Best Bourbons | Guide

The 18 Best Bourbons Over $100 Ranked [2021]

Nov 12, 2020

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by Matty Sims

Many will shake their heads and sigh over the best bourbons over $100 category — because most of these are unicorns for your average bourbon drinker. I’m going to include some no brainers like the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, but you can’t have a complete list and especially not one with the best bourbons over $100 without those no brainers.

These rare bourbons are assumed in this category precisely because they’re universally hard to find bourbons and the best top-shelf whiskeys money can buy. Without further ado, these are the top bourbon brands over $100.

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The Best Bourbons Over $100

Best Bourbons Over $100

These are the rockstars of the bourbon community. They’ve got groupies. They divide bourbon groups into factions, and, in most cases, they are hard to find. But if you’re lucky, you find one close to retail and have your socks knocked off. These are the best bourbons over $100. As with the best bourbons under $100 category, many of these are single barrels or annual releases where flavor, proof, and other details may vary.

#1 – Pappy Van Winkle 15-Year-Old

Pappy 15 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $119
oldripvanwinkle.com
Hunting Notes: Pappy 15-Year-Old is known as one of the smoothest sipping bourbons. I can confirm. Smooth as butter. Unless you have a close relationship with a store owner, just get lucky, or win a bourbon lottery, chances are you’re not seeing Pappy Van Winkle at retail. But the hunt is half the fun. Beware of counterfeits even at stores. Pappy is one of the expensive bourbon brands on the secondary market which has emboldened counterfeiting.

Awards:

  • 2019 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Best Bourbon, 11-15 Years – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2016 Overall Winner, Best Age Statement Bourbon – World Whiskies Awards
  • 2014 Bronze Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2014 Gold Medal; Bourbon American Whiskey 8 Years and Over – World Whiskies Awards
  • 2013 Double Gold Medal; Best Small Batch Bourbon; Best Bourbon – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2013 Liquid Gold Award – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2011 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2011 Excellent-Strong Recommendation – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2011 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2011 Gold Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2010 Gold Medal – Best of Show – Best Whiskey – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2006 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2006 Silver Medal – Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2005 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2005 Silver Medal – International Spirits Challenge
  • 2004 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2004 Silver Medal – International Spirits Challenge
  • 2003 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2002 Award of Excellence – American Tasting Institute
  • 2001 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2000 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition

#2 – Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year-Old

Pappy 20 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $149
oldripvanwinkle.com
Hunting Notes: The Pappy bourbons are definitely the rockstars of the best bourbons over $100 category. They played a major role in the bourbon boom with Anthony Bourdain in 2012 proclaiming, “If God made Bourbon, this is what he’d make.” Chef Sean Brock stocked his mega-popular Husk restaurant with an entire barrel of Pappy bourbon. So the rockstar chef boom bolstered the bourbon boom. However, the rubicon was crossed in 1997, when the prestigious Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago scored a bottle of Pappy 20-year-old bourbon 99 out of 100.

Awards:

  • Scored 99 (“superlative”) from the Beverage Testing Institute in 1997
  • 2018 Double Gold Medal, Best Bourbon, Best Small Batch Bourbon – New York International Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Bronze Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2016 Gold Medal, Best Age Statement Bourbon – World Whiskies Awards
  • 2015 Chairman’s Trophy; “Tried & True” – 98 points – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2015 Winner, Best Bourbon – Age Statement – World Whiskies Awards
  • 2014 Silver Outstanding Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2014 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2013 Silver Outstanding Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2013 Bronze Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2013 Extraordinary-Ultimate Recommendation – Chairman’s Trophy Finalist – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2012 Gold Medal – Best in Category – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2012 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2011 Extraordinary-Ultimate Recommendation – Chairman’s Trophy Finalist – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2011 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2011 Silver Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2011 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2010 Excellent-Strong Recommendation – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2010 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2010 Silver Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2010 Bronze Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2009 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2009 Silver Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Double Gold Medal – Best Bourbon – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal – Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Silver Medal – Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Bronze Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2007 Bronze Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition

#3 – William Larue Weller (BTAC)

WLW - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $99
buffalotracedistillery.com
William Larue Weller Guide
Hunting Notes: William Larue Weller is my personal favorite of the BTAC releases. It pairs the sweet notes wheater fans love with big, bold flavors that come from a high proof bourbon. I’ve never had a WLW that wasn’t great.

Awards:

  • 2019 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2018
  • 2019 World Whisky of the Year – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2019 Bourbon of the Year – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2019 Finest Bourbon, No Age Statement, Multiple Barrels- Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2018 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2017 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2016
  • 2017 Bourbon of the Year (2015 Release) – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible

#4 – Michter’s 20-Year-Old

Michters 20 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Michter’s Distillery
Location: Louisville, KY
MSRP: $700
michters.com/20-year-kentucky-straight-bourbon
Hunting Notes: When it comes to premium bourbon aged over 20 years, the big names are Pappy and Michter’s. If you’ve got $700 ready to drop on bourbon, Michter’s 20-Year-Old might be your huckleberry.

