25 Best Kentucky Bourbons You Must Try (2024)

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Are you searching for the perfect, palate-smacking American whiskey? You can’t go wrong with the best Kentucky bourbon. There’s a reason why Kentucky is a popular destination for the best bourbon. The state is blessed with the richest and most fertile soil, ideal for growing corn – an essential component in bourbon.

Moreover, Kentucky’s hard and mineral-rich water creates the perfect elements for the distillation of the crisp, distinctive bourbon we all love. So, it’s only logical to opt for Kentucky bourbon if you want to experience the best whiskey flavors America has to offer.

We’ve scoured the market and tasted a good variety of candidates to find you 25 of the best Kentucky bourbon to try out this year to experience the state’s rich flavors.

25 Kentucky Bourbon Bottles Worth Trying This Year

1. Jim Beam

Jim Beam is no foreign name when it comes to Kentucky bourbon. This popular Kentucky bourbon whiskey is amongst the most popular bourbons globally. The popular, top-shelf bourbon undergoes a four-year aging process in charred oak barrels to produce its crisp and elegant medium-bodied profile.

Perfect sipping bourbon, Jim Beam boasts delicious notes of grain, caramel, vanilla, and a lightly sweet toasted oak taste. Jim Beam is great for sipping neat or on the rocks. Its uniquely elegant taste profile has also made this popular bourbon a favorite alcohol mix in cocktails.

In addition to the Classic bourbon, Jim Beam also comes in a selection of other bourbon options, including single barrel, aged oak, and fruit-infused options, like peach and orange, to mention a few. On a fun summer afternoon, you can also try out Jim Beam bourbon pre-mixed highball cocktails for a sweet, refreshing bourbon cocktail experience.


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2. Old Fitzgerald

As the name suggests, Old Fitzgerald is a treasured old gem that traces its roots back to the prohibition times. First produced in 1870, in Frankfort, Kentucky, production of this old bourbon continued, to a smaller scale during prohibition and picked up pace after.

So, this bourbon is a very much loved option among novelty collectors and whiskey historians. The bourbon contains a good amount of corn and barley, unlike the commonly used secondary grain, rye, making Old Fitz true wheated bourbon.

The whiskey features a deep gold to brown appearance with sweet corn, vanilla, and faint oak nose. Its flavor offsets sweet caramel notes with heavy barrel char and vanilla notes. While the bourbon does well with cocktails, it’s best to enjoy its classic taste on its own, whether neat or on the rocks.

However, Old Fitz doesn’t come cheap, either. You may pay a minimum of $250 for the youngest bottle and upwards of $5000+ for more mature, collectors bottles.


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3. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year

Other classics and collectors’ bottles offer good quality. But, if you really want to splurge on a premium old, mature, collector’s bottle, the Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year is what you need. But, this bottle doesn’t come cheap, so you really have to dig deep into your pockets for this special production.

This premium 20-year reserve bottle joins the Pappy van Winkle Distillery family among its other excellent quality, premium, and expensive bourbons. What makes the Pappy bourbon unique is the distillery’s affinity for heavier wheat use over corn and rye.

In turn, this gives the bourbon a softer and velvety feel to your palate with sweet vanilla, cherry, and light smokiness that works well even for first-timers or bourbon beginners.

The 20-year reserve bottle features a golden oak appearance and has special maple syrup, light sawdust, vanilla, coconut, candied pecans, and praline caramel ice-cream nose.

On your palate, it starts with a medium body of sweet vanilla, honey, and maple syrup that transition slowly to candied nuts with faint saltiness. The bourbon then leaves a lingering soft peppery and spicy, light oak, and vanilla after notes. The Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-Year bottle is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks.


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4. Michter’s US 1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon

If you want to spend extra for a special occasion like a huge birthday milestone or anniversary, the Michter’s US 1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon is a good option.

