The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

The great thing about this whiskey scene is it's always in motion, which means that even the same mash bill, process, and label can change a famed, big batch product quite a bit from one expression to another. And while distillers strive for consistency and quality, sometimes variation in the former can really crank up the latter.

With that in mind, we're here to share our current assessments of the best bourbon brands in America at this moment. Sorry if your favorite's not on here, but it's probably repped by a similar label because there's a definite path from the bottom to the top shelf. Our method was simple: Treat distilleries like record labels, brands like bands, and labels like albums (with expressions being their single tracks). Wherever a bourbon bottle has a unified identity, it was fair game for us. This is a lineup of true bourbon winners, and we're excited to share it with you.

27. Evan Williams

You're lucky we're professionals who put personal prejudice aside. Otherwise, you'd see the almighty Evan Williams line much higher in this noble list.

Beloved by the bourbonati for the value ratio of quality to price, our perennial favorite cheap bourbon runs only one risk before ringing up, and that's not being recognized for how good its higher expressions are. It's so easy to grab a cheap handle and pour happily; you have to remind yourself that the older and select labels are actually contenders against similar-tier bourbons, even without regard to Evan's advantageous price. The savings are just a bonus ... for now, anyway, because the word seems to be getting out, and reports are coming back of rising stickers. Still, it's a deal at one of the best bourbons under $50, even if you're buying single-barrel vintage.

26. Benchmark

Officially, this is where Benchmark resides, but unofficially, we're leery of placing it as high as it deserves because we're working off of popular regard and definitely not for fear of repeating that Evan Williams price creep. Still, this Buffalo Trace bottom-shelfer has been climbing the ladder of late, with an expanding and increasingly aged line that saw BT insiders gush about it to us as their most underrated bourbon

That expansion has paid off, seeing more and more reviewers stop and say, "Wait, Benchmark might actually become ... a benchmark?" It's not a game-changer as yet, but you do find a lot of lineup reviews questioning whether this isn't dramatically overlooked. We say yes, but feel free to ignore us and keep the price down.

25. New Riff

You get the idea that if we all got universal basic income tomorrow, the folks at New Riff would keep showing up to do what this family-owned distillery does best: shake up the whiskey scene. Perhaps it's because the brand is comprised of self-described corporate refugees. 

Maybe it's because the passion for bourbon runs so strong it feels critical to the people making New Riff that you understand as well as enjoy it. Maybe it's because a bourbon not yet celebrating its 10th year is drawing standout praise in the crowded world of Kentucky bourbon. Or maybe it's just because it's damn good bourbon to drink. You get the idea.

24. Maker's Mark

Weller might be the original wheated bourbon, but Maker's Mark might be the most poured one. This bourbon whisky (yeah, it's one of the oddballs spelled without an "E" stateside) is a staple that really deserves more love for even the regular edition, though the whole line is what makes it flourish on this list. Sorry, Maker's, you even have middle-child syndrome on your own ranking entry.

Still, there's a reason you see Maker's Mark sitting handily in frequent-pour reach on almost every bar in America. It's still great and frequently excellent, as seen in both the Maker's 101 and 46ers if you're not the type to go all-in on private selections or other higher-end options. 

23. Penelope

While still an upstart — if no longer a startup, now that MGP purchased its former client — Penelope has been doing its own thing for a bit now. We love the complexity that comes with a four-grain whiskey, so even the starting point plays its own tune. And while it seems like everyone else is chasing double oaked all of a sudden, Penelope's focusing on wine cask finishes and, dare we say, bespoke whiskey with its Architect series. 

If you don't show up for that level of precision, Penelope has you covered, cowpoke. Its toasted barrel series shoots from the hip, meaning this crazy romance just might work out with your big-city, uptight paramour moved back to open a bakery in her hometown.

22. Larceny

For the longest time, Old Fitzgerald was a regular ol' cheap and okay pour, and then a lot more shook up in the whiskey world than we can stuff into a short space. The result was the Larceny line, spinning out basic Fitz under a new package, while Heaven Hill reserved the venerable Old Fitzgerald label for the really special product. It's all the same juice, only divided by time and temperature, the same as how a bottle of W.L. Weller that makes something of itself becomes William LaRue Weller.

But then something funny happened. Larceny went from being a reliably alright bottle priced just right at $30 dollars or so to something to seek out all by itself. Depending on which expression you're after, you might have to move fast before the price escalates. And we're not even including Old Fitz special releases in this ranking!

21. Elijah Craig

Like Larceny, Elijah Craig is a reliable reach-for at a fair price that suddenly bangs well above its dollar uptick as soon as you upgrade to the more select bottles. That's no surprise since this is from the same experts at Heaven Hill but with more corn and rye in place of wheat.

