The 8 Best Bourbons to Buy for Your Home Bar
Looking for the best bourbon on the market? We’ve compiled eight of our favorites that you can stock on your home bar.
Bourbon is arguably the most iconic American whiskey style — although Tennessee whiskey gives it a run for its money. Made primarily with corn (bourbon mash, by law, has to contain at least 51% corn) and aged in charred oak barrels, bourbon is sweeter than many other whiskey styles (especially Scotch). Don’t worry — it isn’t without savory elements.
Looking to stock up on the best bourbon you can buy? We’ve collected eight great picks we can deliver right to your door.
What to know before purchasing whiskey
Ingredients: Whiskey is made from “grain mash,” which is a mixture that can include malted barley, rye, corn, or wheat. Rye whiskey typically contains over 51 percent rye, while Kentucky bourbon contains over 51 percent corn. Distillers then add water to the grain mash and add botanicals, spices, or color.
Age: Whiskey is aged after distillation to add color and flavor. It must age for two years, but it is common to see varieties aged for much longer. A bottled-in-bond label may be applied to certain bourbons that have been produced under strict standards regarding aging and proof.
Type of barrel: Bourbon is aged in a charred oak barrel. Part of bourbon’s flavor comes from the oak while the liquor matures.
8 best bourbons for your enjoyment
1. Best bourbon for cocktails
Flavor profile: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is exceptionally sweet, featuring notes of caramel, vanilla, and toffee.
Why we like it: Despite its low price, Buffalo Trace bourbon has garnered acclaim throughout the whiskey community for its smooth, sweet flavor, which is effortlessly enjoyable whether you’re drinking it neat or mixing up an old fashioned. That same flavor makes it a good bourbon for beginners or someone who isn’t an experienced bourbon drinker.
How to drink: Sip it neat to experience its authentic flavor, or mix it into your favorite whiskey cocktail.
**2. Best value
Flavor profile: This small-batch straight bourbon delivers a smooth, fruity, caramel flavor when it first touches the tongue and finishes with a peppery spiciness, adding a bit of complexity.
Why we like it: The multiple-award-winning E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small-Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon serves up a full, complex flavor at an impressively low price point.
How to drink: This bourbon is delicious neat, but it’s another great pick for bourbon-based cocktails.
3. Best flavored
Flavor profile: The exact flavor of this whiskey depends on the variety, of course, but if you’re looking for a stiff ingredient for a cocktail creation, their honey, apple, vanilla, or cherry varieties could bring a lot of depth to your drink and upgrade your mixers.
Why we like it: At a low price point, Jim Beam is perfect for mixing.
How to drink: Use this flavored drink as a base for your favorite cocktails containing complementary flavors.
4. Best family-owned
Heaven Hill Bottled-In-Bond
Flavor profile: This bourbon boasts touches of vanilla, honey, and caramel with a smooth, warm finish and oaky richness.
Why we like it: As a bottled-in-bond whiskey, this product was made under a strict set of guidelines. It is from one distillery and made over the season, aged for at least for years, and precisely 100 proof.
How to drink: Drink neat to enjoy the warm, full-bodied profile.
**5. Best to drink neat
Flavor profile: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is made by aging the distillery’s Distiller’s Select bourbon in a second barrel that’s “deeply toasted before a light charring.” The oaky notes are subtle and the extra aging highlights the bourbon’s rich vanilla and fruity flavors.
Why we like it: If you’re after something that’s sweet and approachable but more refined than bottom-shelf bourbon brands, it doesn’t get much better than Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.
How to drink: Enjoy this sipper neat.
6. Best single barrel
Flavor profile: Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon features prominent caramel notes with a touch of orange and rye spice. It remains slightly spicy through the finish, with notes of brown sugar and a lingering oakiness.
Why we like it: Aside from the fact that it’s shockingly high-quality for its price, Blanton’s is a piece of whiskey history—it’s the first single barrel bourbon ever sold commercially, and it deserves every ounce of the hype.
How to drink: Try it neat, on the rocks, or with a few drops of water.
7. Best small batch
Flavor profile: Booker’s releases several small batches of bourbon per year, and each batch showcases its own unique flavor profile. You can generally expect a sugary-sweet palate accompanied by notes of vanilla and wood.
Why we like it: Booker’s is a barrel-proof (used interchangeably with “barrel-strength” or “cask-strength”) bourbon, which means it’s diluted minimally to keep the bottle’s proof (128.5, in this case) as close to the barrel’s as possible. This process makes this variation stronger than many bourbons, and it’s a bit more challenging (in the fun way) than many lower-proof picks.
How to drink: Add a splash of water if you’re wary of this bourbon’s high proof. Drink it neat if you’re not.
8. Best in general
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year
Flavor profile: This high-end bourbon features caramel and cream aromas and hints of oak, nuts and leather. This drink is complex in taste, this drink is rounded out by notes of vanilla, maple, and honey and dotted with citrus flavors and spiciness.
Why we like it: This award-winning whiskey is perfect for keeping on the bar for important celebrations. This beverage is aged for 23 years, and one you’ll want to appreciate the fineness of in the finest moments of your life.
How to drink: This one is made for sipping. Given this bourbon’s extremely high price tag, you’ll want to take your time and enjoy the full complexity of the flavor, savoring the experience of this carefully-made, extraordinary drink.
From Gopuff: If the 23-year-old variation will break your bank account, the Pappy Van Winkle 13 year bourbon is still delicious but affordable.