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Eight Bourbons For Fans Of Corn Flavor Notes In Their Whiskey

Corn is the cornerstone of all bourbon. By law, bourbon has to have at least 51 percent corn in its mash bill (recipe). In reality, the vast majority of bourbon is made with 70 to 80 percent corn and generally supported by rye, wheat, and malted barley to varying degrees. It would be reasonable to then think that all bourbon has a distinct “corn” flavor. But more often than not, that corn note is covered up through aging and much bigger flavor notes like vanilla, brown spices, various fruits, nuts, florals, and sweet caramel, honey, or syrup.

Since corn is damn near the point of bourbon, we thought we’d dig into our tasting books and find some corn-forward bourbons that don’t bury that flavor profile. We tried to cast a wide net since even “corn” isn’t a single flavor when it comes to bourbon. It can veer into dry and grainy masa or cornbread territory or sweet corn on the cob or creamed corn, corn pudding, buttered popcorn, kettle corn, caramel corn, or even corn husks, dried corn cobs, and canned corn straight from the can. There’s a lot of room for corn in bourbon is what we’re getting at.

The eight bottles below all offer a note of corn that’s distinct enough to stand out. But, corn is never the only note and that’s what makes these bourbons, well, great. If any of these pique your interest, make sure to click on the price to try one yourself.

Angel’s Envy

Angel

ABV: 43.3%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

There’s a reason drinkers love Angel’s Envy. The brand is well known for its unique finishing and the brand’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon just might be its best. This sourced bourbon is blended in a small batched of eight to twelve barrels that are aged for up to six years before the blend is finished in port wine casks.

Tasting Notes:

Before sipping, immerse yourself in the aromas of dried fruits, toasted vanilla beans, wine-like sweetness, and a nice, nutty backbone. The palate is filled with hints of raisins, cocoa, buttery caramel corn, and almond cookies. It all ends with an added sweetness from the port wine barrels.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey gets an added kick from the port wine, making it one of the best summer sippers we’ve ever tried.

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan Williams

ABV: 43.3%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

Evan Williams Single Barrel is one of the best values in the bourbon world and a great summer sipper. This award-winning whiskey is aged seven to eight years and comes in a bottle adorned with its vintage date (similar to wine) that states when maturation started alongside the barrel number.

Tasting Notes:

Breathe in the aromas of wood char, vanilla beans, dried corn husks, and maple candy. Sipping it reveals notes of candied orange peels, more charred oak, buttery caramel popcorn, candied apples, and a nice kick of spice. It all culminates in a long, warming mixture of sweet and spicy.

Bottom Line:

This value sipper should be a mainstay on your summer bar cart. It’s cheap, flavorful, and always good neat or on the rocks on a cool summer night.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Henry McKenna

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This bottle exploded in popularity a few years ago when it was named the best whiskey of the year at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While it’s still not available everywhere, it’s a lot easier to find now. This bottled-in-bond, well-rounded whiskey was aged to perfection for ten years.

Tasting Notes:

When nosing this whiskey, there’s no doubt this is a highish-proof whiskey. There’s slight cinnamon heat, wood char, and sweet caramel corn. Taking a sip reveals notes of clover honey, creamy butterscotch, more oak, and a nice spicy backbone with a touch of that sweet corn lurking underneath it all. The finish is sweet, spicy, and oaky.

Bottom Line:

If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle at a reasonable price, buy it. This bourbon is a great mix of corn sweetness and subtle spices.

Baker’s 7-Year

Jim Beam

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

Baker’s Single Barrel is one of the best expressions from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection. Its seven-year-old bourbon (actually closer to 8 plus years) comes from one, single barrel. There’s no fussing with this distinct, flavorful bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all almonds, sweet corn, caramel, and vanilla. It’s a pretty great way to understand things to come. The flavor mirrors the nose with vanilla beans, buttery caramel corn, wood char, and a touch of black pepper spice and vegetal greenness.

Bottom Line:

The small addition of rye in the mash bill gives this a great sweet-to-spicy ratio that you’ll savor all summer long.

Old Forester 86

Old Forester

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

You can’t go wrong with any of Old Forester’s bourbons. But when it comes to value to quality ratio, it’s really hard to top Old Forester 86. The brand’s flagship whiskey has been distilled continuously since 1870. It’s named for the whiskey’s proof and is well-known for its always low price and mellow, rich flavor.

Tasting Notes:

A lot is going on with this bourbon’s nose. There are distinct aromas of pipe tobacco, toasted vanilla beans, butterscotch, and woody sweetness. The flavor is all sweet corn, rich vanilla, buttery caramel, and just a hint of candied orange peel at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey has the smooth, mellow corn flavor bourbon might be looking for, but it’s tempered by the addition of charred wood and orange zest. It’s a truly great summer sipper.

Michter’s US-1

Michter

ABV: 45.7%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Michter’s is a big name in the whiskey world. This distillery and blending house is known for its award-winning, highly sought-after expressions. One of its best, most affordable, and sippable varieties in its Michter’s US-1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Made in small batches of now more than twenty barrels, it’s known for its nuanced, rich, smooth flavors.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with the aromas of dried corn kernels, dried fruits, oak, and a nutty sweetness. The palate is brimming with the flavors of sweet treacle fairground popcorn, sticky toffee, butterscotch candy, vanilla, and subtle, spicy cinnamon. The finish is a great combination of honey and spice that leaves you craving more.

Bottom Line:

If you only buy one of these bottles, make it this one. While the sweetness of corn takes center stage, this sippable whiskey gets an added kick with cinnamon and spice notes.

I.W. Harper 15

I.W. Harper

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

I.W. Harper might not have the name recognition of some of the other brands on this list, but you’d be remiss if you missed out on this 15-year-old mellow sipper. The whiskey is made on the iconic Bernheim stills and then aged in the equally iconic Stitzel-Weller warehouses for 15 long years before it’s vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with notes of caramel corn, charred oak, almond cookies, and candied orange peels. Taking a sip reveals hints of more corn sweetness, raisins, milk chocolate, cinnamon sugar, and a sweet, nutty almost herbal finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a great whiskey. Aged for fifteen years, it’s filled with corn, caramel, vanilla, and all of the other great bourbon flavors drinkers expect from a great sipping whiskey.

Editor’s Pick: Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon

Balcones

ABV: 64.9%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

Locally grown Texas blue corn is used to create a truly Texan bourbon. The juice is aged in the Balcone’s Waco rickhouse under the hot Texas sun, allowing the sugars from the wood to really imbue themselves into the bourbon. The results are vatted and bottled at cask-proof, letting every detail of the barrel shine through.

Tasting Notes:

Salted butter melting on freshly baked cornbread mingles with fresh tobacco, dried mint sprigs, and powdery white pepper. The sip then takes a left turn into Red Hots, orange marmalade, and fire-roasted marshmallow territory with black tea bitterness cutting through. The pepper and corn return on the finish as this one takes its time to say goodbye.

Bottom Line:

This is bold and not really like any other bourbon (in general). And that’s why we love it. This is the perfect bottle to reset a palate while expanding it. It’s also a great cocktail base thanks to those hefty ABVs.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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