The 16 Best Bourbons To Drink In 2023

Bourbon is having a heck of a century, and each year seems to bring better and better expressions. While your wallet may disagree, there's never been a better time to be a bourbon drinker, at least in terms of being spoiled for choice. From wildly artistic experimentation to the forefront of scientific wisdom, bourbon truly stands at its pinnacle of craft and creativity. And we're not even halfway through the year yet! That means plenty of 

With that happy reflection in mind, here are our picks for the best bourbons of 2023, although expect plenty of updates with what we know about annual and upcoming releases, plus plenty of surprises along the way. And if you don't see your favorite bourbon on our list, that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve to be — it just means you're smart enough to keep your secrets to yourself so that the treasured rare bourbons in your collection stay affordable. We get it. We savor our favorites, too, even when we want to tell the whole world about the underrated bourbons out there.

Ben Holladay Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon

The bourbon industry is only too recently willing to vouch in public that Midwest Grain Products makes some darn fine whiskeys. For too many, it's Kentucky limestone or bust (not that you can't have both in a bottle). Meanwhile, we've had 167 years of proof that the Midwest knows everything about corn — duh — in Missouri's Holladay Distillery, which, yes, sits atop limestone springs.

The bottled-in-bond straight bourbon returns to production this year with a strong showing that projects experience and confidence. It needs no alteration upon its liberation from the cask, and likely won't in your glass either. If you're normally a whiskey & cola drinker, the reviews say this is the bottle you'll want to drink as-is, since it carries the essence of your favorite soda minus the need to mix it. While it's a little more expensive than a lot of high-quality BiB bottles, at $50 and up it's still very much within the norm, and by all accounts, justifies its price point upon first taste — and no wonder, when it's using a mash bill that predates the Civil War.

Booker's 2023-01: Charlie's Batch

Charlie's Batch is named after woodworker Charlie Hutchens, who designed and created the wooden boxes that house each widely anticipated Booker's releases. The first one of this year is no exception to both hype and hope. The original small-batch bourbon famously kicks like a mule, with a hefty nose that nevertheless delivers the sweet scent of clover and white nectarine. For a straight bourbon, it sure smells like a wine. Perhaps surprisingly for such a punchy bourbon at 126.6 proof, its legs run fast and thinly spaced, about a centimeter apart.

As all Booker's releases are, it's a potent sip, and it feels like there are two kinds of burn going on at once here atop delicious caramel, chocolate, and oak. Surprising again, only a drop or two of water quells the flames much more than one would expect of something so high-test, and the result is a milder experience that unlocks the door to a very strong base that shows why Booker's batches are so beloved. It's a sipping whiskey, less for its strength and more for the fact that the Kentucky chew makes the finish too energetic, but if you treat it with a careful approach, you'll understand the buzz.

Castle & Key Small Batch Traditional Bourbon 2023 Batch 1

The full name might be a mouthful, but Castle & Key's latest delivers a premium sipping experience at a preferential price. While it's "only" aged four years, that's also the standard for bottled-in-bond, meaning this young bourbon is nevertheless up to snuff. There are, of course, bottled-in-bond labels out there that will let you down, but for every one of them there's something like Castle & Key, which isn't BiB certified, but boasts the necessary attention to craft and patience to be.

At 100 proof, this is lighter than most of the list, and in our opinion, at the sweet spot for most whiskeys' flavor to really shine with depth minus burn. Castle & Key describes this one in terms that we would probably aggregate as "a fruity breakfast cookie," and those are three promising words to the Epicurean tongue.

The label was eagerly awaited by the whiskey world, debuting last year to an instantaneous sellout of stock. While you'll have to go to the distillery to get your hands on a bottle, we're including it here because it's in Frankfort, Kentucky. Even if you're not currently plotting a trip down to the Louisville-to-Lexington swath that is the whiskey capital of America, you could certainly get a dozen distillery-exclusive must-tries in a trip. And if you are planning a visit, good news for you: Batch 2 is coming out soon. Last year saw six releases, so there's likely to be something available no matter what time of year you visit.

