The Best Bourbons Of 2023

Toast the end of 2023 with the finest bourbons of the year.

(Left: Wild Turkey, Middle: Buffalo Trace, Right: High N’ Wicked)

Today we present the final chapter of our fifth annual guide to the Best in New American Whiskey. We’ve already covered 2023’s best American whiskeys across four categories—rye, American single malts, double barrel expressions and innovation—crowning a quartet of best-in-category bottles along the way. Next up, the granddaddy of all American spirits: bourbon. Unquestionably the foundation of American whiskey, there are limitless options for the discerning bourbon aficionado. Here are 13 of the year’s best bottles. 

Best Bourbon Of 2023: Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare 25

(Buffalo Trace)

Every year we are lucky enough to receive samplers of the latest Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, when whiskey nerds assemble like slightly post-prime Avengers to test the wares. Eagerly we sit around a wooden table and analyze the viscosity and hue of each bottle, holding it up to the light like a forensics team working through the rubble of a bombed-out building. We scribble tasting notes as we pass Glencairns in a clockwise fashion, dutifully sniffing glasses from three different angles to ensure we’re assessing the full spectrum of olfactory cues. Every year the mission is the same: to select this year’s best Antique Collection expression.

This year—for perhaps the first time—the best bourbon coming from Buffalo Trace is not coming from the BTAC. That honor goes to the exquisite Eagle Rare 25—one of the finest whiskeys we’ve ever had the honor of tasting, which we did during our visit to the legendary Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky earlier this fall. We won’t bother with tasting notes on this one, just find a dram however you can and pay the most-likely stratospheric fee. When humanity destroys itself and aliens create a Earthling Human Museum in their home planet they will display a Porsche 911 to represent automobiles, Ray-Ban Aviators for sunglasses, and Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare 25 to epitomize the apex of American bourbon. $10,000-plus.

Wild Turkey Generations Bourbon

(Wild Turkey)

When it comes to the art of American whiskey no family holds more prestige than the Russell clan, who have been leading the Wild Turkey distillery since Jimmy first walked through the door in 1954. Very soon it will eclipse 70 years of Russell hegemony at the beloved Lawrenceburg, Kentucky distillery, so fittingly Wild Turkey are celebrating the momentous occasion with Generations—an apt name for the first time Jimmy, his son Eddie and grandson Bruce have all collaborated on a single bottle.

Jimmy, the longest-tenured active master distiller in the country, selected a barrel that best represented the Wild Turkey profile he’s been pioneering for over half a century, which happened to be a nine-year-old bourbon. Eddie, who prefers “softer honeyed, vanilla-laden” bourbons, hand-picked a 15-year-old barrel. The youngest Russell, who prefers bolder juice, selected a 12-year-old. Lastly Bruce and Eddie together chose a fourth juice, a 14-year-old. Then Bruce, the newly appointed Wild Turkey Associate Blender, harmoniously married the four whiskeys to his perfection.

This is a home run bourbon, rich with Wild Turkey’s famed vanilla, butterscotch and caramel notes, later developing into some cayenne spice. The resulting whiskey fittingly features the signatures of each Russell on the bottle—the first Wild Turkey to ever bare all three. Bottled at cask strength (60.4% ABV), only 5,000 bottles of Wild Turkey Generations were released with a $450 SRP.  

Booker’s Batch 2023-02 ‘Apprentice Batch’

(Booker’s Batch)

Every year Booker’s drops some lovely bourbon, and this year is no different. Their second bottle of this year, Booker’s Batch 2023-02, “Apprentice Batch,” takes the prize for 2023. The expression is named after Carl Beam, Booker Noe’s cousin who taught him the way of the whiskey maker after he joined the distillery in 1952. He’s like Yoda to Booker’s Luke Skywalker, if you will.

