Bourbon continues to rank among the most popular distilled spirits in the United States — and it’s not just sales seeing a spike. As the number of producers in the country goes from strength to strength, so too does the range of styles in the category, with distillers turning to innovative fermentation and aging techniques, as well as left-field grains to stand out.
The tasting for VinePair’s 2022 edition of our annual bourbon roundup offered great insight into how broad and deep the category has grown. Among the more than 150 bottles considered, we sampled brands from across the country, and encountered more craft expressions than ever before.
Speaking of craft, a large portion of the bottles considered this year came from independent brands that source their whiskey from Indiana (and likely the MGP distillery). While this practice has been looked down upon by some in the past, the majority of brands employing that strategy now are increasingly transparent about their whiskey’s origins. Producers in that field who made it onto this list did so by taking the spirit in a new direction via a finishing technique or proprietary aging process, or by blending with their own whiskey and achieving harmonious results.
A few more final notes on the list before we dive in: VinePair limited inclusion to one expression per brand, and we have listed average prices based on available information online. We choose to do the latter to reflect the fact that highly coveted releases often retail for a much higher price than the brand’s MSRP. In instances where those numbers were not available, often because the release is brand new, we instead cited that MSRP.
With all that said, here are 30 of the best bourbons to drink in 2022.
The Best Bourbons Under $50
Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. California Oak Bourbon
Distilled in Kentucky, this high-rye release is finished using a mix of virgin French Oak staves and California Cabernet wine cask staves. The process has a noticeable and enjoyable influence on the final whiskey, imparting a prominent vanilla note and juicy red berry flavors. If you’re a regular wine drinker looking to explore bourbon, this is the bottle for you. Average price: $31. Rating: 91.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The eponymous release from the Buffalo Trace distillery, this expression remains among the most widely available and easily obtainable from the brand. That doesn’t mean it should go overlooked, though. This is a solid entry-level bourbon with enjoyable caramel, brown sugar, and spice notes. It also performs valiantly when used in cocktails. Average price: $35. Rating: 91.
Hirsch Selected Whiskeys The Horizon
Hirsch combines a blend of two rye-forward Indiana-distilled bourbons for this release. The first, and majority component, is a little under 5 years old, while the second — made from an even higher-rye mash bill — is aged more than 6 and a half years. Unsurprisingly, rye is notable throughout, lending a black pepper spice to the nose and a sharp bite to the finish. Notes of red petals and dried cherries lend further complexity. Average price: $38. Rating: 92.
Russell’s Reserve 10 Years Old
Named after Wild Turkey’s father-son master distiller duo, Jimmy and Eddie Russell, this is a standout option at this price point. Attractive dried orange peel aromas set the tone for what is a fruity bourbon with heavy vanilla character. While it begs to be enjoyed neat, the price allows you to savor a decade-old bourbon in whiskey cocktails. Start with a Boulevardier. Average price: $39. Rating: 93.
Pinhook Bourbon Heist
Produced at Kentucky’s Castle & Key distillery, this 3 year old release is made using locally-sourced grains, and is bottled without filtration. It serves powerful character for the relatively low age and price, while the 49 percent ABV is seamlessly incorporated. Notes of toasted coconut and luscious caramel combine on the easy sipping palate. This is a steal. Average price: $41. Rating: 92.
New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Fall 2017)
A bottled-in-bond release from one of the standout newer Kentucky distilleries, this is a high-rye bourbon that’s bottled without chill-filtration. It offers a distinctive personality, with an intense peanut aroma joined by cherry wood, toasted oak, and a kiss of vanilla. Rye spice comes to life on the palate, keeping each sip lively and energetic. This is a great option for stirred, spirit-forward cocktails, like a classic Old Fashioned. Average price: $42. Rating: 93.
Watershed Distillery Blended Straight Bourbon
Combining a blend of three bourbons, two of which were produced at Watershed’s Ohio distillery, the inclusion of an apple-brandy-cask-finished whiskey drives the profile of this release. Attractive woody aromas set the tone, while the palate lands with bright cherry notes, a hint of toast, and a distinctive apple brandy finish. This bourbon delivers great depth of flavor for its relatively young age. Average price: $42. Rating: 92.
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon
This craft release is distilled, aged, and bottled in Wyoming. At 44 percent ABV, it’s a great option for mid-week sipping occasions. Floral and fruity berry aromas dominate the nose, while the palate delivers notes of caramel, baking spice, and vanilla, and just a hint of complexity. Average price: $42. Rating: 91.
