sipping bourbon poured into glass with wooden barrels in background

Best Sipping Bourbon: Our Expert's Favorites

Sipping bourbon is the kind of bourbon that can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or with a drop of water in it to bring out its flavor. These bourbons have a robust flavor, and while you can technically enjoy any of your favorite bourbon brands neat and by sipping on them, some bourbons are simply better suited to this than others.

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about sipping bourbon, including how to choose the best sipping bourbon for your preferences, the average cost of a quality sipping bourbon, and where to buy any of the sipping bourbon brands you are interested in.

What You Need to Know About Sipping Bourbon

When it comes to sipping bourbon, the best bottles tend to have smoother flavor profiles and a higher ABV (alcohol by volume). This is because bourbon, which is higher proof, has a more robust flavor and tends to hold up on its own when combined with ice or a drop of water. Sipping bourbon can have a variety of flavor profiles, and the manufacturer, proof, and grains that are selected for the bourbon can each play a part in how smooth the taste is and the flavor notes.

Sipping Bourbon: An Overview

Sipping bourbon is any type of bourbon that can easily be enjoyed by sipping it neat, on the rocks, or with a drop of water versus blending it into a cocktail. Bourbons are created from a ‘mash bill’ of fermented grains that are then distilled and aged; mash bills must be at least 51% corn, though most bourbons have at least 70% corn in their mash bill. Other popular grains that are featured in bourbons and used for flavoring include rye, malted barley, and different types of wheat.

Sipping bourbon tends to have a very strong flavor, and it is quite boozy due to the higher proof of most bourbons. Various flavor profiles can be found in sipping bourbon depending on the brand you are purchasing from and other factors such as aging and the mash bill, though many individuals find bourbon, in general, to be somewhat sweeter than regular whiskey with undertones of vanilla, oak, smokiness, or grains.

Sipping bourbons are typically perceived as a vintage drink, as this liquor is one of the most classic liquors around today. Enjoying a bourbon neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water is a timeless classic, and every bar or restaurant you may visit should be able to serve you a drink like this, provided they carry bourbon in the establishment. It's also important to note that some bourbons may have a hint of spice; similar to what you'd find in a spiced rum.

How to Choose the Best Sipping Bourbon

Choosing the best sipping bourbon depends on a few factors, including your own personal preferences for flavor profiles, your budget, the age of the bourbon, and the proof of the bourbon. In general, bourbons with a higher proof are considered to have a more robust flavor that can stand up to being sipped on without accompaniment, though some lower-proof bourbons may also be suitable for this.

Additionally, when choosing a sipping bourbon, you should always pay close attention to the label and bottling details, as this can tell you all of the important details you need to know about a specific sipping bourbon. If you are interested in the manufacturer and distilling details, this information can also sometimes be found on the label of a sipping bourbon.

What Does Sipping Bourbon Cost?

On average, sipping bourbon will cost between $25 and $150 per bottle. Bottles that have longer aging times or are limited edition releases may be more expensive, while bottles that are cheaper might not have the most robust flavor profile, depending on your preferences. If you are looking for an entry-level sipping bourbon, going for a relatively cheaper bottle might be a good starting point as you work your way up to more specialized and distinctive bourbon varieties.

Where Can You Buy Sipping Bourbon?

Sipping bourbon can be found in any local liquor store or specialty liquor store that sells whiskies and bourbons. You can also find sipping bourbon in restaurants and bars, especially more upscale cocktail bars or bars that specialize in bourbons and whiskies. If you are interested in a specific brand or want an easy way to purchase your favorite sipping bourbons, you can use an online liquor store or a store like Speakeasy Co.

The Best Sipping Bourbons

The following bourbons are the best for sipping on or enjoying with a drop or two of water. The flavor of each of these bourbons is robust, with unique tasting notes in each bottle. Any of these brands is a good addition to a bourbon-lovers collection.

1. Old Forester 100 Proof

Photo of Old Forester 100 Proof and cocktail glass
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  • MSRP: $25.99
  • Proof: 100 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Apples, clove, nutmeg, toasted oak
  • Our Rating: 4 stars

Old Forester is a well-known name in bourbon and whiskey, and this brand provides plenty of different options for sipping bourbon. Old Forester 100 proof has a robust flavor that is still somewhat sweet and smooth, making it a great choice for sipping neat or over ice. It does have a distinctive character, though some individuals and experienced drinkers of bourbon may not find this bottle smokey or boozy enough for their preferences. However, this brand is fairly accessible and a good choice for an entry-level sipping bourbon.


  • Sweet, smooth taste
  • Distinctive character and flavor, great for sipping neat
  • Easily accessible brand


  • Not as smokey or boozy
  • Experienced bourbon drinkers may not prefer the sweetness

2. Knob Creek 12

bottle of knob creek 12

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  • MSRP: $69.99
  • Proof: 100 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Oak, leather, vanilla, marshmallow
  • Our Rating: 4 stars

Knob Creek is known for its limited-edition bourbon releases and the small batch aging process that the majority of bourbons from this brand receive. Knob Creek 12 is a bourbon that has been aged for twelve years, and its 100-proof status indicates that the flavor of this liquor will be bold and boozy. Notes of oak and leather are complemented by vanilla, white pepper, and marshmallow for a unique spicy and sweet flavor profile. It is a solidly mid-range bourbon in terms of price and flavor, though some may find the flavor profile is somewhat inconsistent between batches.


