12 Award-Winning Bourbons You Should Try This Year

Published By

It’s difficult to undervalue the importance of bourbon in America. On May 4, 1964, the US Congress officially recognized bourbon whiskey as a distinctly American spirit. But, its genesis is way before this date. The nation’s “native spirit,” bourbon was invented at some point in the late 1700 or early 1800s. One story claims that Elijah Craig (who now has a bourbon brand in his name), a former Baptist minister turned distiller invented the popular spirit when he decided to age his corn whiskey in charred barrels, thus creating what we now know as bourbon.

But it wasn’t even Craig who first labeled his whiskey as bourbon. That is often attributed to a distiller named Jacob Spears who, if it’s true, definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Some believe that its invention is tied to New Orleans and its famous Bourbon Street in some way. Like all spirits, the fact that there are so many mysteries surrounding its invention only makes it more special and unique.

Regardless of when it was invented and by who, there’s no disputing the appeal of this corn-based (at least 51 percent in the mash bill), sweet, rich, slow sipping whiskey. In 2022, there are countless brands on the market. And, while 95 percent of all the bourbon is made in Kentucky, it can be made anywhere in the US. This means that on top of there being a slew of amazing, high-quality, long-aged expressions, some aren’t really worth your hard-earned cash.

A great way to weed out these less-than bottles from their exceptional counterparts is to see which bottles are highly-rated and which receive awards and acclaim from experts. While it’s not a guarantee, you can be pretty sure if you grab a bottle that was awarded a double gold medal from the San Francisco Spirits Competition or World Whiskies Awards, it’s likely to be a pretty decent bottle.

That’s why, since we’re in the business of making your whiskey-centered life easier, we decided to list twelve of our favorite award-winning bourbons below. Keep scrolling to learn about some gems from Kentucky, Washington State, Texas, and even Colorado. Who wouldn’t want to stock up on award-winning whiskeys

Henry Mckenna Single Barrel Bourbon

Henry Mckenna Single Barrel Bourbon

Back in 2019, Henry McKenna Single Barrel was named the best whiskey in the world at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While it has won numerous awards, this is one that put this 100-proof, bottled-in-bond, ten-year-old bourbon on every drinker’s radar. The judges and drinkers alike have been enamored by its vanilla bean, honey, charred oak, and gentle spices. It’s a bold, memorable whiskey that’s well worth its price tag.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 100
  • Price Range: $75-125
  • Award: Best Whiskey of the Year at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Baker’s 7-Year Single Barrel Bourbon

Baker’s 7-Year Single Barrel Bourbon

While Booker’s and Knob Creek get a lot of attention when it comes to Jim Beam’s small batch collection, we believe the best expression is actually Baker’s. Similar to Booker’s, the taste varies slightly from batch to batch because each barrel of Baker’s is different. Each barrel that goes into Baker’s is aged for a minimum of seven years in charred, American oak barrels. The result is rich, robust, warming whiskey with notes of buttery caramel, toasted vanilla beans, and wood char.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 107
  • Price Range: $50-80
  • Award: Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition Two Times
Widow Jane 10-Year Bourbon

Widow Jane 10-Year Bourbon

New York-based Widow Jane is a great example of how “sourced” doesn’t have to be a bad word in the bourbon world. The brand’s flagship expression is a blend of its rarest whiskeys made in five-barrel batches. Always non-chill filtered, it’s proofed using mineral water from the nearby Rosendale Mines. This award-winner is known for its flavors of maple candy, orange peel, vanilla beans, dried fruits, and almond cookies.

  • Origin: Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky
  • Proof: 91
  • Price Range: $75-85
  • Award: Gold medal for ‘Bourbon over 6 years’ at the 2018 Whiskies of the World Awards
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon

When we first heard about Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon, we thought it was just a gimmick. But this complex whiskey is so much more than a novelty. This unique whiskey is aged on ships that travel to different continents all over the world. While the course is different each time, usually this whiskey makes its way to twenty-five ports, five continents, and even crosses the equator twice. The varying temperature changes impact the flavor in remarkable ways, creating a rich whiskey with hints of cinnamon, salted caramel, butterscotch, and just a hint of rich, charred oak.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 90
  • Price Range: $80-100
  • Award: Score of 93 points at the 2018 Ultimate Spirits Challenge
Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon

Distilled at the world’s highest-altitude distillery, Breckenridge Bourbon has won multiple awards including the best American blend at the World Whiskies Awards. This blend of high-rye bourbons is aged for at least three years in new, charred American oak casks. This results in a multi-dimensional whiskey with flavors like candied orange peel, caramel apples, butterscotch, vanilla beans, and just a wisp of spicy, memorable cracked black pepper. It’s a complex sipper that deserves a spot on your home bar cart.

