The Best Bourbons Of The Year, According To The 2021 ‘Whisky Bible’

In our desire to highlight the best bourbons for you to spend your hard-earned money on, we often look to awarding bodies and experts. You know, the sorts of folks who get paid to pick the “best bottles.” Do we believe that the experts and judges are always right in their selections? Of course not. But they do often lead to at least some cool finds for aficionados seeking out new drams to love.

For years now, the fall whiskey season has kicked off with the release of the Jim Murray Whisky Bible. The book has grown considerably over the years, with 4,500 reviews from Murray on whiskeys from all over the world. This year’s Whisky Bible added another 1,000+ bottles to the list as the world of whiskey expands even further.

Does that make Murray the be-all-and-end-all of the whiskey reviewing world? No. No one is. The industry is rapidly changing and growing with more diverse voices than ever before. Murray — while being a big part of the growth of whiskey over the last decades — is failable. In fact, he’s particularly embattled this year, over allegations of sexism. He’s also prone to palate exhaustion, just like other whisk(e)y tasters (myself included). Still, the man has tasted over 20,000 drams — that’s a whole lot of context to bring to the table.

The eight bottles of bourbon below are the ones that Jim Murray called out as “the best” going into 2021. Some of them are still fairly accessible at your local liquor store. Others are quite inaccessible — unless you’re a collector with a near limitless budget for bottles of booze. Still, it’s fun to window shop and check out what this longstanding expert has to say.

Bourbon of the Year — Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 64.2%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This expression also won “Bourbon No Age Statement, Multiple Barrels.” So, this is a bit of a two-fer. This barrel-proof bourbon has been lauded all around the world over the last year. Don’t expect the price to stay this low for much longer.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“Rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingle in perfect balance with the bold rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves, and smokiness.”

Bourbon of the Year Runner Up — William Larue Weller, 2019 Release

Buffalo Trace

ABV: 64%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $700

The Whiskey:

Okay, we’re already in inaccessible territory. This expression from the illustrious Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is one of the harder to find and more expensive bottles of bourbon out there. Still, the wheated bourbon is a masterpiece of craft and you can still score a similar version from Buffalo Trace’s W.L. Weller line at a much more affordable price.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“Fragrant scents of caramel corn, new leather, plums, light toffee, and pipe tobacco. The palate tastes of marshmallow, salted almonds, nougat, figs, and dates. This whiskey finishes smooth, composed, and flavorfully sweet.”

Bourbon No Age Statement, Single Barrel — Elmer T. Lee, 100 Year Tribute Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey


ABV: 50%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $800

The Whiskey:

Buffalo Trace continues to dominate with this special release Elmer T. Lee. The bottle commemorates what would have been whiskey legend Elmer T. Lee’s 100th birthday with a special high-proof version of the standard Elmer T. Lee the distillery puts out.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“The nose brings notes of clove, vanilla, and old leather. The flavor balances fruit, honey, and vanilla with a light spiciness. A long and warm finish.”

Bourbon 9-year & Under — Bib & Tucker, Small Batch Bourbon 6-Year-Old

Bib & Tucker

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits (Sourced)
Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

This high-rye bourbon wins a lot of awards. The juice is over 26 percent rye and is aged in a very low charred oak barrel, which lets the spirit shine a bit brighter than the wood.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“Bib & Tucker leads with a scent of strong vanilla and sweet hay. And is accented by a whiff of sandalwood and mace. With a smooth entry, the bourbon is nicely balanced with a hint of pecan pie sweetness. It fulfills the promise of its nose before evolving into a warm, rich, spicy sensation. Bib & Tucker coats the palate with a complex, yet balanced and long-lasting chestnut finish.”

Bourbon 10-12 Years — Michter’s Single Barrel 10-Years-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey


ABV: 47.2%
Distillery: Michter’s Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $130

The Whiskey:

This is one of those bourbons you’re still able to find for a somewhat reasonable price. That’s about to change. This bottle keeps winning big awards, getting heavy press, and is very limited each year. So, the price of this well-aged juice is going to climb higher very soon.

Tasting Notes (from UPROXX’s Expression Session):

“That oak comes through with a fresh maple syrup sweetness. There’s a sense of bourbon vanilla but it’s dialed back as the sip edges more into the bitterness of the charred oak with a rich toffee creaminess. The maple syrup, oak, and toffee carry the sip towards a warm, yet curt end.”

Bourbon 13-15 Years — Knob Creek 15-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey


ABV: 50%
Distillery: Jim Beam, Clermont, KY (Beam Suntory)
Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

Knob Creek 15 released this expression over the summer, and it’s been a hit with bourbon lovers. The juice is a 15-year-old bourbon that’s hand-selected from barrels in various parts of the rickhouse which have the exact right nuances according to the master distillers. The result is a well-aged bourbon that, while expensive, doesn’t break the bank.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“After a decade and half of maturation, Knob Creek 15- Year-Old will entice the nose with delectable caramelized oak and luscious vanilla. Our bourbon will further soothe the palate with smooth caramel and toffee perfectly paired with toasted oak and light leather. Lastly, Knob Creek 15-Year-Old will finish with a warming spice joined by a slight floral bouquet.”

Bourbon 16-year & Older — Michter’s 20-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Michters Distillery

ABV: 57.1%
Distillery: Michter’s Distillery, Louisville, KY
Average Price: $1850

The Whiskey:

This bourbon has already hit that “unattainable” level. Spending nearly $2,000 on a bottle of any booze is an investment, not a party favor. Still, this juice from Michter’s is among some of the most beloved out there (with the awards to boot).

It’s no wonder it’s reached Pappy-level prices.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“Intense notes of black cherry, rich molasses, honeysuckle, roasted pecans, charred oak.”

US Micro Whiskey of the Year Single Barrel — Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey Private Select


ABV: 45%
Distillery: Woodinville Whiskey, Woodinville, WA
Average Price: $36

The Whiskey:

Woodinville Whiskey is a local, independent, grain-to-glass whiskey distillery that wins award after award for their spirits. It’s also a small-time Pacific Northwest institution that has yet to really capture the country’s attention as a great, cornerstone whiskey maker. That’ll change soon as this stuff makes its way around the country and people fall in love with the fine bourbon made in Woodinville.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“This meticulous process yields a truly hand-crafted spirit with aromas of crème brûlée and spice cabinet, as well as notes of rich caramel, dark chocolate, and vanilla bean on the palate with a sweet, lingering finish.”



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