15 Best Sipping Bourbons To Drink Neat in 2023 (According to Experts)

Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Bourbons are one of the best spirits to sip and enjoy. However, inexperienced bourbon drinkers may assume that price should be the basis for the best bottles.

No worries because we curated a list of the best-sipping bourbon that will not break the bank.

Top 15 Bourbons For Sipping 

1. Knob Creek 12-Year-Old Bourbon Whiskey

Knob Creek 12 Year Old on desk

Alcohol Content: 50%

Average Price: Roughly $52.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Knob Creek is a Kentucky whiskey introduced in 2019. This was a special edition during its release, but it became a permanent addition to Jim Beam’s lineup.

Jim Beam ages this bourbon for twelve years inside American white oak casks. 

This whiskey retained a complex flavor profile. It has rich caramel notes with baking spices, chocolate, clove, vanilla, and oak but with bits of nuts as an undertone.

Here’s how to properly open a Knob Creek bottle

2. Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea on desk

Alcohol Content: 59.8%

Average Price: Roughly $82.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea does not only have an interesting name but an equally fascinating aging distillation process.

These bourbons are aged for seven to eight years on land before being shipped to rest for five to ten months at sea.

The barrel influences the savory taste of these bourbons. It is constantly in contact with the wood due to the ship’s movement.

It travels around the world as it rests on board the 24 voyages.

3. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

Four Roses Small Batch on desk

Alcohol Content: 45%

Average Price: Roughly $35.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Four Roses is one of the best sipping bourbons [1] because of its rich but balanced flavors.

Four Roses have proprietary yeast strains that they use to mix with their mash bills making different distinct recipes. 

 “As far as the flavors go, you’ve got a big spectrum in bourbon and there’s a flavor for everybody. “

– Brent Elliott, Four Roses Master Distiller

The bourbon’s sweeter flavor profile allows you to enjoy it neat and as a base mix for cocktails.

Some drinkers claim they encounter subtle notes of papaya, banana, and other tropical fruits.

4. Old Forester Classic 86 Proof

Old Forester Classic 86 Proof on desk with chai ginger cocktail

Alcohol Content: 43%

Average Price: Roughly $19.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Old Forester Classic 86 Proof is part of the Brown-Forman Spirits. This product has 150 years of experience under its belt.

Bartenders love the complex and rich flavors of this whiskey. 

This bottle is a common sight in bars as its smooth flavor is great for sipping on the rocks or in cocktails.

But what’s the best bourbon brand below $20?

5. Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old Bourbon Whiskey

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old on table with honey bear cocktail

Alcohol Content: 45%

Average Price: Roughly $41.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old is part of Wild Turkey’s Russel Reserve Line.

This is in honor of the father and son Master Distillers, Jimmy and Eddie Russel, who were part of the distillery’s success.

This bottle is for a bourbon drinker who simply wants to enjoy and relax. 

It has a patented blend of vanilla and caramel with a strong note of cardamom.

It has a warming effect on the palate, especially with the spices, but it also had that undeniable bitterness in the finish.

But what’s our favorite everyday bourbon?

6. Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Heaven’s Door on desk with cranberries

Alcohol Content: 46%

Average Price: Roughly $37.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Heaven’s Door is a Tennessee mashbill bourbon that stayed inside Heaven Hill Distillery for at least years.

This collaboration bottle of Bob Dylan and Marc Bushala is a recipient of many awards from different institutions worldwide. 

This bourbon has sweet flavors of vanilla with a subtle hint of baked bread toasted in oak. It also has that distinct taste of caramelized pecans and stone fruits.

At 46% ABV, this is a product you can drink straight with no harsh alcohol flavor.

Read: Top Bourbons For Baking

7. Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Angel’s Envy on table with cheese

Alcohol Content: 43.3%

Average Price: Roughly $40.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Angel’s Envy is Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson’s masterpiece. He created this smooth whiskey after he retired from Brown-Forman.

The complex flavors of this drink impressed experts and awarded the brand multiple recognitions. 

The last parts of its aging process were inside port barrels, where the fruity flavors originated.