Cathead Distillery Old Soul Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This is another example of a producer opting to blend Indiana-distilled whiskey with proprietary distillate — each made with the same high-rye mash bill. Straying from the caraway and menthol notes typical of the grain, this bourbon begins with inviting sweet aromas then transitions into tart berries and sweet caramel on the palate. Combine with sweet vermouth and bitters for a memorable Manhattan. Average price: $46. Rating: 91.
FEW Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey
FEW Spirits became part of the Heaven Hill family in February 2022, after the Kentucky distiller acquired the Samson & Surrey portfolio of brands. Produced at FEW’s Evanston, Ill. distillery, this bourbon contains a high-rye mashbill, and is bottled at 46.5 percent ABV. While baked pastry and vanilla aromas lead the nose, mentholated rye character comes into the picture on the palate, joining an attractive cherry note. This is an enjoyable outlier, profile-wise, but doesn’t stray too far from the beaten path. Average price: $48. Rating: 92.
Neversink Select Bourbon Whiskey
This is a great example of the flaws of thinking all sourced whiskey tastes the same. Distilled in Indiana using a wheated mashbill, the bourbon is finished for around 3 months in casks that formerly held Neversink’s Apple Apéritif. And it’s apple that shines throughout the final release, arriving in crisp green and baked vanilla guise on both nose and palate. Use this in place of rye in the classic Vieux Carré cocktail. Average price: $48. Rating: 91.
The Best Bourbons Under $100
Field & Sound Bottled in Bond Bourbon Whiskey
Produced on Long Island, this high-rye bourbon utilizes locally grown grains and “sweet mash” fermentation. If the heavy maritime influence, prominently referenced on the bottle’s label, is at all detectable, it’s via subtle saline notes on the nose and finish. More abundant is the attractive spice of winter rye, and bold, heady vanilla and caramel notes on the palate. This is a great craft option. Average price: $50. Rating: 92.
Old Forester The 117 Series 1910 Extra Old
Old Forester’s 1910 Old Fine Whisky sees a secondary period of maturation in heavily charred oak barrels. This, the third release in the distillery’s limited-edition “The 117 Series,” offers drinkers a glimpse at how that whiskey evolves with an extra 18 months in oak. Pouring a deep shade of maple, it exudes dark sugar and chocolate aromas, and delivers rich doses of caramel on the palate. Available from late February onward, this gift-shop and online exclusive merits the extra effort to seek out. MSRP: $50. Rating: 93.
Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished In Port Wine Barrels
Finished for 3 to 6 months in port wine casks, this Angel’s Envy release is blended in batches of around a dozen barrels. The red wine influence stands out but doesn’t overwhelm, instead complementing attractive chocolate, caramelized nut, and vanilla notes. Average price: $52. Rating: 92.
Basil Hayden Toast
Launched in 2021 as the fourth permanent expression in the Basil Hayden line, this whiskey replaces the 27 percent rye used in the brand’s normal bourbon mash bill with 27 percent brown rice. The whiskey also spends an unspecified period finishing in toasted barrels. Both factors bring character and decent concentration to the 80 proof spirit, which sings to the tune of vanilla, caramel, and — unsurprisingly — toasted oak. Average price: $53. Rating: 92.
Wilderness Trail Small Batch Bourbon Bottled in Bond
Kentucky-based Wilderness Trail takes a highly scientific approach to whiskey production, and it shows in the final profile of the distillery’s impressive portfolio of whiskeys. Containing 24 percent rye in the mashbill, this release coaxes an incredible amount of character from the grain, which presents itself as a herbaceous, minty note. Though it dominates the nose, it weaves seamlessly into the palate, lending just a gentle spice and a mentholated kick to the finish. Keep an eye on this distillery, if it isn’t already on your radar. Average price: $53. Rating: 94.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Ideal for those who enjoy a heady influence of oak, this release spends a second maturation period in heavily toasted barrels. The process amps up the sweet notes of vanilla, honey, and creamy butterscotch, but the spirit never feels overly weighty on the palate. Choose this bottle for a decadent Old Fashioned. Average price: $57. Rating: 92.
Village Bourbon Vermont Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Made from Vermont-grown corn and rye — 60 percent of the former, 40 percent of the latter — this craft bourbon ages for a minimum of 5 years prior to release. While it might seem a little pricey for its age, this whiskey brims with character. The high proportion of rye translates to bright bursts of black pepper and cherries, while the palate serves up approachable caramel and butterscotch notes. Average price: $60. Rating: 92.
