Winter is wrapping up, spring is on the horizon, and bourbons are really starting to drop in anticipation of us all getting out of the house again. A lot of new bourbons are starting to hit shelves from brand-new expressions we’ve never seen before to this spring’s batch of classics. It’s a good and fun mix of new stuff and this year’s version of established expressions. But what should you be buying and drinking right now?
That’s where I come in with a handy blind taste test of new bourbon whiskeys.
For this exercise, I’ve collected eight new bourbons (mostly from the last week, month, or the very tail end of 2022) and put them up against each other in a blind taste test. Today’s lineup includes the following bottles:
- Boondocks Eighteen Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey Cask Strength
- Stellum Bourbon Single Barrel Perseus Selected by Topflight Series by ReserveBar
- Barrell Bourbon Cask Strength Batch# 034 A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
- Oak & Eden Anthro Series Wheat & Maple
- Old Elk Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels
- Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series Wheated Bourbon Finished in Islay Scotch Casks Aged 11 Years Cask Strength
- Woodford Reserve Historic Barrel Entry Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Hudson Whiskey NY Four Part Harmony New York Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey Aged a Minimum of Seven Years
Before we dive in, a bit of a spoiler alert. This was a great lineup of bourbon whiskeys. Five of these bottles were f*cking fantastic. I nearly made it a way five-way tie when ranking these bottles, but ended up splitting some serious hairs and making it a three-way tie for the top spot. And even then, there was not a bad note in the whole lineup. These are just good goddamn whiskeys, folks.
Let’s dive in!
- The 100 Best Bourbon Whiskeys Of 2022, Ranked
- Our Head Drinks Critic Reveals The Expensive Bourbons He *Won’t* Pay Above Retail For
- The Affordable Vs Expensive Blind Bourbon Bottle Battle
- The Absolute Best Bourbons Between $20-$30, Ranked
- The Absolute Best Bourbons Between $30-$40, Ranked
Part 1: The Tasting
Nose: Salted toffee dipped in ground winter spice opens the nose toward pecans rolled in maple syrup, dark cherry bark, and a sense of dry spice barks and buds next to this faint flutter of dried mimosa blooms.
Palate: Rich vanilla pods mingle with that salted toffee on the front of the palate as dark chocolate-covered coffee beans lead to a dark and sweet cherry syrup, old oak staves, and a rush of orchard fruit and bark.
Finish: The end is lush and full of soft vanilla and cherry notes that fold into a spiced tobacco leaf and old cedar box.
This is pure silk on the senses. It’s just delicious and a classic yet deep bourbon.
Nose: Candied pecans cooked into crispy, vanilla-forward waffles dance on the nose with a touch of sour cherry tossed in sea salt, a deep winter spice bark medley, and old leather tobacco pouches.
Palate: The taste moseys through salted dark chocolate squares next to maple syrup-dipped Graham Crackers, dried wild sagebrush, and a rush of sharp spearmint with black cherry lush sweetness at the base.
Finish: That black cherry drives the finish toward salted caramel and dried red chili pepper spice next to a whisper of orchard bard, woody spice, and soft and chewy tobacco.
This is pretty much perfect.
Nose: This has a dry apple cider vibe that leans into orange marmalade, dried apricot, and moist almond cake dipped in luxurious eggnog on the nose.
Palate: There’s a woody huckleberry jam vibe on the front of the palate that leads to old-fashioned cinnamon apple fritter, pecan waffles, more orange marmalade, and nutty almond cookies dusted in powdered sugar and nutmeg.
Finish: There’s a hint of dry sweetgrass and dried pear chips with a hint of sasparilla root, sea salt flakes, and this fleeting sense of cold slate on a rainy day balanced by rich yet dry chili spice and dark and burnt orange and espresso beans.
This is f*cking great also. It’s so well-balanced and nuanced with a wonderful journey from nose to finish.
Nose: There’s a rich toffee and vanilla cake on the nose with a hint of maple syrup (the real stuff) and this twinge of singed marshmallow sweetness.
Palate: The palate has a nice nuttiness that leads to a sweet sense of oak with a hint of espresso bean and a whisper of sweetgrass and winter spice.
Finish: The finish leans into the sweetgrass, vanilla, and maple syrup with a sweet yet nice finish.
This was pretty good. It was a little on the sweet side but had a nice earthiness to balance it out.
Nose: This is crafty bourbon turned up to 11 with a sweet porridge nose, raw leather, cold apple cider, and a hint of fresh oak.
Palate: There’s a honey-apple crisp sweetness on the opening of the palate that leads right back into that slurry of sweet porridge — now with a white grits edge — before a nice ABV buzz (not burn) leads to orchard barks, winter spice mixes, and a soft sense of cherry bark.
Finish: The finish holds onto the buzziness as the fruit wood and spice settle into a soft and sweet grit ending.
This was boldly crafty but then really pulled off a nice balance of complex flavor notes by the end.
Nose: Old lawn wicker and worn-out leather tobacco pouches mingle with Christmas plum pudding, rich and most marzipan, and campfire-kissed marshmallow with this faint trace of burnt incense ash.
Palate: There’s a sense of old corn husks that leads to old oak staves, orchards full of dead leaves, sour cherry, marzipan cut with dark orange oils, and this fleeting speck of beef tallow.
Finish: That whisper of umami leads back to the dark orchard fruits, soft nuttiness, and mild medley of botanical winter spices with a chewy fresh tobacco vibe.
This whiskey is phenomenal.
