When it comes to bourbon whiskey, there are new bottles hitting shelves daily. The current whiskey boom has kicked into hyperspeed, making it almost impossible to keep up with all the new stuff coming. Add to that the fact that classic bourbon brands haven’t gone anywhere (in fact, most have expanded or improved) and you have a bourbon aisle that’s dizzying.
This begs the question — with so many new bourbons hitting shelves are the newcomers better than the tried and true classics?
PART I — The Challenge
Today, I’m going to try and answer that question with a sprawling blind taste test of 10 classic bourbons side-by-side with 10 new bourbons. For this exercise, I kept things simple. I’m looking at bourbon brands that have been around since before the beginning of this current whiskey boom, stuff that predates 2010 really. That ranges from bottles like Michter’s (2004) to Knob Creek (1992) to Evan Williams (1957). Under the “newcomer” heading, I’m looking at brands that have started within the last decade or so. Those bottles range from Fortuna (2022) to Horse Solider (2016) to Chattanooga Whiskey (2011).
Generally speaking, I kept this very straightforward. There are no ringers in here that’ll easily beat out the competition. I didn’t choose Michter’s 20-Year Bourbon for instance (not much can beat that). Instead, I grabbed the standard Small Batch expression from that brand. With the exception of a few bottled-in-bond expressions, this is all standard stuff that you can generally find and buy for anywhere from $20 to $50 with a couple of bottles inching a little higher.
Our (monster) lineup includes the following (20!) bottles:
- Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
- Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 9 Years
- Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Weller The Original Wheated Bourbon Special Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Horse Soldier Reserve Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Rabbit Hole Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- WhistlePig PiggyBack 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey Aged 6 Years
- Starlight Distillery Carl T. Huber’s Bottled-In-Bond Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Series Botted-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- George Dickel Handcrafted Small Batch Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years
- Chattanooga Whiskey Bottled In Bond Fall 2018 Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Nelson Bros. Whiskey Classic A Blend Of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
- Fortuna Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
When it comes to ranking these bottles after the blind tasting, I’m going on taste alone. Classic bourbon has a vibe. Cratfy bourbon has its own feel (often leaning into sweet grains). But neither is a monolith. There are plenty of craft brands and new shingles that build their bourbons to taste like iconic classic bourbon, so we’ll see how this shakes out and what tastes the best. Let’s dive in!
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- The Affordable Vs Expensive Blind Bourbon Bottle Battle
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PART II — The Tasting
Nose: The nose is full of those heavily charred oak barrel notes next to classic hints of caramel and vanilla with a grassy underbelly.
Palate: That grassiness becomes vaguely floral as slightly spiced caramel apples arrive, along with a chewy mouthfeel that leads towards a soft mineral vibe — kind of like wet granite.
Finish: The end holds onto the fruit and sweetness as the oak and dried grass stay in your senses.
This is definitely a wheaty bourbon (that grassy nature is undeniable). The end is a little thin though. There’s a long way to go so I’m holding off on any judgment at this point.
Nose: There’s a 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.
Palate: 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.
Finish: The end is solid with a spicy warmth next to more of that dry firewood and a smidge of sweet oatmeal cookies.
This has a really nice balance and doesn’t overdo the “crafty” graininess. It’s very nice and easy to sip with deep rewards.
Nose: Fruity cherry gummies mingle with raw sourdough bread dough, vanilla beans, dry grass, and burnt brown sugars on the nose.
Palate: The taste has a very crafty corn chip vibe that leads to tart cranberry, more of that vanilla, and a cinnamon-spiced oatmeal raisin cookie.
Finish: This all coalesces on the finish with the spice, oats, tart red fruit, and vanilla playing second fiddle to the dry firewood and slightly spiced tobacco end.
This hit on that crafty grainy note pretty hard with a whisper of wheated bourbon in there. Overall, this is pretty tasty but a little all over the place.
Nose: Sweet and buttery toffee is countered by burnt orange, old oak, and a hint of cumin and red chili pepper flakes.
Palate: The palate leans into soft vanilla pudding cups with a touch of butterscotch swirled in next to orange oils, nougat, and a hint of menthol tobacco.
