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10 Top-Shelf Bourbon Brands to try in 2024

The amber nectar that whispers tales of Kentucky craftsmanship and smooth, complex flavors. As a seasoned liquor blogger, I’ve spent countless evenings exploring the vast landscape of this iconic American spirit. But with so many distilleries and expressions on the market, choosing the right top-shelf bourbon can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. Worry not, bourbon aficionados! This guide will illuminate your path, showcasing 10 top-shelf brands guaranteed to impress your taste buds and elevate your home bar in 2024.

Before We Dive In: A Crash Course in Bourbon Basics

Glass Of Bourbon Wshiskey

For the uninitiated, bourbon is a uniquely American spirit aged in charred new oak barrels. This magical process imbues the whiskey with rich flavors of vanilla, caramel, and spice, along with the signature smokiness from the charred wood. Different mash bills (the grain recipe) and aging times create a whole spectrum of flavor profiles, making bourbon exploration an endlessly fascinating journey.

Buckle up for our tour of the top-shelf bourbon hall of fame:

1. Pappy Van Winkle: The King (and sometimes Queen) of the Bourbon Hill. Pappy Van Winkle is a wheated bourbon, meaning its mash bill uses a higher percentage of wheat compared to corn. This results in a smoother, sweeter taste profile highly coveted by collectors and bourbon enthusiasts alike. However, be prepared for a hefty price tag and potential hunting – Pappy Van Winkle releases are highly limited and can be notoriously difficult to find.

A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon on a wooden table


2. Blanton’s Single Barrel: This bourbon boasts a unique presentation – each bottle is hand-numbered and topped with a Colonel Blanton commemorative stopper. But the real beauty lies within. Blanton’s is a single-barrel bourbon, meaning each bottle comes from a single barrel, offering a unique flavor profile that reflects its specific aging journey.

3. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: This wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery is a favorite among those who appreciate a bolder taste. Bottled at cask strength (meaning it’s not diluted with water after aging), Elijah Craig Barrel Proof packs a punch, showcasing a rich and complex flavor profile with notes of vanilla, spice, and oak.

4. Maker’s Mark: This iconic brand is instantly recognizable by its distinctive red wax seal and wheated bourbon mash bill. Maker’s Mark is known for its smooth, easy-drinking character, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of fruit. It’s a perfect choice for bourbon newbies or those who prefer a lighter spirit.

5. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve: This Jim Beam creation offers a taste of Kentucky tradition. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is aged for at least nine years and bottled at cask strength, delivering a robust and full-bodied experience. Expect notes of vanilla, oak, and hints of spice on the finish.

6. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit: Don’t let the name fool you – this bourbon is anything but tame. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit uses a higher rye content in its mash bill, resulting in a spicier, more assertive flavor profile compared to wheated bourbons. It’s a bold choice for those who enjoy a bit of a kick in their bourbon.

7. Four Roses Single Barrel: This Kentucky bourbon comes in ten different expressions, each with a unique flavor profile thanks to a combination of different yeast strains and mash bills. This allows you to explore the diverse possibilities within the world of Four Roses.

8. Barrell Bourbon Batch 001: This independent bottler sources bourbon from various Kentucky distilleries and finishes them in unique casks, creating a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Barrell bourbons are known for their bold flavors and unexpected twists, making them a favorite among adventurous bourbon drinkers.

9. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye: While technically not a bourbon (bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn), Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye deserves an honorable mention. This rye whiskey delivers a spicy and peppery kick with notes of citrus and mint. It’s a fantastic choice for those who enjoy a bolder spirit or are looking for a unique alternative to bourbon.

10. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon: This limited-edition release from Brown-Forman commemorates founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday. Aged for an undisclosed amount of time (rumored to be at least 8-years), Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is known for its rich and complex flavor profile with notes of dried fruit, spice, and chocolate. Be warned, due to its limited availability and high demand, this bourbon can be quite pricey.


Beyond the List: A Few Words on Finding Your Perfect Bourbon

This list merely scratches the surface of the incredible world of top-shelf bourbon. The beauty lies in exploration – trying new brands, different mash bills, and aging variations. Here are some tips to guide you on your bourbon odyssey:

  • Consider your taste profile: Do you prefer sweet and smooth, or bold and spicy? Wheated bourbons tend to be smoother, while rye-heavy bourbons pack a spicier punch.
  • Start with a baseline: If you’re new to bourbon, choose a wheated bourbon or a mid-range bourbon with a moderate age statement (like 4-years) to ease your palate into the world of bourbon flavors.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment: Bourbon is meant to be savored and explored. Visit your local liquor store and ask for recommendations based on your preferences.
  • Explore online retailers: While some top-shelf bourbon Brands might be elusive at your local store, reputable online retailers can help you track down that special bottle. Be sure to use a safe and trusted platform like Sam Online Liquor Store that specializes in delivering spirits.

Conclusion: Uncorking a World of Flavor

The world of top-shelf bourbon is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. With its rich history, diverse flavor profiles, and endless possibilities for exploration, bourbon is a spirit that rewards the curious and adventurous drinker. So, grab a glass, pour yourself a dram of your newfound favorite bourbon, and raise a toast to the complex and captivating world of American whiskey.


Bonus Section: Elevate Your Bourbon Experience with Classic Cocktails

Sure, sipping a neat pour of top shelf bourbon is a delightful experience, but don’t forget the magic of bourbon cocktails! Here are a few classic recipes to showcase the versatility of this amber spirit:


The Old Fashioned: A Timeless Classic

Glass of bourbon cocktail Old Fashioned Twiest


  • 2 oz. Bourbon (choose your favorite!)
  • ¼ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel (for garnish)
  • Maraschino Cherry (for garnish)



  1. In a rocks glass, muddle a sugar cube (or add simple syrup) with the Angostura Bitters.
  2. Add your chosen bourbon and stir with ice to chill and dilute slightly.
  3. Express the oils from the orange peel by twisting it over the glass and then dropping it in.
  4. Garnish with the cherry.


The Manhattan: A Sophisticated Sip


  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherry (for garnish)


  1. Combine all ingredients (except cherry) in a mixing glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


The Boulevardier: A European Twist

Bourbon cocktail


  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 oz. Campari


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a chilled rocks glass.
  3. Garnish with an orange peel.

Remember: These are just starting points! Feel free to experiment with different types of bourbon, vermouths, and bitters to find your perfect cocktail balance. For a truly unique experience, try using a fruit garnish that complements the flavor profile of your chosen bourbon.

With a little practice, you’ll be whipping up impressive bourbon cocktails in no time, wowing your friends and family with your newfound bartending skills. Cheers!

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