The 19 Best Bourbons You Can Sip Here In Australia
— Updated on 18 June 2024

The 19 Best Bourbons You Can Sip Here In Australia

— Updated on 18 June 2024
Co-Author: Garry Lu  | 
Randy Lai
WORDS BY
Randy Lai

A style of American whiskey inexorably connected with the great southern state of Kentucky, there are certain names in the Bourbon pantheon that — even to non-drinkers — will be familiar as household words.

All due credit to US film, television and advertising: labels like Wild Turkey and Jim Beam White Label get a whole lotta love — and we certainly don’t need to revisit them. Though, if what you’re in the market for is a few recommendations that express America’s rich tradition of small-batch craft whiskey, this shortlist of the best Bourbon we’ve tasted in 2024 might be of interest.

From the wildly individualistic bottling of Buffalo Trace distillery to the funky, fermented grain mash recipe mastered by Michter’s for 50+ years, here are the Bourbon whiskey brands — and the liquid gold they’re crafting — that are a must-buy (and must-try) in 2024.

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BH Approved: The Best Bourbon Whiskey In Australia For 2024 (Overall)

best Bourbon

Eagle Rare 10 Y/O Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Excellent

96/100

SCORE

PROS

  • Dialed-in palate and finish
  • Rich, moreish flavours
  • Gamechanger for cocktails

CONS

  • Pricing
  • Typical flavour profile
  • Local Availability
$99.99 – nicks.com.au

Bourbon fans who are keen to get lost amongst the weeds can scroll down and forge ahead (with our bulleted list of Best Bourbons below). But, as always, we kick off this buying guide with our regular BH Approved recommendation — the reliably delicious and versatile all-rounder that is Eagle Rare 10.

A Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that’s textbook for the genre — in a good way — this 10-year-old age statement (crafted in accordance with Buffalo Trace’s clandestine, #1 low-rye mash bill) is a personal favourite of mine; and one which I credit to the astute recommendation of James Want.

Truthfully, even though this bottle no longer represents the frankly absurd value proposition that it did six to seven years ago, there’s still enough quality and sheer drinking pleasure to shuttle this right to the top of my list of best Bourbon bottles overall.

In the world of Scotch and Japanese malts today, $100 barely buys you much of anything — ditto if you’re on the hunt for age-statement single malts — but with Eagle Rare 10, you get a rich classically styled sipping Bourbon, full of caramel flavours, brown sugar, and charred white oak, that also isn’t so complex that you can’t build it into a ‘Perfect’ Manhattan.

In my view? This is a must-have, especially going into the colder months, for your home bar.

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The Best Bourbon Whiskies To Sip In 2024

Kentucky Owl Maighstir Bourbon

Kentucky Owl Maighstir Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 50% ABV
  • Mash bill featuring corn, rye, wheat, malted barley
  • Scottish-inspired
  • Rare edition

Styled as the lovechild of Scotch and Bourbon, Kentucky Owl’s Maighstir Edition is a stunning reinvention of traditional whiskey comprised of an extremely unique blend that cannot ever be repeated: four-year-old, five-year-old, eight-year-old, and nine-year-old Kentucky straight bourbons all carefully selected to create a robust and well-balanced “Scotch-meets-Bourbon” experience.

On the nose, the Maighstir Edition presents a sweet scent of small grains (specifically wheat and barley) with a hint of caramel and vanilla. On the tongue, however, you can expect an initial hit of warmth and spice from the rye, transitioning to the more citrus-forward flavours of orange and grapefruit as it “melts in the mouth for a very velvety finish.”

Fair warning: considering how singular this limited edition release is, which has been crafted by revered master blender Maureen Robinson, this one will likely fly off the shelves. So cop a bottle while you still can.


Bulleit Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 45% ABV
  • Mash bill at least 51% corn
  • Full-bodied, spicy style

A stylish and accessible way to acquaint yourself with the world of Bourbon drinking, Bulleit is among the more established makers of Kentucky straight whiskey you’ll find in Australia (its presence, especially in international markets, has anted up since the company’s acquisition by Diageo in 2000).

The company’s flagship ‘Frontier Whiskey’ is built around a high-rye mash bill; meaning a drier and more complex drinking experience that is ideal for mixology.

Still, the six-year maturation is as good an indication as any that Bulleit intended for this expression to be enjoyed primarily as a sipping Bourbon – with flashes of peach and white peppercorn coming through noticeably thanks to the high quotient of rye.


Yellowstone Straight Select Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 46.5% ABV
  • Mash bill of 75% corn; 13% rye; 12% malted barley
  • Full-bodied, easy sipping

This award-winning drop is, at long last, available on Aussie shelves.

