Spirits & Liqueurs Bourbon

The Best High-Roller Bourbon

(photo illustration: Laura Sant).

You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.

Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.

  • Blanton’s ($70)

    “For true bourbon lovers, this is the first mass-produced single-barrel bourbon—vanilla, caramel, tobacco and toffee notes and a dry, medium finish. Collect all of the Blanton’s horse corks. They spell out “Blanton’s” and depict the horse and jockey in eight different scenes of a horse race.”—Jung Park, founder of Philadelphia's Cocktail Culture Co.

  • Booker’s ($74)

    “It’s ready when it’s ready, and if you don’t like it, go kick rocks. This is one of the whiskeys that aren’t watered down for flavor. Raw, uncut and unfiltered, this bourbon is bad to the bone. You have to add a splash of water to it, though—whatever your desired amount is.”—Park

  • E.H. Taylor Jr. Small Batch ($60)

    “This bourbon will never let you down—a real crowd-pleaser. Coming out of the Buffalo Trace distillery and bottled in bond at 100 proof, it drinks super easy and is loaded with toasted vanilla bean, caramel, creamed corn and a nice oaky spice to back things up. No regrets here.”—Jordan Joseph, bar manager at Raleigh, N.C.'s Centro and Gallo Pelón

  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof ($90)

    “Wow, this is the ‘smelling salts’ of bourbon.”—Adam Fortuna, assistant general manager and sommelier at Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Reserve Wine & Food

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  • Four Roses Elliott's Select ($350)

    “I wish there was more of this to go around. It’s one of the best special releases from Four Roses in recent memory.”—Fortuna

  • George T. Stagg ($750)

    “Why buy Pappy Van Winkle when you can get high-proof, beautiful and flavourful beyond belief.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey

  • Hillrock Solera Aged ($90)

    “The regular is fantastic, and the cabernet finish is like a Manhattan cocktail all unto itself.”—Patrick Marran, bartender at New York City's On the Rocks

  • Hudson Baby ($52)

    “This one is so unique because of its copper-still nuances. There’s a sharp finish on the palate indicative of rye.”—Lucinda Sterling, managing partner and bartender at New York City's Middle Branch

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  • Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select ($170)

    “A whiskey made to honor Old Blue Eyes, this whiskey takes the familiar lovely taste of Jack Daniel’s No. 7 to another level of richness.”—Cari Hah, bar manager at Los Angeles' Big Bar

  • Jefferson’s Ocean ($85)

    “Any of the Voyages you can get your hands on are worth comparing back-to-back with your home bourbon just because of how Jefferson’s is exploring the ways to age and utilize the barrel itself in the whiskey flavor.”—Marran

  • Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve ($52)

    “I'm always surprised by how much I enjoy this whiskey.”—Fortuna

  • Murray Hill Club ($100)

    “It’s a blend of whiskeys from nine to 18 years old. The packaging is gorgeous, and the whiskey inside is delicious with good viscosity—a trait that I look for and love in my bourbon. I've yet to be disappointed with any bottle coming from this distillery.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner of and bartender at Seattle's Canon

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  • Noah's Mill ($55)

    “Drinking this muscular 114-proof bourbon is like your granny's pecan pie rising up to smack your palate into deliriously happy submission. This spicy blend of whiskeys from four to 20 years old marries dried fruits and nuts beautifully, with just a hint of gingerbread and cut grass to remind you of the rye in the mash bill.”—Joaquín Simó, partner at New York City's Pouring Ribbons

  • Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style ($69)

    “High proof, with distinct rich flavors, it can be sipped with a drop or two of water. Or try it in a Manhattan, with a deep sweet vermouth, such as Punt e Mes.”—Mike Strohm, lead bartender at Kansas City, Mo.'s The W

  • Old Forester 2017 Birthday ($450)

    “It’s one of the best expressions of Birthday bourbon—smooth and lots of flavor.”—Jose Medina Camacho, bar manager at Birmingham, Ala.'s Marble Ring

  • Old Weller Antique ($100)

    “It has all the richness of other wheated bourbons but with that extra bit of alcohol.”—Fortuna

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  • Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 15 Year ($1,500)

    “This one is so rarely available, and if it is, its pricey. Notes of caramel and a peppery nose might make this a good fireside chat.”—Sterling

  • Parker’s Heritage Collection ($400)

    “Everything a bourbon should be, it has notes of buttered popcorn, vanilla cream and charred oak, with a gentle smokiness, and finishes with rich red fruit.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Pacific Cocktail Haven

  • Stagg Jr. ($90)

    “The kid brother to the legendarily hard-to-source overproof kingpin of the Antique Collection, this one proves that younger siblings are not to be ignored. Usually clocking in well over 130 proof, this spice bomb is somehow perfectly sippable even neat. Cigar box, cherry pie and vanilla all round out gorgeously integrated oak and varnish notes.”—Simó

  • Vintage Bourbon 17 Year ($950)

    “This bourbon is everything an older bourbon should be—rich, deep, warm and yet not overly oaked.”—Hah

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  • Wild Turkey Decades ($140)

    “Everything is perfect about this bourbon. Nose, flavor, mouthfeel—all of it is exquisite.”—Hah

  • Wild Turkey Rare Breed ($54)

    “This cask-strength bourbon shows a surprisingly elegant side to Wild Turkey. Toasty pecans, orange madeleines, black pepper and tobacco notes display an extraordinary integration of oak and grain in this masterful blend of bourbons aged between six and 12 years.”—Simó

  • Woodford Double Oaked ($57)

    “It’s a scotch drinker's bourbon—a nice and toasty, strong woody kick.”—Marran