While you wouldn't be upset to find yourself holding the regular edition, even if it's no longer a bonafide 12-year after losing its age statement, the real get is the barrel proof. After earning the title of "Whisky of the Year" in 2017, the rye-worthy heat has never left this label, and everyone loves to compare the releases throughout the year to find the best one to seek out.

20. Willett

While the Willett Distillery has a storied history, including recent rebirth and reinvention (and will pop up again on this list), we're focused on the Willett name brand line here, which includes the Willett Family Estate cask-strength, single-barrel, "purple-top" bottles, which splash onto the scene whenever a standout SiB makes itself known.

But there's a but on those butts: some fans, of late, feel that the really high-end releases are coasting a bit on the strength of earlier barley juice. But even the but has a but: the fact remains that every purple top still commands a fervent hunt from true believers. And there's no accounting for taste, which is a wonderfully liberating realization. When this many people like something, there's something to like.

19. Michter's

The brand that almost single-handedly brought back rye (but we see you, Bulleit) also punches hard once you get to the more noteworthy offerings beyond the basic stuff. Michter's 10-year single barrel is one of our best bourbons of 2023, not in the least because the duo responsible for releasing it said, "No, it's great, but it can be even better" back in 2022. 

When a whiskey maker is willing to sit on easy money to really dazzle the following year, that's when you're looking at a prime candidate for a top bourbon brand. The integrity and reputation of the product move from intact to impressive with tough calls like that one make a moth expectorate at the thought of the 20-year, eh?

18. Woodford Reserve

Honestly, the only thing keeping Woodford from placing even higher is that the base edition is just that: kind of basic. While sticking to classic tenets might help you get named the official whiskey of the Kentucky Derby (along with a healthy sponsorship), everything from here forward is unmistakable. Still, another way of looking at it is that Woodford's extremely well-regarded luxe releases escalate it several spots above some overall brands whose starting point is more sought-after than this Woodford 1.0.

However you look at it, nobody is disappointed to find Woodford Reserve in their glass. It's a reddish beauty that you can use in just about any way you like without flinching.

17. 1792

Have you had this stuff? It goes really sweet in a creme brulee and caramel direction without becoming cloying. For this reason, it's excellent with just seltzer since it already provides a lot of what juice and soda normally bring to a cocktail or duo. But mixing it at all feels like a diminishment of what is an excellent bourbon to drink neat or with a drop of water. 

We had the good luck to rank the whole 1792 lineup in 2022 (barring some truly rare bottles you're never going to encounter anyway), and while we favored the 1792 Bottled-in-Bond at the top, most drinkers would probably put their money on the magical Aged Twelve Years. The fun part is deciding for yourself.

16. Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden tastes like a duel at high noon (maybe it's all the char and smoke involved) but bears the distinct lineage of Old Grand-Dad himself, Basil Hayden, borne through the legendary Booker Noe, master distiller at Jim Beam. This is a supremely affordable whiskey for the value, at under $50, that presents like a rich man's bourbon. 

Bold in flavor and essential in design and character, Basil Hayden starts from a resplendent place and then rises higher with each variation in the lineup. With all that said, a very palatable 80 proof makes this one an easy day drinker that won't put you down for the count anytime soon.

15. Booker's

Oh hey, it's Booker Noe, back again. They say this lineup invented small-batch bourbon, but you might just as well say it was the invention of private reserve. Regardless, these bottles are eagerly anticipated and tend to sell out quickly if you're looking for a specific batch. Still, if you're after the label itself, you're likely not far from one as long as you're not particular about which handle it is. 

Booker's gets featured frequently at your better class of bar, which knows this whiskey as an upscale pour that doesn't veer into extravagance. It's the kind of whiskey ordered by those who know how hard it kicks but how deeply it rewards those who can take it.

14. Old Forester

Another entry in the "American whisky" series, Old Forester has been around longer than anyone else in the whiskey game, presents a broad fleet of bourbons and whiskies, and has a prominent single-barrel program for anyone looking to go all-in on a particularly fine specimen.

Old Forester runs pretty light in the ABV department. The original is a breezy 86 proof, while other prominent bourbons in the line tend to stick to 100 or below — in our opinion, right around the sweet spot. While a couple of higher 105s and mid-110s show up, it's a bit of a surprise when the barrel-proof, single-barrel bottle drops in like an atom bomb at 130. Dang, Old Forester, did you just "She's All That" us?