Nose: The nose draws you in with real vanilla pods layers into apple-cinnamon coffee cake, spice-rich eggnog, hazelnut cream, black cherry pie filling, and a flutter of fresh and sharp spearmint dipped in creamy dark chocolate and then hit with a flake of smoked salt.
Palate: The coffee cake leans toward banana bread with walnuts on the palate as huckleberry jam leans into an almost sour creamy espresso with a shot of mint chocolate syrup.
Finish: Burnt orange arrives late to cut through the sweetness and adds some more bitterness as old oak and dry tobacco round things out.
This is delicious too.
Nose: There’s a grainy sense of cornmeal next to sourdough rye bread crusts, cherry cough syrup, and lush vanilla cake frosted with rich cream and dusted with dark chocolate shavings.
Palate: A hint of blackberry pie leads to toffee and oak with a sense of sweet grits dusted with white pepper and dried red chili pepper.
Finish: The cornmeal graininess rides the finish toward spiced tobacco and sweet red fruit with a clear cinnamon base.
This was fine. It was well-rounded and fully realized. It wasn’t a “wow” pour though.
Part 2: The Ranking
6. Hudson Whiskey NY Four Part Harmony New York Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey Aged a Minimum of Seven Years — Taste 8
Average Price: $79
This New York whiskey is a four-grain bourbon. The mix starts with 60% corn and adds 15% rye, 15% wheat, and 10% malted barley. The juice is barreled and left alone for at least seven years before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This was a perfectly fine sip of whiskey. It does feel like it’s built more for cocktails, but that’s not a bad thing. This feels like it’d make a hell of a whiskey sour or old fashioned.
5. Oak & Eden Anthro Series Wheat & Maple — Taste 4
Average Price: $79
This is part of Oak & Eden’s new Bottle Builder program wherein you can choose the mash bill, ABV, and spire that goes into your bottle of whiskey. In this case, this is a wheated bourbon made with 51% corn, 45% wheat, and 4% malted barley. It’s a high-proof version of that batch with a maple syrup-soaked oak stave placed in the bottle for the infusion.
I put this together using the Bottle Builder program and it’s tasty. Again, I think this works way better as a cocktail base. I’d use it for an easy old fashioned.
4. Old Elk Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels — Taste 5
Average Price: $94
This Colorado whiskey is made with a base of 51% corn, 34% malted barley, and 15% rye. That whiskey rests for five years before it’s batched and re-barrelled into 59-gallon port casks from Portugal. After 10 months to a year, those barrels are batched and bottled as-is.
This is a really nice pour of whiskey. It balances the bourbon vibes nicely with the mustier aspects of the port. Overall, this is a winner but was simply outshined by a run of killers on this panel.
3. Boondocks Eighteen Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey Cask Strength — Taste 1
Average Price: $279
This limited edition release is all about who’s making the whiskey. Legendary Master Distiller David Scheurich is behind this blend. For those not in the know, he came up the ranks working at Seagram (now MGP), Wild Turkey, and Brown-Forman before starting his own shingle. Scheurich selected very rare barrels that were at least 18 years old for this release and ended up with a mere 1,620 bottles.
This is great classic bourbon. There really aren’t any flaws here. The only reason it’s third is that it was just classic. But that’s splitting some serious hairs with whiskey this good.
2. Woodford Reserve Historic Barrel Entry Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 7
Average Price: $129
This 2022 Master’s Collection (that was just released) experiments with entry proof. Master Distillers Chris Morris and Elizabeth McCall loaded this whiskey into barrels at a low 100-proof and let it do its thing (125 proof is the industry standard though that varies wildly these days). Once the whiskey in those barrels hit the best flavor profile, it was bottled completely as-is.
This was delicious. It’s so good. But if I’m splitting hairs, the tasting experience was a little front-loaded toward the nose. But that’s me looking for something, anything to rank these top five.
1. (tie) Stellum Bourbon Single Barrel Perseus Selected by Topflight Series by ReserveBar — Taste 2
Average Price: $52
Perseus is the latest in the astronomical lineup from Stellum Bourbon. This whiskey starts off with a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. That hot juice then rests for at least four to six years before single barrels are picked for bottling. In this case, ReserveBar snagged this barrel for their Top Flight program as a special barrel pick.
This is great whiskey. Great.
1. (tie) Barrell Bourbon Cask Strength Batch# 034 A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys — Taste 3
Average Price: $84
The latest Batch from Barrell Bourbon is a blend of bourbons from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. The barrels in the mix are between six and 15 years old. Those barrels are masterfully blended and bottled 100% as-is.
Delicious, deep, and thrilling. This whiskey has it all and it’s so damn tasty.
1. (tie) Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series Volume IV Wheated Bourbon Finished in Islay Scotch Casks Aged 11 Years Cask Strength — Taste 6
Average Price: $499
This late 2022 release from Heaven’s Door carries on the tradition of the Bootleg Series being stellar. The whiskey in the bottle is a wheated bourbon that spent 11 years mellowing before being re-casked in old Islay Scotch whisky casks. After a final rest, those barrels were batched and bottled as-is.
This was fantastic from top to bottom. It was bourbon plus. “Plus what” you ask? Everything you could ever want in a complex, enticing, and delicious whiskey — nuance, balance, and enough flavor notes to draw you in without seeming muddy or overwhelming.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Get any of the top five whiskeys on this list. They’re all fantastic and some of the best overall whiskeys I’ve tasted all year (and I’ve already tasted well over 200 whiskeys this year). I’m not joking, smash those price links and get them. They’re not going to be around much longer.