Despite other American whiskeys, bourbon is arguably the USA’s national drink. With many different big brands and artisanal distillers, it’s hard to find one that’s ideal for your budget and tastes.
Combining somewhat rare and relatively accessible expressions to get your collection started, this guide presents you with the top 10 best bourbon brands that you can buy online:
- Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon
- Jim Beam Double Oak Twice Barreled Bourbon Whiskey
- Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon
- Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Blanton’s Original Bourbon Whiskey
- Four Roses Small Batch
- Widow Jane 10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey
- Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
- Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
- Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey
Scroll down to see them all or jump ahead using the links above.
What Are The Best Bourbon Brands?
See The Best Bourbon For Old Fashioneds
Although a little on the milder side for a cask-strength whiskey, this creation by Maker’s Mark offers all the hallmarks of quality bourbon. Arguably, the lower proof works to its advantage and help in balancing its spicy character to allow the more nuanced sweet flavours to reveal themselves.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey is marketed without an age statement but the brand has stated that it has been aged for at least 5 years and 9 months. The result is a deep and complex experience that offers great value for money.
"A lively and characterful bourbon that offers both rich flavour and a kick."
As suggested by its name, this expression by Jim Beam has undertaken a double maturation process. Once the bourbon has been aged for four years, it’s transferred to brand new charred oak barrels. The length of the second casking isn’t divulged and the brand says that it’s done just “to taste” until the cellar master believes the batch is ready.
The switch allows for a greater flavour extraction from the barrels. This process results in a lively whiskey and it delivers prominent notes of vanilla and caramel on both the nose and palate. It’s not quite as sweet as other barrels and the flavours lean heavily towards rich spiciness. It’s a great choice for sipping but its presence also shines through most cocktails.
Old Forester was first created in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, a pharmacist who went on to found the Brown-Forman Corporation. It was one of only six distilleries to receive a licence that allowed for the lawful production of whiskey for medicinal purposes.
Olf Forester’s ‘s third expression pays homage to its heritage and seeks to simulate the experience of (legal) Prohibition-era bourbon whiskey. Consequently, it’s a relatively high-proof whiskey with a gourmand flavour profile that consists of chocolate, black pepper, and nutty notes.
While technically a high-rye bourbon with 28% of the spicy grain in the mash bill, Bulleit instead markets itself as a “frontier” whiskey. It uses Augustus Bulleit’s original recipe that is over 150 years old. The brand was revived by his great-great-grandson, Tom Bulleit, in 1987.
Thanks to its high rye content, Bulleit has a prickly sourdough piquancy that reveals caramelised citrus notes of marmalade. The overall experience is quite bracing with a mentholated mouthfeel and mint spring finish. However, it retains the distinctive vanilla and caramel profile of a classic bourbon whiskey.
A cult and highly sought after single-barrel bourbon, Blanton’s Original was launched in 1984 briefly before its celebrated master distiller, Elmer T. Lee, retired the following year. It represents a turning point in American whiskey history as the first single-barrel expression to enter the market.
It is named after Albert B. Blanton, one of the early managers of George T. Stagg Distillery before it was purchased by Buffalo Trace, who had dedicated over half a century to preserving the craft.
Blanton’s is easily recognisable by its unique shape and racing horse stopper. The batches sell out soon after they are produced and it’s become a rare gem among bourbon enthusiasts. As a result, a bottle may be quite pricey if you find one. Nevertheless, it will offer you a unique experience.
This expression blends two high-corn mash bills that were each fermented using two separate yeast strains. In total, it, therefore, consists of four different small batches of straight bourbon that were blended by master distiller Brent Elliott. These were each aged for at least 6 years before being blended together.
It produces a smooth and creamy mouthfeel that offers subtle and fruity caramelised flavours. Its opening is quite gentle before revealing a long and surprisingly powerful finish that renews its initial notes with additional oak and spice. The experience is remarkably complex and merits contemplative sipping.
If you’ve read our other guides, you’ll have learned that bourbon doesn’t need to come from Kentucky! Indeed, Widow Jane is a prominent New York whiskey producer and it makes some fine bourbon, too. The distillery plays on its small size and markets its premium flagship whiskey as either a small-batch or single-barrel product.
Its award-winning bourbon balance lively notes of fruit with earthy spices thanks to its peppery rye. Its viscosity provides a thick and luscious mouthfeel that coats the palate with a caramelised presence. As a 10-year old bourbon, it’s a premium option but one certainly worth sampling as these can now be quite rare.
Another Brown-Forman property, Woodford Reserve offers a mild and balanced flavour that’s ideal for inhabitual whiskey drinkers. Indeed, if you or your guests aren’t particularly used to or fond of hard liquor, Woodford Reserve is a fantastic choice thanks to its subtle body.
For the same reason, it’s perfect in a cocktail and won’t overwhelm even the most sensitive palate. Its flavours are dominated by syrupy honey while hints of vanilla and mint offer an overall aromatic bouquet. According to Brown-Forman, the distillate in each bottle is aged for around 7 years.
This expression to be the 12-year old Elijah Craig bottling. However, it was rebranded in 2016 in response to the bourbon boom and barrel stock shortages. the new blend is a mix of 8-year old and 12-year old straight bourbon.
Elijah Craig’s nose is sweet and light that leads to a palate that focuses primarily on oak and vanilla notes. Although there are spices, they’re quite subtle and tend to lean towards cinnamon rather than bolder flavours. A very affordable option, it’s a versatile bourbon that’s great both for sipping and a variety of cocktails.
Original known as the George T. Stagg Distillery, Buffalo Trace’s facilities are a recognised National Historical Landmark. Indeed, it’s often claimed that it’s the USA’s oldest continuously running distillery.
After it was purchased by the Sazerac Company in 1992, the distillery launched Buffalo Trace in 1999. It has since been lauded as an affordable yet invigorating bourbon that offers a lively experience and plenty of value for money. Indeed, it’s an excellent choice when on a budget and although it’s best suited for cocktails, it’s great for sipping, too.
Where To Buy Bourbon In The USA?
Bourbon is by far one of the most popular alcoholic spirits – let alone whiskeys – in both the USA and now abroad, too! Needless to say, it’s not hard to find and most local liquor stores will sell several varieties.
Therefore, you’re unlikely to struggle to find yourself a bottle of decent bourbon. Nevertheless, unless you have a bourbon specialist nearby, you’ll probably encounter the same few brands and premium bottlings. If you wish to explore a greater selection of what bourbon has to offer, there are some excellent online retailers.
Reserve Bar is arguably a bourbon specialist and it hosts a comprehensive of different whiskeys from a plethora of American brands. However, you may have noticed above that it’s a little more expensive than the other options. Nevertheless, you won’t have any problems finding something new and exciting.
Meanwhile, despite its name, Wine.com has an excellent selection of liquor. Its range of bourbon whiskey is excellent and it tends to be sold at a more competitive price that aligns with most liquor stores. Yet, its catalogue isn’t quite as comprehensive as Reserve Bar.
Finally, Drizly is a little bit different as it works in partnership with local liquor stores. The way it works is that you enter your address and it offers you a personalised selection of liquor sold by nearby shops. When you place an order, it’s fulfilled by the shop and it will be delivered directly to your door – sometimes within an hour!
The advantage of this approach is that you’ll quickly receive your whiskey and you may discover a local liquor shop in the process. The downside is that if you live in a relatively isolated area (or your shops don’t have an agreement with Drizly), the options available may be quite limited. Pricing can also vary depending on the shops themselves.
Now that you have read about the best bourbon brands, why don’t you check out more of our resources?