It’s a new day and that means there are new bourbon whiskeys on the shelf. The rate of new bourbons hitting shelves all around America is pretty much non-stop this time of year, so much that it’s almost impossible to keep up with. But that’s where we come in. Folks, it’s time for another brand-new bourbon blind taste test (a BNBBTT, if you will).
Below, I’ve compiled nine bourbons that basically just came out (or the 2022 edition that just came out). Some of these are so new that you might not even be able to find them outside of the distillery bottle shop yet. All of that aside, there are some exciting new bourbons hitting shelves right now. Bourbons cut with New York City’s famed water, grain-to-glass crafties, and even a brand-new Basil Hayden are all in the mix.
For the ranking of these whiskeys, I’m keeping it very simple. Is it well made? How good does it taste? And do I want to actually drink the stuff (besides just taste it for work)?
Our lineup today is:
- Horse Soldier Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon Whiskey
- Filibuster Distillery Bottled-in-Bond Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskeys Aged 5 Years
- Noble Oak Double Oak Bourbon
- Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea New York Edition
- Samuel Maverick Private Reserve Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Penelope Valencia
- Shortbarrel Toasted 101
- Lil’ Guero Aged 7 Years Bourbon Whiskey
- Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask Finish
Let’s dive in and rank some new bourbons!
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Part 1: The Tasting
There’s a mild crafty, sweet grain nose that opens toward a pile of freshly chopped firewood, lemon pepper, creamy vanilla-laced honey, winter spices, and Kiwi boot soap. The palate has a hint of caramel malts next to Vanilla Coke, a buttery and spiced apple pie with plenty of brown sugar, and a hint of ginger next to some orange blossoms in the background. The end is solid with a spicy warmth next to more of that dry firewood and a smidge of sweet oatmeal cookies.
This is a very nice sip of bourbon that leans pretty crafty, but not overly so. There’s depth here that feels nice on the palate.
The nose opens with a waft of old porch wicker next to floral honey, burnt orange, black tea leaves, and a classic sense of woody cherry and vanilla. The palate creams the honey while adding in soft oak and cherry pie filling with a hint of vanilla malt next to mulled wine spices — heavy with star anise, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon with a pinch of mace or cardamom. The end has a dark chocolate-covered espresso bean vibe that leads to a mild dried cranberry note next to a strawberry-rhubarb-walnut crumble with a scoop of vanilla malted ice cream that finished back at the old porch wicker braided with dark cherry tobacco and dry cedar bark.
This is a hell of a pour. It felt both classic and fresh at the same time. It has serious depth and really enticed me back for more.
There’s a hint of cherry and vanilla cream with a honeyed sweetness on the nose that’s countered by mild winter spices. The palate is light but full of dark cherry and chocolate next to raisins and maybe some Mounds bar vibes. The end has a touch of old leather and cherry bark with a hint of tinniness to it.
This was moseying along nicely until the finish. It just didn’t land for me.
There’s a nice sense of soft caramel chews on the nose with a dash of cigar tobacco and old humidors next to old leather cloves, burnt orange, and a hint of saline. The palate leans into brash winter spices with spicy and woody cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and a hint of cardamom next to lush crème brûlée with a hint of that cigar vibe. The end stays strong with the spices and tobacco next to a soft vanilla creaminess and slightly salted pasta water finish.
This was interesting. I don’t that I’ve ever had a whiskey that was so obviously proofed that worked so well. That saline/salted pasta water vibe just works.
There’s a clear sense of a very crafty bourbon on the nose with big grain notes leading to molasses-filled bran muffins and raw oatmeal cookie dough with plenty of vanilla extract. The palate has a similar vibe but layers in pecan waffles with high-fructose pancake syrup, more vanilla, and sweet cornbread. The end has a hint of mineral water next to caramel candy and more of that bran muffin.
This is very crafty and grainy. It was tasty but not amazingly so.
There’s a light sense of burnt orange and cinnamon toast on the nose that leads to a hint of cherry vanilla cream soda with chocolate chip cookies cut with orange zest. That orange zest turns into chunky orange marmalade on the palate over buttery southern biscuits, woody mulled wine spices, wet brown sugar, and oily vanilla pods. The end has a nice bitterness to it tied to the orange rinds and seeds with a hint of orange blossom next to salted dark chocolate.
This is really freakin’ tasty. It’s very orange-forward but it balances that note with complementary flavors throughout. It all makes sense on the palate and it’s kind of fun.
There’s a classic nose with dark cherry and maple syrup countered by Almond Joy, salted apple chips, and a hint of old oak staves in a musty old rickhouse. The palate has a sense of pecan waffles and cinnamon toast next to Honey Nut Cheerios, vanilla cream, and burnt orange. The end has a peach pie vibe with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg next to dark cherry tobacco dipped in buttery dark chocolate tobacco.
This was a nice pour.
This is another classic nose full of maple syrup over pecan waffles, dried cherries, salted caramel, meaty dates, old leather, and singed cedar with a hint of old musk lurking in the background of the nose. The palate has a hint of caramel next to vanilla malt with dates, prunes, and raisins leading to dark chocolate-covered dried cranberries with a hint of spiced tobacco. That spiced tobacco mingles with old leather and cedar on the back end.
This was solid and very enticing. It hit every note clearly and deeply.
