12 Best Top-Shelf Bourbon Brands

Abbey Miller
Last Updated on
by Abbey Miller

Bourbon is a type of whiskey coined from corn, then stored and aged in new oak barrels giving it a distinctive taste and color. This spirit is a fan favorite across the US, with experts ranking the wine per their age and taste. Each type has its distinct flavor based on the whiskey age, the mash bill, and the distillery.

The malt bill has different variations in wheat, rye, or malted barley. The charred oak barrel will store the whiskey until it gets to a specific color and taste. Then the whiskey gets distilled before you enjoy the distinct taste and flavor.

12 Best Top-Shelf Bourbon Brands

Whether you’re a newbie or already have your favorites, you should try these top-shelf bourbon whiskey brands.

The Best Bourbon Around the Country

These are some of the top-tier whiskey choices. If you want to try a new brand or flavor, check out their pricing and flavor profile to see if it suits your palette and whiskey requirements. One thing is for sure; you can’t go wrong with these choices.

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength

This original whiskey from 1953 has a large portion of the mash bill made of wheat, hence its name, the ‘wheat’ whiskey. Instead of rye, the whiskey uses winter wheat, thus giving it a sweeter taste than other whiskeys. The red winter wheat is smooth and has a lasting finish when drinking.

Usually, it’s made in small batches and has different flavors like caramel, chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, and spicy notes showing its variation in flavor. It uses charred new oak barrels for a minimum of 6 years. The most common bands include:

  • Maker’s Mark bourbon – It is the standard Maker’s Mark bourbon and has caramel, vanilla, and oak flavors, creating a nice blend of flavors.
  • Maker’s Mark Cask strength – Once removed from the charred new oak barrels, the drink is packed at cask strength, increasing the alcohol content and giving it a deeper color and an intense flavor. It has flavors of chocolate, oak, and spicy notes in its finish giving it a unique taste.
  • Maker’s Mark 46 – After removing the whiskey from the charred new oak barrels, it’s stored in charred oak staves to give deeper layers of flavor. This smooth drink has notes of caramel and vanilla, which enrich the taste and smell.

Old Forester

Old Forester

Old Forester first showed up in 1870 and had sweet and salty notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel that contrast and work together for a smooth and soft taste. It has a dark amber color with a prominent alcohol taste and content in some bottles.

It is among the oldest whiskey brands and was the first produced in sealed bottles by the Brown Forman Corporation. Specially aged whiskeys like the 1897 Bond, Whiskey Row series, or the annual birthday bourbon often instigate full liquor stores even before stocking.

It has a 43% ABV and is made with high rye content, causing it to have a unique taste and finish on the palette. With at least eight years of aging in the charred new oak barrels, it gets to develop the correct flavor depth for a smooth finish.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

If you’re looking for a whiskey with an added depth of flavor due to the time in the oak barrels, you should try Woodford Reserve. It’s a double-oaked whiskey that infuses the flavors of the different charred barrels. It’s also infused with other malt, rye, wheat, corn, and barley flavors, creating an intense flavor.

The distillery produces distinct flavors in the whiskey, including charred wooden flavors, fruit and floral notes, vanilla, spice, and malt, creating intense and multiple layers of bourbon flavor. It has a clear amber color that invites you to taste this sweet and smooth double-oaked whiskey.



This rye whiskey producer is among the first whiskey companies to set up in the US. Their single-barrel bourbon has been aged for ten years and will surely hit the sweet, spicy, and smooth tones of pecan, cocoa, and spices like cinnamon and vanilla in the right quantities.

The company currently produces its whiskey in limited amounts and takes time to brew it. It takes up to 25 years to produce a pretty expensive brand with the perfect whiskey taste.

There has been a lot of care taken from seasoning the charred white oak barrels for more than a year.  Combined with custom filtration, it rounds up the perfect US*1 bourbon taste from one of the first and finest distillers. Thai intricate process makes it release its bourbon batches in limited editions and at specific times.

Four Roses

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

This award-winning single-barrel bourbon has the perfect flavor when using it alone or doing unique bourbon cocktails. It has won the 100-proof gold medal in the World Whiskies Awards for its tasty and smooth finish.

