These are not intended to be exhaustive lists of all whiskeys made, now or otherwise.  They are my personal preferences for whiskey I own or have tried extensively.  Where they have been reviewed for ModernThirst.com, I have added links.

The Official “Modern Thirst Bourbon Lists

Top 10 Bourbons Overall:

This category is pretty straightforward.  I’ve tasted a lot of bourbons over the years, and though I may not own bottles of all of them today, or haven’t had them recently enough to write a full review, these are the 10 bourbons that stand out in my mind as bottles I’d give my left foot to have again (or have more of):

  1. George T Stagg (2009)GTSTAGG_FEATured
  2. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 125th Anniversary (2013)
  3. William Larue Weller (2013)
  4. Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year (2004 bottling)
  5. Willett Family Estate 10 year (Store Selection)
  6. 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel
  7. Parker’s Heritage 7th edition, Promise of HopeWmLWeller 2013 Bottle
  8. Pappy Van Winkle 15 year (2004 bottling)
  9. Evan Williams Barrel Proof (Gift Shop Only)
  10. Four Roses Private Selection OESF (Store Selection)

Top Barrel Strength Whiskeys:

Ahh….now we’re getting into some fun territory.  My personal favorites: the bourbons they suck from the barrel and pour straight into bottles with no water added.  These are somewhat available, at least at times:

  1. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (especially 125th Anniversary 2013)Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 2015
  2. George T. Stagg (2009 especially)
  3. William Larue Weller 2013
  4. Parker’s Heritage Collection 8th Edition Wheat Whiskey (2014)
  5. Stagg Jr.
  6. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
  7. Colonel E. H. Taylor Barrel Proof
  8. Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selections “E” recipes
  9. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
  10. Bookers

Top 5 “Available Today” Bourbons:

It’s all fine and dandy to list all these bourbons few people will ever find or get the opportunity to purchase.  So what about the casual shopper and drinker?  This list contains bourbons that typically can be picked up in a well-stocked bourbon section of a big box liquor store.  So if I was out of town and away from my own bourbon collection, this is a list of what I might look for in a liquor store to get me through a week of vacation:

  1. Blanton’s
    "N" stopper Property of Modern Thirst, LLC

    “N” stopper

  2. Elijah Craig
  3. Knob Creek Single Barrel
  4. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
  5. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage
  6. Four Roses Single Barrel

Best 5 Bourbon Values (great drinks under $35 a bottle):

This is fairly self-explanatory, but this if for those who don’t want to sell a kidney to purchase a bottle of bourbon.

  1. Elijah CraigFour Roses Single Barrel 1
  2. Knob Creek Single Barrel
  3. Four Roses Single Barrel
  4. Old Weller Antique

Top “Wheated” Bourbons:

With the recent “Pappy” craze, I’d be remiss to not mention my favorite “wheaters.”  These bourbons, like Pappy, use wheat as the secondary mash grains in their mash bills.

  1. William LaRue Weller (2013)Pappy 12 15 20
  2. Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year (Stitzel-Weller era)
  3. Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18 Year
  4. Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year (S-W Era)
  5. Rip Van Winkle 12 Year Lot B
  6. Weller 12 Year
  7. Old Fitzgerald 12 Year
  8. Makers Mark Cask Strength
  9. Larceny
  10. Old Weller Antique

Top “semi-accessible” Wheated Bourbons:

Furthering the thought from above, the Pappy craze has also led to a huge shortage in good wheated bourbons.  These are bourbons that can at least occasionally be found on many bourbon shelves in major liquor stores:

  1. W.L. Weller 12 Year (seasonal, can be difficult to locate)Weller 12 and old Fitz 12
  2. Old Fitzgerald 12 year (seasonal, can be mildly difficult to locate)
  3. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
  4. Old Weller Antique
  5. Larceny
  6. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond
  7. Maker’s 46
  8. W.L. Weller Special Reserve
  9. Maker’s Mark

Top “Bottled-in-Bond” Bourbons:

To some, the idea of “bottled-in-bond” strikes a chord.  For me, I just like the idea of 100 proof.  Regardless, there’s a definite market for BiB bourbons, and here’s my list (It’s a short list…there aren’t a ton of BiB Bourbons these days, but I’ll add to it as I taste more):

  1. Colonel E. H. Taylor Small BatchEH Taylor Small Batch 4
  2. Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 year
  3. Colonel E. H. Taylor Single Barrel
  4. Old Forester 1897 Bottled-in-Bond
  5. Evan Williams White Label (TIE)
  6. Heaven Hill 6 Year (TIE)
  7. Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond
  8. Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond
  9. Kentucky Tavern Bottled-in-Bond
  10. Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond

Top Rye/Other Whiskeys:

  1. 2014 Parker’s Heritage Collection Wheat Whiskey2014 parkers heritage 4
  2. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye (Any Year)
  3. Michter’s 23 Year Rye
  4. Michter’s 10 Year Rye
  5. Cask Strength Smooth Ambler Rye (any)
  6. High West A Midwinter’s Night Dram
  7. Sazerac 18 year (any year)
  8. Thomas H. Handy (Any year)
  9. Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond
  10. Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

Top “Ultra Aged (20+ years) Bourbons

This is a new category for this update.  There have been quite a few new ultra-aged bourbons reach the market of late, most offered by Diageo.  But Ultra-aged bourbons are a tricky subject, as most bourbon tends to peak no longer than 12-15 years in the barrel.  But there are a few with some nice notes to them, and I’ll list them here.

  1. Pappy van Winkle 20 Year Family ReserveStitzel-Weller Lost Prophet 1
  2. Lost Prophet
  3. Blade & Bow 22 Year
  4. Elijah Craig 23 year
  5. Michter’s 20 Year
  6. Rhetoric 20 Year
  7. Elijah Craig 21 Year
  8. Evan Williams 23 Year (Gift Shop Only)
  9. Barterhouse

Feel free to add comments with your own lists or your thoughts on mine!

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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com, and the President and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.

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