It’s another day and that means it’s time for more new bourbon! The releases kind of never stop these days. To help you figure it all out, I’m here to blindly taste as many as I can to give you an idea of what you actually might like to drink at home. Let’s face it, there’s so much on the bourbon shelf these days that you’re just as likely to pick up a mediocre bottle as you are to pick up a stellar one.
Let me help you avoid that. Below, I’m blind tasting 12 new bourbons. These bourbons either just hit shelves or are about to (one of them literally dropped this week). I’m then going to rank these bourbons based on taste alone. Price has nothing to do with it. The general price for these bourbons is between $40 and $90 per bottle with four ringers that reach into the hundreds of dollars per bottle.
Our lineup today is:
- Nelson Bros. Whiskey Reserve Bourbon
- Stellum Bourbon Equinox Blend #1
- Jack Daniel’s Small Batch 2022 Special Release Coy Hill High Proof
- Rabbit Hole Nevallier Cask Strength Bourbon Finished in New French Oak
- Brother’s Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey Original Cask Strength
- Hidden Barn Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Small Batch
- 15 STARS Fine Aged Bourbon Timeless Reserve Aged 14 Years
- Hardin’s Creek Colonel James B. Beam
- Woodford Reserve Batch Proof
- Baker’s Single Barrel 7 Years Minimum
- Barrell Bourbon Batch #033
- Silverbelly Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Will a wily underdog for $50 beat out the big hitters? Will the newbies from the huge brands take out the awards darlings? Let’s dive in and find out!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months
- We Blind Tasted A Whole Bunch Of $30-60 Bourbons To See If Any Could Beat Weller
- We Blind Tasted Classic Bourbons And Were Shocked By The Winner
- The Best Ten-Year-Old Bourbon Whiskeys, Tasted Blind And Ranked
- We Tasted Bourbon Whiskeys ‘Double-Blind’ And Tried To Guess Each Bottle
- All The Double Gold-Winning Straight Bourbons From This Year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Part 1: The Tasting
The nose on this is pretty classic with clear notes of vanilla and orange zest, winter spices, candied cherry, and apple pie filling with a light grainy edge. The palate holds onto that graininess as dark chocolate and dark cherry lead to a hint of zucchini bread with pecans and a hint of lemon. The end has a warmth that leans into white pepper and alcohol as a whisper of green tea and grain round out the finish.
This was a nice start but didn’t blow my mind. Good stuff though.
Soft grains and leather lead to a hint of sour apple on the nose with a touch of sweetgrass, woody spice, and mild toffee. The palate opens with dried and leathery apricots dipped in fresh honey next to a sharp cinnamon stick shoved into an orange rind with clove berries in between. The mid-palate layers of creamy citrus with a whisper of jasmine and maybe some oolong tea as a thin line of black potting soil, dark cacao powder, and old dusty oak staves fill out the finish.
This was really f*cking good.
The nose opens with a tannic line of charred oak next to Graham Crackers, maple syrup, and crème brûlée with a lot of buzzing warmth. That buzz explodes on the palate with high ABVs which coat my entire mouth instantly before sour cherry, old wicker, and sharp black pepper lead to an intense buzzing. That buzz fades on the finish as a vanilla/cherry tobacco smooths out toward a soft yet buzzy end.
This was a wild ride. There’s a lot going on but you really have to fight to get past whatever the ABV is on this one to find it.
This opens with a subtle nod to white pepper next to soft vanilla cream, hints of burnt orange, salted caramel, and a touch of woody spice. The palate reveals layers of tart black currants next to chewy vanilla tobacco leaves that lead to a hint of savory figs and woody cinnamon with a twinge of sweetness to it. The finish builds on the chewy vanilla tobacco toward a supple end full of sour cherry, soft spices, and a touch of suede.
This is also very nice, very subtle too — it took a minute to really dig into it.
This opens with a balance of old leather boots and freshly cracked black pepper next to a hint of walnut shell, vanilla pod, and orange zest. The palate leans into what feels like star fruit as orange marmalade, salted butter, and fresh honey drip over rye bread crusts. The end comes with a good dose of peppery spice and old leather as those walnuts and orange combine with a handful of dried fruit and a dusting of winter spices on the finish.
This was another winner. This ranking is going to be tough.
Woah! This is totally different. The nose is full of digestive biscuits and whole wheat pancakes cut with vanilla and pecan next to hints of anise, caramel candy, and cinnamon-toast tobacco. The palate holds onto the massive graininess with a clear sense of rye bread crumb next to thick oatmeal cookies with more of those pecans and plenty of raisins and spice. Later, a hint of white pepper arrives and leads the finish to soft espresso cream with a dash of nutmeg and creamy toffee.
This is such a departure but so delicious. I want more immediately.
