Nobody is entirely sure where or how bourbon whiskey got its name. Some claim that it was first distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, others believe that it was originally from a small bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and some even claim that it was created by the French Bourbon family. Regardless of its origins, bourbon is one of the most enduring and popular drinks in the world. It was rose to fame in the 1870s’, took a devastating hit during prohibition but is now one of America’s most lucrative alcoholic exports. Some of the higher end bourbons can cost upwards of $3000 for a single bottle. With those kinds of prices on the market, it pays to know what the best bourbons in the world today are, if for no other reason than to know what to keep an eye out for.
Blanton’s Gold Edition
This award-winning spirit is famed for its incorporation of both fruity undertones and a sweet, tangy flavor that can be tasted the second the drink hits your tongue. There’s also a hidden spice to it, a result of fermenting a touch of white peppers with the apricot, honey, vanilla and apple base. The perfume is described as floral, fitting for such a tropical drink. Above all, Blanton’s Gold Edition has a balance to it, making it appreciable by just about every bourbon lover. A bottle of this stuff will set you back anywhere from $70-100 depending on where you shop.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
In the bourbon world, the name Elijah Craig is synonymous with consistency. The Barrel Proof line is one of their strongest distilled drinks, with 2018’s batch coming in at an admirable 133.4-proof. It smells exactly as it looks, like a caramel, earthy drink with subtle hints of the oak finishing barrels. It’s also one of the sweeter bourbons out there, with a distinct vanilla-butterscotch flavor accentuated by cinnamon underlinings. The cascading effect of the finish makes it the perfect bourbon for mixed drinks. Due to the fluctuating and varied range of prices, it’s hard to put a definitive range on this drink, but prices can get as high as $180.
While most bourbons try to take advantage of the natural whiskey fermentation process to be either sweet or sour, Noah’s Mill instead decides to embrace the wood-casket aging process as its flavor definer. Smelling of fresh walnut and oak, the drink itself has a prune and rye base which mixes surprisingly well with a dash of vanilla, added more for effect than for taste. At 114-proof, it has one of the best strength-to-taste balances and is remarkably affordable for a drink of its caliber, often coming in at around $50.
Four Roses Al Young
A favorite for Juleps and other classic bourbon mixes, Four Roses introduced their limited Al Young line to celebrate the legendary bourbon distiller’s 50th anniversary with the company. It’s a particularly flowery drink with the scent of magnolias and gardenias topping a tasty blend of peaches and cherries. Amazingly, this doesn’t overshadow the drink’s natural spiciness, a staple Four Roses flavor developed under Young’s watchful eye. While most Four Roses drinks are generally inexpensive, the limited quantities of this drink make it a bit pricier. Most retailers have it around $150.
Buffalo Trace William Larue Weller
One of the most famous wheat bourbons in the world, the Buffalo Trace William Larue Weller brand is also one of the most difficult to find. On the palate, it’s a smooth wave of caramel and vanilla surfed by nutmeg and honey. Despite the explosive nature of the sweet flavors, the drink lands softly, like an Olympic gymnast coming off the high beams. This is a result of the wheat base, a fermentation style that the bourbon pioneer it’s named after created. Unfortunately, even if you do find an available bottle, these things can go for up to $800 a pop.