilla pods and honey Graham Crackers.
Palate: That oak stays bright and toasted on the palate as woody apples and grainy malts lead to woody braids of cedar, tobacco, and sweetgrass are accented by soft vanilla and caramel sauce.
Finish: That cedar, tobacco, and sweetgrass braid starts to smolder on the finish as the toasted oak takes on a cellar earthiness late on the finish.
This was a good sip but a little woody and grainy.
Nose: Rummy spice and fruit open the nose with a sense of nutty winter cakes, caramel sauce, and soft kindling with a light whisper of tobacco just kissed with chili chocolate.
Palate: The palate really leans into the chili-chocolate vibes with plenty of winter spice barks, rich marzipan, soft vanilla lusciousness, and a good dose of mincemeat pie.
Finish: Stewed plums and dates drive the finish toward sharp spice barks, more tobacco, and a whisper of walnut bread.
This is like Christmas in a glass and it’s delicious from top to bottom.
Part 2 — The Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey Ranking
15. Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Boulder Spirits Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 11
Average Price: $120
This Colorado bourbon is a very low-corn whiskey. The mash bill has only 51% corn, which is the legal minimum, supported by 44% malted barley and a mere 5% rye. That whiskey rested in a single barrel up in the Rockies for six years before Lost Lantern bottled it as-is at cask strength, yielding only 151 bottles.
Ah, it’s a Hazmat bourbon (above 70% ABV). That makes sense.
Look, you need to water this down to closer to 50% ABV. There’s a good whiskey in there but that 71.3% ABV is burying it in mouth-numbing heat. Seriously. I would water this down before I used it in a cocktail even. And given all of that work required to find the good whiskey buried in the bottle, I have to say this is a hard pass … sadly (because I love Boulder and Lost Lantern in general).
14. Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Still Austin Whiskey Co. Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 6
Average Price: $80
This Texas whiskey is made in Austin with a mash bill of 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley — which is pretty old-school high-rye bourbon. Still Austin slowly adds in water for a low barrel entry proof and adds water while the whiskey is aging to allow the distillate to stay put and concentrate while the water evaporates instead. After four years, Lost Lantern bottled this barrel as-is at cask strength, yielding 167 bottles.
This is a good bourbon. It’s a tasty sipper and would make a solid cocktail.
13. Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Vintage — Taste 9
Average Price: $38
This is Heaven Hill’s hand-selected single barrel Evan Williams expression. The whiskey is from a single barrel, labeled with its distillation year, proofed just above 86, and bottled as is.
This is classic bourbon through and through. I wanted a little more from the finish but that’s only because I wanted more of what was already there.
12. Jefferson’s Very Rare Twin Oak Custom Barrel Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by ReserveBar — Taste 14
Average Price: $110
This special single barrel from ReserveBar and Jefferson’s takes their classic bourbon and re-barrels it in a custom-designed “wave barrel” for a final maturation run. The “wave barrel” is toasted and then heavily grooved with wavy grooves to create more surface space for the whiskey to interact with the wood.
This was woody and grainy but had a serious depth that went so much further. Overall, this still felt sort of niche — or a whiskey that you need to be in the mood for.
11. Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel — Taste 12
Average Price: $56
Jimmy and Eddie Russell — Wild Turkey’s Master Distillers — hand-select these barrels from their vast warehouses for just the right bourbon flavor. The bourbon is bottled with a touch of water added.
This was another great standard Kentucky bourbon. No notes. Use it for sipping or cocktails.
10. Lost Lantern Single Cask Series Tom’s Foolery Ohio Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $120
This single barrel bottling from Lost Lantern is one-of-a-kind. The whiskey in the bottle is made in Ohio from a mash of 52% yellow dent corn, 20% winter rye, and 28% 6-row malted barley. That juice was left to age for nine long years before Lost Lantern came along and bottled it 100% as-is at cask strength, yielding only 117 bottles.
This was really nice overall with a hint of craftiness left over in the grainy mid-palate. That aside, this is an easy sipper that’d make a killer cocktail.
9. Lost Lantern Single Cask Series New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 10
Average Price: $90
This Lost Lantern single-barrel bottling is all about the high-rye bourbon. The whiskey from New Riff in Kentucky has a mash bill of 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley. That juice was left to age for four years before bottling at cask strength, yielding only 214 bottles.
