In this article we presented the 15 best bourbons in the world. You can skip our comprehensive discussion on the alcoholic beverage industry and directly to the 5 Best Bourbons in the World.
Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made primarily of corn. The drink plays a key role in the broader alcohol industry. Bourbon has gained a lot of market share over the last several months. According to Statista, bourbons held a market share of 39.1% of total alcohol sales in the U.S. The drink is rising with the increase in demand that is making the entire industry to flourish. For instance, American spirit company Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE: BF.A), which is behind several notable bourbon brands, generated net sales of $3.36 billion in 2020, compared to $3.32 billion in 2019. Whiskey suppliers’ gross revenue reached $10.86 billion in 2020 in the U.S. Many companies contributed to this amount, including Beam Suntory Inc. (NYSE: BEAM), Diageo plc (ADR) (NYSE: DEO), Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE: STZ), Heaven Hill Brands, Sazerac Company, etc. Moreover, the global consumption of liquor has reached approximately 23 billion liters.
According to Alcohol.org, about 446 billion liters of alcoholic drinks are consumed globally, with the U.S. holding the share of over $250 billion liters. The alcohol beverage companies constitute a vast market. Kirin Holdings (OTC: KNBWY) holds a market capitalization of $16.9 billion, whereas Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) stands at $127.37 billion. The global alcohol beverage market is expected to reach $1.75 trillion by 2024. As you will see in the article, some of the best bourbons in the world account for a massive chunk of this growth.
Rising Ecommerce Sales
The pandemic caused many businesses to suffer in 2020, and the alcoholic beverage market is not an exception. According to leading alcohol market analyst IWSR, the industry declined by 8% in the 20 biggest markets, including Canada, Brazil, U.S., U.K., Russia, Spain, etc. China and the U.S. remain the most prominent markets and account for 40% of the global volume consumption. The stay-at-home trend gave a huge boost to digital sales of liquor as people had no place to go or spend for leisure. Across the ten core markets, the beverage alcohol ecommerce sales grew by 42% to $24 billion in 2020. The figure previously stood at 11% in 2019. By the end of 2021, U.S. is expected to become a giant in alcohol ecommerce market, accounting for 7% of total off-trade beverage alcohol volume, compared to the 6% in China. Moreover, ready-to-drink (RTD) products dominate the ecommerce market and are expected to account for 10% of total alcohol ecommerce value by 2024, increased from 2% in 2019.
Bourbon is not an easily crafted drink but requires a lot of expertise and practice. Bourbon’s mash, mainly prepared in Kentucky, should contain 51% of corn, along with different combinations of rye, barley malt, and wheat. According to the U.S. Federal Regulations, the mash must be distilled at 160 proof (80% ABV) or less and put into a barrel at 125 proof without any additives. The report by IWSR states that spirits are expected to overtake beer in the percentage share of pure alcoholic servings. Spirits’ CAGR will increase by 1.6% by 2023, compared to the 1.3% decrease in beer’s CAGR. Additionally, the report by Distilled Spirit Council of the U.S shows that the supplier revenue in the U.S. rose to 7.7% to over $31 billion.
Due to this rise in the everyday use of bourbons, let’s have a look at our list of the 15 best bourbons in the world.
Best Bourbons in the World
15. Larceny Bourbon
Bourbon: Larceny Small Batch
Manufacturer: Heaven Hill Brands
The thing that makes this bourbon different from the others is that it employs wheat as its secondary grain instead of rye. The bourbon is aged 6-12 years at high storage and is bottles at 46% ABV. This signature Wheated Bourbon is rich in taste and features the flavors of buttery caramel and notes of honey, with a long sweet and savory finish. The Small Batch can be served on its own but mixing with ginger beer and lime surely enhances its taste. The bottle is inexpensive and is sold between $20 to $25.
14. Evan Williams
Bourbon: Evan Williams Black Label
Manufacturer: Heaven Hill Brands
Evan Williams is a flagship spirit of Heaven Hill Distillery, the largest distillery in the U.S. The bourbon derives its name from Evan Williams, who opened the first commercial distillery in Kentucky in 1783. The Black Label is one of its most famous bourbons. The mash bill required to make this whiskey consists of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. The bourbon comes in a medium amber color with tastes of brown sugar, caramel, and notes of oak. The brand is so inexpensive that the bottle of Evan Williams can be purchased for as low as $12. Though it is straight bourbon, it is still aged for four years, two years more than what is required to fall in the ‘straight’ category.
