Drinks Fashion

The 17 Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy in 2019 • Gear Patrol

The 17 Best Bourbon Whiskeys You Can Buy in 2019 • Gear Patrol

Bourbon has by no means been extra in style than it’s proper now. This definitive information of the perfect bourbons of 2019 explores every part it’s essential find out about America’s favourite brown spirit, together with essential terminology and, in fact, an inventory of the perfect bottles you should purchase at your native liquor retailer.

Want to skip on to the picks? Click on right here.

The Brief Record

Greatest All-Round Bourbon: Buffalo Hint, $25+

Good as a sipper and in cocktails, Buffalo Hint’s namesake bourbon is the right do-it-all whiskey. What’s extra, every bottle is a sort of lottery. Given Buffalo Hint’s lineage of fantastic whiskeys from W.L. Weller, George T. Stagg and Van Winkle, there’s an opportunity you come across one thing particular.

Tasting Notes: Robust notes of caramel and nutmeg, with hints of hay and apricot on the nostril and a “snap-crackle-pop mouthfeel.”
Common Worth: $25 – $35

Greatest Worth Bourbon: Evan Williams Black Label, $11+

“If Evan Williams have been to promote this whiskey to another person, that model would mark it as much as $40, and other people can be pleased shopping for it,” says professional whiskey reviewer Fred Minnick. However Evan Williams is a worth model. So its whiskey, at an incredible proof level of 86 and an age that Minnick says is roughly five-and-a-half years previous, goes for lower than $20. “It’s a unbelievable bourbon, particularly for the cash,” he says.

Tasting Notes: Properly rounded, with a variety of flavors together with brown sugar and nutmeg atop the usual vary of vanilla and caramel.
Worth: $11 – $15


Bourbon, the Nice American Spirit, is just not so simple as one may assume. Sure, its definition is writ in however a couple of sentences on the holy stone of Federal Decree: It have to be made in the USA; its grain invoice should embrace a minimum of 51 % corn; it have to be produced at no more than 80 % alcohol (160 proof) and saved in charred new oak containers at not more than 62.5 % (125 proof). And sure, it’s a blue-collar spirit, made by thirsty farmers, for thirsty farmers. However beneath these fundamentals swims a deep sea of things — further guidelines and laws, hype machines and misleading advertising, false myths and a growth that started in 2008 and continues to be going robust as we speak — that make bourbon extra complicated than it appears. Bitter mash and Bottled-in-Bond, non-distiller-producers and high-ryes. The place’s the thirsty trendy man, farmer or in any other case, to start?

“Due to bourbon’s continued progress in reputation, the misinformed malcontents are spreading like a nasty virus,” writes Fred Minnick in his 2015 standout information, Bourbon Curious. Minnick loves bourbon; he’s written seven books and three of them contain America’s brown spirit. However he’s not afraid to dissect its misguided advertising and secretive practices. Bourbon Curious opens with loads of stick (“the proof, age, and whiskey sort are the one issues you’ll be able to belief on an American whiskey label”) earlier than attending to its carrot: lots of of pages of data and mouthwatering tasting notes on nearly any bourbon you’ll discover on liquor retailer cabinets. The important thing to understanding all of it, Minnick says, is transparency from manufacturers mixed with an understanding of a time period most bourbon drinkers don’t use: terroir.

“Spirits are likely to gravitate towards branding, whereas wine gravitates towards terroir,” Minnick says. “However an informed bourbon shopper can piece collectively terroir — and actually, it’s by distillery.” The highest bourbon distilleries — 4 Roses, Buffalo Hint, Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Brown-Forman and others — distill the bourbon that makes up numerous manufacturers you’ll discover on liquor retailer cabinets which might be value consuming. Minnick’s suggestion for the novice: Familiarize your self with these distilleries and attempt to decide aside the distinct flavors produced by every, whether or not that’s Wild Turkey’s funky word or 4 Roses’ spicy flavors. “If somebody actually needs to get into this pastime and this world, they need to immerse themselves,” he says.

That will help you in your bourbon journey, we requested Minnick to debate the very best bourbons throughout three worth factors — on a regular basis values, mid-range palate builders and uncommon gems. Earlier than we get to the bottles, nevertheless, a fast primer on terminology and pricing. Should you favor to skip on to the picks, click on right here.

