12 Best Bourbons To Use In Your Old Fashioned

Ordering an old fashioned is a bold statement –– in a way, you're telling the bartender you're sophisticated yet want a cocktail that packs a punch. The whiskey, bitters, sugar, traces of orange, and maraschino cherries dance together in a glass. The outcome is sweet yet the bourbon keeps the cocktail honest. The old fashioned is a classic for a reason –– yet the one question everyone wants to know is ... what bourbon should you choose when ordering Don Draper's favorite drink?

Although an old fashioned is a simple (yet, at the same time, complicated) drink to make –– getting the mixture just right takes a talented mixologist to concoct. For better or worse, the best old fashioned tends to be accompanied by a large, single ice cube, although even this step in the old fashioned making process is subjective.

Nevertheless, finding the right bourbon for an old fashioned is a never-ending liquid journey. You crave a whiskey that doesn't have too much bite, yet you still desire to know it's there –– not everyone likes an extremely sweet old fashioned. In an attempt to put this dilemma to rest, here are the 12 best bourbons to use in your next old fashioned. (If you're of legal drinking age and responsibly, of course!)

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

When it comes to certain types of alcohol (we're looking at you, vino), the older the batch, the better it tends to be –– at least, the more desirable as it's held to a higher standard. Buffalo Trace Bourbon is made by Buffalo Trace Distillery, which has roots dating back more than 200 years. And this Buffalo Trace Bourbon is the company's signature Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Though everyone's taste buds are unique, this bourbon stands out because it's a "deep amber whiskey" that "has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint, and molasses.". Now, doesn't that sound like a perfectly splendid bourbon for an old fashioned? Finishing off the tasting notes, this bourbon is described as "Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise." Simply put, you can't go wrong with the Buffalo Trace Bourbon. And the hints of brown sugar are a welcomed twist to a typical old fashioned.

Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey

Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey is the liquid gift that keeps on giving. After all, Bulleit Bourbon is, according to bulleit.com, "inspired by the whiskey pioneered by Augustus Bulleit over 150 years ago." Due to "its unique blend of rye, corn, and barley malt, along with special strains of yeast and pure Kentucky limestone-filtered water," this Bourbon was made for an old fashioned –– yet it's the perfect standalone if you want to enjoy its natural flavors by itself, and many avid whiskey drinkers do.

As with most highly-regarded bourbons, Bulleit Bourbon has a clean and smooth finish. The description of the tasting notes alone will have you counting down the hours until 5-o-clock: "Medium amber in color, with gentle spiciness and sweet oak aromas. Mid-palate is smooth, with tones of maple, oak, and nutmeg. Finish is long, dry and satiny with a light toffee flavor."

Even though many people welcome the crushed sugar cube, bitters, and added sweetness from the orange peel and cherries, Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey is packed with a burst of flavors that can stand alone by themselves. It's a bourbon's bourbon. And it's bourbons like this one that has whiskey connoisseurs debating an old fashioned's existence.

Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, another winner from Buffalo Trace, is worth every penny –– if you're willing to shell out the heavy price tag, that is. This bourbon is "aged for no less than ten years," and as many wine and whiskey enthusiasts can attest to, the longer a liquid marinates, the more unique the flavor, not to mention *chef's kiss* refreshing.

According to buffalotracedistillery.com, "Every barrel is discriminately selected to offer consistent flavor but with a seemingly individual personality." What makes it so special outside of how it's aged? For starters, the bourbon whiskey is accompanied by "aromas of toffee, hints of orange peel, herbs, honey, leather and oak." Buffalo Trace describes the taste as "bold, dry and delicate with notes of candied almonds and very rich cocoa."