13. Colonel E.H. Taylor
Bourbon: E.H. Taylor Jr. Small Batch
Manufacturer: Buffalo Trace Distilleries
This bourbon is the legacy of the founding father of the bourbon industry, Col. Edmund Haynes Taylor. He developed his distilling methods during Civil War. This Small Batch Bourbon undergoes its aging process in a century-old warehouse built in the 1800s, constructed by the colonel himself. The mash contains 75% corn, 10% rye, and 15% barley. Aged for four years, the bourbon features tastes of tobacco and oak while creating a fine balance of sweetness and spice. It is a bit heavy on the pocket as it costs $120 for a 750ml bottle.
12. Woodford Reserve
The best thing about Woodford Reserve bourbons is that they are not manufactured in a typical way but are handcrafted in small batches. The spirit derives its taste from grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The Double Oaked is aged for nine months but is given a second maturation in barrels that have been toasted for a longer period and are charred much more lightly. The bourbon’s flavors range from vanilla, dark caramel, hazelnut to fruits and spices with hints of honeyed apple. With such rich flavors, the bottle is comparatively easy on the pocket and comes for $57. It is owned by Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE: BF.B).
11. Wild Turkey
Bourbon: Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival
Owned by: Campari Group (BIT: CPR)
A super-premium American bourbon, Wild Turkey is distilled and bottled by the Wild Tukey Distilling Co. The bourbon is meticulously crafted by a series of processes involving the selection of mash ingredients, fermentation, distillation, aging, and maturation. Master’s Keep Revival is aged 12-14 years and is finished in a 20-year-old Oloroso Sherry casks, which accounts for its high price. The specific taste of the bourbon comes from non-GMO grains and yeast mash. It features the subtle flavors of cherry pie, nuts, and raisins with a strong finish of tropical fruit. The price of its 750ml bottle is $269. Wild Turkey ranks 11th in our list of best bourbons in the world.
Bourbon: Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon
Owned by: Sazerac Company
Blanton’s was launched in 1984. The bourbon is distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. The Single Barrel Bourbon was once only designated for dignitaries, ambassadors, and Colonel Blanton’s family. The bourbon is typically aged for 6-8 years in Warehouse H, the only metal-cladded warehouse at the Buffalo Trace, which speeds up the process of aging. It offers a sweet taste with underlying notes of citrus and oak with a vanilla nose and baking spices. This flavorful bourbon is worth $69.99 for its 750ml bottle.
As the name tells, the Ocean Bourbon is hyper-aged at sea. The idea of aging the whiskey at sea was to give it a rich taste that only comes from the constant ocean movements and temperature fluctuations at the ocean. The bourbons are aged for 6-8 years and then are sailed off for six months, crossing the equator four times. This sea experiment resulted in the thick, dark bourbon with flavors ranging from salted caramel popcorn to tropical fruit. This hyper-aged 750ml bourbon comes for $85. This bourbon is owned by Castle Brands Inc. (NYSE: ROX).
8. George T. Stagg
Bourbon: George T. Stagg Antique Collection
Proof: 130.4 (varies)
Owned by: Sazerac Company
George T. Stagg is a bourbon by Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfurt, Kentucky. It is a limited collection of bourbon and is manufactured by Sazerac Company. It is aged for a minimum of 15 years in new charred oak barrels to give it a more dense and warm flavor. Adding ice or a few drops of water is recommended to balance the intense taste. The whiskey contains the taste of dark chocolate with hints of fudge, vanilla, and luxuriant toffee. The proof of the bottle varies every year; in 2020, it is bottled at 130.4 proof. George T. Stagg ranks 8th in our list of best bourbons in the world.
7. Old Grand Dad
Raymond B. Hayden created Old Grand Dad in 1840. It is one of the oldest bourbon brands to be around and is distilled at the Jim Beam Plant in Clermont, Kentucky. The 114 Proof Bourbon has a high rye content in the mash, which gives it an unusual spice. The mash contains 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is aged for at least 4-5 years. The unusual amount of rye gives it a flavor of cinnamon gum fused with spice honey for sweetness. The palate is hot and spicy with underlying notes of sweet hay and mint herbal, which lingers around in the mouth and throat for a relatively long time. This amber-colored bourbon can be bought for $29. It ranks 7th in our list of best bourbons in the world. This brand is owned by Beam Suntory Inc. (NYSE: BEAM).
6. Widow Jane
Bourbon: Widow Jane 10 Year Straight Bourbon
Owned by: Cacao Prieto
Though opened in 2012, Widow Jane distillery offers a delicious range of liquors aged for ten years. The name is taken from the Widow Jane Mines in Rosendale, New York. The founders wanted to create a whiskey with profound New York taste with bold and rich notes. The mash of 10 Year Straight Bourbon contains corn, oak, char, and vanilla and is proofed with pure limestone mineral water from the Rosendale Mines of New York. The bourbon gives the rich taste of maple, cherry, almond, and orange with a spicy finish. The 750ml bottle can be purchased for $70.
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Disclosure: None. 15 Best Bourbons in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.