14 of the Smoothest Bourbons For Beginners

14 of the smoothest bourbons for beginners
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If you’re new to bourbon, then you may want to start out with something that will be gentle on the palate. Or if you’ve been drinking whiskey for a while and want to try something new, here’s a list of 14 of the smoothest bourbons along with some info on its ABV, production location and tasting notes. Most importantly, these bourbons won’t break the bank.

Four Roses

Bottled: 40% ABV

Produced: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky by Kirin Brewery

Four Roses Bourbon distill five different yeast strains and two alternative mash bills to produce ten unique spirits. All ten are blended together to create Four Roses bourbon. The result is a smooth bourbon with a mellow finish. On the palate, you can expect fruity flavors with apple and pear dominating, followed by a hint of spice. This is an affordable bourbon that’s smooth enough to drink straight or with a splash.

Bulleit Bourbon

Bottled: 45% ABV

Produced: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky by Kirin Brewery for Diageo

A great entry into bourbon given the low price tag but don’t be fooled. This is a smooth drink with all the characteristics of a classic bourbon. You can expect to discover oak, caramel, and vanilla tones with robust spice notes such as cinnamon and nutmeg thanks to the high rye content in the mash bill. The finish is long and dry.

Buffalo Trace

Bottled: 45% ABV

Produced: Frankfort, Kentucky by Sazerac Company

This bourbon is an exceptional value for money and an easy entry point to the world of bourbon. The flavor profile is slightly on the sweeter side. Buffalo Trace should appeal to most drinkers with its palate of brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. It drinks well, with a long, smooth finish and definitely drinks like a more expensive bourbon.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Bottled: 50% ABV

Produced: Clermont, Kentucky by Beam Suntory

A fine example of a bonded bourbon (50% ABV, over four years old, distilled and bottled by one distiller in a single season).

For beginners, this may be a challenge at first but persevere. This is 100% proof bourbon, so a splash or a bit of ice makes a big difference. Old Grand-Dad is fantastic value and packs a punch yet manages to be smooth and very drinkable. The mash bill has a high rye content (27%), so spicy notes dominate the palate. You can expect vanilla, oak, pepper and caramel and a long sweet and spicy finish.

Jim Beam Black

Bottled: 43% ABV

Produced: Clermont, Kentucky by Beam Suntory

Jim Beam Black is the older, more refined relative to a standard bottle of Jim Beam. It’s aged in white oak for longer, so it develops plenty of caramel and vanilla flavors. The extra maturation also mellows the drinks and improves its smoothness. The spirit has a lovely balance between sweet and spicy. There’s plenty of caramel and toffee tones along with cinnamon and toasty oak spice. Expect a nice long smooth finish.

Maker’s Mark

Bottled: 45% ABV

Produced: Loretto, Kentucky by Beam Suntory

Maker’s Mark is the quintessential bourbon and has a distinctive flavor profile you’ll quickly learn to recognize. It’s an easy entry point for most drinkers as the mash bill is heavy on wheat, not rye. This makes the drink smooth and the overall flavor sweet rather than spicy. Think vanilla, caramel and molasses with a hint of oak. The finish is relatively unsubtle and can come as a surprise the first time you drink it.

W.L. Weller 12 Year Old

Bottled: 45% ABV

Produced: Frankfort, Kentucky by Sazerac Company

While this isn’t the cheapest option when you’re starting your bourbon journey, it’s definitely one of the smoothest at an accessible price point. It has even been compared in flavor to the elusive and highly-priced Pappy Van Winkle. Just like Pappy, W.L. Weller is a wheated bourbon, so it’s sweeter with fewer overtly spicy tones. This makes it easier to drink and smoother on the palate. Add to this the extra years spent in the barrel, and the result is a syrupy, full-bodied bourbon with layers of flavor. It is exceptionally easy to drink with fruity flavors like apple and cherry, along with the classic caramel and vanilla.

