Top Chef Finalist Sara Bradley's Favorite High-End And Low-End Bourbons

"Top Chef: World All-Stars" is Sara Bradley's second appearance on the cooking competition show. The first time the Kentucky native took part was back in 2018 when it was filmed in her home state. Bradley is back to see if she can take the title this time around and she's doing great so far, serving the judges' favorite dish on more than one occasion. While she was eliminated late in the game, Bradley was able to cook her way back in, thanks to "Last Chance Kitchen." Now she's one of the four chefs heading to Paris, France, to compete in the finale.

Before "Top Chef" skyrocketed Bradley to fame, the chef made her home in Paducah, Kentucky, and opened her restaurant Freight House. The eatery doesn't just offer Southern food; it also has a full bar, which, according to the restaurant's website, has an "incredible selection of bourbons." As a matter of fact, The Bourbon Review listed it as one of America's best bourbon bars in 2020. With a pedigree like that, it's no surprise that Bradley knows a thing or two about whiskey. Given that she hails from bourbon country, we just had to know which ones were her favorites.

Russell's Reserve

Russell's Reserve is Bradley's first choice when she's looking for a high-end bourbon. The self-proclaimed "Wild Turkey girl" says she prefers whiskey with a unique taste. "I love a good barrel pick or a good single barrel because when you drink a lot of it, being able to taste something different than what everybody else has is the part that makes it fun."

Created by Eddie Russell as a tribute to his father Jimmy Russell's 45 years as Wild Turkey's master distiller, Russell's Reserve has been part of the Wild Turkey family since 1998. What started as a small-batch bourbon has turned into four different whiskeys including a 10-year bourbon, a 6-year small-batch rye, a single barrel bourbon, and a 13-year bourbon. Each has its own distinct flavor and bottles range in price from around $40 to over $400. 

While the 13-year is on the high end of the Russell's Reserve repertoire, its flagship 10-year bourbon is at the low end, proving Bradley's belief that a higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean a better bourbon. "A good $50 or $60 bottle of whiskey is sometimes better than a 2, 3, or 400 dollar bottle of whiskey," the chef says. "It's all about how long it stays in the barrel, it's all about the products they use from the very beginning."

Heaven Hill 7-Year

At the other end of the spectrum is Heaven Hill. While there are a lot of bourbons coming out of this Kentucky distillery, the one that Bradley prefers is the namesake 7-year Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond. "It is a great, everyday whiskey," she says.

This award-winning bourbon pays tribute to Heaven Hill's initial bottled-in-bond release back in 1939. According to the Heaven Hill website, to be a bottled-in-bond whiskey, the liquor must be distilled at one distillery during a single distillation season. It also has to be aged for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof, or 50% ABV. Finally, another stipulation for a bottled-in-bond whiskey is that the name and number of the distilled spirits plant where it was made be present somewhere on the label. This flagship bourbon has all that, and the public approves.  

Bradley isn't the only person who loves this bourbon. When it was first released in 1939, it became the number one selling bourbon in Kentucky. Since then, it's won numerous accolades and awards including the International Spirits Challenge gold medal in 2020, 2021, and 2022. It was also ranked fourth in Whisky Advocate's 20 Most Exciting Whiskies of 2019. With honors like that, why not grab a bottle? We know we're intrigued.