Stellum Bourbon Whiskey
From the same team behind Barrell Craft Spirits, this release represents a triumph of blending, with three separate Indiana-distilled and -aged whiskeys married with Kentucky- and Tennessee-born bourbon. Bottled at cask strength, it has a highly expressive nose and deeply concentrated palate, both of which occasionally tread into unexpected territory. Prepare for notes of cigar box, potpourri, maple syrup, candied ginger, and explosive ABV. Average price: $61. Rating: 93.
Bardstown Bourbon Fusion Series #7
The seventh iteration of Bardstown’s Fusion series, this release combines proprietary (and mainly younger) distillates from the brand with two older, sourced whiskeys. The juxtaposition of old and young is stark, though all distillates come together harmoniously. Ripe stone fruit flavors lead to a nutty finish, following a dark sugar and baking spice nose. Average price: $65. Rating: 93.
Jefferson’s Ocean Voyage 24
An experimental release from a brand that’s notable for aging bourbon at sea, this expression spent its maritime maturation voyage exclusively in the Caribbean, where it experienced average temperatures of 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Those conditions nudge the distillate’s profile to a place of rich caramel and ripe, juicy berries. A spicy finish builds upon its complex palate, which delivers much more flavor than most 90-proof bourbon. Average price: $82. Rating: 93.
Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon Batch #31
The latest release from Kentucky blender and bottler Barrell Craft Spirits, this expression comprises whiskeys from Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky, ranging in age from 6 to 16 years old. Bottled at a cask-strength 55.6 percent ABV, the proof barely registers on the palate, but intensifies its complex notes of cake batter, dried apricots, tobacco, and strawberry compote. This is another home run release from Barrell. Average price: $90. Rating: 95.
Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series FAE-02
The second of two 2021 releases in Maker’s Mark’s limited edition line, this bourbon is made using a proprietary wooden stave finishing process. The technique helps magnify the influence of oak, and this iteration enjoys rich brown sugar, vanilla, and caramel notes, and lively, toasty texture. With a finish that lasts an age, this is a contemplative sipping bourbon and a bottle deserving of a place on all aficionados’ shelves. Average price: $92. Rating: 95.
The Best Bourbons Over $100
Booker’s Bourbon 2021-04 “Noe Strangers Batch”
The fourth and final 2021 release from Booker’s, this iteration was aged for 6 years, 6 months, and 12 days, and arrives at a dizzying 62.2 percent ABV. As with all cask-strength bourbons, it proves to be a heady, in-your-face experience, though not one that lacks nuance or complexity. Fruity, floral notes take charge on the intense nose, while the palate leans into baked desserts and rich caramel. Don’t be afraid to add a splash of water. Average price: $113. Rating: 93.
Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
Launched in 2020, Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel quickly won over bourbon aficionados, and bottles now fetch much more than its $50 MSRP at retail. Made by finishing standard Elijah Craig in new, custom-toasted oak barrels, the bourbon has multiple layers of aromas and flavors that go well beyond wood. Expect sweet caramel tones on the nose, and enticing coffee and dark chocolate on the palate. If you come across this bottle, don’t leave it sitting on the shelf. Average price: $132. Rating: 93.
Knob Creek 15 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey
First released in 2020, this 15 year old expression returns for a limited time in 2022. The dark chocolate and nutty notes that define younger expressions from this brand are toned down in this older guise. Attractive floral and vanilla aromas instead leap from the glass, while coconut shavings and rich caramel notes live long onto the finish. Grab this bottle while you can. Average price: $137. Rating: 95.
Larceny Barrel Proof A122
Debuted in 2020 as the first line extension for Heaven Hill’s Larceny brand, this cask-strength bourbon is released in three batches throughout the year. Made using the distillery’s wheated mash bill, it’s another Heaven Hill release that’s gained a lot of fans and seen retail prices spike. Rather than competing with the sweet wheated character, the high ABV takes the whiskey’s flavor profile to new heights, boosting its dried fruit, maple, and baking spice notes. Enjoy neat or over a large rock of ice. Average price: $141. Rating: 93.
I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Bourbon Whiskey
After 15 years in barrel, this bourbon has not only taken on a rich oak character but also developed deep complexity from gradually increasing exposure to air. Those characteristics present themselves in the form of concentrated nutty notes, and hints of chocolate and mocha. A heavy dose of dried fruits on the finish makes this a great option for Cognac drinkers. Average price: $154. Rating: 93.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Spring 2022
The most recent iteration of Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald line highlights the brand’s wheated mashbill at 17 years old. Packaged in a striking decanter, the whiskey smells and tastes as impressive as that bottle looks. Floral notes meet clove and baking spice aromas on the nose, while the palate arrives surprisingly spiced and toasted. This continues to be a special release, and one to splurge on should you have the luck of finding a bottle. MSRP: $230. Rating: 96.