The smooth texture is perfect for its sweet, mouth-watering flavors of dried cherries and strawberries, chocolate, and toffee. It has $43.3% ABV. 

Read: Angel’s Envy Tour & Guide

8. Maker’s Mark Handmade Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Maker’s Mark on desk with glass

Alcohol Content: 45%

Average Price: Roughly $29.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Maker’s Mark is a wheated bourbon that offers traditional flavors. This bottle is for those who love the old-fashioned taste of whiskey.

The strong scent of cocoa, baking spice, licorice, peanuts, and cherry pie is enough to encourage you to take a sip. 

You can taste rich fruits, brown sugar, nuts, and winter spices with every sip. It is a whiskey you can drink neat or for pairing.

This release belongs to the middle shelf category, unlike the casks-strength release, which is top-shelf. You can get a 750ml bottle of Maker’s Mark at roughly $31.99 (Drizly).

Read: What Bourbon Does John Wick Drink?

9. Widow Jane 10-Year-Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Widow Jane 10-Year-Old on table with old fashioned cocktail

Alcohol Content: 45.5%

Average Price: Roughly $68.49 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Widow Jane is a multi-awarded whiskey produced by Cacao Prieto Distillery made with 45.5% ABV.

The Best Non-Kentucky “Small Batch” Bourbon for 2022 was awarded to them by the World Whiskies Award.

According to the manufacturers, this is their most hedonistic bourbon, and they are telling the truth. 

The flavors of sweet vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, coffee cake, and floral notes make this easy to sip and drink straight.

It is well balanced with the strong flavors of oak with a long and strong finish of tropical notes because it is aged in oak barrels [2].

Read: World’s Best-Selling Bourbons

10. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

Elijah Craig on desk with cherries

Alcohol Content: 47%

Average Price: Roughly $27.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Elijah Craig is a small batch of bourbon with 47% ABV. It has a distinct flavor with a strong spice character influenced by the new charred oak barrels it was aged in.

The sweetness of honey notes, brown sugar and maple syrup blends well with spice notes. 

The flavor remains intact even after dilution or when added with ice, or when mixed.

It is probably one of the smoothest bourbons you will ever taste in this price range.

11. Henry McKenna 10-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Henry McKenna 10-Year-Old on table with pineapple wedge

Alcohol Content: 50%

Average Price: Roughly $99.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

Henry McKenna bourbon is aged for ten years. It is made from sweet mash bill, corn, barley, and rye.

This drink won the “Best Bourbon” award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018 and 2019. 

It develops a sweet and balanced flavor inside white oak barrels. The sweet and strong notes are blended well with a very noticeable savory undertone.

12. Noah’s Mill Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Noah’s Mill Small Batch on desk with glass

Alcohol Content: 57.15%

Average Price: Roughly $58.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Noah’s Mill Small Batch Kentucky Whiskey is a product of Willett Distillery. This blend is from a daily that has a long history of whiskey-making.

The old releases were aged in new charred oak barrels for 15 years, but the current ones do not have age statements anymore. 

It is one of the high-proof bourbon bottles, with 57.15% ABV. The scent that greets the nose is already a plethora of sweet treats that go to the palate.

13. Michter’s US1 Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

Michter’s US1 Small Batch on table with berries

Alcohol Content: 45.7%

Average Price: Roughly $44.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Like It:

Michter’s US1 whiskey is another smooth bourbon with simple and sweet notes. You will enjoy this product because of its laidback flavors that are not overwhelming to the palate.

This 25-year-old bourbon is one of the rarest bottles the distillery puts out. 

Aged in charred new oak barrels, it boasts hints of vanilla, citrus, and soft cinnamon with a lasting taste of strawberry shortcake.

Compared to other competitors, it does not hold any bold flavors.

Read: Knob Creek & Bulleit Bourbon Comparison

14. W.L. Weller 12-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon 

W.L. Weller 12-Year-Old on table with old fashioned cocktail

Alcohol Content: 45%

Average Price: Roughly $320.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

The W.L. Weller 12-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon is a product of Buffalo Trace Distillery.

This bottle was awarded several recognitions from International Spirits Challenge and World Whiskies Award.