  • Aged, small-batch bourbon
  • Spicy, sweet, and rich flavor profile
  • Mid-range sipping bourbon


  • The flavor profile might be inconsistent

3. Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottle

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  • MSRP: (List the manufacturer’s suggested retail price)
  • Proof: 90.4 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Dried fruit, tobacco spice, chocolate, oranges
  • Our Rating: 5 stars

Woodford Reserve’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey features a complex and robust flavor palate with notes of dried fruit, citrus and oranges, mint, chocolate, and tobacco spice. Each sip is a flavor experience, and this sipping bourbon is an accessible option for those who want something that isn’t too sweet without being overly complicated. Plus, the Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey is award-winning. That being said, true entry-level bourbon enthusiasts or those who like sweeter liquor may not be the biggest fans of this bottle.


  • Complex and robust flavor
  • Great option for an entry-level sipping bourbon that isn’t too sweet
  • Popular, award-winning brand


  • May not be the best for entry-level bourbon enthusiasts

4. Heaven’s Door Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

  • MSRP: $52.99
  • Proof: 92 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Caramel, cinnamon, black pepper, toasted oak
  • Our Rating: 5 stars

Heaven’s Door Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey might not be one of the most well-known brands on our list, but it offers an exceptional drinking experience complete with balanced flavor notes. Caramel, cinnamon, black pepper, and toasted oak are the most prominent flavors of this liquor, with other sweet-spicy notes and a slight smokey char also present in each sip. This liquor is perfect for sipping and fairly easy to drink, though the brand can be more difficult to find in local restaurants and bars.


  • Surprisingly complex and rich flavors
  • Easy to drink, perfect for sipping
  • Balanced flavor notes for a unique drinking experience


  • Can be difficult to find in restaurants and bars

5. Maker’s Mark 46

bottle of marker's mark 46

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  • MSRP: $43.99
  • Proof: 94 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, caramel, baking spices
  • Our Rating: 5 stars

Maker’s Mark 46 is aged longer than several of the other varieties of Maker’s Mark bourbon, and it utilizes French oak staves as part of the aging process. The flavor profile and aroma of this bourbon is overall much sweeter than some may expect, and there are distinctive notes of vanilla, caramel, and baking spices in each sip. This bottle makes a great choice for an after-dinner or dessert sipping bourbon. Some individuals may want to avoid this brand, however, as it doesn’t have the strong spiciness or oakiness that some other bottles may carry.


  • Sweet flavor profile
  • Great for an after-dinner sipping bourbon


  • Lacks spiciness and oakiness

6. Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey

  • MSRP: $24.99
  • Proof: 80 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Pear, apple, honey, spice
  • Our Rating: 4 stars

A fairly versatile and popular brand, Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a lower alcoholic content due to a lower proof. While some may prefer this lighter drink, others who prefer a stronger and boozier sipping bourbon may want to try a different brand. The Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a great choice for those who want an everyday sipping bourbon, and it has a versatile flavor profile that features notes of pear, apple, honey, and spices.


  • Lower alcoholic content
  • Great for an everyday sipping bourbon
  • Versatile flavor profile


  • Not as boozy or robust as some may prefer

7. Knobel Tennessee Whiskey

  • MSRP: $71.99
  • Proof: 90 Proof
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, almond, oak, ginger, fall spices
  • Our Rating: 3 stars

Knobel Tennessee Whiskey is slightly different from the other options on our list, as it has a fairly straightforward flavor profile. This handcrafted bourbon whiskey has been charcoal-filtered, something unique to the brand, and the liquor is aged for five years before bottling. Tasting notes include vanilla, almond, ginger, and fall spices, and this liquor is perfect for serving over ice as it isn’t quite as smooth as other, more expensive whiskeys. Some experienced sipping bourbon drinkers may find that the flavor profile of this bottle is lacking and that it doesn’t have the overall best value of sipping bourbon out there, though some do enjoy the niches that this brand fills.


  • Charcoal-filtered and aged for 5 years
  • Pleasant, straightforward flavor profile
  • Perfect for serving over ice


  • Not the best value for sipping bourbon
  • Flavor profile can seem lacking to more experienced drinkers

Keep It Neat With Sipping Bourbon

sipping bourbon in glasses with ice

Sipping bourbon is the type of bourbon that you can sip on all night without needing to mix it into a cocktail or otherwise dilute it, though you can certainly enjoy your bourbon this way if the mood strikes you.

When choosing a sipping bourbon, be sure to take note of the expected flavor profile of the bottle, the aging period, and the proof of the bourbon for an idea of how strong the sipping bourbon might be and whether or not it might suit your palate. And remember, don’t hesitate to branch out and try a new sipping bourbon from our list – you might just find your new favorite liquor to enjoy neat.

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