Soft orchard fruits and maple syrup lead the way on the nose as roasted almonds and vanilla/caramel tobacco pipe tobacco round things out. The palate balances creamy vanilla sauce with a dark and bitter chocolate powder that’s nearly espresso bean oil. The finish is subtle but deep with a hazelnut vibe that blends with the chocolate for a lush Nutella feel next to woody maple, rum-soaked raisins, and a hint of old porch wicker draped in old leather.
Goddamn, this is another winner. It’s completely different than the last dram but just as nuanced and delicious.
Caramel corn, cherry candy, dry peanuts, and vanilla pods open up on the nose. The taste is slightly peppery with a good hint of peanut brittle next to cherry licorice ropes, a hint of milk chocolate, and a whisper of old corn husks. The finish arrives with subtle winter spices and sour red cherries next to a whisper of dry forest moss, vanilla tobacco, and woody winter spices.
This was pretty nice overall. It’s pretty classic and straightforward but it works.
Grains and a very distant echo of chocolate arrive on the nose with a smooth line of vanilla creaminess next to a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice with a touch of oakiness. The palate has a light dried fruitiness with more vanilla next to woody spices next to a touch of apple tobacco. The finish warms up a bit with plenty of dark and dried fruit next to mulled wine spices and a hint of soft leather.
This was very much “that’s really nice” but didn’t quite hold my attention.
Leather and cherry lead the way on the nose with rye spiciness, a hint of caramel corn, and a touch of sweet black licorice ropes. The palate is part vanilla cookie and part winter spices matrix and sort of meets in the middle with a nutmeg-forward eggnog creaminess before a slight green herbal funk arrives. The finish is woody and spicy with an underbelly of vanilla tobacco and dried nutshell.
I liked this but it was a little all over the place. Or I’m just getting tired since I’m ten drams in. Either way, it feels like it needs a rock to let it bloom to its full potential.
Funk and leather lead the way on the nose as green grass mingles with nasturtiums and pear candies, a hint of jasmine, some mint, and maybe some green peas. The palate shakes up the senses with grapefruit pith, sparkling apple cider, anise, nutmeg, and plenty of dark chocolate tobacco. The end is long and meandering as chamomile mixes with wildflowers, dry granite slates, black limes, and a hint of brandy butter next to a whisper of white moss.
This was a lot. I feel like I could spend another ten minutes finding more “notes” in this one (hello, Barrell) but I just don’t have the time or patience right now to do that.
Caramel and leather lead the way on the nose with a hint of creamed corn and orchard fruit. The palate leans into woody spices and more caramel as a line of vanilla softens everything. The end is a little watery unfortunately with a layer or two of leather, caramel, apple, and cinnamon in there.
This was pretty basic. It was fine but really doesn’t stand up to the powerful pours that came before it.
Part 2: The Ranking
12. Silverbelly Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 12
Average Price: $40
This whiskey is a sourced Kentucky Bourbon that’s built for country music legend Alan Jackson. The juice is named after the color of Jackson’s iconic “silverbelly” hat. That juice is made in Owensboro, Kentucky, and then built from barrels that Jackson hand-selected with his daughter Mattie Jackson Selecman, who’s a certified sommelier by day.
As I mentioned in my tasting notes, this is perfectly fine. Another day and another lineup of bourbons, and this might have been closer to the top. Today, it just couldn’t compete with the bigger hitters.
11. Baker’s Single Barrel 7 Years Minimum — Taste 10
Average Price: $59
Baker’s is pulled from single barrels in specific warehouses and ricks across the Beam facility in Clermont, Kentucky. The juice is always at least seven years old. In this case, it was aged eight years and one month before bottling as-is.
Baker’s is always hit-and-miss with me. The newest release from 2022 has very fine points but didn’t quite stand up to other whiskeys on this particular list. I liked it, mind you. It just didn’t wow me.
10. Jack Daniel’s Small Batch 2022 Special Release Coy Hill High Proof — Taste 3
Average Price: $55 (Distillery only)
The latest edition of Jack Daniel’s Coy Hill series is a bombastic hazmat whiskey. This stuff is so volatile that you need to store the bottle standing up at all times and it cannot go on an airplane. The juice in the bottle was created from barrels where the angel’s share (evaporation) was so high that the barrels couldn’t be bottled in a single-barrel format. Instead, about 55 barrels were batched and bottled as-is at this intensely high ABV.
I liked this but it took a minute to get past that high ABV. If you’re not a hardened bourbon drinker/taster, you might never get past it. Still, there was a surprising amount of nuance and depth at play that was very tasty. It just really needed a rock to calm it all down and let it bloom.
9. Nelson Bros. Whiskey Reserve Bourbon — Taste 1
Average Price: $60
This new release from Nelson’s Green Brier is a big evolution for the brand. This high-rye bourbon is aged for four years before it’s masterfully blended into his expression. It’s then bottled without any fussing or meddling.
This was really nice but felt like a cocktail base more than a sipper. It’s nice on its own, don’t get me wrong. But I was left thinking about how good it must taste in a whiskey sour or old fashioned.