Awards:

  • Best Bourbons of Century, 2012 by Fred Minnick

#5 – King of Kentucky

KoK - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Brown-Forman Distillery
Location: Louisville, KY
MSRP: $250
brown-forman.com
Hunting Notes: Currently, King of Kentucky is only available in Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois. In 2020, KoK yielded 2,000 bottles (26% yield out of the barrel). May the odds be ever in your favor as you search for one of the best rare bourbons.

Awards:

  • 2019 “American Whiskey of the Year” by Fred Minnick

#6 – Wild Turkey Master’s Keep: Platinum 98 Points (Highest)

Masters Keep - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Available with Hunting
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery
Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
MSRP: $175
wildturkeybourbon.com
Reviews:

Hunting Notes: Wild Turkey’s Master Keep is one of the Best Experimental Whiskey Annual Release — blends, bottled in bond, sherry finish, to name a few. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep is undervalued by bourbon nerds, so keep this between us, so it doesn’t become hard to find.

#7 – Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old

Blade & Bow 22 - Best Bourbons Over $100_1

Availability: Allocated
Distillery: Stitzel-Weller Distillery/Diageo
Location: Louisville, KY
MSRP: $450
bladeandbowwhiskey.com
Blade and Blow 22 Year Review
Hunting Notes: Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Bourbon used to be the best value aged limited edition bourbon at $150 but as the bourbon market continues to explode the price has as well. BB22 is now $450. It’s still a delicious, old bourbon but the price tag might give you pause since it’s now one of the most expensive bourbons on the over $100 bourbon list.

Awards:

  • “Best Straight Bourbon”: DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

#8 – Michter’s 25-Year-Old Single Barrel

Michters 25 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Michter’s Distillery
Location: Louisville, KY
MSRP: $800
michters.com/25-year-kentucky-straight-bourbon
Hunting Notes: Michter’s 25-year-old single barrel is the unicorn of unicorns. Partly because of its limited availability but also the MSRP is significantly higher than Pappy’s premium aged bourbons. Your average bourbon drinker may not have the capital to drop $800 on a bourbon.

#9 – George T. Stagg (BTAC)

GTS - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $99
buffalotracedistillery.com
George T. Stagg Reviewed
Hunting Notes: BTAC offers some of the best top-shelf bourbons available, and George T. Stagg is a favorite because bourbon nerds chase high proof bourbons and GTS’s bold high proof flavors rarely disappoint.

Awards:

  • 2019 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Chairman’s Trophy – 98 points – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2019 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2018
  • 2018 Gold Medal – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2018 Trophy Finalist – 95 points – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2018 Best American Whisky No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels) – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2017 Double Gold Medal – New York World Wine & Spirits Competition
  • “5 Stars – Highest Recommendation” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2016

#10 – Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year-Old

Pappy 23 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $299
oldripvanwinkle.com
Hunting Notes: Pappy 23-Year-Old is roundly considered one of the best-aged bourbons in the best bourbons over $100 category. Pappy 23-year-old’s price, which may have seemed high a decade ago, is reasonable for a premium aged bourbon.

Awards:

  • “Spirit of the Year” for 2010 by Wine & Spirits magazine
  • 2012 Extraordinary-Ultimate Recommendation – Chairman’s Trophy Finalist – Ultimate Spirits Challenge
  • 2008 Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal – Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2008 Silver Medal – Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition

#11 – Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Four Roses SmB LE - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Allocated
Distillery: Four Roses Distillery
Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
MSRP: $150
fourrosesbourbon.com
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Reviewed
Hunting Notes: The Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition is a personal favorite and the annual releases rarely disappoint. Most years they will release the first wave at the distillery. Four Roses stans have been known to camp out.

#12 – Eagle Rare 17-year-old (BTAC)

ER17 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Highly Allocated
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $99
buffalotracedistillery.com
Eagle Rare 17 Guide
Hunting Notes: Eagle Rare 17-year-old is kind of an enigma. Just like with the Pappy Van Winkle collection. You need to be prepared for failure unless you are willing to pay way over MSRP. The yields are lower than either GTS or WLW, so the secondary is off the charts, but it’s also hit and miss in terms of delivery. Some years are phenomenal (2019 in my opinion), and others are just good but not great. Don’t get my wrong I’d be happy to drink this every year but if I had a choice I’d choose WLW first.

