Though Blanton’s, the world’s first single-barrel bourbon brand, was created specifically for the Japanese market in the early ’80s, it would ultimately impact the American industry in a profound way.
Along with the “small-batch” releases that emerged at a similar time, the then-innovative practice of bottling bourbon pulled from a single barrel helped the category develop a premium reputation, and aided distillers in clawing back a large chunk of the spending drinkers had diverted toward vodka, gin, and Scotch.
These days, single barrel releases are a common fixture at liquor stores, with many of the major distilleries offering at least one regular expression. It’s a sign both of the progress the bourbon industry has made in those intervening decades, and the fervor with which whiskey drinkers have taken to the style.
In fact, such is the appetite for single-barrel releases that many distilleries offer barrel-pick programs. Through these experiences, individuals, retailers, and bars and restaurants can play the role of master distiller or blender, and purchase an entire barrel that they’ve hand selected, resulting in their own, one-of-a-kind single-barrel bottling.
For the purposes of this roundup, VinePair limited inclusion to permanent lines offered by brands (rather than also considering barrel picks). Given that the very purpose of a single-barrel release is that each expression will be unique in its personality, consider that some of the descriptors won’t be true for every bottle from the listed expression. But rest assured that if it’s on this list, we’re confident of the line’s quality and consistency overall.
Here are the 12 best single-barrel bourbons for 2022.
Evan Williams Single Barrel (2014 Vintage)
Few bottles offer the same bang for buck as the annual Evan Williams single-barrel vintage release. Typically aged for the best part of a decade, this expression is consistently approachable and balanced, with the most recent 2014 vintage offering an enjoyable mix of winter baking spices, sweet vanilla, and subtle hints of toasted oak. Bottled at 43.3 percent ABV, it leaves a light impression on the palate that lends it to weekday sipping.
Average price: $30
Four Roses Single Barrel
Made using a high-rye mash bill and bottled between 7 and 9 years old, this tends to be an expressive single-barrel release. The bottling tasted for this roundup (Warehouse GE / Barrel 39-1 R) delivers fruity, cake batter sweetness on the nose mixed with savory rye spice and vanilla. The palate dials each of those components up a notch or two then finishes with a velvety, saccharine kiss.
Average price: $48
1792 Single Barrel Bourbon
Produced at the Sazerac-owned Barton 1792 Distillery, this release showcases the decadent side of bourbon. Peanut and caramelized banana aromas open the nose, followed by warm, toasted oak. The palate has great concentration of flavor and serves a cleansing tart sweetness on its lengthy finish.
Average price: $49
Redemption High Rye Bourbon Single Barrel Select
This sourced, high-rye bottling is made using a 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and 4 percent barley mash bill. Bottled without chill-filtration, at a pleasant 105 proof, it dances between sweet and savory notes. Crème brûlée and fudge meet oak on the nose, while caraway and rye spice lead the charge on the palate.
Average price: $49
New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon (Spring 2016)
New Riff’s Single Barrel line is made with a high-rye mash bill (30 percent), with each expression bottled at cask strength and aged for a minimum of four years. In the case of the Spring 2016 release (cask 16-10276 tasted for this roundup) that alcohol content lands at a relatively pedestrian 53.05 percent ABV. Seamlessly incorporated throughout, the whiskey is awash with notes of potpourri, attractive oak, and dried berries. This producer’s reputation continues to go from strength to strength among bourbon drinkers, and with good reason.
Average price: $57
Milam & Greene Whiskey Single Barrel Bourbon
Based in Texas, Milam & Greene is an independently owned whiskey company that offers both proprietary distilled and sourced releases. The latter is true of its single-barrel line, with Tennessee being the origin of the Cask No. 195 bottling tasted for this review. Fruit notes that almost approach the vibrancy of bubblegum mix with maple sweetness on the nose. The palate exudes ripe banana, with an overall palate that tastes “craft” and brims with personality.
Average price: $57
Stellum Single Barrel ‘Lyra’
Part of Stellum Spirits’ sourced single-barrel line, the Lyra selections were made in the spring and summer of 2021 and contain a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and 4 percent barley. Bottled a horse’s hair shy of 60 percent ABV, this bourbon is a big hitter. Expect burnt sugar and maple syrup on the nose, followed by an intense and oaky palate. A few drops of water go a long way to taming this one but by no means are they necessary.
Average price: $58
Baker’s 7 Year Old Single Barrel Bourbon
Though it debuted as part of Booker Noe’s “Small Batch Collection” within the Jim Beam family, Baker’s relaunched in 2019 as a 7-year-old, single-barrel bourbon. A short time in glass sees the nose open up gracefully, with rye spice, dried petal, and dried fruit aromas leading the charge. Exciting spice then ignites the palate. And when those stormy waters finally start to settle, a sweet nutty note lingers on the finish, which seems to go on, and on, and on.
Average price: $60
George Dickel Single Barrel Aged 15 Years
Sure, this bottle is technically labeled as a single-barrel Tennessee whisky, but its production adheres to all of the bottling and labeling standards for bourbon. Age-wise, we’re talking maximum bang for buck here, while the profile will bowl over anyone with a sweet tooth. Prepare for waffles, ice cream, and toffee on the nose; savory sweetness on the palate; and a luxurious, weighty mouthfeel.
Average price: $66
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Years
Among the most beloved expressions in Heaven Hill’s expansive portfolio, this 10-year-old, 100-proof single-barrel release is expressive and easy to enjoy. Stone fruit, pecans, and toffee make up the nose, while the palate chips in spice and toasted oak. A nice balance between alcohol and flavor concentration leads to lively, long-lasting sips. We’d still buy it at the listed average price, but if you can find it priced closer to its MSRP ($50), you’re getting an even better deal.
Average price: $85
Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon Single Barrel Bottled
Barrel Craft Spirits gains much (well-earned) praise and recognition for its prowess as a blender of sourced whiskeys. We’re jumping into a different lane here with this single-barrel release (barrel Z3H5) but the results are equally as impressive. Distilled in Kentucky, this whiskey offers enticing notes of complex oak on the nose, while the 59 percent ABV heat blows off in an instant. Warming baking spices kick off the palate, followed by sweet, toasty oak and bright fruit.
Average price: $115
Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel
Released in limited quantities every fall, Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old seems to defy the laws of physics: While there are obvious signs of oak and maturation, this bourbon maintains the elegance and freshness of bottles half its age, with no hint whatsoever of the liquid starting to feel tired. But via its lengthy period in cask, this whiskey gains extra layers of aromas and flavors, which come together as one elegant, harmonious entity. A light hint of tannins adds textural complexity but the overall profile is spritely.
Average price: $344 (MSRP: $150)