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15 Smoothest Bourbon For Beginners: Ranked (2024 Best Edition)

best smoothest bourbon for beginners

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin

With its high proof and potent flavor profile, bourbon can be a bit off-putting and downright upsetting for beginners.

Those who are just starting to get into the spirit can benefit from choosing friendly options that won’t be an instant turnoff. 

If you are looking for the smoothest bourbon for beginners, you have come to the right place. Keep on reading to find your next best buddy.

Top 15 Smoothest Bourbons for Beginners

15. Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: Roughly $39.99 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Like It: Woodford Reserve is a smooth bourbon built around flavor. It boasts more than 200 flavor notes, from fruit and floral to wood and bold grain.

If you are a novice whiskey drinker, Woodford Reserve is an excellent choice because of its smooth and approachable tasting notes. You can drink it neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.

Read: Best Bourbons According To Bartenders

14. Maker’s Mark Whisky

Bottle of Maker's Mark Whisky

ABV: 45%

Average Price: Roughly $32.48 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Like It: Maker’s Mark is an approachable and great-tasting bourbon to recommend for bourbon beginners.

The bourbon has a pleasant aroma of toasty oak, baking spices, and caramel.

Since it contains wheat instead of rye, it is mildly sweet with layers of vanilla and caramel.

13. Old Grand-Dad 114

Man Holding Bottle of Old Grand-Dad 114

ABV: 57%

Average Price: Roughly $30.79 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Like It: Old Grand-Dad 114 is an oaky, dry, earthy, nutty bourbon. The alcohol proof is not too off-putting and is more fragrant and flavorful than other bourbons.

The added ABV in Old Grand Dad gives an extra kick that we find amazing. We enjoyed the bourbon on the rocks, but you can consume it alone.

12. Elijah Craig Small Batch

Bottle of Elijah Craig Small Batch

ABV: 47%

Average Price: Roughly $34.49 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Like It: Elijah Craig Small Batch is a beginner-friendly bourbon whiskey. It has a subtle smoke flavor and distinctive warm spice that will crave you more.

It is sweet and packed with honey, wildflower notes, and marzipan. Also, it has a pronounced finish making it an ideal bourbon whiskey for cocktails.

11. Legent Bourbon

Legent Bourbon on a Table

ABV: 47%

Average Price: Roughly $44.99 per 750ml (Drizly)

Why We Like It: If you are new to the bourbon world, Legent is a great bourbon that can give you a distinctive whiskey experience.

It is a well-balanced and rounded bourbon that is complex and layered with caramel, vanilla, dark fruit notes, and honey.

We recommend you try it neat first to taste the palate profile of the whiskey. You can also try it on the rocks and in cocktails afterward.

10. Eagle Rare

Man Holding Bottle of Eagle Rare

ABV: 45%  

Average Price: Roughly $42.99 (Caskers) 

Why We Liked It:

Eagle Rare is a great option for beginners. This spirit is delicate yet flavorful, with none of the harshness found in most other brands.

It has a friendly flavor profile made with toffee, orange peel, caramel, leather, and oak notes and a smooth finish. 

9. Maker’s French Oaked 46

Maker’s French Oaked 46

ABV: 47%  

Average Price: Roughly $32.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Liked It:

Maker’s Mark 46 is a wheated bourbon with a fluffy, bread-like flavor.

The cool thing about this is that after it’s aged like their flagship label, the juice is dumped and returned to the barrel with French oak staves. 

The French oak gives the Maker’s Mark wheated bourbon some brown sugar, baking spices, and hints of delicate flavors like apple and pear.

It’s an interesting and smooth drink, especially for beginners. 

Read: Our Favorite Sweet Bourbons

8. Four Roses Bourbon Single Barrel

Four Roses Bourbon Single Barrel

ABV: 59%  

Average Price: Roughly $45.99 (Total Wine

Why We Liked It:

Four Roses carries one of the most inexpensive single barrel expressions, making it perfect for beginners.

For a single barrel, this one is unexpectedly mild and friendly on the palate, with flavor notes of apple, vanilla, and caramel.

We noticed that Four Roses bourbon has a spicy finish for the 100 proof but remains pleasantly sweet. 

7. Old Forester 100 Proof 

Old Forester 100 Proof

ABV: 50%  

Average Price: Roughly $26.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Liked It:

Here is another 100-proof bourbon that’s mild and pleasant for beginners.

Old Forester is a high-quality bourbon with flavors of vanilla and spicy rye that morph into soft vanilla and orange peel on the palate. 

This spirit is best drunk on the rocks, so the flavors open up more [1]. 

6. Wild Turkey 101 

Wild Turkey 101

ABV: 50.5%  

Average Price: Roughly $19.99 (Total Wine) 

Why We Liked It:

Wild Turkey is a staple found in most bars and homes of bourbon lovers.

It might be a bit too harsh for the beginner — after all, it boasts of a 101-high-proof — but trust us when we say that the complex flavors in the high rye mash bill back it up. 

Despite its high rye content, it has a balanced sweetness from the vanilla, caramel, and maple syrup, layered with peppermint and cinnamon spice notes.  

Read: Whiskey Smoker Instructions

5. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon 

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon

ABV: 40%  

Average Price: Roughly $22.99 (Total Wine) 

Why We Liked It:

Basil Hayden’s is a good beginner bourbon, even if you drink it neat. It is neither too complex nor spicy, but we imagine that bourbon beginners would consider this friendly for their palates.

