Bourbon is America’s native spirit, and it’s having a moment. The category is bursting with new expressions and new distilleries—there were less than 300 operating in 2009, but today there are more than 1,000. So what exactly makes a bourbon “sipping bourbon”? Well, that’s open to debate, but in general, these bourbons offer a balance of rich vanilla sweetness and spice that make them enjoyable neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.
The best sipping bourbons are aged from six to eight years and have a pleasant, smooth finish. A good bourbon will be affordable enough to keep in the cabinet for regular use but potent enough that you only need a small amount per drink. Whether you enjoy bourbon neat (without ice or water) or prefer it on the rocks, there is a bourbon out there that’s perfect for you.
If you are ready to sip on the best bourbon whiskey, we have reviewed some of the best bourbons available on the market.
Bourbon is one of America’s most storied spirits. It was born in the 18th century when farmers and frontiersmen turned their surplus corn into whiskey to make it easier to transport. The name “bourbon” was first used in Kentucky, where the majority of this distinct spirit was produced. Today, it is most commonly associated with Kentucky but can be made anywhere in the U.S., as long as more than half of its content comes from corn mash and is distilled at less than 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof).
Sipping is a term used to describe enjoying a spirit neat. Sipping bourbon can be done in a few different ways, but most tasters prefer to drink neat or on the rocks.
How it’s made
Bourbon is a type of whiskey made from corn and produced primarily in Kentucky. It is aged in oak barrels, and when it has aged for at least two years, it can be called straight bourbon whiskey.
The production process of bourbon includes a sweet mash, which is different from the sour mash used for other whiskeys. The sweet mash is created with no leftovers from the previous batch, making it pure and clean, which results in a sweeter flavor profile.
What makes this better than other bourbons? Angel’s Envy is aged longer and finished in port barrels, resulting in a unique flavor experience that only gets better with time. It is made from a blend of corn and rye and then aged between 4 and 6 years. During this time, nearly 10% evaporates each year, which the company refers to as the ‘Angel’s Share’. What remains is bottled up and called Angel's Envy. After it’s made, the whiskey is transferred to 60-gallon port barrels for another six months before bottling, giving this bourbon more flavor intensity than others.
The taste is smokey, the aroma is sweet and enticing, with hints of vanilla and citrus. After you sip it, you’ll notice notes of peppercorn, brown sugar, mint, and cherry. It has a smooth mouthfeel, so the flavors are not discernible right away, but they eventually come out. The finish is silky-smooth, with hints of oak and mint lingering after you swallow.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon is an excellent sipping Bourbon. Whether you’re experienced or a novice to the world of fine spirits, this whiskey will impress you with its distinct flavor profile and smoothness.
It is crafted by Master Distiller Brent Elliott, who selected six of Four Roses’ unique Bourbon recipes aged for at least 6 years and then blended them to create this remarkable small-batch bourbon.
Four Roses Small Batch has a robust amber appearance, with a nose of rich fruits, winter spices (cloves and cinnamon), caramel, and honey, with hints of flowers and oak. The bourbon is creamy on the palate, with sweet flavors of berries, honey, caramel, and spicy rye, oak, and peppercorn. The finish is lengthy, with beautiful creaminess persisting on the tongue to accompany notes of caramel and spice.
Meet Henry McKenna, a 10-year-old bourbon named "Best in Show" at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This big bourbon offers a smooth, sumptuous, butterscotch-like flavor profile and an appreciable bite. Smooth and buttery with a nice finish - this is extra-aged to be the only bottled-in-bond single barrel bourbon out there.
With its robust and layered taste worth savoring, this 10 Year Old Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel Bourbon is the perfect gift for a serious bourbon drinker or collector.
With a legacy of over 60 years, Maker's Mark continues to handcraft every bottle using only the purest ingredients. Only the most refined red winter wheat is added in the traditional rye grain for a softer and sweeter taste than any other bourbon whiskey. This unique process makes Maker’s Mark one of the most versatile bourbons for mixing.
This best-selling 92 proof bourbon from Kentucky is a well-balanced, full-flavored, and incredibly smooth whiskey. It's a rare example of having the best of both worlds—the high proof gives the Maker's Mark plenty of spice and character, but the exceptionally soft finish removes any harshness. The result is one of the sweetest, most drinkable bourbons out there.
For Widow Jane 10-Year Bourbon, water means everything. The mineral-rich water is sourced from the legendary limestone caves in Rosendale, New York, and supercharges every sip with a bottomless flavor. A nose of nutmeg and cream leads to a palate that flirts with maple syrup and orange on the finish.
It’s hard to imagine a more New York Spirit than Widow Jane. An award-winning icon from Brooklyn, this bourbon is distilled from corn sourced from upstate New York and aged in small batches for up to 10 years – so every bottle is unique. Aged for 10 years and bottled at 44.1% ABV, it’s an intense, robust, and authentic example of the Big Apple spirit, boasting deep cherry and cola notes rooted in the individual character of the single barrels he uses. As iconic as the city it’s named after, this is one drink that means business – but always invites another round.