Established in 1872, and named after the world’s first-ever national park, Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a wonderful marriage of two high-rye Kentucky straight bourbon whiskies: one aged for four years and another aged for seven years. And personally speaking… it’s a delightful sipping whiskey.

Expect spicy aromas of rye toast and cinnamon spice, which lead to a palate filled with caramel, melted butter, and leathered cherries. As for the finish, it’s slightly tangy with additional notes of burnt brown sugar and cloves.   


Knob Creek 9-Year-Old Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 50% ABV
  • Mash bill of 75% corn; 13% rye; 12% malted barley
  • Robust and classically oaky, finishes long

Arguably the most renowned small batch bourbon in the Jim Beam portfolio of premium whiskies (along with Basil Hayden and cult favourite Booker’s) this particular expression by Knob Creek is aged for nine years, embodying the look and feel of Bourbon in the pre-Prohibition era.

Bottled at 50% ABV (as in the good ol’ days) the whiskey’s extended period of maturation enables it to eat more of the residual sugars in barrel, lending a bouquet of caramel flavours, vanilla, and zippy black pepper.


E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 50% ABV
  • Secret mash bill, reportedly at least 75% corn
  • Full-bodied fruity style, with floral undertones

Infamous, for better or worse, for being rarer than hen’s teeth, the E.H. Taylor line of whiskies (part of Buffalo Trace’s extremely premium Antique Collection) remains an excellent option for those drinkers partial to the elegant style of sipping Bourbon pioneered by the line’s namesake.

Aged in century-old warehouses built by Colonel Taylor Jr. himself, the high-corn mash bill of this ‘Small Batch’ expression offers popcorn and caramel notes on the nose and a smooth mouthfeel that’s ideal for an evening spent sipping in the comfort of your home.


Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • 40% ABV
  • Mash bill of 63% corn; 27% rye; 10% malted barley
  • Light, subtly sweet style with a hint of spiciness

Another premium entry-level release from the powers that be at Jim Beam, Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight is famous for its high-rye mash bill (usually 25+% to be precise).

While not strictly a straight rye whiskey, that grain’s influence works its way dutifully into the nose and palate — heavy on forest berries and peaches respectively.

We recommend this one for those who enjoy a more elegant Bourbon style: thanks to the medium-weight mouthfeel and eminently approachable alcohol content.


Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 47%
  • Mash bill of 78% corn; 12% malted barley; 10% rye
  • Robust, spicy style with a subtle smoky finish

Inspired by the eponymous Baptist preacher Elijah Craig — reportedly the first Kentucky bourbon maker to age his spirit in charred new oak barrels — this small-batch Bourbon may be considered a safe option for those new to the wider range of whiskies crafted by Heaven Hill distillery.

A good, unfussy bottling that brings together various no-age-statement (NAS) Bourbon whiskies, there’s a roundness to the mouthfeel and strong accent of vanilla dominating the flavour profile that makes this a real crowd-pleaser.

This is another one I’d recommend having handy at home. Particularly whenever you find yourself in the mood for an Old Fashioned.


Rowan’s Creek Small Batch Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 50.05%
  • Mash bill at least 51% corn
  • Powerful but approachable high-proof style

Another brand that was, until a few years ago, the preserve of real dyed-in-the-wool Bourbon aficionados, Rowan’s Creek is part of the premium offering put out by Willet Estate (the privately owned and operated distilling company behind Noah’s Mill).

Similarly, Rowan’s Creek is named for and inspired by the noted Kentucky jurist John Rowan. The small batch flagship that bears his name is a dichotomy of sensations: floral yet fudge-y; boozy but approachable.

Curiously, even today, the distillery bottles the various runs of its best-selling small batch at varying proofs; meaning that we always recommend you cross-check the next bottle you buy with what’s sitting in the cabinet at home.


High West American Prairie Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Utah
  • ABV 46%
  • Mash bill of 75% corn; 21% rye; 4% malted barley
  • Waxy, vanillin style with a pleasant earthiness
 

Simultaneously a throwback and highly contemporary Bourbon expression, High West’s American Prairie is among the small handful of whiskies we’ve shortlisted here that does not come from Kentucky.

Instead, this blend of straight Bourbons — making use of high-rye and high-corn mash bills — is crafted in Utah from whiskies sourced from different American distilleries (notably MGP of Indiana). This assembled character means the more typical flavours on display here — think sweet vanilla and orange peel — are supplemented by unconventional (albeit fleeting) notes of anise seed.

As an added bonus: 10% of all profits (after tax) from the sale of American Prairie Bourbon are donated to the American Prairie Reserve.


Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 46.5%
  • Secret mash bill
  • Classic single-barrel style

A favourite of everybody from spirits writers to seemingly un-killable fictional assassins, Blanton’s is renowned as the brand responsible for bringing the first commercial single barrel Bourbon to market (in 1984).

