There are a lot of factors that go into the smoothest bourbons.. The type of grain used, the aging process, and even the water can all contribute to the final flavor and texture of the spirit.
Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made from at least 51% corn. The rest of the grain mixture, or mash bill, can include rye, wheat, or barley.
Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and it can not have any added flavors or colors.
The aging process also contributes to the smoothness of bourbon because it mellows out the harshness of the alcohol. The type of grain used also has an impact on smoothness.
Wheat bourbons tend to be softer and smoother than those made with rye. Water also plays a role in smoothness. Bourbon must be bottled at no less than 80 proof, which is 40% alcohol by volume.
Some brands may bottle their bourbon at a higher proof, but this will generally make it less smooth. When choosing a smooth bourbon, look for one made with wheat and bottled at 80 proof or lower.
However, finding those sought-after brands like Pappy Van Winkle is not always easy. Here are five of the smoothest bourbons readily available at any local liquor store.
The Smoothest Bourbon Brands
- Maker’s Mark 46
- Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
- Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
So, What is the Smoothest Bourbon?
Maker’s Mark 46 is a premium whiskey that was first released in 2010. the first new significant expression to be created at Star Hill Farm since classic Maker’s Mark went into production in 1953.
This bourbon is the brainchild of Bill Samuels, Jr., and is a unique small-batch bourbon that is finished by inserting seared French oak staves into the barrel.
This unique finishing process imparts bolder, more complex flavors to the whiskey. The spirit is distilled from a mash of corn, wheat, and barley and then aged in new oak barrels for six to eight years.
This imparts a deep amber color and rich flavor profile to the whiskey, with vanilla, caramel, and spice notes.
Maker’s Mark 46 is bottled at 94 proof and is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Today, Maker’s 46 is one of the most sought-after bourbons on the market, and its sophisticated flavor profile has earned it a cult following among whiskey lovers.
Angel’s Envy is a small-batch bourbon whiskey produced by Louisville Distilling Company in Kentucky. The bourbon is made from a blend of corn, rye, and wheat, and aged for up to six years in oak barrels.
Angel’s Envy describes the tasting notes as The first thing you’ll notice about Angel’s Envy bourbon is its beautiful golden color, with hints of reddish amber.
You’ll detect subtle notes of vanilla, raisins, maple syrup, and toasted nuts on the nose. The flavor is complex and layered, with vanilla, ripe fruit, maple syrup, toast, and bitter chocolate all coming together.
The finish is clean and lingering, with a hint of Madeira that slowly fades.
Angel’s Envy is a higher-end bourbon whiskey that is priced accordingly. The least expensive bottle available is the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which has a suggested retail price of $40.
If you’re just starting out with bourbon, and are looking for something smooth, you can’t go wrong with Buffalo Trace’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
Buffalo Trace’s flagship bourbon has been described as “One of the world’s great whiskies.” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. This bourbon is both smooth and affordable, making it a great way to get started in the world of whiskey.
Buffalo Trace is made using a unique mash bill that includes corn, rye, and barley. This gives the bourbon its signature flavor profile, which is both complex and easy to drink.
In addition, Buffalo Trace is one of the oldest bourbons on the market, and its years of experience show in the quality of its product.
This bourbon can is easily found in grocery and liquor stores alike, and will only set you back about $30.
The distillery’s flagship product is Buffalo Trace Bourbon, a rich and flavorful whiskey with notes of vanilla, mint, and molasses. The bourbon has a deep amber color and a long, smooth finish.
It is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. In addition to Buffalo Trace Bourbon, the distillery also produces a number of other excellent spirits, including rye whiskey, vodka, and gin.
Four Roses Single Barrel is a premium bourbon that is perfect for sipping straight up or over ice. It is complex and full-bodied, with a delicate, long finish that is surprisingly mellow.
This bourbon is 100 proof and 50% alcohol/volume, so it is sure to please even the most discerning bourbon lover. Pick up a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel today and enjoy the perfect balance of sweetness, spice, and oak
The Four Roses Single Barrel has a nose of dried spice, pear, cocoa, vanilla, and maple syrup. The palate is full-bodied with hints of ripe plum and cherries. The finish is smooth and delicately long. This bourbon is a great example of a complex spirit.
Another aspect that makes Four Roses a uniquely smooth bourbon is that it is the only bourbon brand that combines two mashbills.
The combination consists of five proprietary yeast strains to create 10 distinct Bourbon recipes. Each recipe brings something different to the batch, which allows for an endless range of flavor profiles.
The first mashbill is a high-rye recipe that imparts a spicy character, while the second is a lower-rye recipe that provides sweetness and fruitiness.
The five yeast strains each contribute their own unique flavors, including floral, citrus, herbal, fruity, and spicy notes. By carefully mingling these recipes, we are able to achieve an endless range of flavor profiles.
Four Roses Single Barrel has an MSRP of $50, and can be found online or at a local store.
Founded in 1812, Woodford Reserve is one of the oldest and most respected brands in the whiskey world.
The distillery is located in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country, and its whiskey is distilled using water from the local spring.
Woodford Reserve is known for its smooth, quality flavor, and it is no surprise that it is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.
The Derby is a prestigious horse race that attracts visitors from all over the world and having Woodford Reserve as its official bourbon adds to the event’s prestige.
It is aged for at least six years. It is made using a mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malt. The whiskey is then double-distilled and bottled at 90.4 proof.
The bourbon has a rich amber color and a nose-heavy with dried fruit, mint, and oranges. On the palate, it is smooth and chewy with complex citrus, cinnamon, and cocoa flavors. The finish is long and warm with a hint of spice.
Woodford Reserve is a versatile whiskey that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or of course, in the Derby’s signature cocktail, the Mint Julep. It is sold at all major retailers, including online, and retails for around $45.
When you drink Woodford Reserve, you are not only enjoying a quality whiskey, but you are also experiencing a piece of Kentucky history.
Smoothest Bourbons – Final Thoughts
So what makes a bourbon smooth? What these five expressions have in common is that the distillers often used wheat or rye as well as barley malt in their recipes to give bourbon different flavors and smooth results.
The water used in production is also important – it should ideally come from limestone-rich springs or aquifers to give bourbon its distinctive flavor profile.
No matter what combination of ingredients is used, though, one factor always remains the same – time. Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years (and most are aged for much longer) to achieve that coveted smooth flavor.