12 Best Types of Bourbon to Try

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Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is characterized by several markings. It has to be aged in new oak barrels, as opposed to whiskey that often ages in used barrels so as to acquire flavors, it mustn’t contain additives, and it has to be 51% corn. 

So what are the types of bourbon, and which are the best brands?

There are ten main types of bourbon, with each of them branching out to many other sub-types that then branch out through many different bourbon brands. 

The main bourbon types are standard bourbon whiskey, high-rye & wheated bourbon, blended bourbon whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, bottled in bond bourbon, Kentucky bourbon whiskey, small-batch & single-barrel bourbon, sour mash bourbon, and corn bourbon. 

  • Each of these bourbon types has its own markings making each of them unique. 
  • The standard bourbon whiskey follows the standard five rules of making bourbon. 

For a spirit to be bourbon, it needs to be 51 percent corn mash, age in new charred oak barrels for at least two years, and it has to be bottled at a maximum of 125 proof.

If the spirit doesn’t meet all of these conditions, it doesn’t only mean that it isn’t standard bourbon whiskey, but it also means that it isn’t whiskey at all. So, in a nutshell, the standard bourbon is a textbook bourbon, meeting all requirements with no experimentation whatsoever.

Since bourbon must have at least 51 percent corn as the base ingredient, the other 49% is crucial for its taste. When that 49% is rye, it is a high-rye bourbon.

The high rye bourbons are more intense in flavor and smoother overall. They are also harder to find and are therefore pricier. 

Blended bourbon combines several bourbons. It is a very versatile type of bourbon as the bourbons included in the blend can be with different mash bills. So there may be several bourbons with different mash bills from different distilleries in a single blend. 

In the past, blended bourbon was cheaper than straight as the distillers joined forces to make use of their leftover bourbon. So instead of discarding them or drinking them themselves, both of which generate no profit, they blended the bourbons and sold them at lower prices. 

Today, blended bourbon is no longer a synonym for a low-quality cheap spirit but rather for a spirit created by carefully selecting the best bourbons to blend. 

By defining blended bourbon, I already explained straight bourbon to some extent. Straight bourbon comes from one single barrel, and it isn’t blended with other bourbons. 

There are a lot of straight bourbons available on the market, so you are bound to stumble upon some very bad ones. However, an excellent straight bourbon is one of the most delicious spirits. 

Tennessee bourbon has the same ingredients as any other bourbon, but it has to meet two conditions to be a Tennessee; it must be distilled in the state of Tennessee, and it must go through the Lincoln County process (LCP).

This process is basically filtrating bourbon through charcoal before aging. 

The bottled-in-bond bourbon must comply with three standards, i.e., come from a single distiller in a single season (spring or fall), the age for a minimum of four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and it has to be bottled at 50% ABV.

Like Tennessee Whiskey, Kentucky Bourbon must be distilled in Kentucky.

Kentucky bourbon is a pretty simple-flavored bourbon, and it is the perfect starting point if you are a beginner in the bourbon department. 

Small-batch bourbons are made of bourbons aged in 50 different barrels and blended together.

Single-barrel bourbons age in a single barrel, hence the name. The single-barrel bourbons are intended for the seasoned bourbon aficionados, as an inexperienced palate cannot appreciate this spirit properly. 

  • Sour mash bourbon uses a mash bill that’s already spent time in another distillation process. 
  • The sour mash bourbon is regarded as a complex and very flavorful spirit. 
  • Corn bourbon is bourbon made of 100% corn, so it meets the 51% corn requirement perfectly. 
  • Corn bourbon tastes explicitly like corn, and it is pretty sweet and smooth.
  • However, corn bourbon isn’t everyone’s poison as it not everyone likes corn, and you must like corn for this one. 

In the sea of bourbon types and brands, and flavors, you are definitely going to stumble upon some good and some bad ones.

To ease your decision-making process, in this article so far, I have explained the main bourbon types, and I will go on listing and explaining the best bourbons available on the market. 

So keep reading to find out which one is best for you. 

1. Knob Creek


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Even though Knob Creek bourbon whiskey isn’t the probably the fanciest, its secret power is consistency. While other bourbons may surprise you positively or disappoint you, this one is always as it was the last time you had it, which is why it has so many fans. 

