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The Best Single Barrel Bourbons To Chase Down Right Now

There’s a stark, simple beauty to a bottle of any single barrel spirit… but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be “great.” The best single barrel bourbons or whiskeys or rums reflect one barrel’s ability to age and mellow a spirit into something more than its individual parts. A quality product made in this fashion is a marriage of agriculture, yeasts, water, craftsmanship, air, forests, microbes, weather, and time. All with precious little margin for error.

The point of blending is that the aging process of a single barrel can be inexact. Whereas several barrels of the same distillation (or different distillations) can lead to a more elevated final expression. But sometimes, the strange alchemy of distillation and aging combines perfectly and you find a single barrel of booze that hits the mark on the first try. All the elements working in unison to create something great with no need for tweaking.

As fall settles in, we thought we’d throw down ten of our favorite single barrel bourbons right now. These are hefty expressions of bourbon that come from a single barrel from a single rickhouse and, of course, a single distiller. These are the barrels that rose above all the other barrels in that rickhouse — deemed so good that they could represent their distillery all on their own.

Quick note: By definition, no two bottlings of a single barrel bourbon are going to be the same. So the tasting notes below are generated according to the latest expressions tasted by the author of this post.

MICHTER’S 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Kentucky’s Michter’s tends to make some of the highest regarded whiskey on the modern market. Awards pour in and their 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon leads the pack for those medals. The expertly distilled spirit is aged for 10 years in new American white oak. It’s then bottled at 94 proof (47.2 percent ABV), giving this one a mellow kick.

Tasting notes:

This is a big sip of bourbon. Notes of apple, dark toffee, and a hint of green olive open this one up. Then maple syrup, vanilla, and charred oak lead to a whisp of smokiness and hints of roasted almonds. The finish is long and warming with a spiciness that leaves you wanting more.

Buy a bottle here for $124.99

BELLE MEADE CASK STRENGTH SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Belle Meade made a triumphant comeback to the whiskey scene after over 80 years of silence thanks to Prohibition. The Nelson brothers brought back their family brand in Tennessee and have been making some of the best Tennessee whiskey and bourbon for eight years now. This bourbon is still distilled in Indiana and shipped to Nashville where it’s expertly aged according to historical records of the original Belle Meade process.

Tasting notes:

This expression is aged for ten years. That aging brings out unique notes to each barrel but there are throughlines. Maple syrup supports corn-forward caramel sweetness that leads to bursts of wildflowers and notes of citrus on the backend. Vanilla rushes in with hints of ripe apricot before the hefty rye spiciness arrives to deliver an oaky, warm finish that feels like a cherry bomb infused with cinnamon.

Buy a bottle here for $64.99

FOUR ROSES OBSV SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Four Roses’ OBSV bottlings use a specific mash bill and yeast strain to achieve great bourbon heights. Their OBSV is a high mash bill of 60 percent corn, 35 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. That high rye component helps this one pop. They’re also using a fruit-forward yeast strain to add an extra layer of nuance to this expression.

Tasting notes:

The fruit is what stands out most at first smell. Cherries and pears pair with spicy cloves and allspice. On the palate, notes of dark chocolate sit next to dark cherries before giving way to toffee and oaky spice. That spice warms with hot cinnamon, rushing towards a bold finish with a hint of bitter.

Buy a bottle here for $44.99

EVAN WILLIAMS SINGLE BARREL

What to talk about:

Every year Parker Beam would go into Heaven Hill’s rickhouse and taste bourbon until he found the perfect barrels for Evan William’s Single Barrel bottles. Now, his son Craig does exactly that, continuing the Beam family’s heritage of sourcing fantastic single barrels of bourbon. The added benefit of this line of bourbon is the price. A bottle of Evan Williams is the highest quality at the lowest price on this list by far.

Tasting notes:

Fruit orchards, vanilla, and caramel open this one up. The fruit almost starts to lean tropical as the caramel becomes a little salty. Then a fatty nut nature comes into play as the spice ebbs towards a warm-yet-mellow finish.

