When it comes to bourbon, Kentucky is the epicenter. The rolling green hills of bluegrass, isolated cool hollers, and rich limestone all add to the aura of Kentucky bourbon. But maybe more importantly, it’s the people that call Kentucky home who are making some of the best whiskey out there. And they’re making a lot of it. There’s so much Kentucky bourbon on the shelf these days that I figured it was high time that I called out the top 100 bottles of Kentucky-made bourbon that you can find in 2023.
Since so many people misunderstand what defines bourbon, plenty of folks might think that all bourbon is from KY. But while The Bluegrass State’s bourbon heritage is unparalleled, the spirit can be made in any state (as we’ve covered extensively). Meaning that an all-Kentucky list is much needed.
For this list, I’m looking at everything from the standard but delicious bottles that you can find on pretty much every shelf to the unicorn bourbons that you’re going to have to hunt for. The only real rule here is that the whiskey has to be Kentucky bourbon that tastes good (that means that I’m not calling out any multi-state blends or even bourbons made in another state but bottled in Kentucky). Amazingly, there’s so much of it right now that this list wasn’t that hard to fill. I tried to keep repeats from the same brand to a minimum, though there are two Pappy Van Winkle expressions (out of six). I’m also only including current releases. There are no vintage bottles from, like, 1965 listed below.
As for the ranking, I’ve split that into two sections. 100-51 are the bottles that you can generally get. They’re inexpensive, findable (for the most part), and really tasty. The top 50 are all the greats. And look, a few of the top 50 is 100% findable and relatively well-priced too, but there are also some real unicorns in there.
We have a long way to go to get to that number one spot — so let’s dive right in!
19. Kentucky Senator Bourbon 15 Years Release #1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $199
This sourced whiskey celebrates both Kentucky’s bourbon heritage and U.S. Senators from the Bluegrass state. The juice is made with a mash of 78.5% corn, 13% rye, and 8.5% malted barley. The whiskey is left alone for 15 years before the team at Kentucky Senator Spirits blends and bottles this one, without filtering or proofing.
Nose: This whiskey opens with a medley of dry cedar, black cherries, burnt toffee, buttered sourdough pancake, old leather, cinnamon bark, and spiced chewy tobacco.
Palate: The palate leans into the woody spices with cloves and anise taking center stage as soft maple syrup and pecan-cinnamon-butter create a spiced/sweet/creamy vibe on the palate.
Finish: In the end, more woodsy spices mingle with rich cherry tobacco as old oak, salted caramel, and vanilla cream pie round everything out.
This is a great, nutty Kentucky bourbon that feels like a warm hug on a cold day. It’s sweet, perfectly balanced, and a bourbon lover’s bourbon.