The Best Bourbons You Need to Try in 2019

The search for the best bourbon can take any bourbon lover or beginner to the end of the earth. That would be a lot of time though. So your good friends at have the list right here.

Best Value Bourbon: Evan Williams Black Label

Verdict: “If Evan Williams were to sell this whiskey to someone else, that brand would mark it up to $40, and people would be happy buying it,” Minnick says. But Evan Williams is a value brand. So its whiskey, at a great proof point of 86 and an age that Minnick says is roughly five-and-a-half years old, goes for less than $20. “It’s a fantastic bourbon, especially for the money,” he says. “You can get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”

Proof: 86
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Well rounded, with a range of flavors including brown sugar and nutmeg atop the standard range of vanilla and caramel.
Price: $11 – $15

Best Bourbon for Cocktails: Four Roses Yellow Label

Verdict: “This is such a dynamic whiskey,” Minnick says. “And it’s the best cocktail bourbon out there.” Four Roses is a highly regarded distillery, with a high-rye mash bill that produces an extra spiciness and a concentration on yeast that has been “eye-opening” for the bourbon world. They’ve also led the way in transparency. “They’ll tell you everything there is to know about their whiskey — they don’t hide the mash bill, the distillation proof. I presume you could ask ’em how much their CEO makes and they’d tell you,” Minnick says.

Proof: 80
Distilled By: Four Roses
Tasting Notes: An earthy nose, but spicy on the tongue, with immediate and pleasant notes of cinnamon and baking spices.
Price: $12 – $20

Best Kept Secret: Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label

Verdict: This is the bourbon Minnick buys as a gift for his family and friends. “It’s 90 proof for around $9, and you just don’t beat it for the money,” he says. “I’ve done some blind tastings with it and it out-tastes Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, even Buffalo Trace in one tasting.” But it’s only available in Kentucky. Why? “I have some theories about that,” Minnick says. “The Shapiras, the people who own Heaven Hill — this label is for them and their employees. It gets zero marketing dollars.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Corn, vanilla, caramel and brown sugar, with oak tannins.
Price: $9 – $12 (only available in Kentucky)

Best Budget Sipper: Larceny Bourbon

Verdict: “This has an incredible sweetness to it,” Minnick says. “It’s not complex, but the sweetness is really nice — the way it hits the palate. It’s a good, inexpensive, wheated everyday sipper.”

Proof: 92
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: It’s a wheated bourbon, with loads of bready sweetness, butterscotch, and toffee.
Price: $20 – $25

Best Everyday Bourbons

According to Minnick, this is where the majority of the bourbon world lives. “You start with the six- to twelve-year-old bourbons that you can find regularly.” What changes from the entry-level spirits is complexity. The very best bourbons in this range “will have note after note after note after note, and then you can still taste that dominant note on your palate,” Minnick says.

Best Gateway Bourbon: Four Roses Small Batch

Verdict: Four Roses’s upgrade over Yellow blends 180 barrels of four different recipes per bottling. “If you love cinnamon notes, you’ll love this,” Minnick says. It’s more complex than Yellow, but still drinks easy. “It’s what I want to sip at a ballgame.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Four Roses
Tasting Notes: cinnamon, citrus, caramel, vanilla, and an apple-pie sweetness.
Price: $30 – $35

Best Bourbon to Drink Neat: Four Roses Single Barrel

Verdict: Made using a single recipe and barrel per bottle, it’s between 7 and 8 years old and has more complexity than the Small Batch. “For being the same brand as the Small Batch, they taste very different. This one is more of a sipper. I want to really sit there and think about it when I’m drinking it,” Minnick says.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: Four Roses
Tasting Notes: Toasted marshmallow and campfire on the nose, adding cinnamon, caramel and vanilla on the tongue, with a particularly creamy mouthfeel.
Price: $40 – $50

Best Bourbon to Pair with Food: Maker’s Mark

Verdict: Minnick has a unique use for one of bourbon’s classic names. “I drink so much Makers with BBQ,” he says. Its mellow balance — helped by the prominent caramel notes of its wheated mash bill — doesn’t overpower meaty flavors.

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Maker’s Mark
Tasting Notes: On the nose, dried apricot, chocolate, coffee, and corn; on the tongue, bread pudding, caramel-apple, and pumpkin pie.
Price: $30 – $45

Best Rye Substitute: Knob Creek

Verdict: Its “cornbread” note makes this Minnick’s stand-in for rye in Manhattans. That cornbread flavor profile is shared across many Jim Beam bourbons, but Knob Creek’s 100 proof is the perfect expression of the flavor, as opposed to Booker’s 126 and Jim Beam Black’s 86.

Proof: 100
Distilled By: Jim Beam
Tasting Notes: Nutty on the nose, with a distinct cornbread flavor on the tongue.
Price: $30 – $40

The Smoothest Bourbon: Elijah Craig Small Batch

Verdict: Though it shares DNA with other Heaven Hill bourbons like Evan Williams and Henry McKenna, Elijah Craig Small Batch is balanced, with extra maltiness. “It’s got so much caramel, and a beautiful nutmeg note,” Minnick says. “This is all about the sweetness.”

Proof: 94
Distilled By: Heaven Hill
Tasting Notes: Caramel, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and a distinct nutmeg flavor.
Price: $25 – $40

Best All-Around Bourbon: Buffalo Trace

Verdict: Good as a sipper and in cocktails, it’s the perfect do-it-all whiskey. What’s more, each bottle is a kind of lottery, with a chance of something special, given Buffalo Trace’s lineage of “some of the greatest whiskies out there,” Minnick says — they include W.L. Weller, George T. Stagg, and Van Winkle. “Sometimes you get a bottle that just explodes in your mouth.”

Proof: 90
Distilled By: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes: Strong notes of caramel and nutmeg, with hints of baled hay and apricot on the nose and a “snap-crackle-pop mouthfeel.”
Price: $25 – $35

All credit for this great list goes to Gear Patrol.

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