The 11 Best Bourbons
For an old fashioned

“There is no bad bourbon. There are only some bourbons that aren’t as good as others.”
-Raymon Chandler

Deciding on a great bourbon, much less the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned is more complicated than you’d think. It’s not as easy as simply finding the highest quality bourbon you can, buying it, then using it to make the best bourbon Old Fashioned ever.

Yes, the bourbon quality is important. But selecting the “best” bourbon for an old fashioned means considering many things, like your budget, tasting notes, how practical you want to be, and of course, personal preference.

Your bourbon choice is especially important because the old fashioned cocktail is a simple mix of bourbon, sweetener, and bitters. The bourbon will define the overall flavor profile for your drink.

Related: How is Bourbon Made?

Before we get to the list of the 11 best bourbons for an Old Fashioned, one quick note—I don’t believe in wasting an expensive bourbon making an Old Fashioned (or any other cocktail). That’s why you won’t find anything over $50 on this list.

$50 is the absolute max I would spend on a bourbon if I knew I was using it to make an Old Fashioned. Anything more expensive than that seems like a waste of the taste (and money).

I know you’re here to learn about the best bourbons for an Old Fashioned, but before you do, it’s important you know how to make one. The recipe for an old fashioned is straightforward, and reveals how essential your bourbon choice is for a successful drink.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Old Fashioned is a very popular whiskey (usually bourbon) cocktail. The classic recipe uses a spicy rye whiskey, but today people generally prefer bourbon. Keep in mind that the bourbon that you choose can drastically change the flavor profile your Old Fashioned has.

In my list of the best bourbons for an Old Fashioned, I add some tasting note comments for you to help you pick the bourbon that best matches your personal preference.

There are a few different recipes out there for an Old Fashioned. Some use lemons or oranges instead of cherry as the garnish. Some use simple syrup instead of raw sugar. They all use bitters, but some use flavored bitters.

Related: 11 Best Bourbons under $50

This is the basic Old Fashioned recipe that I use. It is classic and it is a good place to start. It will also help you to identify if you are looking for something else.

Standard Old Fashioned Recipe


2-4 oz bourbon of choice
2-3 dashes of bitters
Pinch of raw sugar
Few dashes of plain water
Burnt orange peel to garnish
Large ice cube


Step 1 – In a rocks glass, muddle together the bitters and the sugar.
Step 2 –Add few dashes of plain water
Step 3 – Add ice into the glass, then pour the bourbon over the top.
Step 4 – Next stir gently.
Step 5 – Cut small peal off orange and burn it with a lighter
Step 6 – Use the burnt orange peel to garnish the drink.
Step 7 – Sip and enjoy.

It’s quite common that once you master the standard Old Fashioned you’ll want to experiment with a few other variations. Below are two spins I really enjoy.

Additional Spins on an Old Fashioned 

Spin #1

Bourbon of choice- 2-4 oz (but would recommend 2 oz Knob Creek for this one)
1 Oz Cocchi vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 Luxardo cherries

Spin #2

Bourbon of choice- 2-4 oz.
1/2 – 1 oz. walnut liquor
1/2 – 1 oz. grand mariner
1/2 oz. Bada Bing black cherry juice
5 drops Angostura bitters
5 drops orange bitters
Orange peel squeezed so oil is expressed
Two black cherries


It’s essential to choose a quality bourbon when considering the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned, even more so than many other cocktails. Yet, with so many bourbons to choose from, where do you start?

That’s a great question and why we put together this list of the 11 best bourbons for an Old Fashioned.

Related: The Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Cocktail

Each bourbon listed below is both readily available and of high quality. But most importantly, any bourbon listed below will take your Old Fashioned game to the next level! If you’re looking for the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned…you’ve come to the right place.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Bourbon comes from the most award-winning distillery in the world. The whiskey has everything you could ask for in a high-quality affordable bourbon: the finest ingredients and a refined aging process combined to form a rugged spirit with deep and complex aromas.

In doing so, Buffalo Trace delivers a true masterpiece. The bourbon’s well suited in an Old Fashioned because of its unique combination of flavors including vanilla, mint, molasses, toffee, dark fruit, and anise. This top-tier spirit is an absolute must-try bourbon. You won’t regret it.

How much does Buffalo Trace cost?

