20 Best Bourbons for Old Fashioned: Top Options for a Perfect Cocktail

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Old Fashioned is a classic “old money” cocktail bringing flavor to the table, style, and class.

Starting with the glass, to the elegant yet effective orange slice decoration, to the ingeniously simple yet tasteful selection of ingredients, everything about this cocktail is understated yet purposeful. 

Containing alcohol, orange slice, water, bitters, and sugar, this seemingly undemanding cocktail requires much more than one might think.

Since the rest of the ingredients are soft, the alcohol in Old Fashioned must be effective, so it is traditionally made with rye whiskey or bourbon. 

Not that rye whiskey and bourbon are the same, but they share some features.

Therefore, you can use one instead of the other for Old Fashioned. Nevertheless, only because you can use bourbon doesn’t mean you should use any bourbon for Old Fashioned. 

So, What is the Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned? 

Bourbon is known to be harsher and edgier than whiskey, but that doesn’t mean it’s an aggressive drink. On the contrary, a good bourbon is like velvet running through your mouth.

Bourbon doesn’t age as long as whiskey, which is the primary factor making it more assertive, but for an Old Fashioned cocktail, a harsh bourbon is what you are looking for. 

You may want to select a mellower and gentler bourbon if you’re a beginner. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced bourbon drinker, you will probably want to choose something more “out there.” 

To ensure something for everyone, I will list the 20 best bourbons for Old Fashioned below, so let’s dive right in.

1. Four Roses


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Even though it’s a type of bourbon, Four Roses is an exceptionally gentle spirit.

It’s refined, soft, and flavorful; if you’re a beginner, it’s one of the best options to train your palate. It’s still a bourbon, so be prepared for a burn and some sting, but it is far milder than many bourbons on this list. 

Your Old Fashioned made with this bourbon will be bright, cheerful, and very fragrant. The finish is long and smooth, so expect a nice warm sensation without too much bite.

With a vanilla nose and a vanilla, caramel, spice, and plum palate, this bourbon will set you up nicely for your preceding journey. 

2. Wild Turkey


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As a titan in the spirit world, Wild Turkey bourbon offers nothing less than the best for a trained palate.

An inexperienced drinker might find this bourbon a little too much, and one needs a certain experience to appreciate Wild Turkey bourbon.  Therefore, this is more of an intermediate-level lesson if you’re a beginner.

Aged from eight to ten years in “alligator char” barrels, Wild Turkey bourbon is a high-quality drink and an excellent option for your Old Fashioned cocktail.

Its robust flavor profile encompassing vanilla, oak, baking spices, and caramel makes it a playful spirit.

3. Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon


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Appropriately named, as it’s so good that even angles envy it, this bourbon is an excellent option for your Old Fashioned, especially if you’re more inclined toward unusual and vibrant flavors. 

With a rich palate comprising  vanilla, maple syrup, bitter chocolate, and toast notes, this bourbon is astoundingly flavorful, delightfully balancing the flavor notes. The finish is long, smooth, and flavorful, creating a warm burn and lingering aftertaste. 

Your Old Fashioned will taste delightful with this bourbon. It mixes incredibly well with orange zest as well as bitters. Since it has a noticeably sweet note, this bourbon will make your Old Fashioned even more flavorful and expressively sweet. 

4. Buffalo Trace


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Buffalo Trace bourbon is the flagship of the Buffalo Trace distillery.

Standing proudly as the leader of the brand, the Buffalo Trace bourbon has kept the same recipe for 200, maintaining its invaluable tradition through thick and thin. 

With an abundantly rich body with notes of vanilla, mint, molasses, toffee, and spice, Buffalo Trace is an excellent choice for an Old Fashioned.

It will enrich the cocktail with flavor and warmth, creating a classic drink that will undoubtedly capture your taste buds. 