Wild Turkey 101

Bottled: 50.5% ABV

Produced: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky by Campari Group

This is Wild Turkey’s signature brand named after its 101 proof strength. Despite the high alcohol content, Wild Turkey 101 is surprisingly light and easy to drink. It leans to Bourbon’s sweeter side but still has a good level of spice from the rye. You’ll discover peppermint, vanilla and oak flavors with a hint of citrus. The peppermint will linger on the finish and give the drink an element of freshness. This is a smooth, full-strength bourbon that any beginner can get to grips with and drink straight, with a splash or mixer.

Angel’s Envy

Bottled: 43.3% ABV

Produced: Louisville, Kentucky by Louisville Distilling Company

A relative newcomer to the bourbon market with its first release in 2011, this quality bourbon has quickly developed a strong following. This is a smooth and balanced bourbon from a corn, rye and wheat mash bill that should be easy for most bourbon beginners to get accustomed to. It is uniquely double matured in oak and port casks, so there are complex flavors you won’t find in other brands. The palate is predominantly vanilla, chocolate and maple syrup with a hint of oak. The finish is long, and as the bourbon fades, the sweetness of the port shines through.

Evan Williams Black Label

Bottled: 43% ABV

Produced: Louiseville, Kentucky by Heaven Hill

This is the second most popular brand of Kentucky Bourbon by sales after Jim Beam. The reason for this is availability, price and, of course, ease of drinking. Evan Williams Black Label might not be as flavorful or unique as some other bottles on this list. However, it is smooth and easily accessible, so it makes a perfect starting point for beginners. There’s not much alcoholic heat, so you won’t feel a nasty burn when you drink it straight. The flavor profile is sweet but simple. You will get vanilla and caramel flavors followed by a smooth finish.

Basil Hayden’s

Bottled: 40% ABV

Produced: Clermont, Kentucky by Beam Suntory

Basil Hayden’s shares the same high rye mash bill as Old Grand-Dad, but it’s a different beast. It’s a lighter bourbon and sweet, not as spicy. It’s an exceptionally smooth and accessible bourbon. There are flavors of honey, vanilla and mint and spice from the rye. The finish is long and sweet, fading to bitter with undertones of mint and spice. Basil Hayden’s is a bourbon that would appeal to drinkers of Jack Daniel’s looking for something a little more special to enjoy straight or on the rocks.

Old Forester

Bottled: 43% ABV

Produced: Louiseville, Kentucky by Brown-Foreman Corporation

Old Forester is one of the oldest, continually produced brands of bourbon. Founded in 1870 and surviving through the prohibition, the recipe has gradually been perfected over 140 years. The mash bill is high in rye, so this is a spicy and full-bodied bourbon. You’ll find the flavor of cherries, oranges, pralines and chocolate, along with hints of mint and tobacco. The finish is fruity and light.

Larceny Bourbon Small Batch

Bottled: 46% ABV

Produced: Bardstown, Kentucky by Heaven Hills

Another newcomer to the bourbon market, Larceny, appearing in 2012. It is a heavily wheated bourbon. The distiller doesn’t share the mash bill’s exact ratios, but they do claim it contains a third more wheat than their competitors. The high wheat content makes Larceny a smooth, easy to engage bourbon. Its flavor profile is less distinctive than Makers Mark but also less divisive. The predominant flavors on the palate are soft cinnamon and allspice, followed by honey and vanilla. The finish maintains the sweetness with a hint of maple.

Knob Creek Small Batch

Bottled: 50% ABV

Produced: Clermont, Kentucky by Beam Suntory

Yet another bourbon from the Jim Beam stable. This is a small batch product just like Basil Hayden’s but has a bolder profile. Knob Creek is complex but smooth, so equally enjoyable for a beginner or enthusiast. Knob Creek is darker than other Jim Beam bourbons as it is aged in oak slightly longer. You’ll discover oak notes, baking spices and toasted nuts along with the usual vanilla and caramel that you would expect of a bourbon. The finish is long and warming with a pleasant mouthfeel.

Final Round

There are plenty of great bourbons out there to try. This is just a small list to start out with if you’re a beginner and want to try bourbon for the first time, just to get your feet wet. While there are many well-known brands on the list, some of the lesser-known ones also offer a great flavor profile at a reasonable cost.