As with all Booker’s offerings, “Apprentice Batch” is the child of seventh-generation Master Distiller Fred Noe who selected all the barrels, masterminded the blending and oversaw the finished product—following a 200-year-old family tradition, always bottled uncut (this time a potent 62.75% ABV) and unfiltered. Aged for precisely seven years, one month and two days, Booker’s 2023-02 “Apprentice Batch” exemplifies Booker’s signature vanilla notes, adding touches of cinnamon, clove and toasted peanuts to the bourbon. $100.

High N’ Wicked ‘Cask Strength’ Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

(High N’ Wicked)

This year High N’ Wicked dropped the first in their line of bourbons crafted under their own specs—unique recipes distilled specifically for High N’ Wicked following their guidelines on maturation, proof, finishing, processing, blends etc. While they previously released a rye made under the watchful eye of New Riff, this is their first bourbon: a duo of tasty five-year-olds. What makes High N’ Wicked’s twin bourbons unique isn’t just their high-rye mash bill (51% corn / 39% rye / 10% malted barley), but also the fact that High n’ Wicked bourbon uses a sweet mash for their distillation process. 

Sour mash is much more popular in the bourbon world because it’s easier to control for flavor consistency, quality and contamination, and sweet mash necessitates much more cleanliness and sanitation between distillation runs. However sweet mash also allows for more control over each distillation cycle—which is something High N’ Wicked values. Distilled in a Vendome copper columns, then aged for at least five years in No. 4 char / medium toast barrels from the Independent Stave Company, High N’ Wicked’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon comes bottled at at 52% ABV ($80). But it’s their Cask Strength expression we give the nod to here—non-chill filtered and bottled up at 62.6% ABV, the bourbon’s buttery profile of pecan pie and vanilla ice cream is hard to miss. $100.

A. Smith Bowman ‘Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2’

(A. Smith Bowman)

Last winter A. Smith Bowman released only its second un-proofed expression. The rich, full-bodied Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2 aged for 10 years (at the very least) in barrels hand-selected by ASB Master Distiller Brian Prewitt and his Distiller David Bock.

 “We don’t always set out with a specific taste profile in mind—the beauty of creating an uncut, unfiltered whiskey is balancing the flavors that come through right from the barrel,” Bock told us of his fire-breathing whiskey. “Careful attention throughout the barrel aging process and blending expertise comes into play. Our challenge—and one we are thrilled to tackle—is making those individual liquids work together harmoniously, and I think we’ve done that with this one.” 

Who knew consumers demanded a bourbon so potent (72.3% ABV / 144.5 proof) the FAA deems it too flammable to stash in your luggage—true story, you can’t fly with it. Despite its firepower, however, “Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2” is shockingly sippable (although we definitely suggest adding a couple rocks to weaken the death punch). Good luck finding it at its SRP of $100

Elijah Craig ‘European Toasted Oak Barrel’ Bourbon

(Elijah Craig)

Earlier this year Heaven Hill announced its Elijah Craig would become the “Official Bourbon” of the Ryder Cup—a biennial golf competition between the US and Europe—adding to its growing list of golf sponsorships (e.g. PGA of America, PGA Championship, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, PGA National Club Championship, etc.) To celebrate they revealed their first Ryder influenced expression: a limited-edition Toasted Oak Barrel Bourbon finished in European toasted oak barrels. Get it? While America battles Europe on the links, they collaborate on a tasty whiskey. 

The European oak barrels were toasted to match the process of those used in Lazio wines near Rome—not coincidentally, where the 2023 Ryder Cup was held at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. So Elijah Craig took their fully-matured, Kentucky-made Small Batch Bourbon, poured it into these barrels, and an alliance was born. The Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Ryder Cup Limited Edition release is available on an allocated basis with an SRP of $100.

Forbidden Bourbon Batch 1

(Forbidden Bourbon)

The ascension of Marianne Eaves in the world of bourbon may seem meteoric, but it has been steadily won over 15 years with a combination of creative talent and scientific discipline. After cutting her whiskey teeth under Chris Morris at Woodford Reserve, Eaves moved on to the up-and-coming Castle and Key distillery in nearby Frankfort where she became Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller since Prohibition, an earned accomplishment she takes great pride in.