5. Woodford Reserve


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With over 200 flavor notes, this bourbon is definitely among the most flavorful ones on this list, and generally at the bourbon market. It’s strong from the get-go. So, you can feel orange, cocoa, vanilla, and dried fruit notes on the nose. 

It is full and balanced on the palate, intertwined with caramel and cocoa tones, creating a soft buttery sensation. Triple-distilled and aged for about six years, the Woodford Reserve bourbon is one of the smoothest bourbons in general. 

The sheer fact that it’s got over 200 flavor notes says volumes about how this bourbon mixes in cocktails, especially in Old Fashioned.

6. Maker’s Mark


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Known as more flavorful but less spicy than most bourbons, Maker’s Mark bourbon is an excellent choice for an Old Fashioned cocktail if you are more inclined toward moderately strong flavors.

It combines notes of vanilla, caramel, toffee, and oak with a smooth, warm finish, with the most noticeable vanilla tones. In an Old Fashioned, this bourbon seems noticeable and has a leading note, but it doesn’t overwhelm the flavor.

7. Elijah Craig Small Batch


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This bourbon is a classic one, and if you like rugged and potent flavors, this is the right decision for your Old Fashioned cocktail.

Smoky and leathery with noticeable, but understated notes of vanilla in the beginning and mid-palate, this bourbon goes by the book. 

The nose is expectedly potent, with notes of smoke and vanilla, while the finish is smooth but assertive and not for an inexperienced palate.

In an Old Fashioned, this bourbon softens a little, but not too much, so your cocktail will be more n the strong side. 

8. Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old


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This bourbon has made a name as being warm and smooth, which is more than enough for an Old Fashioned cocktail. It’s a moderate version of the classic-style bourbon, not as harsh, but still pretty assertive. 

It has tones of vanilla and toasted nuts mixed with smokiness and a certain leathery dimension. The smokiness remains concentrated at the finish in an Old Fashioned, while the vanilla notes transpire throughout the drink. 

9. Evan Williams Black Label


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The Evan Williams Black Label is an especially well-balanced spirit allowing you to experience all it offers simultaneously. It exhibits vanilla, dried fruit, and oak notes, from the texture to the flavors and finish. 

In an Old Fashioned cocktail, this bourbon creates an overall elegant dimension mixed with lots of warmth, accentuating the sweet and zesty notes of the drink.

10. Early Times Bottled-In-Bond


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Combining notes of honey, chocolate, oak, and cinnamon, this bourbon is a warm drink but not a gentle one. It’s very flavorful and incredibly vibrant but comes with a certain roughness. 

Nevertheless, combined with the rest of the Old Fashioned ingredients, it tends to mellow down, exhibiting more flavorful notes than the sharpness of the spirit.

An Early Times Old Fashioned is a refined-flavored drink with an understated chocolaty dimension and plenty of class. 

11. Poppy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15-Year


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Although this very high-shelf bourbon is intended to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, it would be a shame to omit it from this list. With a price tag of about $2,000, this drink requires a well-trained palate to know why it has been priced that high. 

This is a smooth drink with notes of vanilla, dried fruits, butterscotch, caramel, and toasted nuts, enveloped in a smoky and leathery dimension.

Your Old Fashioned will taste like chocolate and citrus, with a deep smokiness and noticeable sweetness. 

12. Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon


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Balanced and toned, this bourbon exhibits notes of vanilla, citrus, and oak, with a smooth finish and a full body. 

Smooth and clean, this bourbon is an excellent cocktail mixer, and no, it isn’t because it tastes bad neat. It’s very receptive to other flavors, which is why it’s known to mix in many cocktails, especially Old Fashioned. 

13. Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon


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Although well-rounded and excellently balanced, this bourbon has a slightly stronger bite than most on this list. It’s flavorful and delicious, but the bite could easily overwhelm the tasting notes if you aren’t experienced with sharp bourbons.

Therefore, don’t experiment with it if you aren’t inclined toward this flavor. 

It does seem to mellow in an Old Fashioned, but not too much, so you will still cringe when swallowing. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect Old Fashioned mixer for nurturing this drinking style.