About Our Professional

Fred Minnick is a Wall Road Journal best-selling writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Bourbon+ journal. He’s written seven books, together with a memoir about capturing fight images in Iraq. In the present day, nevertheless, his major focus is whiskey. He additionally serves as an professional panelist for spirits competitions and is the “bourbon authority” for the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Bourbon Phrases to Know

Bourbon Whiskey: Whiskey produced within the U.S. at not exceeding 80 % alcohol by quantity (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not lower than 51 % of corn and saved at no more than 62.5 % alcohol by quantity (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.”

Straight Bourbon Whiskey: “Bourbon whiskey saved in charred new oak containers for 2 years or extra. ‘Straight bourbon whiskey’ might embrace mixtures of two or extra straight bourbon whiskeys offered all of the whiskeys are produced in the identical state.”

Bottled in Bond: “The spirit have to be the product of 1 distillation season by one distiller at one distillery. It should have been saved in a federally bonded warehouse for at the least 4 years and be bottled at 100 proof. The bottled product’s label should determine the distillery the place it was distilled and bottled.”

Bitter Mash: A fermentation method utilized by virtually all bourbon distillers that employs pre-fermented mash from a earlier distilling in a brand new mash. The bitter mash prevents wild yeast from getting into the mash and inflicting infections.

Proof: The share of alcohol, displayed as double that of the alcohol proportion.

Excessive Rye: A bourbon with a better than regular proportion of mash invoice made up of rye (versus utilizing extra corn, wheat, or barley, the opposite most important grains utilized in bourbon mash). This tends to supply spicier flavors within the bourbon.

Wheated: A bourbon with a better than regular proportion of mash invoice made up of wheat (the primary grain stays corn). This tends to supply a softer, much less spicy whiskey.

Small Batch: A subjective time period signaling a bourbon made utilizing a choose variety of barrels or recipes in a blended bottling.

Single Barrel: A bourbon made utilizing single barrels, offering a better vary of variation in taste, and the prospect at particular, distinctive traits.

Non-Distiller Producers (NDP): Corporations that buy their whiskey from another person quite than making it themselves. This isn’t a brand new phenomenon and it performs a big position in blended bourbons.

Greatest Finances Bourbons

These bourbons are all beneath $25. They’ve a few of the similar flavors discovered on the earth’s greatest, most sought-after whiskeys. They only don’t carry the identical degree of complexity; the flavors have a tendency to return and go extra shortly.

“A costlier whiskey may need this wealthy notice that lasts for ten to 12 seconds,” Minnick says, “whereas a less expensive bottle has that notice only for one to 2 seconds.” Nonetheless, this worth vary has one of the best worth of all the market, and it additionally supplies alternatives for bourbon for use in cocktails — or as presents.

Greatest Worth Bourbon: Evan Williams Black Label

Verdict: “If Evan Williams have been to promote this whiskey to another person, that model would mark it as much as $40, and other people can be completely happy shopping for it,” Minnick says. However Evan Williams is a worth model. So its whiskey, at an incredible proof level of 86 and an age that Minnick says is roughly five-and-a-half years previous, goes for lower than $20. “It’s a unbelievable bourbon, particularly for the cash,” he says. “You will get a whole lot of satisfaction out of that.”

Proof: 86
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Nicely rounded, with a variety of flavors together with brown sugar and nutmeg atop the usual vary of vanilla and caramel.
Worth: $11 – $15

Greatest Bourbon for Cocktails: 4 Roses Yellow Label

Verdict: “That is such a dynamic whiskey,” Minnick says. “And it’s one of the best cocktail bourbon on the market.” 4 Roses is a extremely regarded distillery, with a high-rye mash invoice that produces an additional spiciness and a focus on yeast that has been “eye-opening” for the bourbon world. They’ve additionally led the best way in transparency. “They’ll inform you every little thing there’s to find out about their whiskey — they don’t cover the mash invoice, the distillation proof. I presume you might ask ’em how a lot their CEO makes they usually’d inform you,” Minnick says.

Proof: 80
Distilled By: 4 Roses
Tasting Notes: An earthy nostril, however spicy on the tongue, with speedy and nice notes of cinnamon and baking spices.
Worth: $12 – $20

Greatest Stored Secret: Heaven Hill 6-Yr-Previous Inexperienced Label

Verdict: That is the bourbon Minnick buys as a present for his household and pals. “It’s 90 proof for round $9, and also you simply don’t beat it for the cash,” he says. “I’ve achieved some blind tastings with it and it out-tastes Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, even Buffalo Hint in a single tasting.” However it’s solely obtainable in Kentucky. Why? “I’ve some theories about that,” Minnick says. “The Shapiras, the individuals who personal Heaven Hill — this label is for them and their staff. It will get zero advertising dollars.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Corn, vanilla, caramel and brown sugar, with oak tannins.
Worth: $9 – $12 (solely out there in Kentucky)

Greatest Finances Sipper: Larceny Bourbon

Verdict: “This has an unimaginable sweetness to it,” Minnick says. “It’s not complicated, however the sweetness is very nice — the best way it hits the palate. It’s a superb, cheap, wheated on a regular basis sipper.”