Finish: The midpalate tobacco warmth gives way to a finish that’s full of woody winter spices and a whisper of Cherry Coke next to orange/clove by way of a dark chocolate bar flaked with salt.
This is pretty classic from top to bottom. It’s standard stuff but very clearly well-spiced Kentucky bourbon.
Nose: The nose on this feels classic with a bold sense of rich vanilla pods, cinnamon sharpness, buttered and salted popcorn, and a good dose of cherry syrup with a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The palate mixes almond, orange, and vanilla into cinnamon sticky buns with a hint of sour cherry soda that leads to a nice Kentucky hug on the mid-palate.
Finish: That warm hug fades toward black cherry root beer, old leather boots, porch wicker, and a sense of dried cherry/cinnamon tobacco packed into an old pine box.
This is also very clearly classic Kentucky bourbon with a nice depth to it. It feels more well-rounded than the last sip with more depth overall.
Nose: This nose is classic bourbon with deep and dark cherry, burnt orange, old vanilla pods, and a hint of licorice layered into cream soda with a sprig of fresh mint.
Palate: There’s a sense of fancy Almond Joy next to clove-studded oranges candies, vanilla cake with caramel frosting, and a light mint tobacco in a cedar humidor with a twinge of leather.
Finish: The cedar, dark cherry, singe orange, and bold woody spice all pop in the finish and fade slowly away, leaving you with a well-rounded “bourbon” experience.
This feels both classic and fresh. The orange really pops on the palate and the fade. In the end, this is really good whiskey.
Nose: There’s a light sense of rickhouse wood beams next to that mild taco seasoning on the nose with caramel apples, vanilla ice cream scoops, and a hint of fresh mint with a sweet/spicy edge.
Palate: The palate opens with a seriously smooth vanilla base with some winter spice (especially cinnamon and allspice) next to a hint of grain and apple pie filling.
Finish: The end leans towards the woodiness with a hint of broom bristle and minty tobacco lead undercut by that smooth vanilla.
This is classic sweet bourbon with a spiced edge. It’s a little too standard. As in, this is tasty but doesn’t wow me.
Nose: This opens with a rush of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider, pear candy, and vanilla cake with a hint of dark chocolate, orange zest, salted caramel, and some sour red berries tossed with fresh tobacco and mint.
Palate: The palate opens with some dried apple skins next to cinnamon sticks floating in hot and spicy apple cider, a hint of mint tobacco, and salted orange dark chocolate bars.
Finish: The end has a nougat wafer vibe next to caramel and vanilla cookies with a hint of old porch wicker and boot leather.
This is classic, fresh, and deep. There’s a lot going on but it all makes sense and creates a fun ride from start to finish.
Nose: There’s a soft leathery nose that leads to caramel corn and a nutty spiciness with a hint of old oak.
Palate: The nuttiness drives the palate toward fresh maple syrup that turns creamy with an almond vibe, plenty of winter spice, and a hint of black tea.
Finish: That tea calms down toward a wet chamomile with a dollop of honey, a twist of orange, and a pinch of sweet cinnamon with a lingering sense of oak in the background.
This was also pretty damn good, all things considered. It was both classic and well-rounded flavorwise.
Nose: The nose opens with dark stewed cherries and spiced prune compote next to cinnamon waffles with a hint of maple syrup and dark chocolate chips.
Palate: The palate is pure silk with notes of Cherry Coke next to clove-studded oranges dipped in dark chocolate with a flake of salt with whispers of apple fritters, eggnog spices, and singed cherry bark with maybe a hint of apple wood in the background.
Finish: The end has a subtle warmth thanks to wintry mulled wine spices that lead to fresh pipe tobacco kissed with dates and chocolate and packed into an old cedar box for safekeeping.
This is far and away better than any other sip so far with a hardcore classic bourbon vibe. It’s deeply hewn, takes you on a journey, and tastes great. This is going to be hard to beat.
Nose: The nose draws you in with a sense of orange Jolly Ranchers, powdered cacao, and stewed peaches with classic bourbon vanilla and an oaky vibe.