14. Bulleit Straight Bourbon Frontier Whiskey


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Vibrant and spicy, this high-rye bourbon is just what your Old Fashioned needs if you like strong and assertive flavors. It isn’t aggressive or too strong but shouldn’t be taken too lightly. 

This bourbon is a very flavorful and dynamic drink, with notes of vanilla and caramel wrapped up in a rye dimension. You will get a firm and flavorful drink if you make Old Fashioned with this bourbon.

15. Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon


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No bourbon list is complete without this giant in the bourbon world. If you want spiciness, vanilla tones, and a lot of corn flavor, this is the perfect option for your Old Fashioned cocktail.

Smooth yet very assertive and precise in its intentions, the Jim Beam bourbon will teach you a lesson on rugged elegance.

16. Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style


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This bourbon is a classic and Prohibition-style spirit with notes of oak, dark chocolate, and caramel. It has kept afloat through dark days, only to tell its story in each sip. 

Smooth and flavorful, full of life and vibrancy, this bourbon is an excellent option for your Old Fashioned, especially if you want something old-fashioned.

17. 1792 Small Batch


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Tasting like oak, caramel, and rye spice, if you want to add some old class to your Old Fashioned, don’t think twice before pouring some 1792 Small Batch. It’s pungent and lively but not overly complex, so it’s easygoing and universal. 

Whether you’re an experienced bourbon drinker or you’re just embarking on your bourbon journey, you will undoubtedly be able to appreciate this fine spirit, especially if you taste it in an Old Fashioned. 

18. Knob Creek 9-Year


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Knob Creek bourbon is a sharp drink with a noticeable oaky flavor and a glass-like sharpness. It’s delicious and vibrant, with subtle vanilla and honey tones. In an Old Fashioned, it is the one that leads the drink and sets the tone. 

Your cocktail will be moderately sweet, zesty, and sharply nice. If you like the edgier things in life, this is the right bourbon for your Old Fashioned.

19. Chattanooga Whiskey 91


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Tasting like honey, butterscotch, sugar, and caramel, this bourbon has become a legend in the bourbon department. It’s a smooth spirit with a full body, leaving you with a delightfully warm sensation and a deliciously sweet aftertaste. 

In an Old Fashioned, this bourbon becomes even more vibrant, thanks to the orange and sugary notes of the cocktail.

20. Smoke Wagon Small Batch


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With rye, oak, honey, and caramel notes, this bourbon is a delightful drink with plenty to offer. It has a full body and a certain depth of flavor you can’t find in other bourbons.

If you want your Old Fashioned rich, pungent, and irresistibly elegant, this bourbon is the perfect option for your drink. 

What Type Of Bourbon Is Used In An Old Fashioned?

The four-grain bourbon is the bourbon that is typically used in an Old Fashioned. It tastes grainy, but it doesn’t overpower the drink.

It combines sweet and bitter notes from the grains, the typical bourbon vanilla note, and the frequent oaky tones familiar with the bourbon drink. 

What Is The Best Whiskey To Make An Old Fashioned?

The best whiskey for an Old Fashioned is high-rye whiskey. It isn’t as gentle as regular whiskey but not as sharp as bourbon. If you want your Old Fashioned on the stronger side but not too sharp, high-rye whiskey should be the way to go. 

Is Bourbon Better For An Old Fashioned?

It all boils down to personal preference. Whether you have your Old Fashioned with bourbon or rye whiskey depends on how you like it. Bourbon makes a sharper Old Fashioned, while rye whiskey makes it gentler but more pungent.

Chad Smith

Meet Chad Smith, a seasoned bartender with a passion for mixology. He's the founder of Tin Roof Drink Community, a blog where he shares expert tips, creative recipes, and fosters a vibrant community of cocktail enthusiasts and aspiring bartenders. Join Chad as he takes you on a flavorful journey through the world of drinks. Cheers!

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