Today, that tradition continues at the premium Buffalo Trace label; with Single Barrel taken from the centre-cut/middle sections of the distillery’s legendary Warehouse H.

An ideal Bourbon to gift to your dear friends and loved ones, the trademark Blanton’s style remains more or less intact: a nose perfumed by creamy vanilla and an undertone of baking spices; followed by sweet notes of citrus and oak in the palate.


Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 40%
  • Two primary mash bills, both secret
  • Classic ‘Kentucky Straight’ style, with a clean and dry finish

A real jack-of-all-trades, it’s not in the least bit boastful for Buffalo Trace to call itself America’s “most awarded distillery.” The Kentucky behemoth is behind such legendary premium bottlings as Pappy Van Winkle and Elmer T. Lee; but if you want a real crash course in quality, look no further than the eponymous Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

Reportedly batched using no more than 40 barrels (distributed around the distillery’s numerous warehouses in Frankfort, Kentucky) Buffalo Trace’s standard, closely guarded mash bill dials back the rye in order to create a flavour profile that’s massive on drinkability.

Enjoy yours in a classic Highball, with a chunk of crystal-clear ice, or — as yours truly discovered earlier this year — over pancakes with a glug of maple syrup.


Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 43.2%
  • Mash bill of 72% corn; 18% rye; 10% malted barley
  • A bolder, longer-finishing expression of the classic Woodford Reserve style

Named for Woodford county — dead centre of the Bluegrass State — Woodford Reserve is one of the biggest historic players in the Bourbon industry, tracing its history back to the early 19th century.

Unsurprisingly, that means a broad swathe of small-batch whiskies to choose from: rye, straight malt, and various special editions including an insane $2,500 special release made in tandem with Baccarat. For my money though, the brand’s mainline ‘Double Oaked’ release is where it’s at.

Beginning life as the classic Woodford Reserve, this expression is subsequently matured (for a little under one year) in a heavily seasoned, lightly charred oak barrel. That re-barreling turns out to be pivotal: yielding a premium NAS Bourbon that eeks out a good deal of added complexity, on top of the easy-drinking vanilla and wood combo of OG Woodford.


Kings County Straight Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in New York
  • ABV 45%
  • Mash bill of 80% corn; 20% malted barley
  • Spicy and finely detailed, with deep malt and fruitcake flavours

A niche, but wholly excellent Bourbon brand that first blipped my radar in the days of GANT Rugger — thanks #menswear — Kings County was, at one time, the smallest commercial whiskey distillery in the US. In the past 11 years though, this New York craft brand has gone from a bootstrap-y upstart to a legitimate regional player; with delicious experiments like its peated Bourbon and chocolate-infused moonshine flying off shelves.

Still, if you’re not familiar with this unique East Coast operation, Kings County’s signature straight bourbon is the thing to sample. Made on a two-part mash bill — consisting of New York state-grown corn (80%) and malted barley sourced from England — this is a darker and richer alternative to many of the $90 expressions that are being made in Kentucky. New York strong, as it were.


Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 50%
  • Combination of rye-forward and ‘bright grain’ mash bills
  • Full-bodied, smooth single-barrel style

Inspired by a creation myth involving distillery founder Paul Jones Jr. and the rose-wearing southern belle whom he attempted to woo, Four Roses laid the ground for its historic Old Prentice distillery in 1910. Since 2002, the brand has been owned by the Kirin Brewery Company; with the ‘Single Barrel’ expression acting as a new global flagship.

A “masterpiece in blending” — which, intriguingly, utilises two mash bills and five proprietary strains of yeast — this ground-level offering from Four Roses offers a good counterpoint to many of the spicier, more intensely flavoured straight bourbon whiskey we’ve recommended in the course of this list.

‘Floral’ and ‘fruity’ are the catchphrases insofar as this guy is concerned, making it a great starting point for budding Bourbon drinkers.


Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 62.15%
  • Mash bill of 77% corn; 13% rye; 10% barley
  • Spiced, sugary, full-flavoured style

A forerunner in the American neck of the woods of uncut (AKA cask strength) whiskey, when Booker’s launched its signature ‘True Barrel’ expression back in 1988 it was one of the first Kentucky distilleries to do so without watering down its barrel-proof spirit.

These days, the competition has caught on, but the premium small-batch Bourbon maker still retains a huge critical fanbase, thanks to delicious idiosyncracies in the ‘True Barrel’ offering.

Most notably: the whiskey’s median age is seven years offers strong batch-to-batch collectability; and it’s still uber-high in proof with ABV percentages hovering around 60%.