Palate: The palate is a mix of apricot jam, pear cores, and red berries with a mix of spiced orange candy tobacco wrapped around dry wicker and cedar bark.
Finish: The end leans into the sweet and spiced orange while the tobacco slowly fades through sweet caramel and vanilla buttercream toward a silky finish.
This is pretty nice overall. It didn’t pop quite as much as the last sip but delivered a sweet and balanced sipping experience.
Nose: Soft and sweet apple and cherry woods greet with a good dose of sour red berries dusted with brown winter spices, especially clove and nutmeg.
Palate: The palate leans into soft and salted caramel with a hint of those berries underneath while the spices get woodier and a thin line of green sweetgrass sneaks in.
Finish: The finish is silky and boils down to blackberry jam with a good dose of winter spice, old wood, and a hint of vanilla tobacco.
This, too, was pretty nice overall. It was a standard feeling sip that feels like something I’d put into a cocktail.
Nose: The nose on this is very fruity with a mix of bruised peach, red berries (almost like in a cream soda), and apple wood next to a plate of waffles with brown butter and a good pour of maple syrup that leads to a hint of cotton candy.
Palate: The sweetness ebbs on the palate as vanilla frosting leads to grilled peaches with a crack of black pepper next to singed marshmallows.
Finish: The end is plummy and full of rich toffee next to a dash of cedar bark and vanilla tobacco.
This was quintessential bourbon from top to bottom. This is really good stuff.
Nose: Vanilla pound cake and salted caramel are countered by spicy cherry tobacco, mulled wine vibes, and dark chocolate cut with orange zest and a hint of corn husk.
Palate: The palate brings in some floral honey sweetness and more orange oils with a sticky toffee pudding feel next to more spicy cherry tobacco and a hint of coconut cream pie.
Finish: The end amps up the cherry with a little more sweetness than spice before salted dark chocolate tobacco folds into dry sweetgrass and cedar bark.
This is another quintessential bourbon experience. It’s deep, fun, and classic through and through.
Nose: The nose opens with creamy vanilla next to spiced tobacco with plenty of apple pie vibe and winter spices with a butter underbelly.
Palate: The palate has a light bran muffin with a molasses vibe next to vanilla/nougat wafers that then leads to peach skins and gingerbread.
Finish: The end leans into the nutty chocolate and vanilla wafer with a touch of orange zest, marzipan, and mint tobacco with a hint of garden store earthiness.
This is clearly a Tennessee whiskey thanks to those wafers and that earthiness on the end. It’s good though with a nice depth and fresh feeling.
Nose: Cinnamon, brown butter sugar, walnut, and raisins meld on the nose with some vanilla to create a moist oatmeal cookie next to buckwheat pancakes griddled in brown butter and topped with apple butter.
Palate: The palate leans into cherry hand pies and vanilla wafers with a counter of dried wild sage, orchard tree bark, and meaty dates.
Finish: The end has a sharp turn into dried red chili pepper cut with pipe tobacco, dark chocolate bars, cedar bark, burnt orange, and lime leaves with this whisper of cinnamon cookies at the very end.
This is a complex whiskey that feels as new as it does classic. It’s pretty delicious.
Nose: This is very bourbon-forward with clear notes of sour cherry, vanilla oils, soft leather, dry chili spices, warm apple pies, and a hint of bran.
Palate: The palate takes that bran and turns it into a zucchini bread with walnuts as the vanilla smooths everything out.
Finish: The sour cherry and woody chili spices return on the warm end to round things out as minty tobacco pops on the very end.
This felt pretty standard overall, like a good mixing bourbon.
Nose: There’s a lovely nose at play with soft taco mix spice next to creamy vanilla, caramel-dipped cherries, a hint of pear skins, and plenty of nutmeg.
Palate: The palate has a minor note of cornbread muffins next to cherry-vanilla tobacco with a dash of leather and toffee.
Finish: The end leans into some fresh gingerbread with a vanilla frosting next to hints of pear candy cut with cinnamon and nutmeg.
