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The 8 Best High-Proof Bourbon Whiskeys To Drink Right Now

Best High Proof Bourbon 00 Hero

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 ol’ 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 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 overconfidence, because one sip too many and there’s no doubt in our mind these high-proof whiskeys will seek revenge.

Best High-Proof Bourbons

High-Proof Vs. Barrel-Proof

While the jury’s still out on the “perfect proof” of a given whiskey, many believe that there is, in fact, a sweet spot. Some say it’s around 46% ABV while others believe that 100-proof (50% ABV) is the best balance of heat and flavor. For our purposes, anything 100-proof and above will be deemed “high-proof.”

But then there are whiskeys classified as barrel-proof or cask-strength, which essentially means that they’ve not been cut by water after leaving the barrel. These expressions are very hot, typically between 52 and 66% ABV, with some exceptions. As such, the proof and tasting notes on these drams differ from batch to batch. You will see both high-proof and barrel-proof bourbons below.

Four Roses Single Barrel

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.

ABV: 50%
Tasting Notes: Spice, chocolate, oak, butterscotch, vanilla, fruit

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

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 over 108 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.

ABV: 54.1%
Tasting Notes: Grape, clove, brown bread, citrus, caramel, pine resin

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

Russells Reserve Single Barrel

Two decades ago, Wild Turkey’s own master distillers Eddie and Jimmy Russell decided to showcase their own barrel selection expertise, a la Booker’s, and launched Russell’s Reserve. Since then, the Kentucky label’s small but powerful range of bourbons has been the talk of the town. For the best balance of heat and flavor, check out the distillery’s Single Barrel expression, which routinely clocks in at 55% ABV and showcases tasting notes of creamy toffee, licorice, vanilla, and spice.

ABV: 55%
Tasting Notes: Toffee, licorice, vanilla, spice

Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon

Bookers Bourbon Charlies Batch

What began as Booker Noe letting his family and friends taste from his personal collection ended up being one of the best expressions around and inventing the idea of “small batch” bourbon. Bottled between 121 and 130 proof, each Booker’s release has a different theme or concept that pulls from the Noe family legacy or that of Jim Beam Distillery. The old-school label doesn’t advertise or do social media, and it always releases its bourbons at cask strength after 6 to 9 years in barrels. It’s no secret we’re big fans of Booker’s. Reasonably priced and seriously delicious, this is one bourbon we truly respect.

ABV: 60.5 to 65%
Tasting Notes: Varies by batch

Buffalo Trace Stagg Jr.

Stagg Jr

Released annually 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 133 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.

ABV: 66.4%
Tasting Notes: Leather, clove, dark chocolate, chilies, honey

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Possibly the strongest bourbon we’ve ever come across, Elijah Craig is clearly going for gold here with their 65.7% barrel-proof expression that’s top-shelf stuff without a doubt but certainly will need a couple of 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.

ABV: 65.7%
Tasting Notes: Peppermint, vanilla, chilies, chocolate, caramel, oak, walnuts

Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel

Blantons 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 128 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.

ABV: 64.1%
Tasting Notes: Citrus, spice, honey, butter, peaches, chocolate

Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof

EH 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 65.15% 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.

ABV: 65.15%
Tasting Notes: Black pepper, spice, red berries, vanilla

The Best Cask-Strength Bourbons

To explore barrel-strength whiskeys even more, check out our guide to the best cask-strength bourbons you can buy.