Compared to other wheated bourbons, it is aged longer to produce a distinct flavor profile. 

Its deep bronze color matches its rich, complex flavors.

Its twelve years spent in American oak barrels result in an abundance of the oaky palate balanced with savory dark blackberry and butterscotch.

15. Bernheim Original 7 Year Old

Bernheim Original 7 Year Old on table with old fashioned cocktail

Alcohol Content: 40%

Average Price: Roughly $28.99 (Caskers)

Why We Like It:

The Bernheim Original 7-Year-Old is a product of Heaven Hill Distillery and is the first American whiskey introduced since prohibition [3].

It was chosen as the Best Wheat American Whiskey in 2013 by World Whiskies Award. 

The scent of this bottle is very pronounced sweet cornbread with mint, pine, and oak. There is a good blend between sweet and strong.

The soft notes of sweet corn and caramel entwine with the restrained flavors of tobacco, oak, and leather. Each 750 ml bottle is sold roughly at $32.99 (Drizly).

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What Makes It Ideal For Sipping 

What Makes It Ideal For Sipping 

Taste Profile

The flavor is imperative when searching for the best sipping bourbon.

Overwhelming alcohol savors, too much sweetness, and unbearable spiciness could be unlikable to the palate. Balance is the key to enjoying this drink. 


bourbon in a glass

The ideal age for a sipping bourbon is between 6-10 years.

If you prefer a sour mash product and want a Scotch, you can choose one that goes longer than 20 years. 

Bourbons are leaning on the sweeter notes. Don’t go older if you want to taste all other flavors attributed to the charred oak.

But does Bourbon have to be made in Kentucky?

Price Range 

Prices depend on the quality and age of the product. Most mass-produced products have lower prices [4] because production is not as costly as small-batch. 

A lesser number produced means lower ROI, which translates to a higher price on the tags. However, some brands sell top-quality whiskies at low prices. 


glass and barrel

The quality of the spirit you will be buying depends on many factors. It would be best if you looked at the reputation of the brand. 

If their product line is known for quality flavor and texture, you can rely on that. Another aspect to check on is their experience.

Consistency over the years is imperative. But how do you spot fake bourbon?

How to Sip Bourbon 

The best way to sip bourbon is to have it at room temperature, poured in a snifter, shot glass, or even a rock glass.

Adding anything should not be an option, even a piece of ice. You will better appreciate the complexity of its flavors when drunk straight. 


What is the smoothest bourbon to sip?

Elijah Craig is the smoothest bourbon to sip on the list. Its smoothness highlights the multitude of flavors it has.

It is also versatile and affordable. But what’s the smoothest bourbon for beginners?

Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is also a smooth bourbon to sip. However, finding a piece in physical stores is not very easy, which is a disadvantage. 

Is bourbon smoother to sip than other whiskeys?

Yes, bourbon is smoother to sip than other whiskeys.

Though bourbon is a type of whiskey, it has a softer texture, and the alcohol is gentler as it ages longer.

The best bourbon whiskey offers deeper flavor characters and a more tame alcohol taste since it has time to rest.

Are all bourbons good for sipping?

No, not all bourbons are good for sipping. Some bourbons were aged for a long time with limited flavors, making them undesirable to sip.

Some are also unbalanced in that the stronger flavors overwhelm the entire taste of the spirit. 

Can a sip of bourbon get you drunk?

No, a sip of bourbon will not get you drunk.

It will take three to four shots of bourbon for you to get drunk but that depends on your alcohol tolerance.

Key Takeaways

 The best-sipping bourbons always have parity on the palate. The manufacturers always aim to have that distinctive bottle that offers more than usual.

Other than flavor, it must have versatility and a good price. Four Roses Small Batch, Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea, and Old Forester Classic 86 Proof are great bottles to try.

But, Knob Creek 12 gets the upper hand for being the best-sipping bourbon in terms of tasting notes, availability, age, and price point.



3 thoughts on “15 Best Sipping Bourbons To Drink Neat in 2023 (According to Experts)”

  1. The best way to sip bourbon is the way you like it. We are finally getting over the snobbery associated with drinking single malts. Let’s not start with bourbon.


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