Liquor Laboratory

20 Best Top Shelf Bourbon Brands Listed (2024 Updated)

Best Top Shelf Bourbon Brands

Top-shelf bourbons are on top of the shelves for a reason. Every bottle is of high quality, popular, and quite expensive.

But here’s the good thing: Our team did a dedicated tasting, so you don’t need to try every bourbon category and spend a dime to know the best top-shelf bourbon brands.

Here’s a list of highly suggested top-shelf bourbons you should try. Read on.

20 Best Top Shelf Bourbon Brands (Highly Suggested) 

1. Pappy Van Winkle

Pappy Van Winkle bottle with a red pouch on a wooden table

Average Price: Roughly $1,364.99 – $12,999.99 (Caskers)

Alcohol Content: 45.2% – 53.5%

Nose: Oak, maple syrup, chocolate, dried fruit

Palate: Complex palate, vanilla, caramel

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Pappy Van Winkle is never a surprise bourbon because it is the highly suggested top-shelf bourbon brand until today. Every bottle is produced according to the exclusive wheat recipe of the Van Winkle family.

Pappy Van Winkle is one of the best bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery that has a rich, flavorful, sweet, and smooth taste that no one should not miss. 

There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.

-Raymond Chandler, Novelist

Since it remained untouched for fifteen years, I noticed the elegant and prominent flavor of oak, dark chocolate, leather, and dried fruit in every sip. But why is Pappy so expensive?

2. Blanton’s Bourbon

Blanton's bottle on a table

Average Price: Roughly $29.99 – $988.90 (Caskers)

Alcohol Content: 46.5% – 51.5%

Nose: Brown sugar, caramel, vanilla

Palate: Oak, brown sugar, vanilla, maple 

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Blanton’s Bourbon is an original single-barrel bourbon that has received multiple awards for its high quality.

The first mass-produced single barrel was bottled by Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee, named after Colonel Albert Blanton. 

The consistency of the classic bourbon flavor profile is delivered in every bottle, making it an approachable and easy-to-drink bourbon. The tasting notes and complex flavor are remarkable because of the aging process of oak barrels.

The top-shelf straight bourbon is well-loved because of its rich vanilla, oak, and caramel flavor profile.

3. Buffalo Trace

close up shot of buffalo trace bottle label

Average Price: Roughly $17.80 – $999.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 45%

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, oak

Palate: Dried fruits, stone fruits, caramel, vanilla

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Buffalo Trace is a flagship bourbon, and for over 200 years, the brand has been dedicated to creating a timeless craft.

The distillery honors tradition and embraces change by using the traditional production process and the innovative aging process. 

Buffalo Trace is named after the ancient buffalo that led American pioneers to new frontiers. I noticed the complex aroma of molasses, mint, and vanilla with every sip. It has a smooth and long finish with profound depth. 

4. Michter’s US1 Bourbon 

Michter's US1 Bourbon bottle with glass on the side

Average Price: Roughly $29.99 – $1,199.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 45.7% – 54.3%

Nose: Subtle oak, vanilla, fruit notes

Palate: Honey, caramel, vanilla, oak

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Mitcher’s US1 bourbon offers top-shelf small batch and single barrel bourbons. The selections are rare; most are released for their Celebration Sour Mash.

The single-barrel whiskey is a classic favorite because of its unique premium flavors of pineapple, cloves, and chocolate. 

The bourbon has subtle tasting notes of vanilla, stone fruit, and oak finish. Each barrel is made from a carefully selected mash bill batched in a holding tank and aged in oak barrels for complex flavor.

Unlike other bourbons with cask strength, Michter’s bourbon is a small-batch distilled spirit with a high ABV. 

5. William Larue Weller

William Larue Weller close up shot of bottle label

Average Price: Roughly $39.99 – $5999.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 60% – 64%

Nose: Sweet, caramel, chocolate, oak

Palate: Maple, honey, stone fruits, oak

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

William Larue Weller (WL Weller) by Buffalo Trace is a one-of-a-kind bourbon released annually, aged until fourteen years.

The brand is named after the first-generation distiller of the Weller Family. He originally developed the substitution of traditional rye grain with wheat.  

The top–shelf bourbon uses red winter wheat for sweetness and smoothness. It has fragrant scents of new leather, light toffee, caramel corn, plums, and pipe tobacco.

Also, you can compare the complex flavor profile with other brands, such as Woodford Reserve, Pappy Van Winkle, Old Rip Van Winkle, Barrel-Aged Woodford Reserve, and limited-release Maker’s Mark. 

6. Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon

Jefferson's Ocean Bourbon bottle on a boat background

Average Price: Roughly $32.99 – $299.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 45%

Nose: Salty, dried fruits, apples, oak, nuts

Palate: Caramel, oak, vanilla, dark chocolate

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon is a unique whiskey because instead of aging in rickhouses, it is aged while traveling the world.

