Best bourbon whiskeys to use in an Old Fashioned and other classic cocktails

·6-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

You may not have noticed but bourbon has been enjoying somewhat of a boom in the last few years.

The American whiskey, known for its sweet, oaky notes and Kentucky roots, is distilled from a corn mash and stored in charred oak barrels. New to the bandwagon? You came to the right place.

Where does bourbon come from?

According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95 per cent of of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. But it can actually be produced anywhere in America.

What is the difference between whiskey and bourbon?

To call itself a bourbon, whiskey has to adhere to strict and specific criteria in its distillery and ageing. First, it must be made the USA. The mash (the grain mixture from which the spirit is distilled) must also contain at least 51 per cent corn. Then, it must be aged in new oak-charred barrels made from American white oak.

Bourbon generally tastes sweeter than other whiskeys - with common notes of toffee, vanilla and butterscotch. Its caramelised flavour profile can be attributed to the corn and grains it’s distilled from, with added flavour from contact with the wood barrel in the ageing process.

No drinks cabinet can be considered complete without a good quality bourbon. From an Old Fashioned, to when the time calls for a stiff, neat serve - a rich tasting and punchy bourbon is what you need - and that has never been more true than right now.

‘Tis the season to don your tackiest jumper and drink spirits before noon. And in these uncertain times a bottle of bourbon may be exactly what you need on your side. Sipping on a Manhattan and pretending you’re Don Draper is much more glam than facing the reality of yet another Covid Christmas.

Read below for our edit of great tasting bourbons to try for classic cocktails and more.

Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon

We had to include this exceptional bourbon in our edit, although it’s generally hard to source. Booker’s bourbon is bottled uncut and unfiltered and released in small batches, which sell quickly on online distributers.

This one is Batch 2020-0E!, it has a punchy 63.2 per cent ABV and is packed full of spicy, toasty notes. Each Booker’s batch is carefully matured lending it the exceptional quality and complexity of flavour it’s known for. This one offers a deep and intense flavour profile with notes of vanilla, oak and nuts.

Snap one up before it’s too late, you won’t be sorry.

Buy now £58.99, The Bottle Club

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Maker’s Mark is a balanced bourbon that is just the right amount of sweetness and is known to be a good starter beverage.

It has a heady aroma of caramel and vanilla that lands on the front of your palate, giving way to long and warm finish that builds in sweet and spicy intensity, with notes of cinnamon and toasted nuts.

Buy now £28.10, Master of Malt

Michter's US*1 Small Batch Bourbon

Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon hails from one of the USA’s oldest original distilleries. It offers up a rich and spicy flavour profile with notes of dried fruit, cinnamon and black pepper.

It’s deliciously mellow and rich, perfect for serving up neat and taking your time with.

Buy now £53.95, The Whisky Exchange

Few Bourbon

This bourbon is deliciously smooth and easy to drink. It has a smooth and sweet aroma that sits well on the tongue with a long and spicy aftertaste.

With notes of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves, and a smooth finish, it’s a seriously drinkable bourbon. Pouring one glass can lead to an empty bottle very quickly, and there are no regrets.

Buy now £51.75, The Whisky Exchange

Atom Lab’s Charcoal & Cornmeal & Rickhouses & a Decade 10 Year Old Bourbon

This mature bourbon from Atom Labs has been aged for 10 years which gives it a rich and sweet flavour profile.

The heady sweetness hits the nose straight away with notes of vanilla and honey. This is likely down to the low ABV (40 per cent) of this bourbon that allows the sticky sugary notes to shine through. It also gives it a slightly weaker punch on the palate, which is a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for in a bourbon. If you want a smooth and easily drinkable option - this is a good one to try.

Buy now £47.95, Master of Malt

That Boutique-y Whiskey Company 11 month Bourbon

This bourbon has a really lovely aroma. It smells like salted caramel and browning apples with a hint of black cherry and coca cola cutting through with sweet sharpness.

It certainly packs a punch on the palate, but perhaps a slightly lower ABV would allow the complex flavours to shine more individually. It has a spicy kick that comes in hard and strong on the tongue with notes of nutmeg and peppery oak. It’ll put a few hairs on your chest though, and is a great warming tipple for a winter’s evening.

Buy now £59.95, Masterof Malt

Wild Turkey 101

This is a popular bourbon choice for those who like theirs served up neat.

With a notes of caramel and tobacco on the nose and a rich and spicy taste of brown sugar, orange and honey; this one is ideal for savouring in dimly lit bars.

Buy now £32.99, Master of Malt

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon

This bourbon is the well-dressed, classy gentleman with impeccable manners your never embarrassed to introduce to your family and friends.

It’s priced exceptionally reasonably for such a good quality all-rounder. The low cost and great taste means this bourbon’s the ticket for classic, strong cocktails like an Old Fashioned.

It’s an intense, round and smooth tipple, with complex notes of citrus, toffee, cocoa and caramel. Nuances of spice come with a hint of cinnamon, and a touch of chocolate mint.

Buy now £30.75, Master of Malt

Blantons

This great tasting bourbon tastes as unique as it looks. Its the brooding cowboy you can’t stop looking at in the saloon.

It’s a sweet and creamy bourbon, with vanilla and toffee notes laced with warm and toasted spices, cloves and cinnamon. It’s got a strong finish that lasts, and leaves you tasting hints of nutmeg.

Buy now £105.00, Amazon

Buffalo Trace

This is the best bourbon out there for the price point. It’s incredibly versatile, ideal for drinking neat but its flavour profile really shines through in cocktails. Highly recommended for Mint Julips or Manhattans.

It’s got an aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses with notes of brown sugar and spice. It’s rich and long taste gives way to flavours of dark fruit and toffee.

Buy now £26.40, Master of Malt

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