This is a high-rye bourbon whiskey aged for nine years. There are some expressions from the Knob Creek bourbon that are 12 and 15 years old, but they are very rare and very limited editions. 

Still, regardless of how long it has aged, it tastes like caramel and brown sugar flavor combined with nutty tones. It starts pretty standardly, with vanilla notes, continuing nutty and somewhat buttery mid-palate, with a smooth finish tasting like brown sugar. The caramel dimension is all over the sip.

2. Wild Turkey


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Wild Turkey is a classic American bourbon whiskey that will take you straight where you need to go; no side turns, no detours. This bourbon has made a name for being affordable and reliable, meaning that you can always count on its quality. 

Flavor-wise it is a tad restrictive, being that it is a little hotter and spicier than other bourbons in its category. Since it ages for a minimum of six years, it has a smooth finish and a genuine depth of flavor. 

It combines vanilla and toasted oak, creating a nice two-fold flavor from the beginning to the very end of the sip. It finishes smoothly with a warm burn and a strong aftertaste.

3. Evan Williams


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Evan Williams is a very affordable yet excellent quality bourbon, defeating the skeptics that believe that only insanely expensive bourbon is worth drinking.

This is a strong but very flavorful bourbon whiskey. Still, if you are more inclined toward the milder side of the spirit, this may not be the perfect fit for you. 

Evan Williams is a great cocktail mixer but does excellently when sipped slowly alone. The Evan Williams brand carries several types of whiskey bourbon, such as bottled-in-bond and single-barrel, all of which carry the staple markings of taste and affordability.

This bourbon has the classic bourbon vanilla and caramel notes enhanced and enriched with a smoky note that is rather unusual for bourbon.

4. Four Roses


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This gentle and mild bourbon is definitely the lady on this list. It is an excellent budget bourbon you can mix in cocktails as well as enjoy it, sipping it slowly. 

It has been regarded as the best bourbon in its price range, and rightfully so, since it is genuinely very delicious and easy to drink. 

Basically, the Four Roses bourbon ages for about six to eight years, so imagine how smooth it is. It is a high rye mash with an expressive spiciness, which isn’t typical for the bourbon spirit, but it is delightful, nevertheless. 

It combines fruity citrus notes, vanilla, caramel, and a tad of black pepper. It starts with the vanilla introduction, continuing with the citrus notes and retaining the vanilla whiff, finishing on a smooth and long finish with peppery spiciness. 

Four Roses also carry limited editions, blends, and rare bottles. Whichever you choose will present you with gentility and refinement.

5. Michter’s


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The Mitcher’s distillery bottles aren’t cheap, but they are worth it. They have complex flavors, combining high rye and sour-mash whiskey bourbons, and are among the best on the market. 

The flavor notes combine sweet, spice, vanilla, and cocoa, as base flavors, with each bottle having its own flavor profile, including other flavors as well. 

Each sip starts gently, but it gets rougher in the middle. However, even though it is harsher, it is also more flavorful. The first thing you notice is the vanilla, going on to cocoa and finishing with spice. 

Other flavors you may experience in a sip of Mitcher’s bourbon are rye, caramel, and coffee.

6. Old Forester


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Made for the people, with the purpose of getting good-quality bourbon closer to the everyday Joe, this spirit has made a name as an affordable drink that doesn’t risk the quality. 

This bourbon is slightly higher in alcohol content but also richer in flavor. This is a high-rye whiskey that is sweet on the palate but a little rough going down. 

7. Maker’s Mark


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This is a wheat bourbon where wheat is used as the main grain for flavor, also including rye and malted barley. 

It has a very sweet flavor and a smooth and lingering finish. It is an affordable bourbon that doesn’t sacrifice its quality. 

It combines sweet and vanilla notes, amplified by the rye and barley content, toned down by the wheat sweetness. It ends on a slightly spicy note leaving a delicious aftertaste. 

8. Booker’s


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Booker’s bourbon whiskey has been regarded as one of the best in its category. It has a long history, and it dates back to the time when bourbon wasn’t as sought after as it is today. So, in some way, this bourbon is a part of a revolution and the ringing of a new era in the spirit department. 

