Bourbon is one of the most versatile and friendly liquors for beginners. Bourbon whiskeys are made in the US. Most distillers mix around 51% corn to give a sweet flavor to the drink.
If you are new to bourbon, this article will introduce a few of the best bourbons for beginners that offer a well-balanced flavor.
#1. Maker’s Mark
Distillery: Maker’s Mark
Mashbill: 70% corn, 16% wheat, 14% malted barley
Notes: Spiced honey, caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch
The Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey is the most widely sold bourbon across the country. Instead of rye content in the whiskey, the Maker’s Mark uses wheat.
This adds a smooth and sweet flavor to the drink. It is one of the drinkable bourbons for beginners. It makes great combinations in cocktails. The sweet flavor of these bourbons makes them mixable with other flavors.
It begins with the smell of rich and soft caramel. It gives aromas of honey and fruit. When you sip it, it gives a slight sweetness to your tongue and gives great balance to the body.
You will get a taste of caramel, vanilla, and molasses, along with some dried oaks. The smooth and sweet taste continues until the finish. You will get some spicy flavor that fades quickly.
#2. Knob Creek
Distillery: Jim Beam
Mashbill: 77% corn, 13% rye and 10% barley
Age: 9 years
Notes: Spice, oak, caramel, and vanilla
Knob Creek is the most popular brand in the market and is produced in Jim Beam distillery. It is one of the best bourbons for beginners and is aged nine years with 100% proof. It adds sweetness and great flavors when you add it to cocktails. It has a bold blend of spice and sweetness.
When you first smell it, it gives aromas of brown sugar along with notes of vanilla and spice. You will get tastes of spices like nutmeg, clove, and black pepper at the first sip.
You will get some flavors of oak wraps as well. The finish is long and rich with flavors of vanilla and oak followed by some spices. I have truly enjoyed having knob creek, especially with the nose and taste being so inviting and well-balanced.
#3. Four Roses Single Barrel
Distillery: Four Roses
Mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% barley
Notes: Prunes, cocoa, spice, cherry, and Chocolate
This is another one of the best bourbons for beginners. The distillers produce these whiskeys by combining barrels and achieve the same flavor across batches. The palate contains lots of sugar along with rye content. Overall it offers a smooth drink and is well balanced with flavors.
The Four Roses Single Barrel gives the scent of oak and caramel followed by vanilla, apple, and citrus. I smell more of citrus than any other flavor.
When you sip it, you will taste spice, followed by the sweetness of honey, peaches, and brown sugar. You will get hints of different flavors at every sip. This has a long and smooth finish. The finish is greeted with some spice that fades in, sometimes followed by oaks, chocolate, and butterscotch.
#4. Old Forester 100 Proof
Distillery: Old Forester Distilling Company
Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% barley
The Old Forester is considered one of the best bourbons for beginners. It is an authentic bourbon with great flavors. It has a nice dark brown color. It is priced at around $30 with an excellent label and bottle shape. It is made from a Mash Bill that contains 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. The flavors of this bourbon are rich and bold. You can mix it with ice or a cocktail and it makes it taste even better.
The first thing I smell is brown sugar that is followed by caramel and vanilla. It has a strong smell with 100% proof. The aroma of this bourbon is well-balanced and pleasing.
The palate is bold oak, maple syrup, and pecans when you have the first sip. It has a thin body but has a great taste with 50% ABV. The finish is medium to long. Your mouth may feel dry. You get notes of pepper, clove, and oak during the finish. It fits well with the flavors.
#5. Eagle Rare
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Mashbill: 75% corn, 10% rye, and 15% barley
Age: 10 years
Notes: Orange peel, honey, and Chocolate
The Eagle Rare bourbon is bottled with 45% ABV aged ten years. You can serve this whiskey either neat or with ice. You can try it with cocktails to get a classic taste. This bourbon whiskey is made of low rye content and includes buffalo trace, EH Taylor, and Stagg Jr. It gives a unique flavor that you will not find elsewhere.
It smells like a light and sweet mashed corn followed by caramel, honey, vanilla, and citrus. It has a mix of woody, spicy, and fruity flavors with some heat. When you take the first sip, it gives hints of toffee, orange peel, leather, honey, and oak. It gives a bit of leathery finish along with vanilla, oak, and spices. Overall it feels smooth and great for beginners as well as longtime drinkers.
#6. Basil Hayden’s
Distillery: Jim Beam
Mashbill: 63% corn, 27% rye and 10% barley
Notes: Caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange
The Basil Hayden’s 80% proof bourbon is produced in small batches in the Jim Beam distillery. The age is not stated but is around seven years old. The Mashbill consists of 63% corn, 27% rye content, and 10% barley.
