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15 Best Bourbons on the Rocks Reviewed (2024 Updated)

Best Bourbons on the Rocks

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Lydia Martin

One of the best ways to enjoy bourbon whiskey is drinking it on the rocks. It is believed that ice tends to enhance the flavor profile of bourbons.

If you have a soft spot for drinking bourbons with ice, here are the best bourbon on the rocks that you should not miss out on.  

Top 15 Bourbons To Serve on the Rocks

1. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Knob Creek on desk, best bourbon on the rocks

ABV: 60%

Average Price: Around $50 

Flavor Profile: 

Knob Creek has complex and deep-tasting vanilla, oak, and nuts notes. It is one of the best bottles of bourbon to sip on the rocks because it has a long and full finish with robust caramel notes and a slightly smoky aroma. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

The whiskey benefits from the touch of ice because it opens up the woody and barky nature of the bourbon. It has a light, well-rounded vanilla, but the chocolate-covered cherry notes are very noticeable. 

2. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof on desk

ABV: 64% – 70 % (Varies)

Average Price: Around $75

Flavor Profile:  

Elijah Craig is a Kentucky Straight bourbon with rich tasting notes of butterscotch, classic vanilla, cinnamon spice, and black pepper. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Elijah Craig is a high-proof whiskey, making it one of the best bourbons to drink on the rocks. The caramel and vanilla notes are more pronounced with few drops of water, and the oakiness will be a little mustier. 

Read: Recommended Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbons

3. Old Grand-Dad 114

Old Grand-Dad 114 on desk

ABV: 57%

Average Price: Around $30

Flavor Profile: 

It is earthy, nutty, dry, and spicy, so it is ideal for consuming with ice. The creamy vanilla meets the rye spiciness of the bourbon, plus it dominates the toffee sweetness and caramel notes of the whiskey. In addition to this, it has a nice layer of flavors that slowly lingers as it cools. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

It is a classic “on the rocks” whiskey any bourbon lover will love to have. The ice helps open up the aroma and tasting notes of the bourbon and brings out smoothness, unlike room-temperature bottles of bourbon. Moreso, this whiskey has a touch of cherry, classic vanilla nature, and mild spice. 

4. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof

Wild Turkey Rare Breed on table with box and dates

ABV: 56.4% 

Average Price: Around $50

Flavor Profile: 

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is bottled straight from oak barrels, and it contains rye grain so expect that every shot is warm, spicy, and has smoky-tasting notes. As we open a bottle of Wild Turkey, the rich and balanced aroma of honey, caramel, and vanilla linger on the nose. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Wild Turkey is one of the best bourbons to drink on the rocks or sip neat because it unpacks the candied fruits, nuts, dark spices, and molasses maltiness of the whiskey. It has a subtle touch of woody bitterness, but the baking spice makes the bourbon more enjoyable to drink. 

5. Henry McKenna 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

Henry McKenna with glass and lemon on desk

ABV: 50%

Average Price: Around $32

Flavor Profile: 

Henry McKenna 10-Year is a high-proof bourbon and one of the oldest bottled-in-bond bourbon available. It has a wonderful aroma of caramel, oak, vanilla, and lightly herbaceous. Moreso, it has tasting notes of sharp spices, honey, and smooth oak with a long finish. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Henry McKenna shares the same grain mash as other whiskeys of Heaven Hill (78% corn, 10% rye, 12% malted barley), so it has slight sweetness even if it has a high ABV.

The ice tones down the fire and allows other bourbon flavors to shine. 

Read: Recommended Flavored Bourbons

6. Stagg, Jr.

Stagg, Jr. on table with glass

ABV: 63.2% to 67.2% (Varies)

Average Price: Around $90

Flavor Profile: 

Stagg, Jr. by Buffalo Trace Distillery is uncut and unfiltered Kentucky straight bourbon that boasts bold and robust character you cannot find in other whiskeys. It has a sweet and rich sugar palate. The dark chocolate balances the bold spiciness. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

If you have tasted an old-school pecan pie with a buttery crust, add ice to it, and that’s what Stagg, Jr. tastes like. The cherry lingers around but is so refreshing and compliments well with the spice tones that are soft but slightly bitter. 

7. Barrell Dovetail

Barrell Dovetail on desk with cocktail

ABV: 61.15% to 62.5% (Varies)

Average Price: Around $90 

Flavor Profile: 

Barrell Dovetail is one of the best bourbon whiskeys with an elegant and sweet signature of Pineau des Charentes, rose jelly, and chestnut honey notes. It is darker and spicier than the nose, but it is more complex and savory. Because it is bottled at high ABV, it has a long yet subtle black pepper spiciness and tobacco notes. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

The dark bark spices and woody bitterness are notable when consumed with ice, but it gets both chewy and spicy as it melts down. It has a rounded taste of sweetness to spiciness because of the cask strength, but it does not lose depth of character even when iced. 

