10 Best Bourbons for Beginners
Bourbon is arguably the most American spirit there is. In 1964, Congress passed a concurrent resolution that declared Bourbon whiskey “a distinctive product of the United States,” and as a result, for a whiskey to be labeled “bourbon,” it must be made in the U.S.
However, not all whiskey made in the U.S. is bourbon. There are specific guidelines that American distilleries need to follow to have their whiskey considered bourbon.
What is Bourbon?
While there are five hard and fast rules distilleries need to abide by, the two most important to remember are these:
In order to be considered bourbon, the liquid must be made of at least 51% corn. The rest of the mash (the mixture of grains from which the product is distilled) is usually filled with rye, wheat or malted barley. Nothing can be added to lower the proof except for water.
Additionally, bourbon does not need to be distilled exclusively in Kentucky, contrary to popular belief. It only needs to be made in the U.S.
10 Best Bourbons for Beginners
So, which bourbons are worth buying if you’re new to the category? There are so many on the market that it can be really hard to know which are a good buy and which are total flops.
Below are 10 of our favorite bourbons that are easy sippers and perfect to gift or buy for yourself when you’re unsure what to pick in the liquor store.
Bottled at 92 proof, Larceny has a wheated mashbill and can be found for about $30.
Larceny is a sweet bourbon thanks to the corn and wheat in the mashbill, with tasting notes that include fruitiness, caramel and vanilla. It also does not have a lot of heat, making it easy to drink for beginners despite its 46% alcohol content.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion Series #6
Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion Series #6 is a great bourbon that has stayed under the radar regardless of how highly it has scored among critics. This is a blend of three different bourbons, and it can typically be found for between $50 and $70.
When it comes to the flavor you can expect, think honey, pecan, cinnamon, clove and the slightest bit of oak. This is an easy-drinking bourbon that you’ll be glad you picked up.
Knob Creek 9 Year
Knob Creek 9 Year is another easily accessible bourbon at a solid price point (about $30) that you can’t go wrong picking up. This is an older bourbon, having been aged for nine years. Bottled at 100 proof, this whiskey does have a bit more heat to it, but it also features plenty of cinnamon and caramel.
Read More: 10 Best Whiskeys You Can Find for Under $50
Pursuit United Bourbon
New in 2022, this is a quintessential, flavorful whiskey from the brand founded by the hosts of the “Bourbon Pursuit” podcast. This whiskey is a blend of three bourbons, one of which comes from Bardstown Bourbon Company.
The new poster child for blended bourbon, Pursuit United Bourbon offers flavors of vanilla bean, waffle cone, toasted marshmallow and some fruitiness at the end. This bourbon can usually be found for between $60 and $70.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Angel’s Envy is a great bourbon out of Louisville, Kentucky, that is aged in wine barrels. It’s smooth, has no burn and, best of all, is not too expensive (around $50). It is jammy with toffee notes, a bit of nutmeg and faint cinnamon.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon can usually be found for between $40 and $50.
Rabbit Hole Heigold
Rabbit Hole Heigold is craft whiskey at its finest. It has a higher-than-average proof at 95 and a 3-year age statement.
Like Larceny, Heigold does not have a lot of heat, making it an easy drinker. There is a lot of vanilla, caramel, honey and the slightest flavor of oak. Heigold sells for a suggested retail price of $59.99.
Old Elk Wheated Bourbon
A premium, more mature option than many on this list, Old Elk Wheated Bourbon is bottled at 92 proof. While it does have a lot of sweet flavors to it, it’s not exclusively dessert.
Tasting notes include light oak, pepper and tobacco as well as creme brulee and fruit. This would be a great bourbon to give as a gift, as it’s not the regularly expected Jack Daniel’s, is highly rated and its wheated mashbill is right on trend, as well as delicious.
Read More: The Ultimate Whiskey Gift Guide
This is a strong, 100-proof bourbon, great for cocktails. It’s also a good, well-priced (usually around $20-$25), higher-proof whiskey to sip neat or on the rocks.
It has a bit of a kick, given the proof, but if its primary role is to be used with mixers, it will stand out in the cocktail. Other than spice, it has flavors reminiscent of bananas and bread.
Uncle Nearest 1820
This list has already delivered plenty of lower-proof bourbons, and we’re giving you something different with this entry. While Uncle Nearest 1820 is on the higher-proof side as far as bourbons go at 57.55% ABV, this is a great whiskey that has one of the most captivating stories in the industry. Uncle Nearest 1820 is aged 11 years and can be found for around $45.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit delivers a great combination of age and high proof. It’s a bit tannic without being too dry and brings plenty of sweetness, with notes of cinnamon, toffee and caramel.
It can also be found for under $50 and is a great alternative to some of the other Wild Turkey offerings if you’re looking for something a little different.
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