The bottle looks like a wine bottle and has a plastic stopper. When you pour the whiskey into a glass, you will notice notes of butterscotch. It is one of the best bourbons for beginners with a traditional corn base and grains. It is loaded with large rye content and is spicy with some sweetness as well.
The smell of this bourbon is sweet and inviting, with orange notes followed by peaches and berries. It has a light fragrance. The palate is thin, with some nutty flavor present. You will notice rye spice, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity flavor present. The finish is short with rye spice and cinnamon.
#7. Wild turkey 101 Bourbon
Distillery: Wild Turkey
Mashbill: 75%corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Age: 6 years
Notes: Vanilla, charred oak, maple syrup, and cinnamon
The wild turkey whiskey is one of the best bourbons for budgets and beginners. If you have never tried bourbon and are new to it, you must try this. It is worth the price and has good flavors. It has high rye content along with charred oak barrels. It has a dark brown color when you pour it into the glass.
It gives a strong smell of toffee and caramel with hints of alcohol scent. The spice and vanilla flavor gives an excellent base with layers of oak and butterscotch.
The palate has sweet notes of maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. It is further followed by spice and charred oak. All the flavors are well balanced with spice and sweetness. It gives a medium-length finish and keeps the mouth dry. This liquor is much lighter than I expected it to be.
#8. Jefferson Reserve Small Batch Bourbon
Notes: Toffee, vanilla, and peaches
This Jefferson Reserve is made in very small batches to create desired flavors. It consists of a mix of eight to twelve barrels of different flavors. This whiskey is distilled from different distilleries. The Jefferson Reserve is an excellent choice for beginners.
It gives notes of corn, oak, and vanilla when you smell it, followed by light floral notes and ripe plum in the background. When you have the first sip, it tastes sweet along with the vanilla and oak flavor, which are its main flavors.
It gives hints of honey and cherry. The finish is quite short, with light hints of aged oak and vanilla along with some citrus peels and white pepper.
#9. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon
Distillery: Woodford Reserve
Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% barley
Notes: Toffee, caramel, and spice.
The Woodford reserve in Kentucky is another great option for beginners. This bourbon consists of different flavors combined in one drink. The Mashbill consists of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. It is distilled at different distilleries and has low proof.
The smell is quite thick and creamy. You will notice notes of honey, spice, leather, oak, and vanilla. When you sip it, you will get the taste of beans, spice, cereal, and rye content, followed by almond oil and little rum.
The finish is quite long and mature, with notes of spices, oak, and cereals. You will notice aged oak, pepper, and hints of tobacco at the front. It gives a slight burn with the dry leather and tobacco, but it dissipates quickly.
#10. Bulleit Bourbon
Mashbill: 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% barley
Notes: Oak, maple, nutmeg
Our next great bourbon for beginners is the Bulleit Bourbon. This brand has been around for around 150 years. This brand uses the combination of 68% corn, 28% rye, 4% barley, along with strains of yeast and limestone-filtered water. If you like spicy flavors, you will love this. Along with the spicy flavors, it still goes down smooth and has high rye content. It is a versatile bourbon that tastes great with cocktails and soft drinks as well.
You will notice the smell of orange peel, oak, and vanilla, followed by notes of cherry and oak in the background. It has a good amount of scent but is light.
When you have the first sip, you will get the taste of caramel, followed by peppery oak. Your mouth will feel creamy. You will notice notes of cinnamon and ginger as well. The finish is of medium length with some rye content, charred oak, and floral notes.
#11. Evan Williams Bourbon
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery, KY
Mashbill: 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% barley
Age: 4 years
Notes: Toffee, vanilla, and peaches
The Evan Williams bourbon is a must-try for beginners. It is one of the oldest brands that still maintains its quality and flavor. It has a smooth and rich taste. It is perfect for starting enthusiasts. The quality and consistency of the brand are its hallmarks. It tastes excellent in cocktails and mixes great with other ingredients.
You will notice the smell of rich vanilla and mint when you open the bottle. When you first sip it, you will get hints of oak, apple, and caramel, followed by notes of rye spice, roasted almonds, and fruity flavors. You will get the taste of spice during the finish, along with the notes of vanilla, charred oak, and nuts. It gives a medium finish.
Ultimately, the experience of enjoying bourbon whiskey is all about trying different flavors and developing tastes. To find the best bourbon for yourself, you can consider the flavors you like the most and find your favorite balance. Look for bourbons with the right flavors and notes to suit your individual taste.
I hope this article will help you get an idea of some of the best bourbons for beginners and be a useful guide in your search for some great bourbons to love.