Buy a bottle here for $25.99

RUSSELL’S RESERVE SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Brothers Jimmy and Eddie Russell hand-select barrels from the Wild Turkey rickhouse to find the perfect barrel for Russel’s Reserve. The whiskey at play here is classic Wild Turkey with its standard mash bill of 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. The bourbon is then is aged in “alligator” charred new American oak barrels — meaning the char was so intense that the wood looks like black alligator skin.

Tasting notes:

This is a subtle sip. There are floral notes next to classic hints of corn-infused caramel, vanilla, and creamy toffee. Cinnamon, orange zest, and a fatty pound cake follow. Hints of apple, mint, and cinnamon lead towards a long finish with caramel and vanilla coming back into play.

Buy a bottle here for $57.99

BLANTON’S ORIGINAL SINGLE BARREL

What to talk about:

This whiskey was named after Colonel Albert Blanton who spent his life examing and refining whiskey in every way in what is now Buffalo Trace. The single barrel expression, meanwhile, came to life when Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee started hand-selecting barrels from Buffalo Trace, back in 1984. That level of micro-focus on whiskey over the years has helped make the process of Buffalo Trace one of the best, meaning these bottles are the highest expression of that rich history.

Tasting notes:

The history comes through in the taste here. Tobacco and leather open this one. Orange zested dark chocolate lead towards vanilla and grassy rye spice. Notes of citrus sit next to malty grains and caramel. The finish is long-lasting with a clear sense of rye spices amping up the intensity of the caramel corn bourbon.

Buy a bottle here for $56.99

JIM BEAM SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Jim Beam was one of the first bourbons in the game to offer a single barrel expression. The barrels are hand-selected from Jim Beam’s massive supply of Kentucky bourbon and bottled at very accessible ABV of 47.5 percent (90 proof).

Tasting notes:

Oak char, roasted corn caramel, and vanilla open this one up. Hints of smoke, orange peel, and honey sweetness shine through the sip. Black pepper spice comes into play alongside a hint of dark chocolate bitterness. Finally, that corn caramel sweetness comes back into play with a sharp, spicy finish.

Buy a bottle here for $34.99

ELMER T. LEE SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

Elmer T. Lee helped usher in the world of single barrel bourbons when he started releasing Blanton’s from Buffalo Trace. This expression from Buffalo Trace is the next generation of that tradition. The bourbon is a hand-selected sour mash masterpiece from single barrels that pays tribute to a true whiskey gamechanger.

Tasting notes:

This expression opens with clear notes of clove, vanilla, and fresh honey. The corn caramel notes lurk between whispers of libraries full of leatherbound books. Notes of oak meet spiciness and vanilla. That spiciness leads towards a long finish full of more honey and vanilla flavors.

Buy a bottle here for $144.99

1792 SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

This high rye bourbon is selected from 1792’s Bardstown, Kentucky rickhouse from the best barrels. Master distiller Ken Pierce tastes thousands of barrels to find that special selection that hit notes that help 1792 stand out from the crowd.

Tasting notes:

Bright fruits like pear and pineapple open this one up and are immediately followed by rich butterscotch, vanilla, and spice. Toffee, black pepper, and cinnamon dominate as subtler allspice and banana sneak in. Finally, the taste settles on a rye spiciness that leads towards a warm, caramel-focused finish.

Buy a bottle here for $42.99

PARKER’S HERITAGE 11 YEAR SINGLE BARREL BOURBON

What to talk about:

This is a once-in-a-great-while bourbon. But be warned, the price tag is hefty on this one. The eleven-year-old bourbon is a masterclass in the beauty of a great single barrel selection and is named after the late, great Park Beam who died of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). In fact, money from each bottle sold goes towards research for the fight against ALS.

Tasting notes:

This is a gentle giant bourbon. Subtle notes of vanill mix with almond, spice, and port sweetness. Dark chocolate bitterness sits next to whispers of smoke and rye spice. Florals flutter in the background as caramel and oaky char lead towards a dry and warming finish.

Buy a bottle here for $374.99

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