There was a hint of thinness (likely due to a low price point) but this did deliver a solid flavor profile with classic vibes.
Nose: There’s a tannic sense of old oak next to sweet cherries, vanilla cookies, and that Buffalo Trace leathery vibe with a hint of spiced tobacco lurking underneath.
Palate: The palate has a creamy texture kind of like malted vanilla ice cream over a hot apple pie cut with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and walnuts next to Frosted Raisin Bran with a hint of candied cherry root beer.
Finish: The end takes that sweet cherry and apple and layers it into a light tobacco leaf with a mild sense of old musty barrel warehouses.
This was another classic that felt old. Nostalgic is the best word I think of to describe it.
Nose: There’s a beautiful sense of fresh orange blossom and nasturtiums on the nose with a lush honeycomb vibe next to stewed plums with hints of clove and allspice.
Palate: The palate is luxurious with a sense of salted caramel, cherry Dr. Pepper, and sticky toffee pudding with plenty of winter spice, salted toffee, orange zest, brandy butter, and black-tea-soaked dates.
Finish: The end has a sense of plum pudding with burnt sugars and orange tobacco kissed with anise and clove and rolled up with wild sage and cedar bark and wrapped in old leather pouches.
This is great bourbon. It’s classic, sure, but goes so much deeper. This is a contender for sure!
PART III — The Ranking
20. Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (Classic) — Taste 1
Average Price: $24
This is Maker’s signature expression made with Red winter wheat and aged seasoned Ozark oak for six to seven years. This expression’s whiskey is then sourced from only 150 barrels (making this a “small batch”). Those barrels are then blended and proofed with Kentucky limestone water before bottling and dipping in their iconic red wax.
This is a good bourbon that has a thin end (hence it ranked last). That said, if you’re mixing cocktails with this, you’ll never notice that minor flaw.
19. Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 7
Average Price: $24
This is Elijah Craig’s entry-point bottle. The mash is corn-focused, with more malted barley than rye. The whiskey is then rendered from “small batches” of barrels to create this proofed-down version of the iconic brand.
This is another solid all-around bourbon that works best as a cocktail base. Use it accordingly.
18. George Dickel Handcrafted Small Batch Bourbon Whisky Aged 8 Years (New) — Taste 15
Average Price: $34
The whisky in the bottle is the same Dickel Tennessee whiskey but pulled from barrels that leaned more into classic bourbon flavor notes instead of Dickel’s iconic Tennessee whisky notes. The barrels are a minimum of eight years old before they’re vatted. The whiskey is then cut down to a manageable 90-proof and bottled.
This is a bit of an outlier taste-wise. If you’re looking for a classic bourbon, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for something fresh and new with a Tennessee whiskey vibe, then you’ll dig this.
17. Nelson Bros. Whiskey Classic A Blend Of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys (New) — Taste 17
Average Price: $47
This whiskey from Tennessess’ Nelson’s Green Brier is a blend of high-rye bourbons. The whiskeys are brought together by the Nelson brothers to meet a “classic” bourbon flavor profile.
This is a good, standard mixing bourbon with a classic vibe. No more. No less.
16. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 4
Average Price: $19
A lot of Wild Turkey’s character comes from the hard and deep char they use on their oak barrels. 101 starts with a high-rye mash bill that leans into the wood and aging, having spent six years in the cask. A little of that soft Kentucky limestone water is added to cool it down a bit before bottling.
This is a great standard and classic bourbon to have on hand for mixing up fun cocktails.
15. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 3
Average Price: $55
Frey Ranch is all about the farm behind the whiskey. In this case, that’s a 165+-year-old farm in the Sierra Nevada basin near Lake Tahoe. The grains (corn, wheat, rye, and barley), fermentation, distilling, aging, and bottling all happen on-site at Frey Ranch.
This is a nice one too but leans pretty heavily into the “crafty” sweet-grain vibes. That said, I like that in that it tastes like something besides your standard Kentucky bourbon. It’s fresh and fun, but clearly something you’re going to use to make cocktails with.
14. Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 12
Average Price: $27
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of four whiskeys. The blend is split evenly between the high and mid-ryes with a focus on “slight spice” and “rich fruit” yeasts. The whiskey is then blended, cut with soft Kentucky water, and bottled.
It’s hard not to love this fruit-forward bourbon. It’s simple yet always delivers. You can’t beat that, especially if you’re looking for a solid cocktail bourbon.
13. Weller The Original Wheated Bourbon Special Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 19
Average Price: $24
This is a classic wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace, which doesn’t publish any of its mash bills. Educated guesses put the wheat percentage of these mash bills at around 16 to 18%, which is pretty average. The age of the barrels on this blend is also unknown. Overall, we know this is a classic wheated bourbon, and … that’s about it.
This is deep and kind of funky on top of that classic bourbon build. It’s really a mixing whiskey but offers that little something extra.
12. Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 18
Average Price: $16
Look, Heaven Hill makes great whiskey, especially inexpensive bottled in bonds. This “b-i-b” is tailored for the Evan Williams flavor profile. Still, this is Heaven Hill, so we’re talking about the same mash bill, same warehouses, and same parent company as several entries on this list. This is simply built to match a higher-end Evan Williams vibe.
This had a touch of thinness to it but just nailed it otherwise. It’s a well-rounded and classic bourbon that delivers. That’s especially true if you’re looking for something easy to pour over rocks or mix a simple cocktail with.
11. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 8
Average Price: $30
The mash bill on this bourbon is mid-range rye heavy with 18% of the grain in the bill for support. Triple distilling in pot stills (like Irish whiskey) and blending with column-distilled whiskey is utilized. The bourbon then rests for six to seven years — taking time to mature before barrels are pulled for blending, proofing, and bottling.
This is the last of the classic bourbons that are clearly for mixing. This is the best of that group. It’s deep, really well-rounded, and very tasty. Make a Manhattan with this, it’ll be dope.
10. Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Series Botted-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 11
Average Price: $50
This brand-new release from Bardstown Bourbon Company is 100% their own whiskey. The juice is made from a wheated bourbon mash bill — 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley — down in Bardstown, Kentucky. The whiskey spends about six years mellowing before it’s just kissed with local water and bottled at 100 proof.
This is where we start getting into the good stuff. This has a classic backbone that goes deeper than the average bourbon. I’d argue that you can sip this slowly on a slow day or use it for mixing your favorite bourbon cocktails. It’s a winner either way.
9. WhistlePig PiggyBack 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey Aged 6 Years (New) — Taste 9
Average Price: $49
This newer whiskey from WhistlePig mixes locally made Vermont whiskey with Indiana whiskey to create a bespoke bourbon. The mash bill leans into the corn with a good measure of rye in the mix. The whiskey barrels are left alone for six years before batching, proofing, and bottling on the farm in Vermont.
This is a pretty good whiskey. If you’re a fan of WhistlePig, you’re going to dig this. If you like classic bourbon vibes, you’ll be a fan too. I’d sip this over some ice or in a simple cocktail.
8. Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 9 Years (Classic) — Taste 5
Buy Here: $45 (one-liter)
This is Jim Beam’s small batch entry point into the wider world of Knob Creek. The juice is the low-rye mash aged for nine years in new oak in Beam’s vast warehouses. The right barrels are then mingled and cut down to 100 proof before being bottled in new, wavy bottles.
This is an essential bourbon from Beam. I tend to use this for cocktails, that’s what it’s built for. But it 100% works as a classic sipper in a pinch, especially over a large ice cube.
7. Horse Soldier Reserve Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 2
Average Price: $92
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 is a very tasty whiskey. It’s great over a large ice cube or in an old fashioned. Supporting this brand also support veterans, which makes this a no-brainer buy for any bar cart.
6. Rabbit Hole Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 6
Average Price: $59
This Louisville whiskey is made with a “double malted” mash bill. The recipe calls for 70% corn, 25% malted German rye, and 5% malted barley. The hot juice goes into the barrels at a lower entry proof and rests for just over three years in toasted and charred Kelvin barrels. Only 15 of those barrels go into the final batch.