Released to the market in 2014, this 8-year-old bourbon is made by aging Michter’s US 1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon for an additional period in a second custom-made barrel.

As a result, the whiskey produces an extra special taste to make it perfect for cocktail mixing or drinking on its own. The 8-year-old toasted barrel bourbon boasts incredible tasting notes of campfire and cinnamon with subtle hints of pecan and candied fruit. Further, the bourbon is finished off with baked pears, vanilla, and marshmallow.


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5. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

If you are on a budget, you can still find an excellent Kentucky bourbon whiskey bottle like the Elijah Craig Barrel Prof Bourbon. The Kentucky bourbon offers high-end quality at the fraction of the price. Now, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon is a product of the Elijah Craig Distillery, a brainchild of Elijah Craig.

Considered the father of bourbon, Elijah Craig was the first distiller to age whiskey in charred oak barrels. This, in turn, has allowed the brand to maintain high quality and top-shelf whiskey.

The 12-year Barrel Proof bottle lives up to the distillery’s standards and offers good quality whiskey – best enjoyed on the rocks or neat.

The bottle boasts intense sweet notes of caramel, brown sugar, citrus, cherry, vanilla, and spiced apple with cinnamon, and nutmeg. You will also taste faint notes of licorice and anise on this dark and oaky bourbon.

More: 25 Best Sipping Bourbons to Drink Neat


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6. Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon

The Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon is prized for its masterful and skillful distillation, which gives it its sophisticated profile. The high proof, bottle in bond bourbon is named after Henry McKenna.

McKenna was the founder of the distiller and an Irish immigrant who masterfully blended his family’s Irish whiskey recipe to work with the Kentucky conditions.

As a result, the award-winning Single barrel bourbon is one of his incredible crafts. The 10-year-old bourbon is aged in charred American oak barrels and contains a majority of corn mixed with rye and barley.

It exudes notes of caramel and mint spice with hints of pumpernickel bread, wood, caramel, and honey. The McKenna single barrel is best enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or added with soda.


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7. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon allows you to enjoy good Kentucky bourbon at a very low price.  While the bourbon isn’t the smoothest, it still offers remarkable flavors and a highly fragrant finish. Therefore, you can easily enjoy this budget-friendly straight bourbon as a sipper.

The bourbon features a deep amber color and boasts complex notes of vanilla, mint, and molasses. When you first taste it, you will get subtle notes of brown sugar and spice which slowly transition and finish off with oak, toffee, dark fruit, and anise flavors. The whiskey’s body has a long and very light smoothness with serious depth.


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8. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon


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Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a special craft of the Four Roses’ in-house Master Distiller, Brent Elliott. The bourbon is handmade by mixing together 4 of the 10 available Four Roses recipes that have been aged for at least 6 to 7 years.

As a result, you get distinctively delicious and pleasantly aromatic bourbon. Yet, it still comes at an affordable price. The top shelf whiskey features a dark golden appearance with a deep dark fruit flavor profile.

When you drink it, you will be introduced to the deep plum and blackberry notes over lemon, hints of sweet oak and caramel, and finish off with mellow spicy notes. As a result, you get well balanced, rich, soft, and smooth pleasantly long bourbon.

The Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon can be enjoyed straight or used in a cocktail. In fact, this bourbon is one of the best for making cocktails, such as Old Fashioned, thanks to its soft and non-overpowering taste profile. Used in an Old Fashioned cocktail, the bourbon release beautiful notes of cinnamon spice and vanilla that elevate the cocktail’s overall flavor.

9. Maker’s Mark 46

Maker’s Mark uses the regular Maker’s Mark recipe but with a little bit of a twist. The affordable bourbon is made using a 6-year-aged Maker’s Mark dumped and returned to the barrel with staves. Staves are then seared or heavily toasted to give the 46 its distinctive profile.

The top shelf bourbon is wheated bourbon, made with wheat instead of rye as the secondary grain. It has butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla, a sweet and rich profile. When you first drink it, you get notes of toasted butterscotch, caramel, toffee, and butter.

