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The 22 Best Bourbons to Drink in 2022

Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite brown spirit, including, of course, the best bottles you can actually buy.

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Henry Phillips

Bourbon, the Great American Spirit, is not as simple as one might think. Despite the increasing demand (and price) for much-hyped bottles, bourbon is an every-person drink. At the end of the day, it's a blue-collar spirit, made by thirsty farmers, for thirsty farmers. But underneath its fundamentals swims a deep sea of factors — additional rules and regulations, hype machines and deceptive marketing, false myths and a boom that began in 2008 and is still going strong today — that make bourbon more complex than it seems. Sour mash and bottled-in-bond, non-distiller-producers and high-ryes. Where’s the thirsty modern man, farmer or otherwise, to begin? We asked whiskey personality and author Fred Minnick to uncover which bottles of bourbon lining the shelves are actually worthy of your bar cart. From your daily sipper to the best bottle to bring to a party, here are the best bourbons of 2022.

    What Is Bourbon?

    Bourbon is a type of whiskey that needs to meet a few criteria to officially be called "bourbon." First, bourbon can only be made in America, and its grain bill must include at least 51 percent of corn. Bourbon always has to be aged in new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof (or 62.5 percent alcohol), and it's not allowed to include any additives or colorings. At a minimum, bourbon must be 80 proof (or 40 percent alcohol), with its mash never allowed to exceed 160 proof (or 80 percent alcohol).

    What Is the Best Bourbon?

    We don't believe there is one "best" bourbon, but there are bottles that are best for certain moments. If you're making drinks, we prefer the light and spicy Four Roses bourbon. If you want craft bourbon, we love New Riff's dedication to Bottled-in-Bond whiskey-making and rich flavor profiles. Looking for something on the cheap? Evan William's Black Label is hard to beat for the money. For our money, the best do-it-all bourbon is Knob Creek's 9-year-old Small Batch offering. Here's the rub.

    Bourbon Terms to Know

    Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon that is stored in charred new oak for at least two years. It can be a blend of multiple straight bourbon whiskeys as long as they're all produced in the same state.

    Bottled in Bond: Under the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, a bottled-in-bond spirit must be produced by one distillery in the same distilling season, then aged under federal supervision and cut and bottled at 100 proof.

    Sour Mash: A fermentation technique used by almost all bourbon distillers that employs pre-fermented mash from a previous distilling in a new mash. The sour mash prevents wild yeast from entering the mash and causing infections.

    Proof: The percentage of alcohol, displayed as double that of the alcohol percentage.

    High Rye: A bourbon with a higher than normal percentage of mash bill made up of rye (as opposed to using more corn, wheat, or barley, the other main grains used in bourbon mash). This tends to produce spicier flavors in the bourbon.

    Wheated: A bourbon with a higher than normal percentage of mash bill made up of wheat (the main grain remains corn). This tends to produce a softer, less spicy whiskey.

    Small Batch: A subjective term signaling a bourbon made using a select number of barrels or recipes in a blended bottling.

    Single Barrel: A bourbon made using single barrels, providing a higher range of variation in flavor, and the chance at specific, unique characteristics.

    Non-Distiller Producers (NDP): Companies that purchase their whiskey from someone else rather than making it themselves. This is not a new phenomenon and it plays a large role in blended bourbons.

    The Best Bourbons of 2022

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    Best Overall Bourbon
    Knob Creek Small Batch 9-Year Bourbon
    Mash and Grape
    Best Splurge Bourbon
    Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon
    Best Budget Bourbon
    Evan Williams Black
    Best Cocktail Bourbon
    Four Roses Bourbon
    Best Craft Bourbon
    New Riff Bottled-in-Bond
    New Riff
    Best Underrated Bourbon
    Old Grand Dad 114
    Best New Bourbon
    George Dickel 8 Year Bourbon
    Total Wine
    Best Budget Sipper
    Larceny Small Batch Bourbon
    Best Bourbon to Pair With Food
    Maker's Mark
    Best Kentucky Straight Bourbon
    Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
    Best Bourbon for a Party
    Early Times Bottled-in-Bond
    Best Gateway Bourbon
    Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
    Four Roses
    Best Versatile Bourbon
    Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
    Most Nuanced Bourbon
    Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon
    Best Bourbon to Drink Neat
    Four Roses Single Barrel
    Best Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
    Henry McKenna Single Barrel
    Best Wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
    Wilderness Trail 6-Year Bourbon
    Total Wine
    Best Giftable Bourbon
    Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon
    Best High-End Craft Bourbon
    Stellum Bourbon
    Best Deep-Cut Bourbon
    Old Ezra 7-Year-Old
    Best Blended Bourbon
    Barrell Craft Spirits 15 Year Old Bourbon 2021 Edition
    Best Grail Bourbon
    William Larue Weller Bourbon
    The 21 Best Scotch Whiskies You Can Buy in 2022
    25 best scotch whiskeys gear patrol lead full
    Chandler Bondurant

    Everything you need to know about Scotland’s favorite brown spirit, including important terminology and a cheat sheet to the best bottles across all price points.


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