It’s April, which means May is right around the corner, which also means you are already running out of time to get the perfect bottle of whiskey ready to celebrate the Kentucky Derby. When it comes to annual Run for the Roses, there is no better way to enjoy than while wearing a goofy hat or bowtie. Oh, and a tall glass of Kentucky Whiskey, of course.
And not just any Kentucky Whiskeys will do, as only the best of the best from the Bluegrass State have made it on our list of the Top 10 Best Kentucky Whiskeys. Well aged bottles, rare finds, and highly allocated releases are all on the table
If you plan on hosting a Kentucky Derby party, or celebrating any occasion really, and need a bottle of whiskey to flex on all your guests, look no further than today’s list.
We’ll kick off the list with a lesser-known but growing brand’s top-shelf offering: Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon.
A small-batch bourbon produced by Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky, it is an annual release that typically showcases a unique blend of aged bourbons, hand-selected by the distiller to create a distinctive and complex flavor profile.
The Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon is aged for a minimum of 9 years and is bottled at cask strength, which varies between releases, but typically ranges between 101 and 105 proof. Each year’s release is limited to a few thousand bottles, making it highly collectible among whiskey enthusiasts.
9. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
Who doesn’t love whiskey on their birthday? Brown-Forman founder George Garvin Brown did so much, he gets his own special release from Old Forester every year to celebrate.
Because of its limited availability and high demand, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon can be difficult to find, and often commands a premium price on the secondary market. It is highly regarded among whiskey connoisseurs and has won numerous awards and accolades, including “American Whiskey of the Year” from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
Take the already well loved Angel’s Envy Port-finished bourbon, and and turn it up to 100 with the limited Cask Strength release. The cask strength version is aged for up to 7 years in the same port wine barrels, but is bottled at a higher proof, typically around 60-63% ABV.
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength is full-bodied and intense, with a complex flavor profile that includes notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and tobacco, as well as a spicy kick of black pepper and clove. The finish is long and warming, with a pleasant sweetness that lingers on the tongue.
No list of Kentucky Whiskey would be complete without a little Pappy. Produced today at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, the highest rated Van Winkle bourbon currently in the Abov App is the Family Reserve 15 Year Old.
Although there are some older expressions, the consensus seems to be that 15 years is the sweet spot for Van Winkle whiskey, achieving the perfect blend of sweetness and oakiness.
Little Book is a limited-edition blended American Whiskey that is made by Jim Beam. It is a blend of different experimental bourbons, ryes, and malt whiskeys that are aged in different types of barrels. The whiskey has a unique, flavorful profile that is different from any other whiskey on the market.
Currently on it’s 6th release (Chapter 6 To the Finish), this is one of the more unique products coming out of Kentucky.
According to Abov user reviews, while the entire range is well received, “Chapter 5 the Invitation” is the highest rated and favorite of the bunch.
Also from Buffalo Trace, and specifically from the Antique Collection (BTAC) annual line up, is George T. Stagg Barrel Proof Bourbon.
It is named after George T. Stagg, the former president of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Another barrel-strength bourbon that is bottled at 135 to 150 proof, it has a bold, flavorful profile, which is characterized by notes of dark fruit, oak, and spice.
The number four Kentucky whiskey on our list ironically comes from Tennessee. Orphan Barrel is a Tullahoma, Tennessee based independent bottler, known for scooping up rare and forgotten barrels from distilleries across the globe.
The Rhetoric bottling is actually from Buffalo Trace (hence why its on the list). It is a blend of 25 year old bourbons that have been aged in charred oak barrels. The bourbon has a complex, full-flavored profile with notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice.
3. Booker's Bourbon
Next on our list of the Top 10 Kentucky Whiskeys is Booker’s Bourbon. Booker’s is a high-proof bourbon that is made by Jim Beam. It is named after Booker Noe, the former master distiller of Jim Beam.
Booker’s is a barrel-strength bourbon that is bottled at 125 to 130 proof. It has a bold, flavorful profile with notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice. Booker’s is a great bourbon for those who enjoy high-proof spirits.
Elijah Craig Small Batch Barrel Proof is a high-proof bourbon that is bottled at cask strength. Generally released 3 times a year, this is always a sought after Kentucky whiskey drop.
It is made with a blend of 6 to 8 year old bourbons that have been aged in charred oak barrels. The bourbon has a rich, full-bodied flavor with notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice. It is a complex and flavorful bourbon that is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks.
We’ll close today’s list of with a heavy hitter from the legendary Heaven Hill distillery. A one time release of nearly three decade old bourbon, this Heaven Hill 27 Year Old is a well-aged and highly regarded bourbon.
Heaven Hill 27 Year Old is a barrel proof bourbon that is bottled at 94.7 proof. It is made from a blend of 41 barrels that were produced in 1989 and 1990 at the Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery before it was destroyed by a fire in 1996. As such, it is referred to as “pre-fire” Heaven Hill bourbon.
These days, great whiskey is distilled all over the United States, however there is something both special and nostalgic about whiskey from Kentucky. Although American Rye may be older, Kentucky Whiskey is still King.
Which Kentucky Whiskeys from our list have you had the chance to try or buy? Let us know in the comments, and also be sure to download and update your Abov App for even more whiskey recommendations and reviews.