Again, this is just good stuff. If you’re looking for a good one-off tasty bourbon, then try this.
8. Baker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel — Taste 13
Average Price: $59
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.
This was very rye-forward. So if you’re looking for a truly rye-heavy bourbon, this is the bottle for you.
7. Kirkland Signature Single Barrel by Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 7
Average Price: $32 (1-liter bottle)
This Costco release is sourced from Sazerac’s other Kentucky distillery, Barton 1792 Distillery down in Bardstown, Kentucky. The bottle’s whiskey is likely the same distillate/barrels as 1792 Full Proof. However, this is proofed down a tiny bit below that at 120 proof instead of 125 proof, adding some nuance to this release.
This is really good bourbon. It’s a tad hot on the finish but that in no way takes away from the overall depth and detectability of this one. Plus, that price is amazing. Drink this stuff however you like to drink your bourbon — you won’t be disappointed.
6. E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Bottled In Bond — Taste 4
Average Price: $172
This whiskey is aged in the famed Warehouse C at Buffalo Trace from their Mash Bill No. 1. In this case, single barrels are picked for their perfect Taylor flavor profile and bottled one at a time with a slight touch of water to bring them down to bottled-in-bond proof.
This has a nice earthiness to it that takes it beyond standard or classic. It’s really, really good whiskey that works beautifully as a neat sipper.
5. Green River Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Full Proof — Taste 2
Average Price: $59
The latest addition to the core Green River lineup is a doozy. The Kentucky whiskey is a rye-forward single-barrel bourbon. The mash bill is 70% Kentucky-grown corn with 21% rye and 9% malted barley. That whiskey rests for at least five years before water is added to bring the proof back down to entry proof, hence “full proof”. The whiskey is then bottled directly from the barrel as-is.
This was delicious through and through. That said, I really wanted to try this in a cocktail before I sip it again. I can see this making a killer Manhattan or Sazerac.
4. Michter’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old — Taste 8
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 incredible balance. The only reason it’s lower on this list is that it was a little lighter on the finish. Otherwise, this is probably the easiest and most rewarding sipper on the list.
3. Frank August Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 5
Average Price: $159
This brand-new release from awards-favorite Frank August dials things into a single barrel of whiskey. The whiskey in the bottle is a 5.1-year-old Kentucky bourbon from an undisclosed source. That barrel is bottled 100% as-is with no cutting, filtering, or fussing.
This had a nice depth and an easygoing vibe. It’s damn good whiskey that deserves some time to really dive into the deep profile. It also makes one hell of a cocktail.
2. Yellowstone Hand Picked Collection Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel by ReserveBar — Taste 3
Average Price: $70
This whiskey from Steve Beam at Limestone Branch in Kentucky is a carefully stewarded barrel of whiskey. It started with a classic bourbon mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. The hot juice went into the barrel on June 7th, 2016, and was left alone until 2023 when it was bottled with a touch of local water.
This was a “wow” whiskey. It was classic turned up to quintessential Kentucky bourbon and tasted amazingly deep when sipped neat.
1. Barrell Bourbon Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel#Z5G2 by ReserveBar — Taste 15
Average Price: $100
This single-barrel pick from ReserveBar is a very unique bourbon. The whiskey in the bottle is made from a 99% corn and 1% rye Indiana bourbon. The team at Reservebar picked one special eight-year-old barrel of that whiskey and bottled it 100% as-is at cask strength.
This is just excellent. It’s one of those whiskeys that just keeps going and gets more and more rewarding the more time you take with it. Get some while it lasts.
Part 3 — Final Thoughts on the Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskeys
Honestly, I highly recommend trying all of these except for the last one. That Lost Lantern Boulder Single Barrel was just too hot. It’s still annoying, in that the whiskey is good and well-made. They just stumbled on the bottling by not proofing it down to allow that whiskey to shine. Everything else is worth your time and money.
If you really want to go for the best, then any of the top five will do. They’re all a little bit unique with their own vibes, but they all f*cking rock. So re-read my tasting notes and find the one(s) that speak to you and go from there.