Awards:

  • 2020 Double Gold Medal; “Best Small Batch Bourbon 11 Years and Older” – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2019 – 92 points – Ultimate Spirits Competition
  • 2019 Silver Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • “4 Stars – Highly Recommended” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2018
  • 2018 Bronze Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 2017 Silver Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • “3 Stars – Recommended” – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal, December 2016
  • 2016 Best Bourbon, 10-17 Years (Multiple Barrels) – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
  • 2015 Silver Outstanding Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition
  • 2014 Gold Medal – International Wine & Spirits Competition

#13 – Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Birthday Bourbon - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Allocated
Distillery: Old Forester Distillery
Location: Louisville, KY
MSRP: $130
oldforester.com
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Review
Hunting Notes: Birthday Bourbon is the big play Wide Receiver out of the Limited Releases on this list. When it’s good it’s rrreeeaallll good, but I’ve also had some that were just good, not great. They, like Four Roses, release the first wave at the distillery, so if you’re ready to camp out you may have a shot.

Awards:

  • San Francisco World Spirits Competition: “best bourbon” award 2012, “double gold medal” award 2003 and 2012, “gold medal” award 2006 and 2007, “silver medal” award 2005.
  • Rating in 90+ Percentile—Best Whiskies indicated by Proof66.com
  • “Best bourbon aged under 10 years” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006
    Rated 91 on a 100-point scale (“Outstanding! One of the best for its style. Distinctive.”) by John Hansell of Malt Advocate Magazine in 2010
  • Named an “American Whiskey of the Year” at Malt Advocate WhiskyFest New York 2007

#14 – Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Decanter

Old Fitz - Best Bourbons Over $100_1

Availability: Available with Hunting
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery
Location: Bardstown, KY
MSRP: $100+
heavenhilldistillery.com
Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Review
Hunting Notes: Comparatively, I’ve had the best luck finding Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Decanter regularly. Heaven Hill offers three releases — one in the spring, one in the fall, and one distillery only. The Spring is a green label. The Fall is a black label. The Distillery Only is a red label. My favorites have typically been in the Fall, but there’s nothing scientific about that.

#15 – Willett Family Estate Bourbon

Willett Family Estate Bourbon

Availability: Available with Hunting
Distillery: Willett Distillery, also known as Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd.
Location: Bardstown, KY
MSRP: from $149
kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com
Willett Family Estate Bourbon Reviewed
Hunting Notes: Willett Family Estate Bourbon has a cult following. The age varies but the quality never does.

#16 – Barrell Craft Spirits 15-Year-Old Bourbon

BCS 15 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Readily Available
Distillery: Barrell Craft Spirits
Location: Lousiville, KY
MSRP: $250
barrellbourbon.com/bcsbourbon
Barrell Craft Spirits 15-Year-Old Bourbon Review
Hunting Notes: Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon 15-Year-Old is the only limited edition bourbon on this list labeled as readily available. In my experience, even if it’s not distributed in your state, you can find it online.

Awards:

  • Named Best American Whiskey of 2019 by Whiskey Authority Fred Minnick
  • ​​Whisky Advocate rating of 90

#17 – Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old

EC18 - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Available with Hunting
Distillery: Heaven Hill Distillery
Location: Bardstown, KY
MSRP: $199
elijahcraig.com/18-year-old
Hunting Notes: Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old is a no brainer buy, if you can find it. Thankfully, it’s not as elusive as some of the other limited editions on this list.

Awards:

  • 96 Points, Top 100 Spirits, Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2020
  • Double Gold, San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2019
  • Top 50 Spirits, 98 Points, Wine Enthusiast 2010

#18 – Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel

Blantons SFTB - Best Bourbons Over $100

Availability: Available with Hunting
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Location: Frankfurt, KY
MSRP: $149.99
buffalotracedistillery.com
Hunting Notes: Those in the know have been buying Blanton’s Straight From the Barrel overseas for years but Fall 2020 will be the first year it’s offered as a limited release in the U.S. It’s full-bodied bourbon whiskey at its best.

Start shopping for bourbon clothing and accessories for your journey. The Bard’s Shop has custom tees and hoodies, books, barrels, and more.

Written by Matty Sims

Matty Sims is the Editor-in-Chief at a digital media company. LeAnn (his wife) and his daughters Claire, Maddy, and Adele along with a brand new pup Booker live in Taylors, SC, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He enjoys cracking a well-aged bottle of bourbon with friends and sharing stories, or cracking one of his favorite daily sippers on the back porch while the pup and his kids play in the backyard. He is a storyteller at heart, and Bourbon has deep roots in storytelling.
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Comments

3 Comments

  1. Katie G

    I’d say I 99.9% agree with what you have here! A few of these I haven’t tried yet but I’m making sure they’re on my list. The one I don’t care for is Blanton’s SFTB. I agree its worth trying but it just didn’t do it for me.

    Reply
  2. BourbonBeard_1

    Very well written article. Your palate is spot on. The one thing that’s missing for me is a good 14-15 year Knob Creek store pick. Once you find a store that has a barrel there’s USUALLY not a limit on bottles. Nice one to stock up on under the radar. Just as good or better than most Booker’s releases and a few bucks cheaper.

    Reply
  3. Derek parker

    Amazing Job! I have had most of the bourbons on this list. Some I may never try.
    EW SB and BIB are the most underrated bourbons out there.

    Reply

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