Clearly, Eagle Rare is more than sufficient by itself, and not everyone wants to sweeten or water down the flavor with the ingredients of an old fashioned. Trust us, you won't regret this mixture's rare taste.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Coming back to a more affordable bourbon, Elijah Craig Small Batch will make your next old fashioned sing. Described as Elijah Craig's signature Small Batch (via elijahcraig.com), its "distinctive warm spice & subtle smoke flavor" can be credited to "Level 3 charred oak barrels." When it comes to whiskey, it's seemingly all about the barrel. Concocted by Elijah Craig, the aroma is "Delightfully complex with notes of vanilla bean, sweet fruit, and fresh mint." The taste is described as "Smooth and warm; pleasantly woody with accents of spice, smoke, and nutmeg." The finish is characterized as "Long, sweet, and slightly toasty." Need we say more?

As with all good bourbons, Elijah Craig Small Batch is perfect for an old fashioned as it goes down smooth and tastes good enough to have on its own. Needless to say, the other ingredients of an old fashioned would be lucky to have Elijah Craig Small Batch part of its recipe.

Four Roses Single Barrel

With a 100-proof makeup, Four Roses Single Barrel isn't messing around, and it's aged a minimum of seven to nine years for good measure. It's good straight up, on the rocks, or, of course, in an old fashioned. The Four Roses website describe this bourbon as "complex, full-bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate, long finish that's unbelievably mellow." Continuing this bourbon whiskey adventure, Four Roses says the Single Barrel's nose consists of "Dried spice, pear, cocoa, vanilla and maple syrup." The palate is characterized as "Hints of ripe plum and cherries, robust, full body, mellow." The finish is "Smooth and delicately long." Smooth and delicately long is the perfect way to describe the ideal bourbon.

Four Roses Single Barrel is surprisingly affordable for a single barrel and it's only a matter of time before it becomes your regular given this factor, not to mention the smoothness, unique taste, and overall quality it brings to the glass.

Four Roses Small Batch

Yet another Four Roses favorite, the Four Roses Small Batch is a well-balanced small batch. For all it's worth, the proof (90) is turned down on the Small Batch when compared to the Single Barrel from Four Roses, and it's aged for six to seven years, at minimum, if you're concerned about those types of things.

Four Roses' description of this bourbon will have whiskey drinkers pleased: "Four original Bourbon recipes have been expertly selected by our Master Distiller at the peak of maturation to create this very mellow and perfectly balanced Bourbon." The nose consists of "Mellow spice, rich fruit, hints of sweet oak and caramel." The palate can be described as "Mellow, ripened red berries, dried spice, well-balanced, rich." The finish is "Soft, smooth and pleasantly long."

Picking which is better between Four Roses Single Barrel and Small Batch depends on the drinker, yet both are delightful straight up, on the rocks, or mixed in a mainstay cocktail, such as, say ... an old fashioned.

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is refreshingly affordable, but that doesn't mean it's not a perfect match for an old fashioned. The Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is, according to Jim Beam, the company's first bourbon, which is saying a lot. Jim Beam, after all, has been around since 1795. For seven generations, Jim Beam has put in the work, and they're now considered the World's No. 1 bourbon –– at least by the company's website, that is. This bourbon whiskey is aged for four years "in newly charred American white oak barrels," and the taste can be described in five adequate words: grain, oak, fruit, char, and sweet. As for the aroma, it consists of an "oaky vanilla, spicy backdrop," and the flavor is "medium-bodied" with "mellow hints of caramel and vanilla."

This is a no-brainer bourbon for mixing into an old fashioned, yet if you fancy the flavor, then on the rocks or straight up will more than suffice. Nevertheless, the lower price tag is hard to pass up.

Knob Creek Bourbon

Raising the price, Knob Creek Bourbon is 100 proof and brings it in all the right ways. Knob Creek describes the 9-year-aged bourbon whiskey as "Rich, sweet, woody, full-bodied, almost fruity."  While that's convincing enough by itself, here's more proof of this bourbon's worth a pour: the small-batch bourbon whiskey is "An unflinching balance of deep, pre-Prohibition-style bourbon with a robust oak taste, complemented with hints of smooth vanilla and layered caramel." Vanilla and caramel in a bourbon? Yes, please!

