10 Best Single Barrel Bourbons, Blind Tasted And Ranked

January 19, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja

Single barrel bourbon is a great sub-style of the corn-fueled juice. A single barrel bourbon is — in theory — the brand’s best expression of their point of view as distillers and/or blenders. The people behind the brand(s) believe that the whiskey from a single barrel of bourbon is so on point with a clear beginning, middle, and end that it doesn’t need to be blended with other barrels to help fill in any gaps in the flavor profile. It’s the good stuff with that little bit of magic that helped a single barrel age pretty much perfectly.

But which bourbon brands do that best? Well, let’s do a blind taste test to find out. I’ve pulled 10 bottles of single barrel bourbon from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana (though mostly Kentucky) to see which ones taste the absolute best in a blind taste test.

That makes our lineup the following bottles:

  • Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel No. 12358
  • Kirkland Signature Single Barrel Reserve by Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Premium Whiskey Barrel No. 007
  • Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Huber’s Rickhouse Select Barrel No. 18-0256 Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Frank August Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 5.1 Years Barrel No. 0002
  • Jim Beam Single Barrel Selected Barch Barrel No. JB 000310093 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Nashtucky Special Release Aged 8 Years Barrel No. KY-601 Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
  • Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Aged 9 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Years Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Let’s dive right in and rank some delicious single barrel bourbons!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

Part 1: The Tasting

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Taste 1

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose opens slightly tannic with rich orange zest and vanilla cream next to woody winter spice, fresh mint, and wet cedar with a hint of gingerbread and burnt cherry.

Palate: The palate hits on soft vanilla white cake with a salted caramel drizzle and burnt orange zest vibe next to apple/pear tobacco leaves dipped in toffee and almond.

Finish: The end has a sour cherry sensation that leads to wintery woody spices, cedar bark, and old cellar beams with a lush vanilla pod and cherry stem finish.

Initial Thoughts:

This was a nice place to start but had a slight thinness that peaked around the mid-palate and finish. It wasn’t washed out, just light.

Taste 2

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this one is pure classic bourbon with rich vanilla, salted caramels, sweet oak staves, winter spices, and a hint of Almond Joy.

Palate: The palate leans into sour red wine spiced with woody winter spices and cut with brown sugar before a sense of corn husks, creamy eggnog with plenty of nutmeg, and cherry/chocolate tobacco leaves kick in.

Finish: The end has a nice warmth, kind of like a spicy ancho-dark hot chocolate flaked with salt and rolling around next to cherry tobacco.

Initial Thoughts:

This is delicious whiskey. It’s well-rounded and has a deep flavor profile. It’s a little warm on the tongue but not overly so.

Taste 3

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Rich and dark cacao powder next to burnt caramels, black licorice, old vanilla pods, and old leather boots appear on the nose with a dash of fresh nutmeg and clove.

Palate: Lush salted caramel and a rich sense of honey loaded with cinnamon sticks and a black cherry cola drive the palate before a pinch of black pepper arrives, adding a bold ABV heat.

Finish: The end has a cream soda feel with spiced nut cake and mince pies over a Cherry Coke cut with chocolate sauce that’s just kissed with chili pepper tobacco.

Initial Thoughts:

This is very nice and lush with a big ABV burn on the mid-palate. I wanted to add a rock.

Taste 4

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose on this meanders from sheet cake with vanilla frosting toward chili-laced dark chocolate ice cream to old leather gloves with a hint of potting soil, soft cedar planks, and a twinge of an orange creamsicle.

Palate: The taste balances a lemon meringue pie with silky cream soda, red peppercorns, and thick toffee sauce with plenty of brown butter.

Finish: The end has a bit of woody spice next to spiced cherry syrup, a crack of black pepper, and crumb more of that cake from the nose with a counter of those old leather gardening gloves finishing off the taste.

Initial Thoughts:

This was classic. It felt like a really good bourbon from top to bottom.

Taste 5

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Sour cherries over malted vanilla ice cream pull you in on the nose with toasted coconut and spiced pine cones, buttery vanilla cake, and burnt orange.

Palate: The palate hits on rich and moist marzipan with a hint of dried rose next to woody holiday spices, German chocolate cake with a heavy almond cream vibe, and a twinge of cinnamon candy tobacco.

Finish: The end has an Almond Joy feel that leads to sour cherry and chocolate tobacco with a slight hint of old porch wicker.

Initial Thoughts:

This also felt like a classic bourbon. The beginning, middle, and end were quintessential.

Taste 6

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This is a very classic Kentucky bourbon nose with big winter spice notes tied to barks and buds with a hint of nutmeg before leaning into oily vanilla pods and salted caramel chews with a nice hint of apple cider and black cherry cola.

