Love it or hate it, longtime whiskey writer and critic Jim Murray’s tastebuds have the power to make bottles disappear off shelves. Containing upwards of 1,500 individual bottle reviews, his annual Whisky Bible is a guide to the good, bad and ugly of the whiskey world. It also crowns what Murray believes are the best whiskeys of the year. And as he’s gone on record saying, he believes Kentucky is making the best whiskeys in the world. Here are Murray’s picks for the best bourbons of 2019 (find the full list of winners here).
1792 Full Proof
World Whisky of the Year: This year, Murray crowned a $45 bottle of bourbon the absolute best whiskey of the year. Made at Barton Distillery and owned by the Sazerac Company, 1792 Full Proof, a no-age-statement whiskey from a lesser-known producer, is not a whiskey one would expect to win such an award. We expect it to fly off shelves in the coming weeks.
E.H. Tayor Jr. Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond
Best No-Age-Statement (Single Barrel): Buffalo Trace’s E.H. Taylor line is made with its famed Mashbill #1 (the same as Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, etc.) and always Bottled-in-Bond. Its Single Barrel expression is slightly more difficult to track down than the more available Small Batch, and typically runs about $55 to $75 in stores. Though it doesn’t bear an age statement, because it’s Bottled-in-Bond you can be sure it’s aged at least four years.
Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel
Best Aged 9 Years and Under: Made by Wild Turkey, this mid-priced, readily available bourbons has been a good value for years. At a solid 110 proof, it’s a non-chill-filtered bourbon aged in extra-charred American oak casks, imbuing the whiskey with added vanilla and caramael notes. Find it in most markets for around $50.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Best Aged 10 to 12 Years: A perennial award-getter gets more awards. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof drops three times a year and its contents are aged for at least 12 years. Due to its unusually high proofs (regularly above 130) and significant maturation, it’s one of the “biggest” drams you can pour. It’s usually available between $65 and $80.
Pappy Van Winkle 15-Year
Best Aged 11 to 15 Years: The first of two Pappies to land in Murray’s winner’s column. No, you likely won’t find it at retail prices. If you want to know more about America’s most famous bourbon, read this.
Best Aged 16 to 20 Years: Michter’s 20-year-old juice is selected by Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann and sourced from an unknown distiller. It’s nearly impossible to find at stores, even after a two-year release hiatus to stabilize supply. What you pay for this bottle is up to the seller.
Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year
Best Aged 21 Years and Up: A king of kings. The 23-year-old Pappy is the most valuable of the wheated wonders and will not be had without strong connections or a fat check. Expect to pay multiple thousands of dollars.