The barrels that contain alcohol are boarded on a ship, and the sea salt, along with the temperature, gives the distilled spirit a thick and dark texture. 

Jefferson’s Bourbon has dark aromas of dried fruits and red apples with bitterness from strong dark chocolate truffles, unlike the Four Rouses Cask Strength and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.

ReadPopular Bottom Shelf Bourbons

7. 1792 Bourbon

1792 Full Proof, Bottled in Bond, Small Batch bottles

Average Price: Roughly $22.74 – $1,100 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 44.45% – 62.5%

Nose: Black pepper, sesame, oak, 

Palate: Caramel, clove, cardamom, spicy rye

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

1792 bourbon is a complex and sophisticated brand crafted with precise craftsmanship.

The bourbon whiskeys are made from a signature high rye recipe for an elegant and complex flavor profile. 

1792 bourbon offers seven unique expressions, from small batch to single barrel bourbon.

All bottles are crafted and bottled with a unique recipe and mash bill, impressive distillation process, patient maturation, and high barrel proof. 

8. Wild Turkey 

Wild Turkey bourbon bottle on a dried leaves

Average Price: Roughly $14.99 – $2,999 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 40% – 50.5%

Nose: Sweet raisins, black pepper, honey

Palate: Spicy, clove, nutmeg, honeyed fruit 

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a premium brand of bourbon that has established its technique for over 100 years.

The Wild Turkey Rare Breed bourbon is excellent for sipping because it has rich nuts, tropical fruit, and raisin aromas. 

Wild Turkey bourbon used its original yeast recipe to maintain the signature flavor for over 60 years.

Unlike cask strength and barrel-proof bourbons, Wild Turkey Rare Breed is aged in a charred oak barrel (char no. 4) for a distinctive flavor and evident smoky blond oak taste.

9. Jim Beam

Jim Beam Bourbon bottle with jigger on the back

Average Price: Roughly $9.99 – $1,599 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 40% – 43%

Nose: Toasted oak, caramel, apple

Palate: Cinnamon, oak, caramel, corn

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Jim Beam is one of the most popular brands of bourbon because the distillery has been making high-quality bourbon since 1795.

The bourbon has an elegant texture with complex flavors like dark chocolate, caramel, toasted oak notes, and a smooth finish. 

Jim Beam is a refined and smooth bourbon aged four years in oak barrels. The Beam Family and its seven generations have established an excellent reputation in producing Kentucky straight bourbon. 

10. E. H. Taylor

close up shot  of E. H. Taylor bottle label and tube

Average Price: Roughly $18.99 – $899.99 (Caskers)

Alcohol Content: 50% – 63.75%

Nose: Raisins, sandalwood, cinnamon, cherry

Palate: Fresh pine, oak, candied apple, caramel, vanilla

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

E.H. Taylor is one of the top-shelf bourbons with premium quality and a fantastic flavor profile.

Every bottle reflects the way it was produced in pre-prohibition when E.H Taylor Jr. owned the Buffalo Trace Distillery. 

Some of its collections, like EH Taylor Jr Small Batch bourbon and EH Taylor Single Barrel bourbon, are uncompromising yet powerful, similar to its namesake.

The brand offers rye whiskey and four-grain whiskeys (corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley), barrel-aged in charred new oak barrels.

11. George T. Stagg

George T. Stagg bottle with cat on a wooden table

Average Price: Roughly $77 – $4,000 (Flaviar)

Alcohol Content: 58.45% – 67.2%

Nose: Toffee, vanilla, fudge

Palate: Molasses, nougat, fudge, vanilla, caramel, oak, tobacco

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

George T. Stagg is a pride of Buffalo Trace, and the wheated bourbon is a top-shelf whiskey that comes in a limited supply every year. It is unfiltered and uncut straight bourbon with great cask strength

George T. Stagg boasts the bold character and smoky aroma of the bourbon.

It is aged for at least 15 years in charred new oak barrels for a robust and dense body with rich salted caramel notes, sweet cherries, and woody oak. 

 12. Old Grand Dad

Old Grand-Dad Bonded 100 Proof Bourbon bottle on a wodden table and background

Average Price: Roughly $10.99 – $219.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 40% – 57%

Nose: Oak, cherry, dark fruit, nuts

Palate: Caramel, oak, vanilla, rye, black pepper

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Old Grand Dad is a pride of Beam Suntory, and bourbon drinkers and bartenders highly praise their bourbon expressions.

It has a humble price tag but a very distinctive rye spice note. 

The brand’s origin dates back to the early days of bourbon making, and it was named to honor Basil Hayden, Raymond B. Hayden’s grandfather.

