Ten best bourbons: Top bottles of the all-American whiskey

Got a taste for the brown stuff? TONY’s got you covered with our list of the country’s best bourbons.

0

Comments

Add +
  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    The honky-tonk harmony of barbecue and bourbon is as classic as Wranglers with cowboy boots. Brown-spirits buff Keith Biesack—who oversees a 200-bottle collection at Char No. 4—gives us his picks for the country’s best bourbon. Fill a tumbler with one of these standout hooches.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Four Roses Single Barrel

    Each year, the Four Roses distillery in Kentucky produces ten distinct bourbon recipes and chooses one to be sold in limited quantities—a highly sought-after release in the brown-spirits sphere. “This was the first bourbon that got me hooked,” says Biesack. “The mouthfeel is amazingly satisfying and warming, but it has a light elegance to it from the rye, which provides some herbal, almost grassy notes on the palate. It’s a great one to drink in spring and summer.” Available at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 750ml $43.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Peach Street Colorado Straight Bourbon

    The artisan distillers running this small-scale production in Palisades, Colorado, use local sweet corn and grains to churn out just three barrels each week. Their product is pot-distilled just once to maintain the natural essence of the homegrown ingredients. “It has a great fresh fruit quality, with tones of peach, apple and other stone fruits, which makes it very refreshing,” says Biesack. Available at Astor Wine & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 750ml $65.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Hancock’s President’s Reserve

    The Kentucky spirit ages for a minimum of four years in the Buffalo Trace company’s rickhouse—a warehouse where the barrels are stored and matured—picking up flavors from the charred wood, which expands and contracts as temperatures change with the seasons. After the aging process, a master distiller specially selects it for its deep, layered flavors. “This is a chewy, filling bourbon that’s great after a meal,” says Biesack. Available at Heights Chateau, 123 Atlantic Ave between Clinton and Henry Sts, Brooklyn Heights (718-330-0963). 750ml $48.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Balcones True Blue 100-Proof

    Made with Hopi blue corn—an ancient strain with more oil and less starch than regular variety—this Texas-born bourbon hits sweet and spicy notes like caramel, orange and cinnamon. “This really taught me the beauty of high-proof whiskey. Add one solid cube of ice, and you’re able to experience the whiskey as it descends in proof,” says Biesack. “It’s not static; it evolves and changes.” Available at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 750ml $64.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel

    “You can really feel that there’s a master at the controls when you taste this whiskey,” says Biesack, referring to Wild Turkey veteran distillers, father-and-son team Jimmy and Eddie Russell, who selected this batch for a limited-edition run. While bourbon is usually diluted after aging for large-scale bottling, this one has no water added following maturation and maintains its barrel proof of 110, giving it the bite for which Wild Turkey is known. “You’re getting a lot of flavors and textures that are often lost when you add water to cut a bourbon down,” adds Biesack. “You don’t just feel the heat from the high proof; it’s beautifully complex.” Available at Warehouse Wines & Spirits, 735 Broadway between 8th St and Waverly Pl (212-982-7770). 750ml $34.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Old Weller Antique 107

    The flavor grain here is wheat instead of rye, qualifying the bottle as a “wheated bourbon.” Its nuttiness complements corn’s natural sweetness and gives the 107-proof Kentucky spirit a unique tone. “Imagine the difference between wheat and rye bread. That translates to this flavor profile.” Available at Park Avenue Liquor, 292 Madison Ave between 40th and 41st Sts (212-685-2442). 750ml $33.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Watershed Bourbon

    New-wave Ohio distillery Watershed keeps its bourbon young, aging it for just two-and-a-half years, though many aficionados believe the sweet spot lies between eight and ten. Featuring the unusual addition of spelt, this bottle represents the slowly developing trend of adding unorthodox grains to the traditional corn and rye. “There’s something about being a bourbon and following those regulations, and then there’s also the spirit of American distilling,” says Biesack. “We have these grains around us; let’s use them and make something unique.” Available at Acker, Merrall & Condit Co., 160 W 72nd St between Columbus Ave and Broadway (212-787-1700). 750ml $38.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Kings County Distillery Bourbon

    This small-batch distillery popped up in a tiny Bushwick office in 2010 before putting down roots the 113-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. From cornfield to bottle, its bourbon is New York–born and –bred, made with 70 percent upstate kernels. “This one has been on our shelves for a long time. If you buy it regularly, you really notice the change from batch to batch,” says Biesack. Available at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 200ml $22.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Old Pogue 12-Year Master’s Select

    Made in bourbon’s birthplace—Maysville, Kentucky—this enduring favorite has earned praise since before Prohibition. The original distillery crumbled following World War II, after years of neglect. But fourth- and fifth-generation family members of the founders rebuilt on the same plot of land in 2012, and they now cook up an heirloom recipe from Civil War times. “A traditional mash bill [recipe] of corn, rye and malted barley provides truly classic flavors: big spice, round wood notes and some nice heat,” says Biesack. Available at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 750ml $43.99.

