There’s no wrong way to drink bourbon. Perfect in a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned or over one big rock, its sweet, oaky, vanilla flavors are always welcome. But our favorite way to enjoy America’s golden spirit is straight—just poured into a glass. There’s no fuss over preparing a cocktail, no bartending skills required and nothing standing between you and bourbon’s delicious flavors. All you need is a rocks glass and a good bottle of whiskey —but which one?
With hundreds of bourbons on the market it is important to remember that not all whiskeys are created equal and price often does not reflect quality. After drinking our way through our local liquor store’s bourbon shelves we chose the five best bourbons to drink neat.
Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and his son, associate distiller Eddie Russell, make this small batch bourbon—think of it as Wild Turkey’s more distinguished brother, the Niles to Wild Turkey’s Fraiser. This super quaffable spirit has notes of white pepper, maple taffy and melted butter.
A blend of whiskeys aged from eight to 12 years in charred oak barrels, this bourbon is rich and full-bodied with flavors of roasted pecans, brown sugar, malted grains, sweet corn and dried fruit. Perfect for sipping after coming in from the cold.
Aged in charred white oak for a minimum of eight years, this ultra-affordable, blended whiskey is the perfect, everyday drinking bourbon. With aromatics of sweet corn, over-ripe apricots and burnt toast, the whiskey also has hints of sour mash lingering on the nose from the initial fermentation. On the palate, flavors of new oak blossom into a layered whiskey rich with baking spices, toffee and vanilla.
Made in Sheffield, Massachusetts, this craft bourbon is bottled at 86-proof and uses locally grown corn in its mash bill. Light and honeyed with notes of fall fruits like apples and pears, this whiskey has an unusually high amount of spiciness that sets it apart from others.
As an experiment, founder Trey Zoeller stowed a few barrels of his bourbon on a ship to see what would happen to the liquor inside after a few months at sea. The result was pure boozy magic. Now, Zoeller regulars sends barrels out on months-long oceanic journeys. While it seems like a marketing gimmick we assure you it’s not. The distillery believes that constant movement causes the whiskey to mature at a more rapid rate: As the whiskey sloshes around in the barrel, more of the liquid comes in contact with the oak than if the barrel was simply sitting in a store house. This gives the whiskey a dark, bronzed color and terrific flavor. With flavors of orange peel and cherry wood, it has just a touch of brine—a souvenir from its travels.