Cedar Ridge Port Cask Finished Bourbon

Cedar Ridge doesn't make waves, possibly because it's too busy winning awards and moving units on a scale that might surprise you. Iowa's first distillery since Prohibition knows both corn and grapes, since Cedar Ridge also boasts a vineyard and winery. The multiple rounds of fermentation, distillation, and aging create something special, and it's not too many alcohol producers who can do a barrel exchange program with themselves. That's likely why you have a broad range of options to sample Cedar Ridge's products: bourbon, rye, American single malt, etc. aged in Port, sherry, etc. yields a heck of a lot of combination even before the maple and BiB versions.

Still, by reports all that expertise comes to bear in February's 2023 Port Cask Finished Bourbon, using Iowa corn and the brand's premium Estate Port wine casks, which expresses numerous stone fruits in spicy vanilla. One note: for more of that unique expertise, Iowa-local readers should head to Cedar Ridge for the blazing-new release of The QuintEssential™ Special Release: Pete & Sherri, Married – 1st Anniversary. It's a six-year, peated American single malt aged in sherry barrels that truly speaks to the nature of the location. Alas, it's only available onsite.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A123

Heaven Hill can't miss lately, with everyone trying to track down recent batches of Larceny Barrel Proof, Henry McKenna, and Parker's Heritage. And while we wanted to put the latest Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond on this list, the distillery tells us that the much-anticipated 2023 first release is going to be out in summer. Happily, we've got Elijah Craig to represent what the Bernheim distillery can produce.

Elijah Craig was one of the first bourbons released in 2023, and boy did Batch A123 welcome the new year in with a bang at 125.6 proof. Nevertheless, reviews say the high ABV works well for this batch's popping protein and peaches profile couched in a piquant oakiness. If you like 'em bold, rich, and brassy, Elijah Craig's your celebratory bottle. The rye pops in as the expected spice, but some say this edition, while wonderful, breaks the ECBP mold a bit in its wood and deep fruitiness. Hey, as long as it's good, we don't care which shape it takes. But if you find yourself hard-pressed to get the January release, Batch B523 (that's B for the year's second release, 5 for may, 23 for ... you get it) is here to alleviate your woes, even if it doesn't have the same snappy serial number. Like: A123, that's one for the ages. 

Four Gate Majestic Wood Series: Japanese Mizunara Oak

Ah, mizunara: the rich guy's oak. Everything about this wood makes it more of a pain in the neck to harvest and turn into a usable barrel, over a longer period of time, and thus, it's a baked-in premium. But hold up: it also has an effect on the flavor that sounds terrific, meaning this isn't just some marketing hype. Mizunara will give your whiskey a rich, sweet undertone, like the base layer on a canvas.

Compounding that, there's a lot to raise an intrigued eyebrow to here. Four Gate aged this 117.4-proof Kentucky straight bourbon for seven years, six months and longer, finishing in the Japanese oak. It's available in a winding path through the South and — perhaps tellingly, despite this being distilled in Kentucky — Indiana. However, at a limit of 1,673 bottles, anyone more interested in the prize than the hunt might want to order a no-fuss delivery through Four Gate's website.

Kentucky Peerless High Rye Bourbon

Everyone's still raving about last year's Peerless Double Oak, but only a couple weeks before the time of this writing came Peerless High Rye, boasting a nose of seasoned oak, leather, and cedar, followed by the tastes of Maillard and smoke. That ought to give you an idea of the kind of changes wrought by Peerless Distilling's deviation from its standard small batch straight bourbon mash bill, an undisclosed combination that we only know for sure is not this one. 

Once you've poured a dram, it's spice all the way down, and maybe spice most especially on the way down. That's no surprise with a rye, but you might not be expecting the more bitter tasting notes that will please any lover of more exotic whiskey notes. Such tones don't usually accompany a richer whiskey, making Peerless an exception even if you're the lone voice out there disagreeing about it living up to its name. With limited distribution (most states won't allow them to ship it to you) and a very eager fan base, it's a bottle worth fighting for, but somehow still manages to come across as a deal at $159: twice the price of the regular edition stuff. 

Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon Batch A123

Remember what we said about Heaven Hill being unable to fail? The question of whether or not to chase down their recent work is less yes/no and more a question of whether you like your whiskey wheated or not. Wheaters are definitely having a moment, but not everybody's ready to tackle it at 125.8 proof. For those who are, Larceny's first 2023 release is an obvious destination.