8. Eagle Rare 10

Eagle Rare 10 with glass & prosciutto on table

ABV: 45%

Average Price: Around $40

Flavor Profile: 

Eagle Rare 10 is masterfully crafted and aged for a minimum of ten years to create a rare great breed of bourbon. Every bottle has bold, oaky and dry flavors with rich cocoa and candied almonds notes. It has a dry and lingering finish of sweet toffee and marzipan. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

While most bourbon lovers love consuming Eagle Rare 10 neat, it is one of the best bourbons to drink on the rocks because ice helps whiskey open its flavors. The nuttiness from the cellar improves and becomes more creamy and toffy. Also, it has hints of dried florals and subtle honey notes.

9. Larceny Barrel Proof

Larceny Barrel Proof with dried fruits on desk

ABV: 57.4 % (Varies)

Average Price: Around $70 

Flavor Profile: 

Larceny by Heaven Hill is a wheated bourbon bottled in its purest form. It tastes like baking spice with generously dusted cinnamon, vanilla, and savory fruits because it contains wheat on its mash bill instead of rye.

How It Tastes With Ice: 

The cherry and cedar notes of Larceny pop immediately on the rocks, and the oak and tobacco notes will heighten towards a woodier aspect. It is a little bolder than other hand-selected barrels and leaves you with little cedar and vanilla at the end. 

10. Wilderness Trail Small Batch Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Wilderness Trail on table with cocktail

ABV: 50%

Average Price: Around $50

Flavor Profile: 

Wilderness Trail small-batch uses a high ratio of wheat in replacement for the high rye mash bill in bourbon. Enjoy the luxurious flavors of the wheated bourbon with hints of white pepper, mild tobacco, and wet brown sugar.  

How It Tastes With Ice: 

The whiskey becomes more exciting and sharper when consumed with ice. It is not spicy per se, but it holds a white pepper vibe and leans more toward the citrus flavors. 

11. Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses with kentucky mule cocktail on desk

ABV: 50% 

Average Price: Around $46

Flavor Profile: 

Four Roses use high rye mash bill giving the whiskey a classic spiciness that you cannot taste in any corn-forward bourbon and price point. It is bottled straight and has a high cask strength, ready for a chunk of ice. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Four Roses is a top-shelf bourbon that is best to enjoy on the rocks because it helps open up the bourbon flavors.

You will taste cherry and plum notes with a long yet smooth finish. But should you really drink bourbon with ice?

12. Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan Williams with cocktail on table

ABV: 43.3%

Average Price: Around $30

Flavor Profile: 

Evan Williams is one of the bourbon brands you can trust if you want a great-tasting bourbon on the rocks. It is made from the same distillery as Heaven Hill. Its rich honey, oak, and vanilla flavors complement well with ice and cocktail like Mint Julep. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Evan Williams is smooth and has fruit and citrus notes, but the ice will draw out the fruitiness even more. 

13. Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon

Balcones Texas Blue Corn on desk with glass and cheese

ABV: 63.5 % (Varies)

Average Price: Around $58

Flavor Profile: 

Balcones have a warm flavor with a touch of honey, buttery, and savory lard. It has a rich midpalate with end touches of corn and nutmeg.  

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Balcones Texas is becoming more savory, sweeter, and grainy when consumed on the rocks. The whiskey is full-bodied and has a long finish, and ice can tone it a bit to be an enjoyable drink. 

14. Buffalo Trace 

Buffalo Trace with mandarin orange and box on table

ABV: 45%

Average Price: Around $28

Flavor Profile: 

Sharing the same distillery as Eagle Rare and Stagg, Jr., Buffalo Trace has a remarkable flavor aided with grain forward scents. Buffalo Trace has enough intensity and character that makes the alcohol enjoyable to drink on the rocks.  

How It Tastes With Ice: 

Ice makes the whiskey draw out its fresh orange zest aroma and sweetness. It is a steal on both price point and quality, but Buffalo Trace on the rocks is the easiest and most enjoyable way. 

15. Bulleit Cask Strength

Bulleit Cask Strength on desk with cocktail

ABV: 60% – 62.5%

Average Price: Around $50

Flavor Profile: 

Bulleit Cask Strength is not your ordinary bourbon because it is one of the bourbons with a high ABV. It has an oak aroma and gentle spiciness with a long and dry finish. 

How It Tastes With Ice: 

When consumed on the rocks, the nutty flavors, cherry, oak, maple syrup-like, and baking spice of Bulleit shows off. It has a long and lasting finish making it the perfect bourbon on the rocks. 

Also Read:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is bourbon better neat or on the rocks?

Bourbon is better neat than on the rocks. Water is indeed whiskey’s friend because it helps suppress the spiciness of the bourbon but not all the time. Ice can make the bourbon easy to drink, but consuming it neatly allows you to taste the bourbon’s quality. 