Basil Hayden’s high rye content gives it a sweet, almost honey-like flavor profile, with a subtle aroma of vanilla, caramel, and maple oak.

Its low price point also allows you to experiment with this drink more in cocktails or drunk neat [2].

4. 1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

1792 Small Batch

ABV: 46.85%  

Average Price: Roughly $25.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Liked It:

The 1792 Small Batch is a smooth sipper, whether you’re new to whiskeys or have been at it for years. 

It is warm and buttery on the palate, with a touch of cinnamon spice. The spicy trend continues up until its long, mellow finish. 

Read: Amount of Sugar in Bourbon

3. Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan Williams Single Barrel

ABV: 43.3%  

Average Price: Roughly $32 (Caskers)

Why We Liked It:

Evan Williams is the second single barrel bourbon that made it to our list. This dram has a decidedly darker flavor profile yet remains pleasantly smooth. 

It has interesting notes of dark, syrupy honey with toasted oak and toasted vanilla buttercream.

It also has a few dried nuts to it, reminiscent of other bottles from Heaven Hill. 

Read: Top Bourbon Smoker Kits Today

2. Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

ABV: 45%  

Average Price: Roughly $23.99 (Total Wine)

Why We Liked It:

The flagship Buffalo Trace bottle from the brand’s distillery is probably one of the best whiskeys a beginner should sip on.

Its mash bill is said to be made with at least 80 to 90% corn, so you can only assume that this dram has plenty of sweetness. 

This tastes like a somewhat sweet expensive bourbon, rife with classic notes like roasted white oak, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Its 90 proof also gives it personality when mixed in a classic bourbon drink, but having it neat also won’t overpower the beginner’s palate. 

Read: Top Flavored Bourbon Brands

1. Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon

ABV: 50%  

Average Price: Roughly $32.99 (Total Wine) 

Why We Liked It:

Knob Creek is one of Jim Beam’s premium labels and probably the best to come out from the giant brand.

This Knob Creek brand is often referred to as the standard for robust whiskeys, but beginners shouldn’t feel intimidated by this drink. 

“Bourbon is truly American”

-Fred Minnick, Author & Whiskey Expert

This is a full-bodied dram with rye spice, dark chocolate, and caramel flavors. It has a long, drying finish, rife with creamy vanilla. 

*Average prices are based on Drizly online. Prices may vary in local liquor shops.

FAQs Related to Smoothest Bourbon For Beginners

Which smooth bourbon for beginners has the least burn? 

Buffalo Trace bourbon has the least burn compared to other whiskeys, making it perfect for beginners. It also has a mild aroma that won’t sting for beginners to appreciate fully. 

Are smooth bourbons best for beginners affordable?

Yes, smooth bourbons best for beginners are affordable! You can get most bourbons featured on our list for less than $100. 

How should beginners drink smooth whiskeys?

Beginners should drink smooth bourbons neat because well-aged drams tend to be heavy on oak and spicy notes.

These spirits on our list don’t bank too much on those tasting notes, making them sweet and suitable for the beginner palate. 

What is the smoothest bourbon a beginner can drink straight?

Buffalo Trace is the smoothest bourbon that a beginner can drink straight.

It is a great introductory bourbon with a bold character, smooth finish, and solid-tasting notes you can enjoy on its own.

Is smoothness the most important factor for beginners?

While smoothness is desirable for beginners, it’s essential to consider personal taste preferences. Some may prefer bourbons with more complexity or bold flavors, even if they’re not as smooth.

Are there any affordable smooth Bourbons for beginners?

Yes, several affordable bourbons offer smoothness without compromising on quality. Brands like Evan Williams, Four Roses Yellow Label, and Jim Beam can provide a smooth introduction to bourbon without breaking the bank.

Should beginners start with straight Bourbons or blends?

Both straight bourbons and blends can offer smooth options for beginners. Straight bourbons provide a pure expression of the spirit, while blends may offer more consistent flavor profiles.

What are some characteristics to look for in a smooth Bourbon?

Smooth bourbons often exhibit characteristics such as a soft mouthfeel, balanced sweetness, subtle spice, and a gentle finish. These qualities can make the drinking experience enjoyable for beginners.

Can smooth bourbons be enjoyed neat or in cocktails?

Absolutely! Smooth bourbons are versatile and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in classic bourbon cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Mint Juleps. Their approachable nature makes them suitable for various drinking preferences.

Should beginners experiment with different Bourbons to find their preference?

Yes, exploring different bourbons is part of the fun of becoming a bourbon enthusiast. Trying various brands and expressions allows beginners to discover their preferred flavor profiles and styles.

What’s the best way to learn about Bourbon for beginners?

Beginners can enhance their bourbon knowledge by reading books, joining tasting events or clubs, and engaging with experienced enthusiasts. Exploring tasting notes, distillery histories, and production processes can deepen appreciation and understanding.

In Summary

Undoubtedly, the smoothest, best bourbon for beginners is the Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  

This premium label from Jim Beam has all the robust properties of a small-batch dram while still being delicate enough for beginners.

It is full-bodied, with caramel, dark chocolate, and rye spice flavor notes. Its smooth finish is long and satisfying. 

We imagine it will be best shared between an enthusiast and a friend who’s trying to get into the bourbon journey. 


  1. Here’s Why You Should Drink Whiskey On the Rocks
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