Maker’s Mark 46

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 47%
  • Mash bill of 70% corn; 16% wheat; and 14% malted barley
  • Offers additional boldness and complexity to flagship Maker’s Mark style

Occupying a conceptual space that’s similar to Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, the 46-ified version of Maker’s Mark is, in essence, the brand’s core expression; buoyed by the addition of seared French oak staves.

The distilling team insert these directly into the barreled spirit (which is already an extremely quaffable style of wheated Bourbon). Offering a logical progression of the creamy mouthfeel and spicy toffee flavour you’ll discern in standard Maker’s Mark, we recommend you snag a couple of these up before prices inflate to the three-figure mark.


Michter’s US 1 Sour Mash Whiskey

best Bourbon

SPECS

  • Distilled in Kentucky
  • ABV 43%
  • Secret mash bill
  • Unconventionally dry, mid-weight style
 

Widely regarded as the oldest Bourbon brand in Kentucky (and by extension, America) Michter’s was founded in the mid-18th century by the Schenk brothers

Unlike Aussie or — until very recently Japanese whiskey, there are extremely narrow legal requirements around what qualifies as Bourbon.

Swiss Mennonites who got their spirited start distilling rye whiskey in Pennsylvania.

The company had a turbulent history up until the mid-2000s, when it was acquired by parent company Chatham Imports. Corporate persona aside, what has stayed consistent is demand among whiskey lovers for Michter’s Sour Mash: an expression that was reintroduced by the brand in 2012 as part of its core ‘US 1’ collection.

Made with old starter mash — not dissimilar to what you’ll find in a good loaf of sourdough — this bottling’s distinctive split persona (is it a Bourbon? is it a rye?) means it plays as well in a cocktail tin as it does a rocks glass. Mid-weight; dry on the finish; with a subtle menthol note in the palate to complement all that dried fruit and clove.


What is the definition of a Bourbon whiskey?

Unlike Aussie or — until very recently — Japanese whiskey, there are extremely narrow legal requirements around what qualifies as Bourbon.

Crucially, in line with US Trade legislation, only whiskey that contains a mash bill (i.e. the precise recipe of grains that gets turned into new make spirit) of at least 51% corn can be called Bourbon. In practice, in the Bourbon world, distillers will then add rye, barley, or wheat to this corn-dominant mash bill.

Furthermore, the spirit distilled from these grains is legally required to be aged in new charred oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof (i.e. an ABV of 40%). For straight Bourbon whiskey, the aging process requires a minimum of two years.


What’s the history behind Bourbon whiskey?

By now, as you’ve likely gathered, Bourbon is a specific style of American whiskey with strict prescriptions as to mash bill, maturity, and aging.

According to historians at the University of Kentucky, the earliest documented mentions of this spirit date back to the 1820s, named for the monarchs of the French Bourbon dynasty, who ruled over much of Europe during the 18th century.

Beyond that, the exact reason why Bourbon is so-called today remains unknown; though credible theories include the spirit’s ties to Bourbon County and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It’s for this reason that, although technically capable of being made anywhere in the US, American whiskey remains so synonymous with Kentucky.


Is Bourbon a product that can only be made in Kentucky?

The short answer: no.

Although the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) states that 95% of the world’s Bourbon supply comes from within its state, production within Kentucky isn’t a legal requirement.

Instead, it’s more useful to look at the US Code of Federal Regulations, wherein specific provisions are enumerated describing Bourbon as “a distinctive product of the United States.” It’s also prohibited to label whiskey-based spirits distilled overseas as Bourbon.

Which are the best Bourbon brands for beginners?

The good news is that there are a number of well-priced, entry-level Bourbons available in the Australian market.

At the Boss Hunting office, our favourite American whiskey makers include Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Bulleit Bourbon.

What is currently the most expensive Bourbon in the world?

By most estimations, Old Rip Van Winkle 25 is the priciest Bourbon whiskey you’ll find on the marketplace in 2023 — costing an estimated US$60,000 (approx. $92,000).

Distilled and barreled in 1989 at the historic Stitzel-Weller plant, only 710 bottles of this mature-aged Bourbon were ever released.

What does the term 'bottled-in-bond' mean?

Any labelling with the phrase ‘bottled-in-bond’ refers to federal legislation of the same name first passed by the US government in 1897.

In short: this is Bourbon whiskey produced by a single distillery during a single distillation season. The resulting spirit must also be bottled and stored in federally bonded warehouses (supervised by the US government) for a period of no less than four years.

What are the Top 5 best-selling Bourbon brands?

While there isn’t a definitive breakdown of the best-selling Bourbon bottles in Australia for 2023, a survey conducted by US e-tailer Drizly revealed that the five most popular Bourbon brands last year (in order) were: Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, and Basil Hayden.

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Randy Lai
WORDS by
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].

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