Then in 2019 she was tapped by a team led by Peyton and Eli Manning to blend a hundred barrels of 13-year-old Tennessee bourbon for the nascent Sweetens Cove project. Finally this year she released the first bourbon the Master Distiller (and equity partner) was granted complete and total control over, from grain to glass: Forbidden. 

“You’ll get some of what is familiar about Kentucky—the sweetness, the vanilla, caramel and some light fruity characteristics—but you’re also going to get some new experiences because of the combination of the white corn and the white wheat,” Eaves told us as she walked us through a tasting of Forbidden Bourbon. “And then harkening to the notion of honoring southern culinary tradition butter and cream run through it, and also some sweet spice characteristics from the barrel…warm vanilla and those sweet grain notes follow into the finish.” 

An auspicious start for the new label. Forbidden Bourbon Batch 1 comes bottled at 95.2 proof with a SRP of $130.

Knob Creek 18 Year Old x Smithey Cast Iron Skillet Collection Bourbon

(Knob Creek)

One of the most coveted LTOs from last year for serious Bourbonheads was Knob Creek’s 18 Year Old—the oldest whiskey Knob Creek ever released. This year the KY crew re-released this exquisite brown and turned up the heat by teaming up with carbon steel cookware craftsmen Smithey Ironware. Knob Creek’s halo offering develops caramelized oak and robust vanilla notes as it sits in the Jim Beam rick houses for twice as long as their flagship bourbon before being bottled at 100-proof. The Knob Creek “18 Year Old” x Smithey Ironware collab sold out on Smithey’s website, so might be hard to find. If you can find it, it’ll make a perfect gift for the foodie and/or bourbon aficionado in your family at the approachable price of $300

Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Toasted Applewood Staves


Every year the beloved Woodinville Whiskey drops a distillery-only “Harvest Release” from their Tasting Room in Washington state. The tradition started in November of 2011 by friends and co-founders Brett Carlile and Orlin Sorensen, and has grown into a holiday gift for American whiskey fans every autumn. It’s become so popular the lines and tents start forming the night before, earning the “annual whiskey camping trip” nickname. 

For 2017 the duo unveiled their flagship Bourbon—a 72% corn / 22% rye / 6% malted barley mashbill, always aged a minimum of five years—finished with Applewood Staves thrown in. The LTO was a mega-hit.  

“Of all our releases this has been one of our most popular,” Carlile told us. “So this year we’re bringing it back nationally.”

For both the 2017 Harvest Release and this new limited edition national release, the corkscrew Applewood stave steeping process adds apple and berry to both the palate and nose, multiplying Woodinville’s already well-awarded profile rich in caramel, dark chocolate and vanilla bean notes. Woodinville Straight Bourbon Finished with Toasted Applewood Staves comes bottled at 100 proof with a SRP $100.

Wyoming Whiskey The Grand Barrel No. 2641 Bourbon

(Wyoming Whiskey)

Wyoming Whiskey doesn’t just talk about loving their home state, the fourth-generation cattle ranchers behind the label live it—actively supporting their beloved outdoors with their annual National Park collaborations. This year their National Parks No. 3 will raise $150,000 for the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, for instance.

For 2023 they raised the stakes even further with The Grand—a collection of three different 10-year-old single honey barrels hand-picked by Master Blender Nancy Fraley from their Kirby rickhouse, a trio she calls among the best Wyoming Whiskey have ever made. Using only non-GMO corn, winter wheat, winter rye and barley all grown in the Bighorn Basin, as well as fresh water sourced from a local limestone aquifer that hasn’t seen the light of day in over six millennia, this is well crafted stuff—and proudly stated that “every drop of this bourbon is 100% Wyoming.”

We were lucky enough to taste The Grand Barrel No. 2641, a deeply potent cask strength (60.2% ABV) high-rye bourbon (68% corn / 20% rye l 12% malted barley) rolling with sweetness. Think vanilla ice cream, mall food court Cinnabons and pumpkin pie. Proceeds of The Grand will also support the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Fewer than 400 bottles of were released with a SRP of $500 each.