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old

    Legend has it that Baptist minister Elijah Craig invented the process of aging bourbon in charred barrels in the 1700s. True or not, Heaven Hill—a historic family-operated distillery, established in 1934 in Bardstown, Kentucky —created a 12-year small-batch brew inspired by this bit of lore. “To find such a complex whiskey at this price point is rare,” says Biesack. “ The distillers aren’t trying to hit any premium market with it, which speaks to the roots of the spirit itself. Bourbon was originally made as a surplus product, not a luxury.” Available at Astor Wines & Spirits, 399 Lafayette St at 4th St (212-674-7500). 750ml $24.99.

Photograph: Noffar Gat

The honky-tonk harmony of barbecue and bourbon is as classic as Wranglers with cowboy boots. Brown-spirits buff Keith Biesack—who oversees a 200-bottle collection at Char No. 4—gives us his picks for the country’s best bourbon. Fill a tumbler with one of these standout hooches.

RECOMMENDED: Guide to the best BBQ in NYC


Users say

16 comments
Carmine P
Carmine P

Four Roses? Good God. Where's Blanton's, or Papi?

Greg T
Greg T

Funny how all these so-called Bourbon experts say if it isn't produced in Bourbon County its not Bourbon. The State of Kentucky recognizes twenty-four (24) counties as belonging to the former "Bourbon County" which used to be part of Virgina. Anything made in that area of Northeastern Kentucky is Bourbon Whiskey. Funny as well is that no actual whiskey is produced in the current Bourbon County. So where is the "real" bourbon from? Urban Lexington?

Bartender L
Bartender L

Riiiiiight, so where is the George T Stagg??? The 2010 is generally considered the finest bourbon ever made.

Pete P
Pete P

List is incomplete without Pappy Van Winkle!!

Chris Enlow
Chris Enlow

You can't make "bourbon" in Ohio, but like Jack Daniels maybe they have a nice whiskey.

Joe Adams
Joe Adams

I have tried several. Jack Daniels, Elijah Craig, Crown and Makers Mark. I enjoy Makers and Jack the most. I thought they had more flavor then Elijah Craig and Crown. Wasn't impressed with Elijah Craig at all. I' in search for something new and flavorful. Any suggestions?

C Hines
C Hines

I have been in LOVE with the Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit of late.

Matt
Matt

One of my favorites is Four Roses.

Alex
Alex

No Blanton's? How am I supposed to take this review even remotely seriously...

jimbo
jimbo

I drink bourbon infrequently but i stick with a favorite Woodford Reserve A+

JR
JR

It's one list from one person - I hope the intent is to broaden our horizons to sample outside our usual zone. Don't go with marketing and hype - go and try something yourself. Twice.

Ibleedblue
Ibleedblue

Where's the pappy van winkle, George t stagg, or woodford reserve? This list is a joke!

JB
JB

Eustrache, Based upon your comments and the inferior spirits you listed, I have a hard time believing you've actually tried Elijah Craig. Don't be fooled by the price point--there's a reason it's received countless accolades, including winning multiple double gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competion and being called "unquestionably one of the great Bourbons" by Jim Murray (Whisky Bible).

Eustrache Rien O'Plasty
Eustrache Rien O'Plasty

Elijah Craig?! Both Bulleit and Old Charter have it beat into a writhing, complaining pulp.

Dominic
Dominic

Bourbon is a personal taste, but I would really like to see Blanton's or Prichard's double barrel up here. I think that would have given a little more credibility to the article.

Bartender L
Bartender L

@Joe Adams Jack Daniels isn't a bourbon fella

Food & Drink events calendar

  1. Smorgasburg

    The venerable epicurean extravaganza returns the w...

Subscribe to Time Out New York on Spotify for playlists and recommendations from our Music team.

Check out New York's best restaurants, hottest street style, cool apartments and more.