Bourbon 2012

Best Bourbon - 2012

The Fifty Best Bourbon Tasting 2012


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 19 premium bourbons with 16 journalists, bartenders and aficionados. Strict tasting rules were applied. Even the order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the bourbons were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and immediately served at room temperature. Only ice water and unflavored rice crackers were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges.

The tasting notes are summaries of the judges’ opinions. Prices quoted are for 750ml sizes. Prices may vary by state and do not include sales tax.



Hirsch Small Batch Reserve


1. Hirsch Small Batch Reserve - (Kentucky) $34

Nose: Butter, vanilla, banana, floral, grassy, sweet, spicy. Palate: Rich fruit, light floral, dried orange rind, molasses, caramel, creamy layers, vanilla, maple, banana, tangerine, ginger, nutmeg, sweet, round, well-balanced, great smoothness, classy, favorite. Finish: Nutty, sugary, malty, some pepper, mellow, clean, soft, short.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

2. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve - (Kentucky) $28

Nose: Caramel, burnt sugar, molasses, vanilla, floral, rose, clean. Palate: Lemon peel, tangerine orange, apricot jam, honey, buttery, pastry, malty, nutmeg, hazelnut, sherry, eucalyptus, allspice, white pepper, medium spice, cedar, woodsy character, sweet, smooth. Finish: Lemon peel, malty, caramel, acidic, spicy, rustic, smooth, mellow, short to medium.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

1792 Ridgemont Reserve

Buffalo Trace

3. Two-Way Tie - Buffalo Trace - (Kentucky) $23

Nose: Honey, molasses, caramel, butterscotch, smoky. Palate: Orange peel, pineapple, lemon citrus, apricot, vanilla, treacle, nutty, cereal, spicy, cinnamon, coffee, smoky, oak, clean, smooth, well-balanced. Finish: Floral, gtrassy, scotch-like, smooth, mellow, short.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Elmer T. Lee - (Kentucky) $30

Nose: Sweet, honey, vanilla, caramel, buttery, floral, fruity, banana leaf. Palate: Caramel, honey, molasses, toffee, banana, creamy, buttery, biscuit, floral notes, fresh, smooth, well-balanced. Finish: Vanilla, maple syrup, sweet, soft, smooth, balanced, long.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Elmer T. Lee

George Dickel

4. George Dickel - (Tennessee) $20

Nose: Spicy, sweet, black currant, grainy, rye, cereal, licorice, sherry, very soft. Palate: Caramel, butterscotch, candy, malty, buttery, toast, almond, clove, sweet, spicy, silky, round, complex, well-balanced. Finish: Buttery, maple, tea leaves, smoke, soft, tart, rich, smooth, medium-long.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

5. Old Pogue Master’s Select - (Kentucky) $46

Nose: Light floral, caramel, nutty. Palate: Caramel, treacle, light cream, malty, cedar, allspice, almond, leather, rich, very smooth, well-balanced. Finish: Nice, smooth.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Old Pogue Master’s Select

Bowman Brothers


Bowman Brothers - (Virginia) $30

Nose: Sweet, toffee, butterscotch, coconut, tropical fruit, vanilla. Palate: Light honey, caramel, buttery, cream, pralines, marmalade, apricot, citrus, oak, tart, clean, well-balanced. Finish: Buttery, creamy, butterscotch, light spice, astringent, robust, smooth, soft, mellow, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Wild Turkey Rare Breed 101 - (Kentucky) $38

Nose: Fruity, banana, apricot, peach, toffee, creamy, nutty, floral, sweet, rich, pleasant. Palate: Dark cherry, banana, warm butter, rich layers of toffee, treacle, caramel, chocolate, brown sugar, nutty, pecan, walnut, oak, cedar, clove, eucalyptus, woody, floral, herbal notes, spicy, tart, bitter, dry, slight burn, medicinal, sharp, nice. Finish: Smooth, pepper, citrus, sweet, spicy, fiery, bold, harsh, robust, long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Wild Turkey Rare Breed 101

Wild Turkey 81

Wild Turkey 81 - (Kentucky) $25

Nose: Woody, caramel, sweet molasses, ginger. Palate: Vanilla, banana, apricot, fruity, touch of citrus, lemon peel, honey, toffee, almond, ginger, buttery, creamy layers, slightly spicy, peppery, nutty, oak, mint, licorice. Finish: Smooth, soft, slight burn, peppery, spice, surprising body, balanced, long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight- (Texas) $78

Nose: Black tea, toasted brown sugar, buttery, leather, dried fruit, cherry, sugar cane, vanilla, oak, oily, spicy, woodsy, clean. Palate: Orange peel, banana, peach, lemon, coconut, creamy, toffee, ginger, spice, floral notes, light oak, cedar, woody, mahogany rich, smoky, sour, oily, balanced, very elegant. Finish: Soft, peppery, spicy, clove, scotch-like, hot, smooth, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight


Bulleit - (Kentucky) $27

Nose: Molasses, honey, brown sugar, ginger, sweet, toasty, oak. Palate: Caramel, banana, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, buttery, creamy layers, marzipan, malty, clove, almond, nutmeg, oak, syrupy, smooth, great flavor, delicious. Finish: Corn, toffee, soft, light, spicy, balanced.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Ezra Brooks - (Kentucky) $14