Coming in four batches per year and even less occasionally, it ages somewhere between six and seven years. This bourbon whiskey is the perfect balance between strong and drinkable, making you twitch when having it but still going for the next sip. 

This is a great mixing bourbon, but with a few drops of water, you can enjoy it as it is. Booker’s bourbon remains the most consistent bourbon whiskey, quality and price-wise. 

Its flavor is best described as strong and complex, with strong grain notes dulled down by the vanilla tones and made even more attractive by the sharp finish.

9. Barrell Bourbon


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Barrell is known for its careful selection of the whiskeys they blend and give its label to. 

The brand branches out to whiskey as well, so bourbon isn’t their main or only product. Therefore, the more experienced bourbon enthusiasts, who are theoretically experienced as well would be reluctant to buy from this brand, as they prefer brands that specialize in bourbon. 

However, even though it isn’t limited to bourbon only, the Barrel brand takes utmost care for their bourbon to be at its finest. 

Their bourbon whiskey isn’t cheap either, with bottles costing %500 and up. Still, if you are a fan of the “finer things club,” you should indulge yourself with a bottle of this bourbon whiskey.

It is very flavorful and easy to drink. The palate is pungent, preceded by a tame yet seductive introduction. The finish is smooth but intense, with a lingering aftertaste.

10. Woodford Reserve


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The Woodford Reserve whiskey bourbon has made an excellent name among mixologists, and it is a mandatory member of bars. 

It is a complex-tasting spirit, the main tasting note of which is sweet, but it also encompasses a whole range of flavor notes. It is also spicy with expressive notes of vanilla and fruit. 

The Woodford Reserve bourbon also features a double-oaked variety. This one has matured for a second time in slightly charred barrels. 

This bourbon is a product of curiosity and experimentation, making each bottle slightly different than the rest of the same spirit expression. It is very flavorful and versatile, with strong grain notes, among those I mentioned above. Also, it is easily drinkable with a very smooth, almost velvety finish. 

11. Buffalo Trace


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Buffalo Trace is a sounding name in the bourbon department; It has been said to have the refinement and quality of the more expensive bourbon spirits for affordable prices. 

You can drink this bourbon on its own, enjoying it slowly, but also, you can mix t in a cocktail, as it works excellently that way too. 

This bourbon has a low rye content; therefore, the corn and wheat dominate the taste. This bourbon is expressively sweet and gentle with intense grain notes but also includes vanilla, caramel, and pepper spice. 

Its pepperiness is most visible I the end, while the vanilla and caramel notes run throughout the entire sip. It finishes smoothly and deliciously, leaving you with a spicy aftertaste. 

12. Woodinville Whiskey


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Known to make the best bourbon in, it produces craft whisky, which is as delicious as that of the more renowned and more expensive brands. 

Woodinville Straight Bourbon is full-bodied and mature, with noticeable depth and substance of the flavor. Everything involved in the making of this bourbon is carefully selected and crafted, so from gran to barrel to bottle, this bourbon is custom to match even the highest of standards.  

It includes vanilla, toast, coffee, caramel, and citrus fruit-tasting notes, each of them shining when the right moment comes. 

Examples of Bourbon

There are ten main types of bourbon, each one progressing into a separate brand, where it is further developed through aging and experimentation to become a unique bottle with its own original characteristics. 

There are many types of bourbon in terms of brands on the world market, each specific and perfect in its own right.

Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, Woodinville Whiskey, Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve are just a drop in the deep ocean of the bourbon spirit. 

Which Is The Best Bourbon Whiskey?

Henry Mckenna bourbon is considered the best overall bourbon whiskey. It ages in oak barrels, and it is recognizable for its smoothness and richness of its taste. It is an exquisite spirit, with deep and dark flavor and an incredibly smooth finish.

It is one of the rare bourbon whiskeys to be described as rich and buttery, “like butterscotch candy .”However, you should take slow and small bites of this butterscotch candy as it has a dark side too.

Having a greedy sip of this bourbon cold cuts you and messes with your ability to enjoy the rest of it. 

Even though it has made a name as the best one overall, it isn’t as far-fetched as you may think. It is absolutely affordable and entirely worth it. 

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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