Heaven Hill obviously knows what they've got in hand with the Old Fitz-adjacent brand, as the label starts its second decade of commercial sales. While the small batches are renowned for a perhaps too-low price point even as enthusiasts chase down their best releases, the barrel-proof bottles are going for $80 and up. However, the reports are that the premium pays for itself, laden with all the flavors of a premium sundae.

If you wanted a bottle of Weller Full Proof, you'd be paying half a grand. But for about the same price as Weller Special Reserve, you can get your hands on the highly comparable Larceny, making this a no-brainer purchase.

Michter's 10-Year Single Barrel Bourbon

First off, 10 is the minimum aging, not the totality. Second, for that reason, we didn't get a release last year — not because it wasn't good, but because the folks in charge of such decisions were confident that another year to wait would create something truly remarkable. And by accounts, they were right. That's not surprising, of course, given Michter's very well-regarded Master Distiller and Master of Maturation team.

At a characteristic (but relatively low for this list) 94.4 proof, this single barrel still presents the intensity you'd expect of a 10-year. Michter's says this release delivers toffee, caramel, charred oak, maple syrup, and vanilla, any one of which could dominate a flavor profile all by itself. Reviews tend to agree with that assessment, with emphatic praise for the vanilla sugar and oakiness, although some do describe it closer to the profile presented by the new Kentucky Peerless High-Rye: never bad company to stand in.

Old Charter Oak Spanish Oak

The hook with the Charter Oak series is that while bourbon must be made in America in new charred oak barrels, that oak doesn't have to be American itself. The imported Spanish Oak for this iteration of the series follows Chinkapin Oak, Mongolian Oak, French Oak, and Canadian Oak. As more and more distillers argue that the terroir that feeds the cereals matters just as much as the water source, you'll find it a factor in the wood as much as the type of wood itself and any previous alcohols in finished barrels. The fact is, every factor in production can send a barrel in drastically different directions, and oak from Europe reportedly gives bourbon a spicier and more earthy taste due to the wood's tighter grain.

Buffalo Trace is betting on some of the centuries packed into these trees lending it fantastic depth. But that depth is not for everyone. Let the potent nose of fruit and roses and camphor warn or entice you to what awaits. This hits differently from almost all bourbons, salty and leathery, then a willow bitterness. It's not an everyday bourbon, but it sure delivers on the depth. You'd never guess this is as low as 92 proof. All the diesel here is in the flavor, not the ABV, but sip it lightly enough, and you'll catch cherry. This bourbon definitely recommends itself with a drop of water, so that you can appreciate what differentiates it from American oak-aged bourbons.

Unbendt Straight Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond

Right out of the gate, Unbendt is flirting with us in all the ways we like: 100 proof, bottled-in-bond, straight, and that ruby wood color that has launched so many love affairs with bourbon. Priced at $60, you've got a bottle that says, "I'm a little bit of a gamble, but the potential payoff is huge." These are all characteristics we find common among highly recommended bourbons, even if it's correlation over causation.

Texas whiskeys are volatile cargo, typically unapologetically, and you're either here for the wild ride or you're sipping juleps in your rocking chair and nodding that nothing need ever change. In light of Garrison Brothers, Still Austin, and others, it's nice to see a straight bourbon with enough sense to come in out of the rain (or lack thereof) when things start getting fierce. Even so, five and a half years in Texas is a lifetime in other regions, and you have to ask what slow-aged really means in this context. Probably the best way to answer that question is to pick up a bottle and taste it yourself.

Wyoming Whiskey Ten Year Year Anniversary Edition

Alright, alright, yes, this is technically a 2022 release, but hear us out: it dropped on the tail end of 2022, and we already bit our tongue about Stranahan's Snowflake, because no way are you getting your grabbers on that. Wyoming Whiskey's first double-digit birthday bourbon might not come cheap, but you can have it in your hands tomorrow thanks to the magic of the internet.

Reviews have said that among the usual suspects (wood, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, etc.) comes cherry and bubblegum. So that's different. More germane to its allure, if you ask us, is the report that this is a thick, oily whiskey: always a hallmark of rich flavor. No wonder the Ten Year Anniversary Edition gets praise as a triumph for the Wyoming Whiskey distillery and likely the best bottle it's put out to date. And for $200 you might just have an incentive to make it last until the Twenty Year Anniversary edition. (You might get lucky with a Ten Year non-anniversary using this mash bill this decade, though.)

Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond

The 2023 edition of Old Fitzgerald's spring bourbon dropped in August. The 10-year bourbon will not continue the label's 2022 trend of ever-increasing age statements; last year's 19-year in fall was the latest of many recent "oldest Old Fitz BiB ever," although the line does hover around nine to 11-year bottles closer to this one. By all reports, 10 years was plenty for this batch, which pops out of the decanter with a depth of nutty sweetness that makes it feel more like a Christmas bourbon than spring. With autumn almost upon us, it makes the prospects for a fall release all the more curious.

The lineup seldom dips below an A- across review sites, though even the older expressions seem to cap out there as well. These Old Fitzgeralds always step through the door on an escalating price point, but if you can find it at $140 MSRP, it's a real nice price for a premium bottle that's special, if not a unicorn.

Garrison Bros. Lady Bird

People either love Texas whiskey or it's an affront to their tastes, but there's no denying that three or four years in the Lone Star heat (and in much of the state, freeze) produces a firework beyond what ten often gives us elsewhere. Even a relatively mild Texas whiskey, pulled off at a low ABV, is volatile with flavor. But it doesn't have to be a kick from a cowboy boot, either. Enter the new one-off from Hye, TX: Garrison Brothers Lady Bird, which couches a malted and milled grain taste in pleasant herbal sweetness.

As mentioned in our Belle Meade entry in the best sourced bourbons, honey whiskeys sure are having a moment, and Garrison Brothers is no stranger to the field, having produced Honey Dew to satisfied acclaim. The XO cognac finish is a new touch though, and one concluded with a dip in a dark purple wax that suggests the bluebonnet, the official state flower of Texas. Named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson and created to help support bees and other pollinators, it's a total Texas experience that does a lot of good in the world. A smidge over 5900 bottles were produced, so some hunting is necessary, but as with a bumblebee, a far-ranging search will yield sweet rewards.

Blood Oath Pact 9

April saw the announcement of this year's Blood Oath Pact, in which some very mature bourbons (seven, 12, and 16 years) sat in Oloroso sherry casks to pick up some fatty, ruby fortitude.

Yet despite its age and depth, it's reportedly very smooth sipping. Perhaps that sherry-soaked cask has had a mentoring effect on the liquid within its walls. Pact 8 drew praise for delicately incorporating its brandy notes into whiskey without upsetting the apple cart onto the workhorse. Pact 9 seems to have gone even one better and used it to temper the whiskey itself.

Lux Row knows what it has here, and packaged distiller/blender John Rempe's handiwork in a crimson label that can't help but suggest the formula has reached its apex. This is the definitive Blood Oath Pact, so if you're ever going to try it, this is the bottle to pick up. A $130 price tag isn't cheap, but you could take a lot more risk on bourbons both pricier and cheaper. With Pact 9 you know you're getting as good as you're willing to pay for — that is, assuming its 17,000 bottles haven't reached a high price on the secondary market as you read this.

2XO Innkeeper's Blend

Given the acclaim that follows these experiments, the whiskey market really ought to devote more attention to the treasure hunters who find fine offerings from distillers both premier and esoteric, and create new blends. For as often as they're hailed, this remains a market where drinkers love the mythos of the ancient knowledge being made for generations in antique rickhouses. And yes, those distilleries produce undeniably excellent whiskeys — you won't find us short on praise for Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Beam Suntory, and the rest. But what about the adventurers who make something greater than its parts?

If that's a taste you want to try, the praise for Dixon Dedman's work is a great place to start. With 2XO, the blender combines personally selected whiskeys into a second oak barrel — not so unusual, although the fact that this is a new, charred oak barrel is. It's almost like a rebirth and baptism for the blend as a unified bourbon. Though 2XO is a newcomer to the whiskey scene, Dedman's success at resurrecting Kentucky Owl raises an intrigued eyebrow to its releases thus far. While Phoenix was greeted with a positive though sometimes middling reception, 2XO seems to be where Dedman has hit a home run in his second at-bat.