This is a killer whiskey that works wonders as a slow sipper. You’ll want to go back in for more and you’ll always find something new in the pour. If you’re looking for something new yet top-rate, this is it.
5. Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 14
Average Price: $24
Each of these Jim Beam bottlings is pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability, according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this whiskey is pulled from less than 1% of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this would trick a ton of whiskey experts in a blind taste test into thinking it’s something massively more expensive and fancy. It’s that good. Go get some. It’s for everyone who loves good bourbon.
4. Chattanooga Whiskey Bottled In Bond Fall 2018 Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 16
Average Price: $53
The latest seasonal drop from Tennessee’s Chattanooga Whiskey is another great. The whiskey is a blend of four of their mash bills. 30% comes from mash bill SB091, which is a mix of yellow corn, malted rye, caramel malted barley, and honey malted barley. Another 30% comes from mash bill B002, which has yellow corn, hardwood smoked malted barley (smoked with beech, mesquite, apple, or cherry), caramel malted barley, caramel malted, and honey malted barley. The next 20% is mash bill B005: yellow corn, malted wheat, oak smoked malted wheat, and caramel malted wheat. And the last 20% is from mash bill R18098, which is yellow corn, pale malted barley, naked malted oats, double roasted caramel malted barley, peated malted barley, cherrywood smoked malted barley, chocolate malt, and de-husked chocolate malt.
The taste on this one runs so deep that you almost feel the need to go back again and again to find more cool flavor notes. This is for the whiskey lovers who are looking for something truly extra that won’t bore them, ever.
3. Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Classic) — Taste 13
Average Price: $46
Michter’s really means the phrase “small batch” here. The tank they use to marry their hand-selected eight-year-old bourbons can only hold 20 barrels, so that’s how many go into each small-batch bottling. The blended whiskey is then proofed with Kentucky’s famously soft limestone water and bottled.
This is a true classic from top to bottom. This is the bottle you buy and drink when you want the most optimal bourbon-sipping experience or cocktail.
2. Fortuna Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 20
Average Price: $85
This whiskey — a revival of a centuries-old dead brand — is from the new company founded by Heaven Hill’s Andrew Shapira with partners Pablo Moix and Peter Nevenglosky, based around the Rare Character Whiskey shingle. The whiskey in the bottle is rendered from six barrels of six-year-old whiskey that’s expertly batched and bottled with just a touch of local Kentucky water.
This is pretty much a perfect classic bourbon whiskey. The depth is astounding and the vibe is so on point that you start to wonder where this brand has been your whole life. It’s just that little bit deeper than the previous whiskey (I’m splitting microscopic hairs to say that), making it damn near the best whiskey on the list.
1. Starlight Distillery Carl T. Huber’s Bottled-In-Bond Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey (New) — Taste 10
Average Price: $62
This new release from Huber Farm’s Starlight Distillery (the distillery to know if you’re in the know) is made from their high-corn mash with a sweet mash method (each batch is fresh) in their old copper pot still. The whiskey is barreled in Canton barrels and left to age on the farm for four years before it’s batched (only 20 barrels) and proofed down to 100 proof for bottling.
This was the best whiskey on the list. It was close, but this had the most depth while feeling both fresh/fun and so classic that it felt seminal. If you can get your hands on a bottle of this (click that price link!), then you’ll be in for a true bourbon treat.
PART IV — Final Thoughts
This was a hell of a lineup of whiskey. There was nothing bad at all. That said, if I were to reach for a bottle, it’d be one from the top ten. Each of those bottles was killer, with unique profiles that speak to different moods, vibes, auras, or however your feel from day to day.
That said, that Starlight Bottled-In-Bond popped on a whole other level. It felt like riding in a brand new car to your childhood home. Truly the best of both worlds.
As for the battle aspect, it all came down to how well-built these bourbons were. New bourbons can taste like classics and classics can taste fresh. New brand, old brand, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how well the people behind those brands are building their whiskeys. That said, today was certainly an encouraging sign for the newcomers.