If Basil Hayden bourbon by Booker Noe rings a bell, the bourbon is inspired by Hayden’s Sr high rye in its bourbon recipe [1].

13. Old Forester

4 bottles of Old Forester on a wooden table

Average Price: Roughly $19.99 – $495.50 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 43% – 65%

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, oak, citrus zest, and spice

Palate: Honey, nutmeg, oak, dark chocolate, and dried fruits like raisins and figs.

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Old Forester is one of the best and oldest bourbon brands on the market today, and it is the first bourbon sold in sealed bottles.

Their over 150 years of experience making American whiskey made them one of the most trusted and reliable top-shelf bourbon brands today. 

Old Forester bourbon is made from a bourbon mash bill of corn, rye, and malted barley.

After the distillation process, the American whiskey is aged in new charred oak barrels for a certain time [2] to develop rich vanilla flavors, heavy caramel aroma, and a great flavor profile. 

Check out the Old Forester Birthday bourbon here.

14. Four Roses Bourbon

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Average Price: Roughly $36.99 (Caskers)

Alcohol Content: 40% – 55.7%

Nose: Floral notes, sweet fruits, vanilla, honey, and subtle spice

Palate: Ripe red berries, orchard fruits, creamy caramel, baking spices, and a hint of oak from aging in charred new oak barrels

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

The brand has a rich and long history behind its success. It is one of the six distilleries that operated during the Prohibition Era [3], and the distillery relaunched the brand in 2022 in the American market. 

The Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is one of the best bourbons with premium-quality tasting notes that you can drink neat or on the rocks.

It can be a gateway bourbon for beginners who like to taste good bourbon with well-rounded flavors. 

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

15. Russell’s Reserve

Average Price: Roughly $629 (Flaviar)

Alcohol Content: 45% – 57.4%

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, honey, and a touch of spice

Palate: Rich toffee, ripe dark fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a subtle hint of leather.

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like It:

Russell’s Reserve was founded by Jimmy Russel, former master distiller of Wild Turkey bourbon and known by many as the “master distiller’s master distiller.”

The whiskey produced by the Russells over the years offers an infusion of timeless tradition and modern innovation. 

The top-shelf bourbon brand offers four selections of straight bourbon whiskey with a complex yet subtle flavor.

The Russell’s Reserve 13-year-old bourbon whiskey is a superior bourbon you should not miss out on because of its smoothness and flavor profile.

16. Parker’s Heritage 10 Year

Bottle of Parker’s Heritage 10 Year

Average Price: Roughly $399.99 per 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50%

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, dried fruits, and a hint of cinnamon

Palate: Rich toffee, dark chocolate, ripe cherries, baking spices, and a subtle note of tobacco

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like it: Parker’s Heritage 10 Year is a pride from Heaven Hill Distillery and it boasts a rich and bold flavor profile.

Everybody can maximize their ability to taste. But it does take work… You have to actually train your palate and teach yourself.. so other people can understand them.

-Fred Minnick, Author & Whiskey Expert

The deep amber whiskey has a fruit-forward aroma and it is sweet but not cloying. As we sip it slowly, the hints of clove, chocolate, and cinnamon welcome us.

17. Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bottle and a Glass of Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Average Price: Roughly $219.99 per 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 45.7%

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, toasted oak, dark fruits, and a touch of cinnamon

Palate: Butterscotch, dried apricots, baking spices, toasted nuts, and a hint of leather

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like it: Michter’s Kentucky straight bourbon is an exceptional bourbon that has earned its place as one of the most favorite bourbons of whiskey connoisseurs.

We were impressed with the right balance of stone fruits, smokey depth, caramel, vanilla, and maple syrup.

18. Knob Creek 12

Close Up Shot of Knob Creek 12

Average Price: Roughly $74.99 per 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 50%

Nose: Rich caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, dried fruits, and a subtle hint of baking spices

Palate: Sweet toffee, dark chocolate, roasted nuts, cinnamon, and a touch of leather

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like it: Knob Creek 12 is a pre-prohibition style bourbon that boasts a full and bold flavor profile.

It is a well-aged top-shelf bourbon with a nice charred oak aroma and rich taste. We enjoyed the bourbon neat but we like it better with ice.

19. W.L. Weller Single Barrel

Bottle of W.L. Weller Single Barrel

Average Price: Roughly $899.98 per 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 48.5%

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, honey, and a hint of butterscotch

Palate: Brown sugar, ripe orchard fruits, cinnamon, toasted nuts, and a touch of spice

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like it: W.L. Weller Single Barrel is one of the best top-shelf whiskey to try if you are willing to spend more.

We received it as a gift from a friend and we were in awe of its aroma and tasting notes. We noticed the notes of mint and cherry that fade to vanilla of the barrel proof bourbon.