As the flavor develops, you will get subtle hints of cinnamon and vanilla. While the bourbon is sweet and rich, you will also get alcohol warmth with some astringency aftertaste.

The bourbon is good as a sipper, on the rocks, and mixed with soda. It may not be the best option for cocktails due to its somewhat strong and rich profile.


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10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon

The Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon is among popular bourbons globally, just behind Jim Beam. Evan Williams is unique bourbon as it’s the only vintage-dated single-barrel bourbon.

The 7 to 8-year-old bottle features a delicate amber-gold appearance with dark caramel, sweet oak, and charred wood aroma.

When you take your first sip, you will experience a lush and spicy flavor with honey oak, apple, and orange notes. The bourbon finishes with a long, graceful, and relaxed sensation. While it came to be drunk straight, Evan Williams is a good cocktail bourbon too. You can use it to make a variety of cocktails, including Side Car and Old Fashioned.


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11. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon

The Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon goes through a special innovative double oak barreled process which gives it a rich and deed flavored bourbon.

This 7-year reserve bottle is matured in a separate charred oak barrel and then deeply toasted before light charring in a second barrel.

As a result, you get a softer and sweet oak character in the bourbon. The bourbon’s dark and roasted appearance may suggest that it has a bitter or harsh taste.

But, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, this dark bourbon boasts a cocoa milk chocolate taste with coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and cherry notes.

Due to the double barreling, the bourbon also boasts a pleasantly smoky charcoal aroma. You can enjoy this bourbon neat or on the rocks. You can also mix it with water, club soda, or ginger ale, or add it to an Old Fashioned cocktail.


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12. Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon Whiskey

If you are not a particular fan of wheated bourbon, you can always go for the Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon Whiskey. High rye bourbon, Wild Turkey 101 contains 75% corn and 13% rye, and 12% barley as the secondary grain.

The bourbon is aged in American white oak barrels coated with deep alligator char for an impeccable character. The punch gets from the special barreling and high rye content makes the whiskey great neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. When you first open the bottle you will get a whiff of vanilla with cinnamon and dark from the bourbon.

Further, the bourbon delivers a sweet upfront taste with vanilla and caramel notes. You will also experience oak and baking spices in the middle. the bourbon finishes with a bold, signature Wild Turkey spice and orange peel as finishing notes to this 6 to 8-year-old bourbon.


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13. Larceny Small Batch Bourbon

Made with wheat instead of rye, Larceny Small Batch Bourbon offers a smooth and relaxing taste. The smooth bourbon is a pretty good sipping drink as it owes its full flavor and oaky note to the pleasant sweetness.

Further, as you sip the bourbon, you will notice that the wheat component of the drink gives it a mellow softness without making it weak. But, the most impressive part of this bourbon is that it offers a pretty satisfying sipping taste although it’s cheaply priced.

In fact, it offers better flavor compared to a number of higher-priced wheated bourbons. The bourbon boasts a bright new copper color and fresh bread, toffee, and butterscotch aroma.

It offers buttery caramel and honeyed noted with a rich mouthful and a long, sweet, and savory finish. While you can sip it, you can also experiment with it on cocktails.


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Tip: Make the best Kentucky Mule by shaking the Larceny Small Batch Bourbon, ginger beer, and lime and strain over ice.

14. Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

While Basil Hayden is a relatively young distillery, it still produces one of the best Kentucky bourbons. The elegant bourbon comes with a high rye content to give it a kick with added spice. This profile makes the whiskey perfect for serving on the rocks, neat, or in a cocktail.

The 2-year-old bourbon boasts notes of charred oak and sweet brown sugar that blend well with its peppery, herbal, and dried fruity flavor. While the bourbon whiskey has a hard kick with bold spiciness, it still works perfectly for beginners and experienced drinkers alike.