Buffalo Trace Bourbon costs around $30 per bottle.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky

It begins with rich and soft caramel on the nose. The aroma invites you in with a kiss of honey and fruit. This leads to the ideal mouthfeel—a light sweetness that caresses the tongue—and the perfectly balanced body that is neither too thin nor too full. You’ll taste caramel, vanilla, and molasses, all accented with the most delightful layer of oak. The smooth elegance continues into the finish where the spices begin to appear and quickly dissipate, leaving you wanting more.

The experience of tasting Maker’s Mark is unlike any other whiskey. It has a signature taste—much in the way Jack Daniel’s does—that is unmistakable. Once you get to know it, you will be able to recognize it instantly, even without the bottle in sight.

How much does Maker’s Mark Bourbon cost?

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky costs around $30 per bottle.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is an innovative approach to twice-barreled bourbon that creates a rich and colorful flavor unlike any other bourbon in the market. The process starts with Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey matured in handcrafted new white oak barrels. Then, uniquely, the bourbon is matured for a second time in another new barrel. The second barrel is deeply toasted before a light charring, creating the unique flavors of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, a smooth, full-bodied bourbon with a long, rich finish.

This spirit is already a little bitter to begin with, so it needs some extra help in the sugar or simple syrup department to make it passable. Otherwise there’s just too much bitterness in the glass.

The flavors overall are great, though. With that extra sweetness added, the cocktail is quite nice, and the extra vanilla and oak flavors of the spirit balance nicely with the orange peel and other fruity notes.

How much does Woodford Reserve Double Oaked cost?

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked costs around $50 per bottle.

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Basil Hayden’s is a stand alone bourbon, enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or triumphantly in an Old Fashioned. The bourbon is sparked with rye, so yes, it’s spicy. But the rich aromatic notes of honey, peppermint, and citrus envelope the senses, welcoming your taste buds like an old companion.

Rarely does such a unique combination of quality and craft manifest itself in a way you’re left wondering; why haven’t I experienced this before? Basil Hayden’s is a single small batch bourbon patiently aged and bottled at 80 proof. However, don’t mistake its proof as a sign of a mild temperament. No, this bourbon is bold and savory.

At first sip, you’ll be curious who was asleep at the wheel when they decided the price. Few, other rye-laced bourbons can compare to Basil Hayden’s quality at this price point. So, if you’re looking for an amazing addition to your Old Fashioned recipe, this is a must-try spirit. Really, what’s stopping you?

How much does Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon cost?

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon costs around $45 per bottle.

Bulleit Bourbon

Bulleit Straight Bourbon offers a unique and interesting taste for those interested in being able to enjoy a great old fashioned. Loaded with both black pepper and ginger, this bourbon will help to ensure that you have an old fashioned that has a lot of spicy flavors.

One of the things that make Bulleit Bourbon unique, and one of the best bourbons for an old fashioned, is that it is made with a high rye mashbill. This means that it has more of the pepper flavors of a traditional rye whiskey along with the smooth and mellow flavors of vanilla and caramel corn that come with a bourbon.

What Does Bulleit Straight Bourbon Cost?

Bulleit Straight Bourbon costs around $30 per bottle.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig bourbon gets its name from a Baptist preacher who lived in Kentucky in the 19th century, widely known as the Father of Bourbon. Keeping with tradition, this whiskey is a truly exceptional bourbon for its price.

Elijah Craig is a strictly maintained small batch, distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky from a traditional Bourbon mashbill of 78% Corn, 10% Rye and 12% Malted Barley and then aged for 8 to 12 years in #3 char new American oak barrels.  As a result, each batch is unique yet consistently sweet and smooth. The hints of vanilla, caramel, and fruit complete Elijah Craig bourbon in stellar fashion.

How much does Elijah Craig cost?

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon costs around $35 per bottle. 

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon is the third release in the Old Forester Whiskey Row series. A 115 proof expression that “celebrates the brand’s continued distillation during Prohibition,” when Old Forester was granted a permit to continue distilling on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.

This Whiskey is bold on the nose, with deliciously intense notes of cherry, caramel and dark chocolate. The palate is rich with sweet caramel, nuttiness, and cedar. The finish is wonderfully tart with a long smoky finish.

How much does Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon cost?

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon costs around $50 per bottle

Four Roses Small Batch

“Small batch” may not be a legal term, but what you’ll find in the Four Roses bottle will taste spot-on. Caramel, butterscotch, undercut by spice and a prickle of red berries.