  • Origin: Colorado
  • Proof: 86
  • Price Range: $39-59
  • Award: 4 time winner of Best American Blended (2016, 17, 18, and 2019) from the World Whiskies Awards
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

As mentioned above, Elijah Craig is named for the man who is given credit by many for the invention of bourbon. Its flagship expression is its small batch. This award-winning expression is notable because of its aging in level 3 heavily charred American oak barrels. This creates a nuanced, flavorful expression highlighted by flavors like toasted marshmallows, sweet honey, vanilla beans, rich oak, and dried fruits. For the price, it’s one of the best bourbons on the market.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 94
  • Price Range: $30-40
  • Award: Double Gold at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition 
Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Bourbon

Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Bourbon

If you’re not a huge bourbon drinker, you still probably know the name Wild Turkey. But did you know the brand also makes Russell’s Reserve? Iconic bourbon distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell created this offshoot of Wild Turkey and its ten-year-old expression has won numerous awards since its inception. Matured for at least ten years in No. 4 alligator char American oak barrels, it’s known for its bold, robust flavor of vanilla, caramel, toffee, maple candy, charred oak, and gentle, warming spices.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 90
  • Price Range: $35-45
  • Award: Double Gold Medal, 2020 New York International Spirits Competition
Woodinville Straight Bourbon

Woodinville Straight Bourbon

If you haven’t paid close attention to the bourbon world in the last decade, you might not realize that there are quite a few states besides Kentucky crafting award-winning bourbons. Washington State with brands like Woodinville is one of the best. Its flagship expression is its straight bourbon that’s mashed, distilled, and barreled on site before traveling by truck over the Cascade Mountains to its barrelhouses where it ages in varying temperatures to create a award-winning, complex whiskey with hints of fudge, butterscotch, toffee, vanilla beans, and slight warming spices to tie everything together.

  • Origin: Washington State
  • Proof: 90
  • Price Range: $40-50
  • Award: Best Straight Bourbon Whiskey at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition 
Rebel 10-Year Single Barrel Bourbon

Rebel 10-Year Single Barrel Bourbon

This single barrel bourbon from Rebel (they dropped the ‘Yell’ from their name a few years ago) is aged for a minimum of ten years in charred American oak barrels. Like some of the other expressions on this list, one of the most exciting aspects of Rebel 10-Year Single Barrel is the idea that every batch is slightly different from the batch before. Even with the subtle differences, drinkers will still find notes of candied orange peels, rich vanilla, buttery caramel, and rich oak.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 100
  • Price Range: $59-79
  • Award: World’s Best Single Barrel Bourbon at the 2020 World Whiskies Awards
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Four Roses is a big name in the bourbon world and for good reason. Aged in new, charred American oak barrels for a minimum of six to seven years, this small batch bourbon is a blend of four unique bourbon recipes selected by the brand’s master distiller. This results in a well-balanced, memorable whiskey with notes of rich oak, dried fruits, sticky toffee, and gentle, warming spice at the very end. This is a classic, slow-sipping whiskey you’ll go back to again and again.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 90
  • Price Range: $29-39
  • Award: Double Gold at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Like Washington State, Texas has become a great state for whiskey (especially bourbon) fans. One of its most well-known distilleries is Balcones with its award-winning Texas Pot Still Bourbon. This grain-to-glass whiskey is distilled in (you guessed it) traditional pot stills before being aged in new, charred American oak barrels. This creates a flavorful, rich whiskey with notes of candied pecans, dried fruits, sweet vanilla, and rich oak. It’s a unique, delicious whiskey that any bourbon fan should add to their must-try list. Open the bottle, pour it into your favorite glass and just sit back enjoy this mellow, easy drinking flavor.

  • Origin: Texas
  • Proof: 92
  • Price Range: $29-39
  • Award: A score of 93 at the 2019 Ultimate Spirits Competition 
Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon

Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon

Eagle Rare 10 is one of those bourbons that you can either find everywhere or nowhere. You can thank allotment for that. This single barrel bourbon from renowned distillery Buffalo Trace is matured for a minimum of ten years in charred, American oak barrels. It’s known for its flavors of candied orange peels, sticky toffee, candied pecans, fudge, and honey. The finish is dry, warming, and lasts for a long time. But your bottle probably won’t. Maybe you should buy more than one if you can find it.

  • Origin: Kentucky
  • Proof: 90
  • Price Range: $50-100
  • Award: Gold Medal and Best Age Statement Bourbon at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards

Disclosure: Clicking on these links and making a purchase may earn us a small referral fee, at no extra cost to you. Learn more here.

Join The List.

Subscribe and get the latest goods straight to your inbox.