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15. Town Branch Straight Bourbon

The Town Branch Straight Bourbon integrates one of the best handcrafting and masterful practices to produce a great quality drink. The bourbon is made in small batches hand poured into barrels and bottles for top-notch quality.

Thigh high corn and low rye formula gives it a more mellow flavor with the utmost sweetness and smoothness.

The 2-year-old, 50-proof bourbon starts off with an oak and woody aroma and opens up to rich, dark notes of caramel, brown sugar, and toffee.

You will then experience its sweet fruity cherry finishing notes. You can best enjoy the Town Branch bourbon neat, on the rocks, or mixed with a carbonated drink.


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16. Heaven Hill 6-Year Old Green Label

Among the best distilleries in Kentucky, Heaven Hill produces the best tasting and sophisticated bourbon. The 6-year, 90-proof Green Label is the distillery’s exclusive and elusive product, loved by many bourbon connoisseurs. Yet, it is still a pretty affordable option on the market. 

When it comes to taste, the bourbon boasts a perfect balance of different flavor and palate profiles, including a sweet, fruity, floral, and rich character.

The bourbon starts off with citrus, oak, vanilla, and caramel notes, finishing off with a long, pleasant finish and heat, perfect for both a warm and cold winter. You can drink the Green Label straight or mix it in a cocktail.


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17. Bulleit Barrel Strength Bourbon

Bulleit is a pretty popular option among bourbon drinkers and a common sight in commercial establishments, like bars and pubs. Nonetheless, the top-shelf bourbon features high quality and an award-winning distilling process which adds to its incredible taste and profile.

The 2-year-old bourbon is aged in Louisville with 120 to 125-proof for the ultimate warmth and heat. So, you are better off drinking it on the rocks or mixing it with soda. The Bulleit Barrel exudes a spicy sweet oak aroma with nutmeg, oak, maple, and toffee flavor notes.


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18. Noah’s Mill Small Batch

Noah Mil’s Small Batch is excellent rare bourbon, blended with whiskey that has been aged between 4 and 20 years. The small batch bourbon contains a strong 114.3 proof.

Yet, it works great served neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. This exclusive bourbon features a lush and rich profile with flora, fruity, and nutty aroma reminiscent of prunes, walnut, and lavender.

As the bourbon finishes off in your mouth, you will get a lingering burn caramel sensation left behind by the good amount of acid. The Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon comes packed in a distinctive wine-like bottle.


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19. Blade & Bow

The Blade & Bow bourbon is a rich tribute to the renowned legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery. The bourbon whiskey uses an exclusive Solera System aging process used by the distillery’s older distillery which was closed in 1992. The liquid that comes from the Solera system is mixed with aged fine whiskey (aged in American white oak barrels.

As a result, it produces a fresh fruit aroma with beautiful notes of dried fruity apricot, ripe pear, and sweet roasted grain. Further, the bourbon finishes off with lingering notes of charred oak and warm winter spices.


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20. Kentucky Owl Straight Bourbon Whiskey

While the Kentucky Owl Straight Bourbon Whiskey traces its roots back to the late 1800s, its production was interrupted by the prohibition era. However, in 2014, production for this incredible bourbon was resumed rolling out batch #1.

The bourbon is made with high quality ingredients to produce 118.8-proof whiskeys with a strong but, well balanced taste, best enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water. The bourbon whiskey has a smooth caramel and chocolate vanilla oak aroma. It starts off with soft vanilla tea and soft wine notes and is finished off with mild and soft apple lingering notes.


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21. Knob Creek 9-Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Featuring full-proof distillation for optimal flavor, the Knob Creek 9-Year Old Kentucky Straight boasts a pre-prohibition style finish. The 100-proof bourbon is made in American white oak barrels to achieve full and deep flavor with a robust oak taste.

You will also get lingering notes of smooth vanilla and layered caramel. Overall, the bourbon’s rich and sweet woody full-bodied profile goes well when drunk neat, on the rocks, or added to a cocktail. The Knob Creek bourbon has a copper to medium amber appearance.