Nose: Fruity, floral, corn, banana, orange, tropical fruit, honey, maple, hazelnut. Palate: Orange blossom, molasses, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, creamy, flowery, sweet, pepper, spicy, woodsy, rye, coriander, smooth. Finish: Vanilla, tea leaves, citrus, mint, dried fruit, grainy, malty, mellow.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Ezra Brooks

Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge - (Iowa) $34

Nose: Caramel, honey, jalapeño, citrus, light. Palate: Buttery, caramel, creamy, sweet, rich, lemon rind, single malt flavors, leather, cedar, grainy, grassy, mint, floral. light, smooth, mellow. Finish: Sweet, corn, black currant, cedar, nutty, buttery, soft, smooth, robust, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

E. H. Taylor, Jr. - (Kentucky) $70

Nose: Fruity, caramel, toffee notes, brown sugar, raisin, coconut, grainy. Palate: Sweet, almond, orange peel, some fruit, pepper, spice, nutmeg, peppercorn, ginger, grass, sublime. Finish: Cereal, medicinal, harsh, smooth, long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

E. H. Taylor, Jr.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Hudson Baby Bourbon - (New York) $46 (375 ml)

Nose: Spice, cinnamon, walnut, black tea, smoky, herbal, woody. Palate: Sweet orange marmalade, herbal, malty, rye, cedar, new wood, tobacco, leather, sour, tart, sharp, soft, clean. Finish: Medium, cinnamon, nice, great, lovely, smooth, mellow.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Rebel Reserve - (Kentucky) $20

Nose: Floral, maple, hazelnut, lemon peel, coke, licorice. Palate: Rich, light banana, caramel, creamy, clove, mint, rye, spicy, marzipan, sherry, sourdough, earthy, wood, medicinal, clean, smooth, gentle, well-rounded, pleasant, premium. Finish: Smooth, sharp, light, tropical fruit, coffee, maple, pepper, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Rebel Reserve

John J. Bowman


John J. Bowman - (Virginia) $50

Nose: Rich fruit, orange peel, marmalade, molasses, rich toffee, rum-like, biscuits, soft, woody, floral. Palate: Burnt sugar, butter, creamy, toffee, brown sugar, orange peel, Madeira, grassy, ginger, minty, floral, oak, allspice. Finish: Cereal, vanilla, woodsy, rough, sharp, long.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Abraham Bowman - (Virginia) $70

Nose: Rich, honey, sweet, molasses, butterscotch, burnt sugar, toffee, caramel, citrus, toast. Palate: Creamy, corn, jalapeño, licorice, rich wood, oak, charcoal, leather, medicinal, iodine, strong, pleasant warming, concentrated, unbalanced. Finish: Marzipan, pecan, spicy, orange peel, brown sugar, hot, harsh, lingering wood.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Abraham Bowman

Rebel Yell

Rebel Yell - (Kentucky) $15

Nose: Sweet, honey, caramel, pineapple, cream. Palate: Honey, sugarcane, molasses, creamy, butter, light pepper, floral, grain, lemon-citrus, cedar, oak, leather, smooth, clean, unbalanced. Finish: Oaky, oily, spicy, marzipan, harsh, mellow, short.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




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Comments and Suggestions:

Sat. December 15, 2012 3:00 AM - by: Steve
I'm about 2/3 through my bottle of CEDAR RIDGE, and while I don't claim to have the sharpest palate on the WWW, every time I enjoy it I taste a distinct fresh-cut pinewood flavor when I drink it. This is actually quite a nice taste and unique among the two dozen or so bourbons I've tried. It's also very light and is best drank straight.
Mon. December 10, 2012 10:38 AM - by: Michael
I am a native of Kentucky and have traveled most of the world. I've tried just about every bourbon on the market at one time or another. The list here is representive of a few well-known small batches, but would never stand the test of the best bourbons. Blanton's and Peter Jake's aren't even mentioned.....not saying that they are absolutely the best but they are hands down above just about everything listed here.
Mon. October 15, 2012 5:22 AM - by: Dean
Yeah I have to agree with the posters here. There are definitely some good ones missing from this list, and definitely some that just shouldn't be in the running. Where's Woodford Reserve?. Maker's? I can't help but take issue with a list of "best bourbons" where there are multiple contestants for under $20.
Sat. September 29, 2012 4:00 AM - by: Bruce Fichelson
My numero uno is Pappy Van Winkle 20, but it is virtually impossible to get at a decent price, or to get at all. But I just discovered Black Maple Hill (for those who like sweet bourbons) and I really love it! (My favorite bottle of all time is not bourbon: Balmenie 17-year old Scotch aged in Madeira bottles. Try to get your hands on that if you love highland Scotch.
Mon. May 21, 2012 6:50 PM - by: Bill
Mike Phillips knows what he's talking about. That Pappy's isn't represented here (and No. 1) throws this whole list into question. Others that should be mentioned are Four Roses and Basil Haydens. Disappointing...
Mon. May 14, 2012 4:36 PM - by: Mike Phillips
I'd sure like to know where these people got their qualifications to put this list together. Some of the best tasting bourbons are not even on the list.Pappy Van Winkle 20 year, Jefferson Presidential 18 year are just two that come to mind immediately and without a doubt 1 and 2 on this list.
Tue. April 24, 2012 8:39 AM - by: Bonnie
This is THE only Bourbon Whiskey that I can drink. This is my liquoir.

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Fifty Best > Spirits Archive > Bourbon 2012
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