10 Best Small-Batch Bourbons for Connoisseurs

Not all bourbons are created equal. These are the top picks for any occasion.—By Jackie Summers

Since being co-opted by mass marketing, the terms "craft" and "artisanal" have become both grossly overused and vastly misunderstood. Which is why we’re going to eschew both terms and explore "small batch" instead.

For the record: Some large producers make great whiskies. The Big Guys have both the time to let whisky mature and the money to house vast storehouses of booze, suitable for hiding the arc of the covenant itself. Big doesn’t mean bad, and small doesn’t mean good by default. So why are people so enthusiastic about small-batch bourbons?

First, because bourbon is uniquely American. All bourbons are by definition, whisky, but not all whiskies are bourbon. They require a mash build that’s at least 51% corn, and they must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. There’s no minimum age requirement, but bourbons aged for less than four years require an age statement on the label.

And what makes small-batch production special? The tiny variations from batch to batch that give a product character; how varieties of heirloom corn change nuance and complexity; the size and shape of barrels; the way unpredictability of the weather affects aging. Remove these tiny fluctuations, and the end result is sterile perfection.

Not all bourbons are created equal, however, and small-batch items tend to be be pricey. To guide your purchasing decisions, we’ve divided up these 10 truly special small-batch bourbons into three categories: sippers, cocktails and gifts. By the way, did you know that drinking whiskey is associated with a longer life? Check out the exclusive report that's changed thousands of lives: 100 Ways to Live to 100!


Looking for a great occasional bourbon? These are the best craft spirits to enjoy alone, or with friends.

Angel’s Envy Port Barrel Finished Bourbon

Occasion: It’s 5 o’clock on Tuesday. Or any day. $49 at

High West American Campfire

Occasion: Celebrate the completion of your fire pit with friends and this savory, smoky bourbon. $62 at

So invest in a bottle — drinking great whiskey is only one of these incredibly 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s!

Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whisky

Occasion: You’ve finally sealed the deal on a major contract or purchase, and damnit, you deserve this! $88 at


Entertaining? Dazzle your guest by making these bourbons the backbone of your libations.

Few Bourbon

Make an Old Fashioned for friends with this new Chicago standard. $49 at

Use it to make one of these 10 Creative Whiskey Cocktails That'll Impress!

Corsair Nashville Bourbon

Don’t let your guests get the vapors while watching the Derby; serve Mint Juleps made with this new southern classic. $70

Van Brunt Stillhouse

Add depth and breadth to your Boulevardier with this Brooklyn favorite. Then mix up a batch of these 20 Cocktails Every Man Should Know How to Make! $35 at

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon

Made upriver from Manhattan, but perfect in its cocktail namesake. $43 at


Balcones Blue Corn Bourbon

Got a whisky nerd in your life? Get them the original heirloom corn bourbon from the mad scientists in Waco, Texas. $60 at

Even better, give both of you the gift of a whiskey tour. That's just one of the 25 Adventures Every Man Should Have!

Kings County Peated Bourbon

For when he finally decides to trim that man-bun. $46 at

LIS Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky

This award winning bourbon made in the heart of Long Island is astoundingly, bafflingly affordable. Pick up a case for the holidays, and keep one for yourself! $35 at

More from Best Life

10 Creative Whiskey Cocktails That'll Impress

20 Cocktails Every Man Should Know How to Make

5 Easy Kitchen Moves

25 Kitchen Gadgets Every Man Needs