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7 Top Shelf Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys That Are Worth Every Penny

If you’re looking for a top shelf bourbon or other type of whiskey, you might be overwhelmed by the number of options available. It can be hard to decide which ones are worth the money. Whether you’re shopping for a special occasion or are simply looking to sip a really high-quality whiskey, it’s good to keep at least one or two top-shelf whiskeys on your home bar. Top-shelf whiskeys can come with a hefty price tag, but many also offer quality craftsmanship and bold, distinctive flavors.

Oftentimes, you’ll find a whiskey with a high price tag and perhaps a flashy bottle, but the juice itself is nothing to write home about. We don’t want you to spend your money on a whiskey that’s just OK, so we’ve compiled a list of seven bourbons and rye whiskeys that are absolutely worth the price.

Before we get into the list: Top-shelf whiskeys certainly have their place, but there are plenty of excellent bourbons and ryes that won’t break the bank! Here are some lists to check out if you’re interested in lower- or mid-shelf whiskeys:

Now, onto the good stuff…

 Calumet 16 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Top Shelf Bourbon

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Bottled by Calumet and distilled by an undisclosed Kentucky distiller, (rumored to be Barton), this 16-year-old whiskey has an ABV of 53%.

With a moderate to viscous mouthfeel, this bourbon delivers a funky, nutty, cherry-toffee profile with a great balance of oak and sweetness.

You may need to hunt a bit for this bottle, as it’s been so well received. But compared to many other rare whiskeys, it’ll be much easier to find. If you can find this bottle for below its average price of $149, snatch it up.

Lux Row 12 Year Double Barrel Bourbon

Top Shelf Bourbon

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Lux Row 12 Year Double Barrel Bourbon comes to us from Lux Row’s distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.

The 12-year age statement actually does this bottling an injustice, as this is a blend of whiskeys aged 15 and 16 years from barrels filled July 11, 2006, and Jan. 29, 2007, before being bottled in October 2022.

The resulting whiskey is bottled at barrel proof, 118.4 proof. When tasted, the whiskey is dry and oaky, creamy and rich on the palate. Expect notes of crème brûlée, soft cocoa, leather, a touch of tobacco, cherry cordials and ripe apple butter.

This limited-edition release is an incredibly complex spirit, and it comes with a high price tag. Currently, it’s available at online retailers for around $650, since you can only find it at the distillery gift shop or through resellers.

Barrell Craft Spirits 16 Year Gray Label Seagrass Rye Whiskey

Top Shelf Bourbon

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Seagrass 16 Year Gray Label from Barrell Craft Spirits is one of the exceedingly few whiskeys we’ve scored a perfect 10/10. So, if you take anything away from this article, this is a bottle you want; it’s a perfect whiskey.

This was a highly anticipated release that was distilled in Canada and then moved to the U.S. for aging in Martinique rhum, Madeira wine and apricot brandy casks. Carrying a cask strength of 65.41% ABV, this blend has an impressive 16-year age statement.

Tasting notes include rich fruitiness, oaky flavors, powerful spice, tannin, syrupy goodness, baked apple, maple pears, almond notes, dry rye spice and clove — capped off with a hint of tobacco.

Arguably the best bottling from Barrell’s wildly impressive lineup, this must-try expression retails for $249.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Proof Batch 2022 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Top Shelf Bourbon

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The 2022 release of Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection Batch Proof bottling is a favorite among fans for its bold character and complexity.

It’s bottled at 59.2% ABV, with tasting notes that include oak, sweet cream, clover honey, root beer and cinnamon, vanilla bean and cherry.

This expression is perfect for those looking for a smooth yet complex pour that packs a punch. But be warned, this bourbon is startlingly easy to drink for a 118.4-proof whiskey. Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Proof Batch 2022 retails for around $300 and can be purchased from online liquor retailers.

Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey

Top Shelf Bourbon

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Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye is a solid whiskey with a really good flavor profile. Plus, it has an air of mystery surrounding it, as it’s distilled by an undisclosed producer.

On the palate, you’ll experience burnt brown sugar, heavy clove, rye spice, cocoa, tobacco and black pepper. This 58.5%-ABV whiskey is for those who love complexity in their drams.

Mitcher’s Barrel Strength Rye can be found at select major retailers for $200.

Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Top Shelf Whiskey

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Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon is a limited-edition whiskey bottled at 57.4% ABV.

This bourbon offers a sweet and warming palate, with notes of dried dark fruits and charred marshmallow or burnt brown sugar. Campfire smokiness finishes on the palate.

As voted the No. 1 American Whiskey of 2021 by renowned whiskey expert Fred Minnick, this bottle is worth the $400 price it commands.

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2022

Top Shelf Bourbon

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Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition is a tremendous bourbon that you don’t want to miss out on. The 2022 edition of this annual, limited-edition release has an ABV of 54.5%. It’s a blend of 14-year bourbon made with Four Roses’ OESF and OESV recipes; 15-year OESK; and 20-year OBSV.

Spicyu, sweet and rich on the nose, this whiskey nails the sweet spot of being oaky and dry without being too tannic or bitter on the palate. The finish is long, sweet and buttery at fist and dry on the way out.

This bourbon is available for purchase online if you’re willing to do a bit of hunting. Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2022 has an MSRP of $180 but nowadays is tough to find for under $300. If you find this at MSRP or close to it, you’ll probably want to buy it before someone else does. This is worth the splurge.

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Madison Kopta is an editor at Whiskey Raiders. As a Northern California native and mom of four, Madison spends much of her time enjoying the great outdoors with her family. From camping to keeping an eagle eye out for Bigfoot, you can find Madison in nature, enjoying a glass of whiskey with her husband.