Bob Dylan and Marc Bushala, who discovered the perfect union between fine whiskey and art, collaborated to bring you this award-winning series of ultra-premium American whiskeys. This distinctive bourbon is a unique blend of 30% small grains with the classic Tennessee milled corn for a layered and rewarding experience encapsulated in the beautifully illustrated bottle.
At the heart of each bottle is a unique blend of distilled spirits that create a bold-flavored spirit with layers of spice, fruit, and bourbon character. The 90-proof Tennessee bourbon proves the most memorable thanks to a big, round mouthfeel boasting intense butterscotch, cherry, cinnamon, and honey notes. Its eight years spent in American oak barrels result in plenty of spice character coupled with a smooth, lasting taste.
Noah’s Mill is one of the Kentucky-operated Willett Distillery’s finest offerings. Though most are familiar with the Willett Distillery's young and high-proof releases, such as Rowan's Creek and Kentucky Vintage, there are also quite a few aged Willetts out there, including Noah's Mill. This expression is aged an average of eight years and bottled at approximately 115 proof.
Expect rich notes of toffee, prune, cinnamon, and crushed nuts, as well as some beautiful dark fruit character, all leading up to a bold, oaky and warm caramel finish.
Full of flavor but not overpowering, this is an excellent whiskey for beginners and veterans alike.
Creators Jimmy and Eddie Russell have been making this high-proof bourbon their whole lives; it’s in their genes. They use a precise recipe of distinctive bourbons, aged in the warehouse they built themselves. The oak barrels are charred to level number four, or “alligator char,” and the liquor matured inside is bottled at a strong 110 proof.
This mellow, sweet bourbon begins with a nose of caramel that gives way to lush hints of vanilla, crème brulée, and citrus. The bourbon has an exceptionally smooth finish and is a superior artisanal bourbon that is approachable and complex.
It’s also an extraordinarily smooth Bourbon which belies its high ABV—don’t be fooled by the strength of this one; you might find yourself going back for another sip when you don't want to.
This signature expression from Heaven Hill has been hailed as one of the tastiest bourbons in the market, with a distinctive flavor of spice & smoke. Named after a Baptist preacher, Elijah Craig became an early player in the craft whiskey movement and is now a favorite of Bourbon connoisseurs and casual whiskey fans.
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a premium Bourbon whiskey with an exceptionally smooth finish. It's slow-aged in new, charred oak barrels, where it develops its distinctive warm spice and subtle smoke flavor. The result is a small-batch Bourbon well worth the wait.
The high-rye bourbon is a burnished copper color. On the nose, it's delightfully complex with notes of vanilla bean and sweet fruit. The palate is smooth and warm, with spice, smoke, and nutmeg accents. Its long finish is sweet and slightly toasty, making it the perfect whiskey for sipping.
Michter's US1 Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a small batch of bourbon whiskey created at the start of the American whiskey revolution by a family-owned distillery near Louisville, Kentucky, in America's heartland.
The extraordinary depth and complexity of flavor in Michter's US1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey comes from a mash composed primarily of ripe, American corn. Once these grains have been harvested, they are milled and mashed before fermenting and then distilled through a copper pot. Following distillation, each batch is aged several years to ensure that the flavors and aromas will be as accurate as possible.
Their unique finishing process leads to an exceptionally well-balanced Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey with rich aromas of apricots, nutty dough, and cracked pepper, along with notes of sweet corn and vanilla on the palate. The finish is well-balanced and ends with notes of raisins and plums.
Michter’s US1 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a smooth and easy-drinking whiskey with plenty of flavors to back it up. It’s bottled at 91.4 proof, so you get a mixture of sweet and spicy flavors balanced by rich notes of vanilla and oak. Try it neat or on the rocks—it’s a bourbon meant to be enjoyed slowly and savored.
Knob Creek is a long-time favorite of bourbon connoisseurs and mixologists alike. Its 12-year-old, 100 proof bourbon has a smooth flavor worth savoring, especially on special occasions.
Its name comes from the creek that flowed nearby the distillery once upon a time. Knob Creek is made of the most refined grains and rests in charred, white oak barrels with maximum char to produce an exceptional flavor and full-flavor bourbon whiskey. At 100 proof, Knob Creek wasn’t watered down—and still isn’t today.
An aroma of oak and sweet vanilla hit your nose right away, with hints of caramel and spice. The palate is soft and supple, offering oak, vanilla, and spice flavors. A long finish reveals chocolate and spice notes that slowly dissipate into a long, warm finish, leaving you eager for another taste. Knob Creek is one brand you won’t want to do without, from its distinctive bottle to its powerful yet elegant taste.