Proof: 92
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: It’s a wheated bourbon, with a great deal of bready sweetness, butterscotch, and toffee.
Worth: $20 – $25

Greatest On a regular basis Bourbons

Based on Minnick, that is the place nearly all of the bourbon world lives. “You begin with the six- to twelve-year-old bourbons that you will discover commonly.” What modifications from the entry-level spirits is complexity. The easiest bourbons on this vary “may have notice after word after observe after word, after which you possibly can nonetheless style that dominant observe in your palate,” Minnick says.

Greatest Gateway Bourbon: 4 Roses Small Batch

Verdict: 4 Roses’s improve over Yellow blends 180 barrels of 4 totally different recipes per bottling. “In the event you love cinnamon notes, you’ll love this,” Minnick says. It’s extra complicated than Yellow, however nonetheless drinks straightforward. “It’s what I need to sip at a ballgame.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: 4 Roses
Tasting Notes: cinnamon, citrus, caramel, vanilla, and an apple-pie sweetness.
Worth: $30 – $35

Greatest Bourbon to Drink Neat: 4 Roses Single Barrel

Verdict: Made utilizing a single recipe and barrel per bottle, it’s between 7 and eight years previous and has extra complexity than the Small Batch. “For being the identical model because the Small Batch, they style very totally different. This one is extra of a sipper. I need to actually sit there and give it some thought once I’m consuming it,” Minnick says.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: 4 Roses
Tasting Notes: Toasted marshmallow and campfire on the nostril, including cinnamon, caramel and vanilla on the tongue, with a very creamy mouthfeel.
Worth: $40 – $50

Greatest Bourbon to Pair with Meals: Maker’s Mark

Verdict: Minnick has a singular use for considered one of bourbon’s basic names. “I drink a lot Makers with BBQ,” he says. Its mellow stability — helped by the outstanding caramel notes of its wheated mash invoice — doesn’t overpower meaty flavors.

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Maker’s Mark
Tasting Notes: On the nostril, dried apricot, chocolate, espresso, and corn; on the tongue, bread pudding, caramel-apple, and pumpkin pie.
Worth: $30 – $45

Greatest Rye Substitute: Knob Creek

Verdict: Its “cornbread” word makes this Minnick’s stand-in for rye in Manhattans. That cornbread taste profile is shared throughout many Jim Beam bourbons, however Knob Creek’s 100 proof is the right expression of the flavour, versus Booker’s 126 and Jim Beam Black’s 86.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: Jim Beam
Tasting Notes: Nutty on the nostril, with a definite cornbread taste on the tongue.
Worth: $30 – $40

The Smoothest Bourbon: Elijah Craig Small Batch

Verdict: Although it shares DNA with different Heaven Hill bourbons like Evan Williams and Henry McKenna, Elijah Craig Small Batch is balanced, with additional maltiness. “It’s received a lot caramel, and a ravishing nutmeg observe,” Minnick says. “That is all concerning the sweetness.”

Proof: 94
Distilled By: Jim Beam
Tasting Notes: Caramel, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and a definite nutmeg taste.
Worth: $25 – $40

Greatest All-Round Bourbon: Buffalo Hint

Verdict: Good as a sipper and in cocktails, it’s the right do-it-all whiskey. What’s extra, every bottle is a type of lottery, with an opportunity of one thing particular, given Buffalo Hint’s lineage of “a few of the biggest whiskies on the market,” Minnick says — they embrace W.L. Weller, George T. Stagg, and Van Winkle. “Typically you get a bottle that simply explodes in your mouth.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Buffalo Hint
Tasting Notes: Robust notes of caramel and nutmeg, with hints of baled hay and apricot on the nostril and a “snap-crackle-pop mouthfeel.”
Worth: $25 – $35

Greatest Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon: Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Verdict: The McKenna distillery was established in 1855, based by the famous Irish immigrant distiller. Seagrams closed the enterprise within the 1970s, and Heaven Hill bought the model identify in 1994, however not makes use of the unique recipe; as Minnick notes in Bourbon Curious, “The unique yeast, mashbill, and taste profile are gone, misplaced with time.” However one factor the brand new bottle does have is time: its 10 yr age assertion makes it one of many older bourbons at this worth vary.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Rye spiciness, caramel, and vanilla, with a gentle undertone of oak.
Worth: $30 – $35