It uses ten recipes to create a small batch for the single barrel. Overall, it has a higher content of rye in its recipes which uses a couple of mash bills and five other yeast ingredients to age the whiskey for approximately six to eight years till it matures. It’s a lovely blend of fruity and spicy notes from the mash bill, yeast, charred oaks, and the filtration process.

The limited whiskey bottles often have a longer aging process and are specially picked by the distiller from the barrels. It makes them rarer and more expensive, especially for the Small Batch. 

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey prides itself on using the best ratio of ingredients but with less corn due to the type of water used in the mixture. They utilize various measures like rolling barrels in open spaces for even maturity, using a deeper char in the oak barrels, and spicy and vanilla flavors to intensify their taste.

It has a more distinct vanilla taste that brings the sweetness to balance out all flavors when the bourbon matures. It has 55% ABV and is less than the set limit for bourbon drinks. It has a clear amber color, and you can also find it in the Small Batch or the Rare breed that incorporates the 6,8, or 12-year production batches for different textures and tastes.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The beauty of Buffalo Trace is its high quality and affordability despite its succinct taste when drinking. It’s perfect for cocktails as it works well with other ingredients, or you can enjoy a drink alone after a long hard day at work. It has higher concentrations of corn and lower rye content, yielding a sweeter bourbon because of the corn.

This whiskey remains in the charred new oak barrels for at least eight years, with the rare breed going for at least ten years before being harvested and packed. The level and amount of content in the barrel help the distiller know how to pick the right content for bottling and distribution. The contents should be reduced by more than a third before being harvested.

1792 Bourbon

1792 Bourbon

The varieties of the 1792 bourbon include sweet wheat, high rye, barrel proof, and others. It takes on different recipes to ensure they satisfy various palates and clients by varying the composition and recipes. However, it takes a minimum of 6 years before they can harvest any type of whiskey, assuring you of the quality and taste of these oaked bourbon drinks.


Booker’s Bourbon

If you’re a fan of high-quality and 100-proof whiskey, then Bookers is the brand. Its wine comes out of the barrels at most four times a year, showing care and cautiousness when maturing its whiskey. Booker Noe, a master distiller, devised the recipe for this 100-proof whiskey focused on intense and distinct flavors in the 6 to 8-year-old drink.

The matured whiskey is often above 100-proof, recording up to 130-proof, which might seem too concentrated for some people. But if you dilute it with a bit of water, you won’t lose its original flavor. You can enhance the taste using certain cocktail flavors too.

Evan Williams

Evan Williams Black Label

The Bottle in Bond, Single Barrel, and Small Batch edition of Evan Williams gives you a taste of classic whiskey flavors at an affordable price. You can easily take it by itself or mix it in cocktails to enjoy its sweet and spicy notes. It has an average ABV content of 50% which aligns with bourbon requirements.

Knob Creek

Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon

Jim Beam, a master distiller, focused on taste and unique flavors to add to his whiskey at a time when whiskey was struggling for recognition. It’s a Small Batch version with caramel and brown sugar, or even the smoked maple flavor that gives the whiskey a uniquely weird and flavorful taste.

It’s a good option for those who love flavored whiskey. The distillery has whiskeys of various ages with at least nine years of matured whiskey, bringing in the char flavor with the limited 12 and 15-year versions made in limited batches.

Woodinville Whiskey

Woodinville Whiskey

This small yet growing distillery mixes its ingredients near Seattle but transfers the barrels to Central Washington, which has an unstable climate. Remember, the key to a good bourbon is how it interacts and gets infused with new flavors while in the barrel and the age of the whiskey.

Six years in the barrel with seasonal changes allows the whiskey to poach the charred oak and other flavors into the whiskey, changing its overall taste. It has limited editions that have matured for longer than their minimum requirements.

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Abbey Miller
Abbey Miller
Abbey grew up in a family with an appreciation for great beers, fine wines, and nuanced Scotch whiskeys. It's no surprise that she studied Hospitality Management and is now a professional working on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
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