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22. Blanton’s Single Barrel

Mimicking the profiles of the original collector’s bottles belonging to Colonel Blanton, Blanton’s Single Barrel delivers a regal and sophisticated taste. The bourbon exudes a nutmeg and spices aroma that is deep, yet, satisfying.

When drunk, you will be impressed with the subtle notes of vanilla that synergizes with honey, string caramel, and corn. The bourbon finishes off with corn and nutmeg flavors, allowing you to serve it however you see fit.

23. 1792 Bourbon Full Proof Limited Edition

The 1792 Full Proof Limited Edition Bourbon is made with a rich and elegant flavor that reflects its exclusivity. The bourbon undergoes an intensely unique filtration process to give it its distinctive flavor and body.

Bottled at 125 barrel entry proof, the bourbon gives a deep and smoky flavor profile with balanced notes of sweet vanilla and caramel. You can enjoy the bourbon straight or add it to make your favorite cocktail.


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24. Jefferson’s Reserve

Jefferson’s Reserve comes with strong and bold flavors – a true testament to a premium reserve bottle! The bourbon packs complex flavors yet, it remains pleasant on the palate. It comes with sweet caramel, toffee, and cinnamon notes blended with honey and a nutmeg aroma.

Further, the bourbon finishes off with a deep leather and tobacco finish. To enjoy the bourbon, you want to experience its most authentic flavors when sipped neat or added with a splash of water.


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25. Eagle Rare 17-Year Bourbon ($1500 one of the exp)

If you want to splurge on premium bourbon you would enjoy on the most special occasions, the Eagle Rare 17- Year Bourbon is an impeccable match. A single bottle of this bourbon can fetch upwards of $1500+. However, the reward is worth every penny you dig deep into your pockets for.

The bourbon is aged in oak barrels for three years short of two decades and only comes out in small batches during fall. The rare aged bourbon boasts a sophisticated wine-like profile with almond, cigar box, and cinnamon aroma. Its vanilla, tobacco and leathery taste with toffee hints will make any other bourbon feel weak!


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What Is A Good Smooth Kentucky Bourbon?

The Knob Creek 9-Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon is good smooth Kentucky bourbon. The bourbon’s flavor profile and smooth body are pleasant on the palate and throat. In fact, the smoothness the bourbon offers makes it great even for beginners.

Which Bourbons Are Made In Kentucky?

Most of the bourbon available on the market is made in Kentucky. While you can find bourbon from other parts of the US, the best bourbon comes from Kentucky. Some of the popular Kentucky bourbon brands include Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Woodford Reserve, and Maker’s Mark, to name a few.

More: 23 Best Bourbons for the Money

What Are The Best Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries?

The best Kentucky distilleries include Beam Suntory (maker of Jim Beam), Buffalo Trace Distillery (maker of Pappy Van Winkle’s), Woodford Reserve, and Heaven Hill Distillery (largest), to mention a few. There are over 70 distilleries in Kentucky and each plays a role in the state’s overall excellent bourbon quality.

What Is The Best Kentucky Bourbon For The Money?

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon is the best Kentucky bourbon for the money. While maintaining great quality in both body and flavor, the bourbon whiskey comes at a pretty friendly price tag.

What Whiskey Is Kentucky Famous For?

Kentucky is most famous for bourbon whiskey and some rye whiskey. Among the most popular brands is Jim Beam, which is loved globally. in fact, while Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey is the best selling whiskey globally, Jim Beam is the best selling bourbon globally.


If you want to sample the best bourbon, there’s no better way to do it than by trying the best Kentucky bourbon. With over 70 distilleries and a myriad of bourbon options available on the market, there’s always something for everyone. Whether a beginner, a collector or looking to make distinctively flavored cocktails, there’s a piece for you in bourbon from Kentucky.

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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