Mixing those flavors with bitters, sugar, cherries, and a hint of orange is, without a doubt, a perfect match. There are many bourbons on the market, and you could certainly do a lot worse than Knob Creek –– yet at its price point, you'd have to go on a ghost hunt to find a better-tasting bourbon. Knob Creek Small Batch is –– get ready for the bourbon music to grace your ears –– a full-bodied tasting bourbon, and is the company's flagship bottle of Knob Creek for a reason.

Maker's Mark 46

What makes a good bourbon old fashioned? A smooth and subtle finish is a great place to start. Maker's Mark 46 checks all the boxes –– for an old fashioned companion, on the rocks beverage, or otherwise. It's the first bourbon in Maker's wood-finishing series, and according to the company, it "was created by Bill Samuels, Jr., to amplify the flavors he loves in Maker's Mark®." 

But what makes Maker's 46 so special? Continuing from the Maker's Mark website, "The innovative wood-stave-finishing process starts with fully matured Maker's Mark® at cask strength. We then insert 10 seared virgin French oak staves into the barrel and finish it for nine weeks in our limestone cellar." The result? A bold and complex whiskey, with a dash of class. The aroma of Maker's 46 can be described as "Hints of wood staves, caramel and sweetness." While, at the same time, the taste can be characterized as "Very intense flavors; a big crescendo of wood blending perfectly with deep, complex and rich notes of vanilla and caramel."

Although the bourbon that follows is a fan favorite and created by the same company, if you want to shell out a little more money for something truly special, then we encourage whiskey lovers to use Maker's 46 in their next old fashioned.

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark is an ideal old fashioned ingredient. The bourbon is delicious and it's also not too steep in the price department. Pound for pound, it's a world-champ in any class.

"Never bitter or sharp, Maker's Mark® is made with soft red winter wheat, instead of the usual rye, for a one-of-a-kind, full-flavored bourbon that's easy to drink," the Maker's Mark website entails. Every barrel is rotated by hand and it's aged by taste rather than time. As Maker's Mark fans have come to know and love, each bottle is hand-dipped in red wax, giving this bourbon an elegant feel –– even before uncorking it.

Maker's Mark describes the aroma as "Woody oak, caramel, vanilla and wheat prevail in the nose." The taste is "Sweet and balanced with caramel, vanilla and fruity essences." You can, of course, expect a smooth finish. What's not to like? If you're new to bourbon whiskey, then Maker's Mark Bourbon is a good place to start, whether you're making an old fashioned cocktail or sipping it out of a glass of its own making.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Let's allow Total Wine & More to paint a bourbon-y picture: "Aromas of vanilla, citrus fruit and spice lead into flavors of pepper, corn and smoky oak. Mildly sweet, with a medium soft finish that leaves a sense of spice and sweetness in your mouth." If this description doesn't make you salivate just a little, then are you really even a bourbon drinker?

That wonderful description is of Old Grand-Dad Bonded, a bourbon that's been in production since the 1800s (via thebourbonroad.com). Old Grand-Dad is a straightforward and affordable bourbon. Whether you're on a budget or don't want to pay for a higher-priced bourbon that's only valuable because, well, the number on the price sticker, Old Grand-Dad is an ideal option. Novice and longtime bourbon whiskey drinkers alike won't be disappointed. And, best of all, Old Grand-Dad is aces as the main ingredient of an old fashioned drink.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a popular option for a reason: it's a great value at its price point. Like all great bourbons, Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a storied past and the distillery itself is now a national historic landmark. It's comprised of more than 200 flavor notes, "from bold grain and wood, to sweet aromatics, spice, and fruit & floral notes."

The website describes the nose as "Heavy with rich dried fruit, hints of mint and oranges covered with a dusting of cocoa. Faint vanilla and tobacco spice." The taste is characterized as "Rich, chewy, rounded and smooth, with complex citrus, cinnamon and cocoa. Toffee, caramel, chocolate and spice notes abound." Drinkers can expect a smooth and "almost creamy" sip at first that's followed by a "warm satisfying tail." Mmm.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a phenomenal bourbon. While different bourbons are going to make different people's taste buds tango, it's best to try out various bourbon whiskeys to see what you fancy.