It has nice cocoa that explodes on our tastebuds and every sip finishes with cinnamon and a hint of pepper.

20. Blanton’s Single Barrel

Bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel

Average Price: Roughly $139.99 per 750 ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 46.5%

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, citrus zest, and a hint of mint

Palate: Honey, ripe red berries, cinnamon, toasted almonds, and a touch of dark chocolate

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Why We Like it: Blanton’s Single Barrel is a crowd-favorite top-shelf bourbon in circulation from Buffalo Trace Distillery.

We like the satisfying and deep nose of spices and nutmeg of the single barrel-proof bourbon. The dry vanilla notes are very noticeable as we sip it slowly. It is in harmony with caramel, honey, and corn.

 *Note: Average prices are based on Drizly and the official product websites. The star rating was determined based on a blind test, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Each product was evaluated on its overall quality, flavor profile, complexity, smoothness, and overall enjoyment.

What’s A Top-Shelf Bourbon Brand? 

A top-shelf bourbon brand is a whiskey brand that produces distilled whiskey from high-quality ingredients and is usually expensive and rare.

The term top-shelf is used by bar owners to show off prestigious brands in stock [4]. 

Top-shelf bourbons are placed on top of the shelf as an advertisement for rare and high-quality whiskey.

Since they are less frequently ordered and expensive, they are placed on top of the shelf at the back of the bartender to prevent theft and damage. 

What Makes A Brand Top-Shelf? 


Top-shelf bourbons are usually expensive because they use premium ingredients to make the bourbon.

The aging process usually differs from an average bourbon, which is significantly expensive.

In addition, since top-shelf bourbons are produced with limited qualities, it is more expensive. But what’s the most expensive bourbon?


Top-shelf bourbons are produced using high-quality ingredients and production processes [5].

The taste is way better than baseline and mass-produced whiskey products because of the premium grains used to produce the whiskey. 

Top-shelf bourbons are made using premium corn, wheat or rye, and malted barley.

Because of its aging process, it releases a more smooth and more complex flavor that you cannot find on a bottom-shelf and mid-shelf bourbon. 


There are different brands of bourbon on the market today, but there are popular brands that make it to the top shelf.

Popular brands such as Pappy Van and Blanton’s are of superior quality and are well-loved by many.

It does not mean that never-heard brands are of bad quality, but one reason top-shelf bourbon is popular is its premium quality.

Hard To Find

Top-shelf bourbons are quite hard to find for reasons such as (1) limited release and (2) high demand.

“Bourbon is like a warm hug from the inside.”

-Liquor Laboratory

Most top-shelf bourbons are produced in limited quantities, and because of their high demand, it can be hard to find the spirit. 


What’s the best top-shelf bourbon for Old Fashioned?

The best top-shelf bourbon for Old Fashioned [6] is Buffalo Trace. It has enough alcohol content and rich flavor to keep shining in Old Fashioned but does not overpower other flavors.
Moreso, it can stand up and blend well with the mixers and does not disappear easily. You can also try it with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Knob Creek, Bulleit Bourbon, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, and Jefferson’s Bourbon.

What’s a top-shelf bourbon brand that’s easy to find?

1792 bourbon is one of the top-shelf bourbon brands that are easy to find.
Unlike other top-shelf bourbons like Pappy Van, Maker’s Mark, and Buffalo Trace, which can be hard to find in retail, they are available in local liquor shops and online stores like Drizly. 

Can you make cocktails with top-shelf bourbon?

Yes, you can make cocktails with top-shelf bourbons. However, we recommend that you drink it straight or on the rocks to taste more of its richness and boldness.

What makes bourbon a top-shelf brand? 

Top-shelf bourbon brands are characterized by their exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and unique flavor profiles, often achieved through premium ingredients, aging processes, and attention to detail.

What are some notable top shelf bourbon brands?

Several bourbon brands are considered top-shelf, including Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Blanton’s, and Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection, renowned for their exceptional quality and limited availability.

Can I expect variations in flavor among different top-shelf bourbon brands?

Yes, top-shelf bourbon brands offer a wide range of flavor profiles, ranging from rich and complex to smooth and velvety, influenced by factors such as aging, mash bill, barrel selection, and distillation techniques.

Key Takeaways

If you want to enjoy bourbon to the fullest, it would be great to try a bottle from our list of the best top-shelf bourbon brands.

Whether you are after a rare bottle like Pappy Van Winkle or want an everyday bourbon like 1792, top-shelf bourbons are made to be enjoyed. 

Top-shelf bourbon whiskeys can be expensive, but it has premium quality and taste that will make you want another bottle. It sits at the top of the bartender’s shelf because of its high-quality ingredients, production process, and flavor profile.







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