Greatest Craft Bourbon: New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Verdict: New Riff Distilling was based in 2014. “Relative to Kentucky, they’ve been round for a couple of days. The remainder of the nation is simply kinda attending to know ’em,” Minnick says. The mash invoice right here, made solely of non-GMO grains, is 65 % corn, 30 % rye and 5 % malted barley.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: New Riff Distilling
Tasting Notes: Oak tannins and vanillas, butterscotch, candy corn and a few rye spice on the end.
Worth: $40

Bucket Listing Bourbons

These run north of $60, all the best way as much as a month’s paycheck. Shopping for on this vary is excessive danger, excessive reward. “Typically you’re gonna be disenchanted,” Minnick says. “Simply because a bourbon is 90 bucks doesn’t imply it’s good.” The benchmark bourbons at this vary have upwards of 100 taste notes to select, typically occurring on the similar time and lingering on the tongue for ages. Or, as Minnick put it, one of the best ought to make you assume, “If god gave delivery to his bourbon baby, that is what it might style like.”

Greatest Excessive-Proof Bourbon: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Verdict: This bourbon simply gained Whisky Advocate’s whiskey of the yr, and Minnick was on the tasting panel. “It was very, very good bourbon,” he says, wistfully. It has not one of the harshness you’d anticipate from a 133.2 proof bourbon, and doesn’t bear chill filtering — as an alternative simply utilizing mild filtration to take away barrel char flakes.

Proof: 133.2 proof
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Caramels are wealthy, vanillas highly effective. Minnick calls its notes “a celebration of pies: apple, cherry, blueberry, and even pumpkin.”
Worth: $55 – $100

Most Nuanuced Bourbon: Previous Forester 1920 Prohibition Fashion

Verdict: It’s bottled at 115 proof — “for this distillery, that’s the right proof,” Minnick says. “I’m going by means of a bottle a month. The notes type of simply linger. You’ll be able to have 5 totally different notes hitting directly. I consider that to be the definition of nuance.”

Proof: 115
Distilled By: Brown-Forman
Tasting Notes: Darkish notes of fruit and burnt brown sugar. Chocolate, creme brulee, and powerful nuttiness on the palate.
Worth: $60 – $80

Greatest Blended Bourbon: Barrell Craft Spirits 15-Yr-Previous Bourbon

Verdict: Barrell is a blender, not a distiller. However its openness concerning the topic (blends have lengthy been thought-about “rotgut”) and the flavour mastery of founder Joe Beatrice and grasp distiller Tripp Stimson have gained the previous bourbon guard over. “It gained my American Whiskey of the Yr award final yr in a blind tasting,” Minnick says. “It’s obtained a lot taste to it, a lot complexity — it’s simply sensible whiskey.”

Proof: 105.1
Distilled By: Mix of Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky bourbons
Tasting Notes: fruit notes on the nostril, with a blast of cocoa and butterscotch on the tongue, ending with magnificence.
Worth: $300

Greatest Wheated Bourbon: Buffalo Hint William Larue Weller

Verdict: “Are we together with bottles which are unimaginable to seek out?” Minnick asks. Positive. This treasure from Buffalo Hint’s Vintage assortment does its namesake a service, representing a number of the world’s greatest wheated bourbon, a method Weller himself pioneered. “If God gave delivery to a bourbon baby, that is what it will style like,” Minnick says. “It’s so fucking superb.”

Proof: 128.2
Distilled By: Buffalo Hint
Tasting Notes: A caramel bomb, with immense vanilla notes on the nostril. Dried fruits, nutmeg, and honey on the palate.
Worth: $800+

Most Complicated Bourbon: 4 Roses Al Younger Restricted Version

Verdict: File it underneath one other bourbon you’ll by no means discover on liquor retailer cabinets. The 50th-anniversary whiskey is made in a part of 23-year previous bourbon and has, in response to 4 Roses model ambassador Al Younger himself, taste profiles of “cinnamon, peaches and cherries, plus aromas of gardenias and magnolia blossoms.” Minnick scored it a 96 for Whiskey Advocate. “It’s simply so complicated,” he says. “Final I tasted it, I used to be as much as 100 notes that I picked up on it. They’ve one thing particular there.”

Proof: 109.98
Distilled By: 4 Roses
Tasting Notes: On the nostril, leather-based, maple syrup. On the palate, honeysuckle, cinnamon, and floral notes.
Worth: $500+