13. Smoke Wagon

A well-regarded, even beloved bottle, Smoke Wagon also surfs on being a great price in most markets. While you might only find it at the higher numbers near some quality everyday scotch sticker level, the prevalence of this high-rye bourbon for as low as $30 at one point and in some places makes even the standard bottle from Nevada Distilling Company's bottle an easy gamble. Up your ante, and the payoff compounds prestigiously; for all its swagger, Smoke Wagon's bourbons are elegant and worth savoring.

Nevertheless, the real get is Smoke Wagon's Uncut Unfiltered bottle, which doesn't need luck to win tonight or any other. A frequent double-gold winner of the San Francisco World Spirits competition, this is Smoke Wagon's prize pig among the four straight bourbons in its lineup. This is not to say you shouldn't pounce on the Private Barrel if you see it, only that you'll have an easier time with the former.

12. Barrell

You all need to check your attitudes about sourced whiskey. It comes from the same place that disdains any distiller who hands a mash bill and processes off to Midwest Grain Products (MGP) as not having the wherewithal to do it themselves. But just as the real cause is very often one of economic and production means in the latter case, there's another very good reason for the former: some tasters, blenders, and distillers have a vision drawn from different quarters, while others know the good stuff when they try it and know where to get it and dare to experiment to push it to even greater heights. 

Whiskey is a great big world, and there's plenty of room for different approaches. When the results are as good as a lot of what Barrell puts out, how can anybody complain?

11. Four Roses

It's hard not to look at Four Roses as the underrated version of Wild Turkey. Both have been sticking to what works for decades, doing what they do the way they do it, even when the world turned its back on whiskey. Both have found the success and respect they deserve in this century without changing what they're up to or getting gimmicky. 

And yet, somehow, Four Roses gets the following without the fanaticism. Perhaps it's because Wild Turkey has that baked-in generational story of the Russell family, but what Four Roses produces is still more than enough to crack our top 10.

10. Noah's Mill

Noah's Mill is a hearty — though far from overclocked — 114.3 proof, but it tastes like a rich punch in a silk glove. The Willett whiskey comes in strong, like a Christmas cake, before rising into springtime with floral and herbal notes. It's a really tough whiskey to get a handle on, except that you know you're drinking quality. It's widely respected and maybe even a little bit feared, as many conquerors of boozier whiskeys still recommend watering it down or even chilling on the rocks.

To be honest, we kind of wanted to roll Rowan's Creek into this one, even though they're separate brands from the same distiller. They just feel like such bookend bourbons that if one isn't your speed, the other may encapsulate what people love about Willett's product for you. But then, we'd be hard-pressed not to dive into Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown, and more.

9. Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey, for all its achievements and its uniquely devout fans, remains best known as a mid-shelf whiskey, but that's not a failure when the mid-shelf beats all comers. It's just famous for being excellent at what it does — and that's just the basic version! The 101 is regarded by many as pure perfection, and the small batch and Master's Keep runs are strong enough that we're probably tragically close to all the casuals realizing how premium Wild Turkey really is.

And, of course, it doesn't hurt that Wild Turkey has the aforementioned story with the Russell family, the Wyeths of whiskey, though there are probably a lot of people named Beam or Noe who might challenge that title.

8. Weller

Well, here it is. Marketed as the original wheated bourbon, and formerly casually referred to as "poor man's Pappy" before word got out about Weller's close roots to Van Winkle and it became middle-class man's Pappy and launched a thousand disgruntled Reddit posts about how it's a solidly $30 to $40 bourbon that tastes great and not a $60 to $500 one. Well, that's, like, your opinion, man. But also, yes. 

Regardless, it's an excellent whiskey, and it's hard to say the sour grousing isn't from people who have a hard time saying goodbye to a great deal that never could have lasted. Weller would have risen to this point even without a hand from the Van Winkle family.

7. Blanton's

How is it that we're listing Blanton's down here when we previously put it in the top spot of the best American whiskey brands? Hey, fair question. Mostly, you live, you learn, you laugh, you love, and what we love is bourbon, leading us to discover a sizable number of people who are able to put their hands on a bottle feel it's overrated by its Japanese-led collectability. So, call this placement a compromise. Sometimes, Luigi pulls ahead of Koopa, and the race has many laps yet to run. That's life! 

Anyway, Blanton's remains a great bottle to use in a whiskey sour while taters and enthusiasts alike shriek in the comments of your Instagram posts. You enjoy this hobby however you like.

6. Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr.

If you want to know the real tragedy of reviewing whiskey for a living, it's that every day, you're blessed with a new product showing up at your doorstep to review, sample, rank, and compare; that's one more day your bottle of Col. Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. stares at you longingly from the shelf, inert for another evening. 

