Aged in new charred oak barrels and consisting of at least 51 percent corn, bourbon is a great choice in whiskey if you’re looking for something more complex than your average liquors. Though the differences between bourbon and other whiskeys may seem subtle to beginners, finding the best bourbons can help you appreciate all its diverse flavor profiles have to offer, making it a great addition to your at-home bar.
“For a spirit to be considered bourbon it must adhere to six standard rules: It must be made in the U.S.; aged in new, charred white oak barrels; and be at least 51 percent corn. It also must be distilled at less than 160 proof (80 percent alcohol by volume) and entered into a barrel at below 125 proof,” Smithsonian Magazine explains. “Lastly, there can be no artificial coloring or flavor (hence the reason Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey: it’s filtered over maple wood chips before bottling). The darker the bourbon, the higher the alcohol content; and for a true taste of its complexities, open your mouth while sipping.”
While studies on bourbon boasting health benefits are very much up for debate, if you’re going to drink in moderation, bourbon is a great liquor choice as it does contain antioxidant properties and is low in both sugar and carbohydrates.
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If you are in good health and decide to enjoy a cocktail, try enjoying a healthy snack on the side! A recent study found that booze could actually help people shed extra pounds — as long as you’re nosing on nuts and other healthy bar snacks. The University of Sydney study finds that drinkers who opted for high-protein, lean foods consumed fewer calories overall than people who abstain from drinking entirely. Such snacks include olives, popcorn, cocktail onions, deli meats, cheeses, raw veggies, dips and dried or fresh fruit. A bourbon old-fashioned and a side of popcorn? Sign us up!
In order to help you in your search for the perfectly concocted bourbon cocktail or bourbon on the rocks, StudyFinds set out to find the best bottles available. StudyFinds visited 10 of the leading expert websites to see which bourbon whiskeys were rated the highest. Our list is ranked based on the most-recommended bourbons across these sites. Cheers!
The List: Best Bourbon, According To The Experts
1. W. L. Weller, 12-Year-Old Bourbon
If you’re looking for a top-notch bourbon and willing to search high and low to get your hands on a bottle, W.L. Weller’s 12-Year-Old Bourbon is one of the best money and time can buy.
“The Weller 12 YO is an outstanding whiskey. On the nose, it’s creamy, with a hint of caramel and a bit of anise. On the palate, it has the characteristic smoothness of wheated bourbons. It’s slightly drying, and sweet, with distinctive tropical fruit notes. The finish is long and sweet, with lingering fruit notes of stone and tropical fruit,” Forbes writes.
With aromas of lanolin, almond, creamed corn and toasty vanilla, bourbon experts highly recommended this choice for its layers and moderate sweetness and intensely smooth finish.
“Buffalo Trace makes some of the best bourbons in the world, including Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, Weller, EH Taylor, Stagg Jr., Blanton’s, and more. Unfortunately, demand has made these bourbons difficult to find in stores,” Insider writes. “If you find one of the above brands on shelves in a liquor store at a reasonable price, I encourage you to pick it up and try it.”
2. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon
If you like it hot, Elijah Craig’s Barrel Proof Bourbon will surely get the job done.
“This bourbon is delicious and, depending on the barrel, registers between 128 and 140 proof. That’s not just high-octane, that’s rocket fuel. So obviously, this whiskey can run a bit hot,” The Spruce Eats writes. “While some may take it neat, there’s no shame in adding a small ice cube or a splash of water so you can appreciate the robust caramel, vanilla, cinnamon spice, and chocolate that make this a truly excellent bourbon without melting your palate.”
As the story goes, The Baptist minister Elijah Craig is said to be the “inventor” of Bourbon when he “accidentally” charred oak barrels before storing his whiskey in them, according to Food Network.
“It has none of the harshness you’d expect from a 133.2 proof bourbon, and doesn’t undergo chill filtering — instead just using light filtration to remove barrel char flakes. Tasting notes include Heath Bar and leather on the nose, with cinnamon candies, roasted vanilla and rye coming through in the palate,” Gear Patrol writes.
3. Old Ezra 7-Year-Old Bourbon
If you’re looking for an award-winning bourbon with sweet floral notes and a warm, buttery finish, Old Ezra’s 7-Year-Old Bourbon will do just the trick.
“Luxco’s Old Ezra line could be one of the best-kept secrets in whiskey. Bourbon with an age statement and available at barrel strength for a good price? That’s nuts in today’s whiskey world. It’s got a good amount of heat on account of being 117 proof, but you’ll still be able to make out classic bourbon tasting notes,” Gear Patrol writes.
Reviewers note that though the Kentucky producer only dates back to 1957, the end-product stands up against even the most iconic names in the business.
“On the nose, it offers up creamy vanilla, along with dried fruit notes. There is a pronounced caramel flavor on the palate, along with dried fruit notes and some pepperiness. It’s slightly drying on the palate, likely because of the high proof. The finish is long, sweet and peppery, with lingering dried fruit notes,” Forbes writes.
4. Widow Jane 10-Year-Old Bourbon
Widow Jane’s 10-Year-Old Straight Bourbon is highly rated as one of the top sipping whiskeys, with a complex yet well-balanced flavor profile.
“Blended in New York from bourbons distilled in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, Widow Jane has a distinct, rich flavor profile. When you sip it, this pricey bourbon coats your tongue with a cherry and maple sweetness plus almond notes. The charred oak comes out in a long, mild finish,” Insider writes.
The bourbon is only ever made in five barrel batches and is non-chill filtered and proofed.
“Its team wanted to add something that ‘had the intense taste of New York in each sip,’ so it cuts that blend with limestone mineral water from the famous Rosendale Mines in upstate New York. The distillery’s signature 10-year-old bourbon presents a nose of nutmeg, cream, vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon, and a palate that flirts with maple syrup, almond, cherry, and orange,” Liquor.com writes.
5. Four Roses Single Barrel
Looking to get into the world of bourbon but not sure where to start? Like anything in life, you’re not going to want to go super low-budget, but Four Roses is an excellent and affordable quality find.
“If it isn’t already, Four Roses should be your go-to budget bourbon. It’s great in cocktails, you can sip it on its own, and it is hands down one of the best bourbons you can find for the price. The Single Barrel is an excellent whiskey too, but for something tasty and more moderately priced check out Four Roses Small Batch. The distillery uses two mash bills and five yeast strains to create 10 different recipes to work with, and four of these recipes are used to make Small Batch,” Esquire writes.
The producer is one of Kentucky’s finest, dating back to the 1800s.
“Its single barrel might be the strongest offering in its decorated portfolio thanks to an uncanny balance of potency (100 proof) with a rich smoothness resulting from spending 10 years in barrel. Aromas of maple syrup and vanilla on the nose give way to ripe stone fruit on the tongue. Straight-up or on the rocks, it presents a delicate and lengthy finish that’s surprisingly nuanced,” Liquor.com writes.
- Food Network
- Gear Patrol
- The Spruce Eats
- Whiskey Advocate
- Whiskey Bon
- Vine Pair
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.