Kings County Barrel Strength ‘Batch #16’ Bourbon

(Kings County)

In 2010 ex-college roommates Colin Spoelman and David Haskell decided to take their little moonshining operation above ground and founded Kings County in a tiny 300-square foot “distillery.” Sure they’ve expanded since, but Colin and David still demand an artisanal approach to everything they do. Their tiny pot stills were handbuilt by Scotland’s renowned Forsyths crew; their wood fermenters by the Isseks Bros, makers of Gotham’s distinctive rooftop water towers as seen in Daredevil and Spider Man comics. And their ingredients are organically sourced: corn and Danko rye from upstate New York, with UK barley malted by Thomas Fawcett and Sons. 

And while Kings County craft bourbon and rye, their mashbill and process leans decidedly Scottish—famously never using rye nor wheat in their bourbon, only corn and malted barley. They mostly sweet-mash, and only use narrow cuts of the heart. Our favorite this year was their Barrel Strength Bourbon (Batch #16).  

“A highly selective blend of whiskeys aged up to seven years, Batch #16 is arguably our most complex barrel-strength blend to date,” Haskell told us. “Featuring whiskeys aged in four different cask sizes, and also including a significant proportion of several long-marrying vattings of small-cask four and seven-year-old bourbons, the blend makeup and flavor profile of Batch #16 is most reminiscent of our highly acclaimed and extraordinarily limited 2022 7-year Blender’s Reserve release.” Price varies.

2XO The Tribute Blend Bourbon


We shared a bit about Dixon Dedman’s journey in the whiskey industry earlier this week, discussing his 2XO “The Phoenix Blend” Bourbon. With The Tribute Blend, 2XO’s third small-batch blend (after The Phoenix and Innkeeper’s Blend) of this year, Dedman’s combination skills remain acute. As the “Two Times Oak” name implies, an important step of each of the 2XO bourbons (2XO, or “Two Times Oak”) is double barreling—which Dedman does with one of his base whiskeys: a 35% high rye bourbon mash bill. He keeps some as is (aged between six and seven years), while double barreling the rest into new oak barrels charred to either No. 3 or No. 4 levels. The fourth ingredient is a six-year-old, lower rye (18%) bourbon, never double barreled.

So far all three 2XO blends have used the same four ingredients, just different ratios of each to create different expressions. The Tribute Blend boasts a viscous density, yet remains eminently drinkable at 52% ABV. This third blend’s ratios emphasize notes of cinnamon sweetness, toffee and apricot over the more traditional bourbon hits of caramel and vanilla found in the inaugural blend. $100

Buffalo Trace ‘Prohibition Collection’ Old Stagg

(Buffalo Trace)

We had the extreme honor of visiting the legendary Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky this fall and were granted a little peek behind the closely-guarded veil. For any bourbon fan this is the Mecca, so unsurprisingly we spent the week giddy as a Swiftie buying concert merch—not only trying gems like their Prohibition Collection and 2023 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but also several bottles we can’t even whisper about yet. Oh, and robbing Weller and Eagle Rare straight from the barrel.

The best part, though, was hearing the wisdom flow straight from the mouth of Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, who guided us around the beautiful campus and a tasting of the Prohibition Collection. The highly limited-edition multi-bottle volume contains five long-extinct brands that were active during Prohibition (from 1920 to 1933), an era when the George T. Stagg Distillery was one of only six allowed to bottle medicinal whiskey (We know what you’re thinking: is there any other kind?)

Now known as the Buffalo Trace Distillery, this legal anomaly makes it the longest continually-operating distillery in America. Funny enough, these brands were not known to the Buffalo Trace braintrust until they found the labels in a lost memorabilia photo album and decided to resurrect five: Old Stagg, Golden Wedding, Three Feathers, Walnut Hill and Spiritus Frumenti. Our favorite was the Old Stagg barrel-proof (132.4 proof) crafted to honor owner George T. Stagg, but you have to buy the whole collection for $1,000 to get a taste.