There’s a hint of orange zest on the nose with sour mulled wine spices — star anise, cardamom, cinnamon — next to Cherry Coke and vanilla cake with white frosting. The palate is soft yet creamy with a nutty spiced cake vibe next to zucchini bread with a dollop of butter next to tart dried berries dipped in brandy with a hint of dark cacao in the background. The end is pretty short (low-proofed) and finishes with a sense of old oak staves soaked in sour red wine with a dash of burnt orange and dried winter spice rounding things out.
This was pretty nice overall and had a nice depth, albeit very low-proofed.
Part 2: The Ranking
9. Noble Oak Double Oak Bourbon — Taste 3
Average Price: $36
Noble Oak is an Ohio bourbon sourced from MGP. The whiskey is aged in new oak for a spell. Then sherry staves are added to the barrels to create this unique dram. Moreover, for each bottle sold, Noble Oak plants a tree. So far, they’ve planted over 750,000 trees and counting.
This was really nice right up until the finish. That tinniness was a little off-putting.
8. Samuel Maverick Private Reserve Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 5
Average Price: $75
This grain-to-glass Texas whiskey is made from select Texas-grown corn, rye, and barley that’s distilled and aged on-site in the historic Lockwood National Bank building. After four years, seven 30-gallon barrels were picked and blended for this small-batch expression.
This was very crafty with those huge sweet grainy notes. That said, that’s the vibe of a lot of new craft bourbon right now. I’m not quite sold… yet.
7. Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask Finish — Taste 9
Average Price: $60
Freddie Noe — Beam’s eighth-generation Master Distiller — created this expression by blending classic Basil Hayden with bourbon partially aged in California red wine casks. The resulting batch is then proofed down and bottled.
This is where things get fun. This has no business being as good as it is for an 80-proof whiskey. It’s deep and fun. That said, I think I’d focus on using this in cocktails more than as a sipper.
6. Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea New York Edition — Taste 4
Average Price: $99
This version of Jefferson’s famed Oceans Series sailed through the North Sea, around Europe, along the Atlantic Seaboard, and through the Panama Canal before ending up in New York City. Once there, the whiskey was batched and proofed down with New York City’s famed water (which is unfiltered and from closer to the Catskills).
This is a very niche expression. This was pretty good whiskey overall. I can’t say that the NYC proofing water made that much difference, but this definitely had its own feel to it with that saline minerality. All of that said, I’d likely use this more for a Manhattan than anything else.
5. Shortbarrel Toasted 101 — Taste 7
Average Price: $80
This Kentucky whiskey is aged through a few years before it’s vatted and re-barreled into new toasted oak barrels. After 21 days, those barrels are blended and the juice is just kissed with water before bottling.
This was a little fruity but ultimately really nice overall. I think it’d make either a solid cocktail bourbon or a perfectly suitable on-the-rocks sipper.
4. Horse Soldier Reserve Barrel Strength Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $98
The bourbon in this bottle was contract distilled in Ohio at Middlewest (but it’s now being made in Kentucky too). The juice is a wheated bourbon that spent eight years mellowing before bottling. Each barrel was hand-picked before being married into a barrel strength expression that’s bottled as-is.
This was a really solid pour of bourbon. It had a hint of that grainy craftiness but was otherwise a classic bourbon. In the end, the high ABVs did make this feel like a great cocktail candidate that needed a couple of rocks as a sipper.
3. Lil’ Guero Aged 7 Years Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 8
Average Price: $100
This small batch from Savage & Cooke out in California is made from an MGP of Indiana 7-year-old high-rye bourbon. Master Distiller Jordan Via hand picks only 38 barrels for this blend and then cuts that juice with Alexander Valley spring water before bottling.
This was just good bourbon. It felt like a solid sipper all around, even neat. I’d be willing to bet this also makes one hell of a Manhattan or Sazerac too.
2. Penelope Valencia — Taste 6
Average Price: $83
This bourbon starts off as Penelope’s beloved and much-lauded four-grain bourbon. That whiskey is then re-barreled into Spanish Vino de Naranja casks from Valencia before small batching, proofing, and bottling.
This was a great whiskey all around. It’s a wonderful sipper and I can see it really popping in an old fashioned. It also gave me a chance to use one of my favorite memes from The Simpsons.
1. Filibuster Distillery Bottled-in-Bond Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 5 Years — Taste 2
Average Price: $90
This Virginias whiskey is a grain-to-glass experience. The juice is made from locally-grown grains — 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malted barley — and local spring water in the Shenandoah Valley. After five years of mellowing in Appalachia, a small bundle of barrels are batched and proofed to 100 proof before bottling.
This was really solid. It has serious depth and felt like a truly classic bourbon whiskey from the jump. This was the one I actually wanted to drink after all of this.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Well, that was a surprise. A whiskey brand I’d never even heard of before this month came out on top. That’s the great thing about these blinds — you never know what hidden gem you might find.
Pontificating aside, the Filibuster Bottled-In-Bond bourbon was really solid. It just hit every note so well while offering a truly classic vibe. As for the rest, the only one I didn’t care for was the Noble Oak because of the finish. The rest were all solid with the Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask finish being the biggest surprise — it still has no business being that deep with only 40 percent ABV.
If you can’t find the Filibuster, then Penelope Valencia is the play if you’re looking for something new right now. Lil’ Guero and Horse Soldier are also easy wins as well.