Is bourbon on the rocks ideal for beginners?

Yes, bourbon on the rocks is ideal for beginners. Ice may help expand bourbon flavors and help beginners pick up different flavor notes.

Take a small sip of bourbon, roll it around your mouth, and enjoy. 

What is a good bourbon to have on the rocks?

A good bourbon to enjoy on the rocks is subjective and depends on personal taste preferences. Some popular choices for sipping on the rocks include Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Basil Hayden’s. These bourbons offer a balanced flavor profile that holds up well when chilled with ice, allowing you to appreciate their complexities while enjoying a refreshing drink.

What is the smoothest bourbon to drink straight?

Determining the smoothest bourbon for drinking straight is subjective, as individual palates vary. However, several bourbons are renowned for their smoothness and are commonly enjoyed neat. Examples include Blanton’s Single Barrel, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, Eagle Rare, and W.L. Weller Special Reserve. These bourbons typically offer a velvety texture and a well-rounded flavor profile that can be savored on their own.

Is Bourbon on the rocks good?

Enjoying bourbon on the rocks is a matter of personal preference. For many bourbon enthusiasts, serving it on the rocks can enhance the drinking experience by slightly chilling the spirit and diluting it, which may mellow out certain flavors and aromas. However, some purists argue that adding ice can dull the nuances of the bourbon, so whether bourbon on the rocks is good or not depends on your taste preferences.

What is the best whiskey on the rocks?

The best whiskey to enjoy on the rocks varies depending on individual preferences and the desired flavor profile. While bourbon is a popular choice for serving on the rocks due to its sweetness and smoothness, other whiskies, such as Scotch, Irish whiskey, or rye whiskey, can also be enjoyed this way. Some popular options for whiskey on the rocks include Glenlivet 12 Year Old, Jameson, Bulleit Rye, and Glenfiddich 12 Year Old.

What is the smoothest bourbon?

Determining the smoothest bourbon is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences. However, several bourbons are known for their smooth and velvety texture, such as Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Blanton’s Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, and Basil Hayden’s. These bourbons typically offer a balanced flavor profile with minimal burn, making them enjoyable for sipping neat or on the rocks.

What is the smoothest sweetest bourbon?

The smoothest and sweetest bourbon is subjective and varies based on personal taste preferences. However, some bourbons are known for their sweeter flavor profiles and smooth finishes. Examples include Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, W.L. Weller Special Reserve, Eagle Rare, and Four Roses Small Batch. These bourbons often feature caramel, vanilla, and honey notes, contributing to their smooth and sweet characteristics.

Is bourbon smoother than Scotch?

Whether bourbon is smoother than Scotch is subjective and depends on individual preferences. Bourbon is known for its sweetness and smoothness due to its higher corn content and aging process in new charred oak barrels. On the other hand, Scotch whisky, especially single malt Scotch, often exhibits more complex and diverse flavor profiles, influenced by factors like region, peat smoke, and barrel aging. Some may find bourbon smoother, while others may prefer the complexity of Scotch whisky.

What is the best bourbon according to bartenders?

The best bourbon according to bartenders can vary based on their expertise and personal preferences. However, some bourbons are consistently recommended by bartenders for their versatility and quality. Brands like Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Elijah Craig, and Four Roses are often cited as favorites among bartenders for their balanced flavor profiles and mixability in cocktails.

Is bourbon smoother than whiskey?

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, so comparing bourbon to whiskey is like comparing apples to fruit. However, within the category of whiskey, bourbon is often considered smoother by some due to its sweeter flavor profile and lower levels of congeners, which are compounds that can contribute to harshness or bitterness. Bourbon’s aging process in new charred oak barrels also contributes to its smoothness and richness.

Is it OK to drink bourbon everyday?

Whether it’s okay to drink bourbon (or any alcoholic beverage) every day depends on individual factors such as personal health, tolerance, and moderation. Moderate consumption of bourbon, defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, may have certain health benefits when incorporated into a balanced lifestyle. However, excessive or daily consumption of alcohol can lead to health problems, including addiction, liver damage, and increased risk of certain diseases. It’s essential to drink responsibly and in moderation, and if you have any concerns about your alcohol consumption, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional.

Final Verdict: Best Bourbon On the Rocks

For the best bourbon on the rocks, we recommend Knob Creek. It’s a great place to start for anyone interested in this category. You’ll enjoy the oak notes on the palate, along with the classic caramel and vanilla flavors.

Bourbon is a versatile distilled spirit that you can enjoy neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails. Ice may dilute some of its strongest flavors, but it helps open up the different flavor profiles of the alcohol. Consuming bourbon on the rocks can make your drinking experience more enjoyable, especially as a beginner.   

What’s the best bourbon whiskey on the rocks for you? Let us know by commenting below! 

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