Palate: Clove buds, cinnamon bark, and allspice berries lead on the palate with a hint of chili pepper spiciness before a lush sense of vanilla white cake with toffee frosting and burnt orange creates a luxurious mouthfeel with a hint of alcohol warmth.

Finish: The end arrives with a deeply classic vibe that’s slightly tied to old oak cellars next to cherry bark, old bottles of vanilla, and easy-going salted caramel sweetness next to a hint of apple cider tobacco rolled with cinnamon bark and cedar.

Initial Thoughts:

This was really good too. It had a nice depth to it and was a very easy sipper.

Taste 7

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: You’re greeted with vanilla pound cake drizzled with salted caramel, mulled wine spices, and a cherry hand pie with powdered sugar icing that’s just touched with dark chocolate and maybe some broom bristles and corn husks.

Palate: The taste leans into floral honey cut with orange oils next to sticky toffee pudding and cherry tobacco packed into an old leather pouch.

Finish: There’s a hint of coconut cream pie next to woody winter spices on the finish with a touch more of that cherry tobacco married to salted dark chocolate all layered with dry sweetgrass and cedar bark.

Initial Thoughts:

This is really nice but felt a little on the cheap side. It’s not a bad taste at all, more of a mild thinness compared to the other pours. Still, this was good whiskey.

Taste 8

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Old lawn furniture and Christmas cookies mingle on the nose with a beautiful mix of old figs, sticky toffee pudding, plenty of mulled wine spice, apricot jam, and a whisper of white pepper warmth.

Palate: The palate has a nice warmth to it that leans into the spices in a fig pudding and Christmas cake or gingerbread panel next to dried wild sage and cedar bark with a hint of berry tobacco.

Finish: The end kicks the warmth up with sweetness via a Hot Tamales candy sensation next to old stewed pear jam next to a hint of salted dark chocolate tobacco in an old leather pouch.

Initial Thoughts:

Holy shit, this was good whiskey. It’s so deeply flavored and full of twists and turns in the flavor profile that leads to a great finish. So good.

Taste 9

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This is bold on the nose too with plenty of lush vanilla next to salted caramel, a touch of barrel char, brandy-soaked cherries, and a hint of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans with a little date/prune action.

Palate: The palate pops with dark chocolate Almond Joys next to cherry root beer and old oak with a hint of potting soil that leads to a big ABV warmth with sharp peppery spice.

Finish: The end softens toward a mocha espresso with a dash of nutmeg next to dry cedar and cherry tobacco wrapped around a box of Red Hots.

Initial Thoughts:

This was also pretty great. The mid-palate was a little hot but still delivered a nice overall profile. It just needed a rock.

Taste 10

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a peppery sense of cedar bark and burnt orange next to salted caramel and tart red berries with a moist and spicy sticky toffee pudding with some brandy butter dancing on the nose.

Palate: The palate blends vanilla tobacco with salted dark chocolate-covered marzipan while espresso cream leads to new porch wicker and black peppercorns.

Finish: The end has a pecan waffle vibe with chocolate chips, maple syrup, blackberry jam, and minced meat pies next to old tobacco and cedar with a sweet yet singed marshmallow on the very end.

Initial Thoughts:

This is just delicious, perfectly balanced, and warm without being hot. It’s great.

Part 2: The Ranking

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

10. Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel No. 12358 — Taste 1

Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $69

The Whiskey:

This very affordable offering from Heaven Hill is hard to beat at its price. The juice utilizes a touch of rye in the mash bill and is then aged for ten long years in a bonded rickhouse. The best barrels are chosen by hand and the juice is bottled with just a touch of water to bring it down to bottled-in-bond proof.

Bottom Line:

This was the thinnest profile of the whole batch today. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it’d be better suited to a good cocktail than a sipper.

9. Jim Beam Single Barrel Selected Barch Barrel No. JB 000310093 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 7

Jim Beam Single Barrel
Beam Suntory

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $24

The Whiskey:

Each of these Jim Beam bottlings is pulled from single barrels that hit just the right spot of taste, texture, and drinkability, according to the master distillers at Beam. That means this juice is pulled from less than 1% of all barrels in Beam’s warehouses, making this a very special bottle at a bafflingly affordable price.

Bottom Line:

This really was a good whiskey with a slight thinness to it that didn’t really take too much away. Still, I’d probably use this to make a killer cocktail.

8. Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Premium Whiskey Barrel No. 007 — Taste 3

Uncle Nearest Single Barrel
Uncle Nearest

ABV: 60.5%

Average Price: $79

The Whiskey:

This new single-barrel release is made with juice distilled, aged, and bottled at the Nearest Green Distillery in central Tennessee. The single barrels are chosen for their exact flavor profile and greatness and bottled completely as-is with no filtration or cutting with water to maintain that barrel’s greatness in the bottle.

Bottom Line:

This was nice overall but was pretty hot on the palate. It feels like it’d be great over a glass of ice.

7. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 5

Wild Turkey

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This is a high water mark of what standard Wild Turkey can achieve. The Russells select the “honey barrels” (those special barrels that are as much magic as craft) from their rickhouses for single barreling. The juice is non-chill filtered but is cut down slightly to proof with that soft Kentucky water.

Bottom Line:

This is just classic all around — and that’s it. It didn’t take me anywhere new but it didn’t need to. It just delivered. That said, I’d probably make an awesome Manhattan with this before I’d sip it neat.

6. Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Huber’s Rickhouse Select Barrel No. 18-0256 Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 4

Starlight Single Barrel
Huber Winery

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

These single barrel releases from Huber Winery’s Starlight Distillery are starting to light up the craft bourbon scene. The Indiana juice is real craft from a family tradition going back to the mid-1800s on the same farm (this isn’t MGP). Depending on the barrel, the mash here is a unique one with 58% corn, 27% rye, and 15% malted barley. That whiskey is aged for at least four years before it’s considered ready for single barrel bottling as-is.

Bottom Line:

This was also classic from top to bottom with no bells or whistles, just good whiskey. Again, that means that I would use this for cocktails before as a sipper. Though, I’m sure it’s perfectly fine over some rocks.

5. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Aged 9 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 9

Knob Creek Single Barrel
Beam Suntory

ABV: 60%

Average Price: $72

The Whiskey:

This single barrel bourbon is from Beam’s private barrel pick program for retailers and at the distillery. That means your local retailer goes out to Clermont, Kentucky, and picks a single barrel for their store only. Beam then cuts the bourbon to 120 proof (if needed), bottles it, and delivers it to the store. That also means these will vary from store to store ever so slightly.

Bottom Line:

This was a great pour with a tad too much heat on the mid-palate. That’s easily fixed with some ice.

4. Frank August Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 5.1 Years Barrel No. 0002 — Taste 6

Frank August Single Barrel
Frank August

ABV: 62.05%

Average Price: $159

The Whiskey:

This brand-new release from awards-favorite Frank August dials things into a single barrel of whiskey. The whiskey in the bottle is a 5.1-year-old Kentucky bourbon from an undisclosed source. That barrel is bottled 100% as-is with no cutting, filtering, or fussing.

Bottom Line:

This was pretty delicious and a great sipper on its own. It’s also where we get into the splitting hairs section of this ranking.

3. Kirkland Signature Single Barrel Reserve by Barton 1792 Master Distillers Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 2

Costco Bourbon
Costco

ABV: 60%

Average Price: $32

The Whiskey:

This Costco release is sourced from Sazerac’s other Kentucky distillery, Barton 1792 Distillery down in Bardstown, Kentucky. The whiskey in the bottle is very likely the same distillate/barrels as 1792 Full Proof. However, this is proofed down a tiny bit below that at 120 proof instead of 125 proof, adding some nuance to this release.

Bottom Line:

I liked this a tiny bit more. It was just perfectly balanced while still holding onto a deep profile. It’s also a really nice neat sipper.

2. Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Years Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 10

Michters Distillery

ABV: 47.2%

Average Price: $520

The Whiskey:

The juice in this bottle is a little under wraps. Michter’s is currently distilling and aging its own whiskey, but this is still sourced. The actual barrels sourced for these single barrel expressions tend to be at least 10 years old with some rumored to be closer to 15 years old (depending on the barrel’s quality, naturally). Either way, the juice goes through Michter’s bespoke filtration process before a touch of Kentucky’s iconic soft limestone water is added, bringing the bourbon down to a very crushable 94.4 proof.

Bottom Line:

Again, this was just really, really good whiskey. There are no faults in this pour — it’s perfect as-is.

1. Nashtucky Special Release Aged 8 Years Barrel No. KY-601 Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 8

Nashtucky 8 Year Bourbon
Nashville Barrel Company

ABV: 59.8%

Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is part of the new line from the famed Nashville Barrel Company. In this case, barrels were filled in Kentucky and then sent down to Nashville to age for eight years, colliding the worlds of Kentucky bourbon with the Tennessee climate. The results are bottled as-is one barrel at a time.

Bottom Line:

This got a “wow” out of me. Yes, the last few pours were all pretty close to perfect, but this was that little bit more. It wasn’t too hot, had real balance, and took me on a journey. It’s great

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Best Single Barrel Bourbons
Zach Johnston

The top five of this ranking are full of spectacular bourbon. Hell, the top seven are all winners really. In all honesty, there’s not a skippable bottle on this list. I’d happily use the Henry McKenna Single Barrel for cocktails any ol’ day of the week.

That all said, that Nashtucky bottle is just something else. It’s so good and interesting and delicious and, and, and… It’s worth tracking down a bottle and adding it to your rotation ASAP.