8. Woodford Reserve Batch Proof — Taste 9
Average Price: $299
This year’s new Batch Proof from Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection leans into high ABVs straight from the barrel. The whiskey is hewn from a few barrels that worked wonders at their barrel proof. Those barrels were batched and then bottled at the ABVs they evened out to.
This was another one that needed a rock to let it really find its full potential. Neat in a Glencairn, it was very good but didn’t quite grab my attention like some of the other whiskeys below.
7. Hardin’s Creek Colonel James B. Beam — Taste 8
Average Price: $99 (Coming Soon)
This brand new release from Jim Beam is part of the small craft distillery operating inside of Beam’s massive Clermont campus. The juice is only two years old and blended by Master Distiller Freddie Noe to highlight the quality of juice coming out of Clermont today.
This was the first pour where I thought, “Okay, I’d drink that every day.” This was a nice and easy sipping bourbon. It was nuanced yet accessible and just easy. That said, I can also see this dominating in the best way possible in a cocktail.
6. Barrell Bourbon Batch #033 — Taste 11
Average Price: $85
This year’s first Barrell Batch release is a combination of several bourbons. The whiskeys were distilled and aged in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana for five, six, seven, and nine years. Once those barrels made it to Barrell Craft Spirits in Kentucky, they were masterfully married and bottled as-is.
There was a lot going on here and I was a little overwhelmed by it initially. That said, everything going on in this dram is goddamn delicious. I do think I need to try this against fewer whiskeys next time to give it the time it needs to fully bloom in the glass and on my senses.
5. Rabbit Hole Nevallier Cask Strength Bourbon Finished in New French Oak — Taste 4
Average Price: $895
The latest Founder’s Collection from Rabbit Hole is a pricey masterpiece. The juice in the bottle is made from a few hand-selected barrels of 15-year-old bourbon that was then finished in new French oak before bottling as-is in only 1,155 bottles.
This is the part of the ranking where I start splitting some serious hairs. I really liked this but it felt a little less nuanced than the next four. But only slightly. Overall, this was delicious and enticing.
4. Brother’s Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey Original Cask Strength — Taste 5
Average Price: $80 (Coming Soon)
The newest release from Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley is an evolution of their brand. The whiskey in the bottle is a blend of three bourbons which create a four-grain bourbon. That blend was then bottled as-is.
This was just really good. It had complexity and depth but felt familiar and inviting. The only reason it’s fourth and not, say, second, is that it wasn’t a “holy shit, that’s insane” bourbon. It was just a “wow, that’s really nice” bourbon.
3. Stellum Bourbon Equinox Blend #1 — Taste 2
Average Price: $99
This expression is made from instant-classic Stellum Bourbon barrels. The ripple here is that the blend of this bourbon was created from specific rare barrels used for Stelllum that were blended until the exact moment of the vernal equinox. That whiskey was then bottled as-is.
Hippy-dippy gimmick aside, this is a masterfully made whiskey. It’s somehow both classic and fresh. This is something I want to go back to again and again to find what else is buried in that flavor profile. All told, this could easily have been tied for number two.
2. 15 STARS Fine Aged Bourbon Timeless Reserve Aged 14 Years — Taste 7
Average Price: $279
The whiskey is a blend of old sourced barrels of bourbon from Bardstown, Kentucky. Those whiskeys spent 14 years in the barrel before the crew at 15 STARS picked them up and created a whole new experience from them for this award-winning release.
This was just really good. It was tasty and subtle while still having a little panache and, dare I say, bite. It grabbed my attention and held it while offering nuance and soft flavors. This is good stuff.
1. Hidden Barn Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Small Batch — Taste 6
Average Price: $75 (Coming Soon)
Former Master Taster for Old Forester, Jackie Zykan, just left her post at Brown-Forman and her new whiskey is already on my desk. Zykan’s first release at her own shingle is a sourced whiskey from Neeley Family Distillery in rural Kentucky. The bourbon is made from a sweet mash (a brand new mash with every cook instead of reusing mash for a sour mash) with a high-ish rye content over pot stills (a true rarity in bourbon these days). Those barrels aged for four to five years before Zykan picked a handful for this inaugural release at batch proof.
This was so engaging and out of left field in the best possible way. It also delivered on what was promised with a grain-forward bourbon unlike any other. It was so unique while also hitting nostalgic bourbon notes kind of like you were drinking from inside of your grandmother’s cookie jar.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
It’s always wild with these blind tastings. On any given day, any whiskey can fall to the wayside or rise to the top, depending on what you’re tasting them against. Jackie Zykan’s new bourbon is so engaging that it was impossible to beat today. Will that still be true if tried against only batch proof small batch bourbons? Maybe not. And the same goes for Silverbelly. Would it be last if I tasted it again only bourbons with the same proof? Likely no.
But today was today and this is where all of these bourbons landed. I’d say, seek out ten through six based on which flavor profile speaks to you. Five through two are all worth seeking out in general as great bourbons. But number one, Hidden Barn, is the true champion of the day.