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The Best Bourbon For Old Fashioned:

Best Bourbon For Old Fashioned

The Best Bourbon For Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail that has stood the test of time, known for its simplicity and rich flavors. A key component of this cocktail is bourbon, which provides the base spirit and lends its own distinctive characteristics to the drink. Choosing the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned can greatly enhance your drinking experience, as different bourbons offer varying levels of sweetness, spice, and complexity. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the top bourbons that are ideal for crafting the perfect Old Fashioned, highlighting their flavor profiles, versatility, and overall appeal.

What Makes a Good Bourbon for an Old Fashioned?

Before delving into specific bourbon recommendations, it’s important to understand what qualities make a bourbon well-suited for an Old Fashioned:

  1. Flavor Profile: The bourbon should have a balanced flavor profile that complements the sweetness of the sugar and the bitterness of the bitters in the cocktail. Notes of caramel, vanilla, spice, and oak are often desirable.
  2. Smoothness: A smooth bourbon ensures that the cocktail is enjoyable to sip, with no harsh or overly alcoholic notes overpowering the other ingredients.
  3. Versatility: While the bourbon should shine in the Old Fashioned, it should also be versatile enough to blend harmoniously with the sugar, bitters, and citrus oils typically used in the cocktail.
  4. Availability: While there are many excellent and sometimes rare bourbons available, it’s practical to choose bourbons that are relatively accessible to ensure you can enjoy your Old Fashioned without difficulty sourcing the spirit.

Top Bourbons for an Old Fashioned

Let’s explore some of the best bourbons that consistently receive praise for their performance in an Old Fashioned:

1. Bulleit Bourbon

Profile: Bulleit Bourbon is known for its high rye content, which contributes to its spicy character with hints of vanilla and caramel.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: The spiciness from the rye adds complexity and depth to the cocktail, complementing the sweetness of the sugar and the aromatic bitters. It stands up well to the other ingredients without overpowering them.

2. Buffalo Trace

Profile: Buffalo Trace offers a well-balanced profile with notes of vanilla, caramel, and a touch of spice.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: This bourbon is smooth and mellow, making it an excellent base for an Old Fashioned. Its sweetness and subtle spice enhance the cocktail without dominating the palate.

3. Woodford Reserve

Profile: Woodford Reserve is known for its rich, full-bodied flavor with hints of dried fruit, vanilla, and spice.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: The complexity of flavors in Woodford Reserve adds layers of depth to the Old Fashioned. It provides a robust foundation with a slightly fruity undertone that complements the cocktail’s sweetness.

4. Four Roses Small Batch

Profile: Four Roses Small Batch offers a blend of spicy, fruity, and floral notes, with hints of caramel and oak.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: This bourbon is well-balanced and versatile, making it suitable for a variety of cocktails, including the Old Fashioned. Its complexity ensures a sophisticated drinking experience.

5. Maker’s Mark

Profile: Maker’s Mark is known for its smooth and approachable flavor profile, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: The sweetness of Maker’s Mark pairs beautifully with the sugar in the Old Fashioned, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. It’s an easy-drinking bourbon that appeals to a wide range of palates.

6. Elijah Craig Small Batch

Profile: Elijah Craig Small Batch offers a rich and robust flavor profile with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: This bourbon provides a deep, caramelized flavor that complements the sweetness of the cocktail. Its boldness stands out while still allowing the other ingredients to shine.

7. Knob Creek

Profile: Knob Creek is known for its high proof and full-bodied flavor, with pronounced notes of oak, caramel, and spice.

Why It’s Great for an Old Fashioned: The intensity of Knob Creek adds a robust character to the Old Fashioned, making it ideal for those who enjoy a stronger, more flavorful cocktail experience.

How to Make the Perfect Old Fashioned

Now that you’ve selected your bourbon, here’s a step-by-step guide to crafting an exceptional Old Fashioned:


  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 sugar cube or ½ oz simple syrup
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange or lemon twist, for garnish


  1. Muddle: In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube with the bitters until dissolved. If using simple syrup, skip this step and proceed to the next.
  2. Add Ice: Fill the glass with ice cubes or one large ice cube.
  3. Pour Bourbon: Pour 2 oz of your chosen bourbon over the ice.
  4. Stir: Stir gently to combine and chill the drink.
  5. Garnish: Express the oils from an orange or lemon twist over the drink, then drop it into the glass.
  6. Enjoy: Sip and savor your perfectly crafted Old Fashioned!

Additional Tips for the Best Old Fashioned Experience

  • Glassware: Use a sturdy rocks glass or Old Fashioned glass to properly hold the cocktail and allow room for muddling and stirring.
  • Ice: Opt for large, dense ice cubes that melt slowly to avoid diluting the drink too quickly.
  • Garnish: The citrus twist adds aromatic oils that enhance the cocktail’s aroma and flavor. Experiment with both orange and lemon twists to find your preferred combination.
  • Customization: Feel free to experiment with different bourbons and variations of the Old Fashioned to suit your taste preferences. You can adjust the sweetness by varying the amount of sugar or syrup used.


Choosing the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned can elevate your cocktail experience, enhancing its flavors and complexity. Whether you prefer a bourbon with spicy rye notes, rich caramel flavors, or a smooth and mellow profile, there’s a bourbon out there to suit your taste. By understanding the qualities that make a bourbon ideal for an Old Fashioned and exploring different options, you can craft a cocktail that is both timeless and satisfying. Enjoy the journey of discovering your favorite bourbon for this classic drink and savoring each sip of your perfectly made Old Fashioned. Cheers!