In the world of whiskey, there appears to be an endless supply of the American-made good stuff for the taking. Yes, we’re talking bourbon. Good old American bourbon. And if you’re wondering what exactly makes bourbon so unique in production, have a look at the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits. In it, bourbon classification relies on strict adherence to a handful of characteristics. That is, the spirit must be produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak containers, and bottled at 40% ABV or more.
Now, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re concerning ourselves with that final clause. Except this time, we’re aiming high. In some instances quite high in regards to alcohol levels contained in the 8 high proof bourbons outlined below. Needless to say, these are bold bourbons, not here to mess around but to be taken seriously whether they’re enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a founding pillar in an evening cocktail. However you choose to enjoy them though, choose caution over confidence, because one sip too many and there’s no doubt in our mind these high-proof whiskeys will seek revenge.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Straight from the bourbon belt comes a heavily sought-after but surprisingly affordable high proof whiskey that will without a doubt quench that bourbon-seeking thirst of yours. It’s their single barrel expression that boasts a ton of character within its 100-proof makeup. On the nose are balanced and rich aromas full of spices, chocolate, toffee, and vanilla; a palate featuring tart fruit, morello cherries, cocoa and vanilla; and a finish that well balanced and smooth thanks to notes of oak and butterscotch. Similar to their other offerings, Four Roses once again proves they’re a distillery to contend with.
Distiller: Four Roses
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Alright, alright, alright. We know what you’re thinking. No Matthew McConaughey ploy with Wild Turkey could enhance its saloon stigma for the better. Well, think again. For the distillery has been churning out some seriously delicious bourbon as of late. Case-in-point, Wild Turkey’s Rare Breed bourbon – clocking in at just under 113 proof and boasting a nose full of raspberry, citrus, marmalade, and ginger with a palate alluding to notes of grape, clove, and brown bread. The finish offers something surprisingly smooth as well, thanks to notes of caramel and pine resin.
Distiller: Wild Turkey
Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon
It’s no secret we’re big fans of Booker’s. But this meaty variation is truly something special. It’s part of their True Barrel series, bottled after 6 years and 1 month and boasts a 125 proof high-octane alcohol content. On the nose, Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon hosts a nose of toasted vanilla, a touch of red pepper, and some stewed apple for good measure, a palate full of toffee, malt, cedar and sour cherry, and finishes quite nicely (all things considered) with notes of white chocolate and black pepper. Reasonably priced and seriously delicious, this is one bourbon we truly respect.
Buffalo Trace Stagg Jr.
Released as part of the annual Antique Collection from Buffalo Trace, Stagg Jr. is a full-on intense bourbon whiskey that any fan of the George T. Stagg lineup will appreciate. The spirit here clocks in at an impressive 130 proof so a few drops of water are suggested with this bold dram. On the nose, powerful aromas of burnt sugar and orange peel pique the interest while notes of leather, clove, dark chocolate and chilies offer a flavor profile that’s quite unique in character. Naturally, a very long and spicy finish completes that sip with lingering notes of honey to help smooth things over.
Distiller: George T. Stagg
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Possibly the strongest bourbon we’ve ever come across, Elijah Craig is clearly going for gold here with their 68% barrel-proof expression that’s top-shelf stuff without a doubt but certainly will need a couple drops of distilled water to help cut through the heat. Once mellowed-out though, notes of brown sugar, charred oak, and freshly-baked pastries permeate the nose while a first sip imparts satisfying allusions to peppermint, vanilla, chilies, and chocolate on the palate. To round things off, new oak, caramel, and walnuts finish each pull with a subtle assertion.
Distiller: Elijah Craig
Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel
Odds are you’re already familiar with Blanton’s. They make fine whiskeys for the discerning palate that impress even the pickiest drinker. Not surprisingly, their Straight From The Barrel high-proof whiskey is no different. Each batch features a grain bill of corn, rye and malted barley and an entry proof of around 125 proof – though this occasionally varies from batch to batch. Tasting notes here make this whiskey even more desirable – complete with a nose marked by honey, vanilla and tobacco, a palate rich with citrus, spice, honey, and butter, along with a lengthy finish fueled with notes of peaches and smooth chocolate.
Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof
When it comes to high-proof whiskeys, not a whole lot of options out there can measure up to the Colonel. Here, we find a no-nonsense ABV of the 67.3% that will certainly appease those who enjoy big bourbon. This iteration is, naturally, presented at barrel proof and is both uncut and unfiltered for the sturdy taste, which boasts very prominent notes of black pepper, sturdy rye notes, red berries and vanilla while a dry heat finishes things off. If you choose to live in an uncut and unfiltered world, then look no further than Colonel E.H. Taylor’s Barrel Proof.
Distiller: Colonel EH Taylor
Wiliam Laue Weller 2016 Release
As the only wheated bourbon in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, this monstrous 135.4 proof works to retains a true knockout character thanks to its non-chill-filtered characteristics. The particular expression (2016 release) is also aged for 13 years and features the tasting notes that say it all. On the nose, you’ll experience a sensory overload of prunes, dark caramel, dates, and candied nuts in conjunction with a noticeable ethanol burn. On the palate, best enjoyed with a touch a water, everything starts fairly smooth with notes of butterscotch before quickly escalating into notes of black pepper then tapering off with a long finish of dried figs and clove. A lively dram no doubt about it.
Distiller: William Larue Weller
10 Best Scotch Whiskies Under $40
For a little less bite and a bit more coin in your wallet, be sure to check out this list of the 10 best scotch whiskies under $40.