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Savoring Perfection: Best Bourbon for Drinking Straight

a shot of bottles for the best bourbon for drinking straight

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Once you’re ready to savor the moment and indulge in the world of fine spirits, finding the best bourbon for drinking straight is the key to unlocking an unparalleled tasting experience. 

From smoothness that glides across your palate to the intricate dance of flavors that unfold with every sip, the quest for the perfect straight bourbon is an adventure worth embarking on. 

So, prepare to elevate your senses and discover the epitome of the best sipping bourbons pleasure as we explore the realm of the finest bourbons for drinking straight.

Introduction

What is bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is primarily made from a grain mixture containing at least 51% corn. It is aged in new, seared oak barrels and produced in the United States. [1] The production of bourbon is regulated by law, and it is known for its rich and distinctive flavor profile.

Why drink bourbon straight?

Drinking bourbon straight allows you to experience the full range of flavors and aromas the spirit offers. By sipping it neat or on the rocks, you can appreciate the nuances and complexities of the bourbon without dilution from mixers or additives.

a glass of bourbon topped with a slice of orange

10 Best Bourbon Whiskey for Drinking Straight

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark is a classic bourbon known for its signature red wax seal and handcrafted approach. It is made with a high percentage of corn, along with malted barley and red winter wheat, giving it a smooth and mellow flavor.

  • ABV: 45%
  • Average Price: $25-$35
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Maker’s Mark
  • Distillery: Maker’s Mark Distillery
  • Production Methods: Small-batch production using a unique, handmade sour mash process.
  • Aging Process: Aged for around six years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Rich and full-bodied with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of oak reminiscent of brown sugar.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Sweet and inviting with aromas of sweet vanilla, caramel, and a touch of fruit.
    • Palate: Smooth and well-rounded, with flavors of caramel, butterscotch, and a hint of spice.
    • Smoothness: Very smooth and easy to drink.
    • Finishing: Medium-length finish with gentle warmth and lingering sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled steak, barbecue, pecan pie.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Maker’s Mark is a popular and approachable bourbon, suitable for both newcomers and Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey enthusiasts. It offers a balanced flavor profile and a smooth drinking experience.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve is a premium bourbon known for its craftsmanship and attention to detail. It is made using a carefully selected combination of sweet corn, rye, and malted barley, resulting in a complex and flavorful whiskey.

  • ABV: 43.2%
  • Average Price: $30-$40
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Woodford Reserve
  • Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery
  • Production Methods: Distilled in small batches using copper pot stills and a traditional sour mash bill process.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of six years in new, charred new oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Balanced and rich, with notes of dried fruit, vanilla, and toasted oak.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Rich and aromatic with scents of caramel, vanilla, and hints of cinnamon.
    • Palate: Smooth and well-rounded, with flavors of toffee, dark chocolate, and spices.
    • Smoothness: Silky and velvety on the palate.
    • Finishing: Long and warming, with lingering notes of oak, tobacco, and a touch of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled salmon, roasted vegetables, apple pie.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Woodford Reserve offers a refined and sophisticated bourbon experience. Its balanced flavor profile and smoothness make it an excellent choice to drink neat or in classic bourbon cocktails.

Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses Single Barrel is a premium bourbon known for its exceptional quality and complexity. It is crafted with a carefully selected blend of corn, malted barley, and a high proportion of rye, resulting in a bold and spicy flavor profile.

  • ABV: Varies (typically around 50%)
  • Average Price: $45-$55
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Four Roses
  • Distillery: Four Roses Distillery
  • Production Methods: Distilled using a single-story rack warehouse and a unique yeast strain.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of seven years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Robust and spicy, with notes of ripe fruit, caramel, and oak.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Rich and fruity, with aromas of ripe berries, vanilla, and a hint of floral notes.
    • Palate: Full-bodied and complex, with flavors of caramel, baking spices, and dark chocolate.
    • Smoothness: Bold and intense, with a slight kick from the higher rye content.
    • Finishing: Long and warming, with lingering notes of oak, tobacco, and a touch of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled steak, spicy barbecue, dark chocolate desserts.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Four Roses Single Barrel offers a bold and flavorful bourbon experience. Its high rye content gives it a spicy kick, making it a favorite among enthusiasts who enjoy robust and complex flavors of bourbons.

Blanton’s

Blanton’s is a highly regarded bourbon known for its single-barrel production and iconic horse-stopper cork tops. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley, resulting in a well-balanced and flavorful whiskey.

  • ABV: 46.5%
  • Average Price: $60-$70
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Blanton’s
  • Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Production Methods: Single barrel production, where each barrel is selected and bottled individually.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of six years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Complex yet smooth flavor, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of citrus.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Sweet and inviting, with aromas of caramel, vanilla, and a touch of orange zest.
    • Palate: Velvety and rich, with toffee, honey notes, and a hint of baking spices.
    • Smoothness: Incredibly smooth and well-rounded.
    • Finishing: Long and satisfying, with gentle warmth and lingering sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled pork tenderloin, caramelized onions, citrus desserts.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Blanton’s is considered a benchmark for quality in the bourbon world. Its single-barrel production and attention to detail result in a consistently excellent whiskey, appreciated by both a casual bourbon drinker and connoisseur.

a glass of bourbon at the bar counter

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve is an extremely rare and highly sought-after bourbon known for its exceptional quality and complexity. It is crafted with a carefully selected blend of corn, wheat, and malted barley, resulting in a uniquely smooth and luxurious whiskey.