There's no bad bottle in this beautifully crafted series. A lot of fans are cantankerous about its showboating and stunting, but nobody's saying it doesn't deserve universal praise, so much as how high that praise rises. And yeah, thousands of dollars for Warehouse C Tornado Surviving is an irreplicable gimmick, but it's such good stuff we wouldn't blink if it one day ended up the sixth sibling in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.

5. Remus

Look, we didn't mean for this list to end up, so Buffalo Traced. If anything, we figured it would be Heavenly Hilled. That's why we're happy to report that the MGP-produced George Remus is coming in strong — yes, even ahead of our beloved Col. Taylor. This is, in large part, thanks to the Remus Repeal Reserve series, though Midwest Grain Products obviously considers the entire label its big bourbon. 

The producer's been making bigger and bigger branding moves this past decade to assert itself beyond a hired gun and a boss whiskey maker with the means and experience to stand alongside Kentuc — oh wait, it's doing a "Book of Boba Fett," but for bourbon. Well, Remus is its power play, and it's paying off. It ranges from eminently satisfying and easygoing to some real "Have you tried this stuff yet?" premium bottles worth chasing.

4. Old Carter

Old Carter makes big headway throughout its entire lineup, with the non-bourbon American whiskeys drawing particularly high praise, but you could quite happily stick to its prize-winning straight bourbon lineup and walk around telling everyone you met that you just sipped a real contender for best of the year. 

The Louisville-based whiskey distillery actually makes its mark blending high-corn products from various larger whiskey makers — most notably Midwest Grain Products but purportedly also Cascade Hollow — and is the leading argument for the reputability of this as a real art. Winemakers Sherri and Mark Carter brought back Kentucky Owl before devising their own label as the outcome of their careful attention to what a balanced palate can bring to bourbon, and reviews have been unflaggingly positive.

Fair warning: Old Carter bourbons unfailingly come in high-proof, so clear some space in your schedule to sip and appreciate these bottles very slowly all evening. Unfortunately, the word is increasingly out on a limited product that only gets distribution in select markets, so the high but fair price point jumps even more as soon as it hits the shelves. But if you intend to really treat yourself or a friend, here's a guarantee of greatness.

3. Eagle Rare

A bourbon so mighty its best expression isn't even the one drafted to the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Eagle Rare's relatively brief history at three decades and counting is still a tour of whiskey wisdom and legacy. It's so good it's unsurprisingly only released on allocation, and that's the regular 10-year, not even the BTAC and 20-year Very Rare.

If you want the full rundown on this incredibly complex and wild out-of-the-gate whiskey, we reviewed its many tasting notes with full esteem in our Buffalo Trace Antique Collection ranking. Suffice it to say, for anyone with the spurs to tame it, Eagle Rare is a mighty steed worth lassoing.

2. Old Rip Van Winkle

Remember that episode of "Parks & Recreation" where Ron Swanson's chairs get celebrated by an influential lifestyle maven, but he refuses to mass produce them? That's the Van Winkle family. It's continuing to make what's overwhelmingly considered the best bourbon in the world (more on that in a minute) the way it always has, at production levels that let it maintain its quality. 

While expansion is desirable, it's only going bigger if they can keep making it up to its exceedingly high standard. And this stuff is offered up at a fair price for the labor put into it. By God, it makes you think the soul of American honor endures in these wild times. And hey, great bourbon. Really, top of the mountain.

1. Stagg

What? Not Van Winkle in the top spot? Nope. It's Stagg. Listen, we've had Van Winkle. It's good stuff! Have we had every Van Winkle? Nah, but more than a couple of 'em. Have we had both Staggs? Well, technically, yes, but also part of what's so estimable about this Buffalo Trace Antique Collection champion and its winner offspring is that some of the latter's expressions come darn near close to BTAC-grade for $150. 

That means, sadly, you'll often find your local liquor store selling a bottle for eight times what it cost while still ⅛ its parent's price tag. But even the worst Stagg is a damn sight better than MSRP. By the way, the more obtainable Stagg recently dropped the Jr. from its titles, so we'll refer to it as such and the BTAC as George T. Stagg.


Our methodology for picking these brands went like this: First, we developed an aggregate list of the top bourbon brands on the market. When choosing brands, we aimed for labels that offer more than one style or age statement. The entirety of a brand's line-up was taken into consideration. General popularity within the bourbon market was considered, though lesser-known brands were also given merit. 

Once the line-up of candidates was developed, the list was trimmed down and then ordered using several factors, including price, quality, and availability. The majority of these bourbon brands have been tasted by the author, and for those brands that haven't been personally sampled, online consumer reviews, trade publications, and insider feedback were taken into account.