  • ABV: Varies (typically between 45% and 65% depending on the expression)
  • Average Price: $1,500-$2,000 (prices may vary significantly due to rarity and demand)
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Pappy Van Winkle’s
  • Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of 15 years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Rich and velvety with notes of caramel, dark chocolate, and dried fruits.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and oak with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
    • Palate: Smooth and indulgent with flavors of toffee, dried cherries, and a touch of leather.
    • Smoothness: Incredibly smooth and well-rounded.
    • Finishing: Long and complex, with lingering notes of oak, spice, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Dark chocolate truffles, aged cheeses, roasted nuts.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve is considered one of the finest bourbons in the world, offering a luxurious and unforgettable tasting experience for those fortunate enough to acquire a bottle. Its rarity and exceptional quality make it a prized possession among bourbon enthusiasts.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace is a well-known and respected bourbon known for its high quality and affordability. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley, resulting in a versatile and approachable whiskey. [2]

  • ABV: 45%
  • Average Price: $25-$35
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Buffalo Trace
  • Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of eight years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Smooth and mellow, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a touch of spice.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Sweet and inviting, with aromas of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of toasted oak.
    • Palate: Soft and easy-drinking, with flavors of honey, toffee, and a touch of cinnamon.
    • Smoothness: Very smooth and approachable.
    • Finishing: Medium-length finish with gentle warmth and lingering sweet flavors.
  • Food Pairings: Barbecue ribs, cornbread, apple crisp.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Buffalo Trace offers high-quality bourbon at an affordable price point. It is versatile enough to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails, making it a popular choice for bourbon lovers of all levels of experience.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig Small Batch is a premium bourbon known for its rich and robust flavor profile. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley and is matured in seared oak barrels to develop its complex character.

  • ABV: 47%
  • Average Price: $30-$40
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Elijah Craig
  • Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of eight years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Bold and flavorful, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak spice.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Caramel and vanilla with taste of toasted oak and baking spices.
    • Palate: Full-bodied and rich, with flavors of dark chocolate, toasted nuts, and a touch of cinnamon.
    • Smoothness: Smooth and well-rounded, with a slight kick of spice.
    • Finishing: Long and warming, with lingering notes of oak, toffee, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled steak, smoked brisket, pecan pie.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Elijah Craig Small Batch offers a bold and flavorful bourbon experience. Its well-balanced profile and complexity make it a favorite among bourbon enthusiasts, and its reasonable price point adds to its appeal.

Knob Creek

Knob Creek is a premium bourbon known for its robust and full-bodied flavor profile. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley. Its nine years spent in American oak barrels in plenty of spice character and a smooth, lasting taste.

  • ABV: Varies (typically between 50% and 60% depending on the expression)
  • Average Price: $40-$50
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Knob Creek
  • Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of nine years in American oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Rich and full-bodied, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and smoky oak.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Sweet and inviting, with aromas of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of smoky char.
    • Palate: Intense and flavorful, with notes of maple syrup, dark chocolate, and spices.
    • Smoothness: Robust and powerful, with a warming, full-bodied character.
    • Finishing: Long and satisfying, with lingering notes of oak, spices, and a touch of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled ribs, spicy chili, chocolate brownies.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Knob Creek is a bourbon that packs a punch with its bold flavors and high proof. It appeals to those who enjoy intense and robust whiskies, and its long aging period adds depth and complexity to the overall drinking experience.

Basil Hayden’s

Basil Hayden’s is a premium bourbon known for its smoothness and approachability. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley and is aged in seared oak barrels to develop its unique flavor profile.

  • ABV: 40%
  • Average Price: $40-$50
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Basil Hayden’s
  • Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of eight years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Light and gentle, with notes of caramel, peppermint, and a touch of spice.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Sweet and aromatic, with hints of caramel, vanilla, and a subtle herbal note.
    • Palate: Soft and delicate, with flavors of honey, mint, and a hint of cinnamon.
    • Smoothness: Exceptionally smooth and easy to drink.
    • Finishing: Medium-length finish with a clean and refreshing character.
  • Food Pairings: Grilled salmon, goat cheese salad, shortbread cookies.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Basil Hayden offers a lighter and more delicate bourbon experience compared to other options on this list. Its smoothness and approachability make it a great choice for those who fancy a milder flavor profile or are new to bourbon.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a high-proof bourbon known for its bold and robust flavor profile. It is made with a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley and is bottled at barrel-proof to preserve its intense character.

  • ABV: Varies (typically between 54% and 58% depending on the batch)
  • Average Price: $50-$60
  • Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Brand: Wild Turkey
  • Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery
  • Production Methods: Traditional column still distillation.
  • Aging Process: Aged for a minimum of six to eight years in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Rich and spicy, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and charred oak.
  • Tasting Notes:
    • Nose: Intense and aromatic, with aromas of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of baking spices.
    • Palate: Full-bodied and powerful, with flavors of dark chocolate, black pepper, and smoky oak.
    • Smoothness: Robust and bold, with a warming, high-proof character.
    • Finishing: Long and fiery, with lingering notes of spices, toasted nuts, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Food Pairings: Smoked barbecue, bold cheeses, dark chocolate truffles.
  • Why it’s a Good Choice: Wild Turkey Rare Breed appeals to those who enjoy high-proof bourbons with bold and intense flavors. It offers a robust and fiery drinking experience that can be enjoyed straight or with a splash of water to mellow its strength.

FAQs

What is the smoothest bourbon whiskey to drink straight?

The bourbons often regarded as smooth for drinking straight include Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Blanton’s.

Is it OK to drink bourbon straight?

Yes, it is perfectly okay to drink bourbon straight. In fact, many bourbon enthusiasts prefer to enjoy it neat or on the rocks to fully enjoy its flavors and aromas without dilution from mixers or additives. Ultimately, the choice of how to enjoy bourbon is a matter of personal preference.

References

  1. https://www.worldwhiskyday.com/what-is-bourbon/
  2. https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/our-brands/buffalo-trace.html

 

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