What I really like about this version of the cocktail is that the oak flavors in the base whiskey balance really nicely with the brighter and crisper bitters and orange zest. It’s a more earthy take on the Old Fashioned, but just as delicious and enjoyable.

As for the other flavors, the caramel and vanilla also stay present and make for a particularly sweet drink when combined with the sugar cube. It’s one where you can probably get away with skimping on the added sweetness, but it does need a little bit to be perfect. And, of course, that peppery spice is still there, making itself known in one of the best bourbons for an old fashioned.

How much does Four Roses Small Batch

Four Roses Small Batch costs around $35 per bottle

Larceny Small Batch Bourbon

Larceny is a great intro to the wheated bourbon category, with an attractive butterscotch nose, leading to a rich, honeyed palate. This whiskey tastes great neat, on the rocks, or in any classic bourbon cocktail. It’s dessert-like qualities, refined yet rowdy texture, and benedictine-meets-bourbon spiced cherries scent make one hell of a cocktail bourbon.

Larceny Bourbon gets its name from John E. Fitzgerald, a treasury agent who used his keys to Kentucky bourbon warehouses to steal premium barrels of bourbon and bottle them under his own brand Old Fitzgerald.

What Does Larceny Small Batch Bourbon Cost?

Larceny Small Batch Bourbon costs around $25 per bottle.

Knob Creek Straight Bourbon

Knob Creek Bourbon has some good blood. Aged 9 years, Knob Creek is the oldest bourbon on this list by a couple years. The extra aging draws more flavor and sugar from the wood, providing a full-bodied, fruity flavor with hints of grass and grain. It’s 100-proof, which is considered the honest age of bourbons made a century ago.

Knob Creek Bourbon is comfortable on the top shelf of any home bar, but how does it mix? It’s bold, organic flavor stands up well in cocktails. It mixes for a very nice old fashioned with orange, bitters and a cherry. Whatever you do, taste it with a little extra patience. It spent nine long years getting to youdon’t rush it.

Pro tip:
Try a new fashioned. Instead of sugar, use Amaretto as a sweetener. Mix that with bitters and an orange peel. 

How much does Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey  cost?

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon costs around $38 per bottle.

Four Roses Single Barrel

The high rye content in the Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon adds unique character to your Old Fashioned. Aged 7 to 9 years, this bourbon is rye forward with strong hints of plum and cherries and a smooth, delicate finish.

Because it’s 100-proof, the award-winning Four Roses flavor shows up fully, but plays well with the citrusy sweetness of the Old Fashioned mix.

Four Rose Single Barrel is aged in a barrel hand selected by the Master Distiller. No 2 bottles are exactly the same, making this a great bourbon for the more adventurous, or at least, those who are willing to experiment with their old fashioned’s taste profile.

What Does Four Roses Single Barrel Cost?

Four Roses Single Barrel costs around $35 per bottle.

Honorable Mentions

Eagle Rare 10 Year
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Breckenridge PX
Russell’s Reserve 10
Jefferson’s Reserve

These bourbons are solid but didn’t quite make our list for the 11 best bourbons for an old fashioned. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a try!

Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned FAQs

Should I Mix bourbon for an Old Fashioned?

The Bourbon themed Old Fashioned drink is a new twist on a classic drink. Historically, this cocktail is made strictly with rye whiskey.  That said, you can switch the original recipe up a bit with bourbon in it and you will always have the same cocktail. By switching out the bourbon you use, you will get a slightly different different taste.

Is Old Fashioned similar to Manhattan?

No. These two cocktails are not the same, as the Old Fashioned is made with bourbon whiskey, bitters and sugar, whereas the Manhattan contains rye whiskey and sweet vermouth with sugar.

How would you describe an old Fashioned?

When made correctly, a bourbon old fashioned is a delightful mix of sweetness and spice. It’s created by muddling the sugars with citrus bitters and water, then topped with the bourbon of your choice. It’s a simple cocktail, which makes the bourbon you choose have greater impact on the overall taste.

Why is it called “old fashioned”?

“Old fashioned” is shorthand for “old-fashioned styled whiskey cocktail.” Back in the day, a “cocktail” was any combination of spirit, sweetener, and bitters. The bourbon old fashioned is a modern take on a truly classic mix.

Is the Old Fashioned a manly drink?

Well, I wouldn’t put the Old Fashioned as only a man drink, but it certainly is ordered among many men due to its strong combination of bourbon, bitters and sugar.

Choosing the best Bourbon for Your Old Fashioned

One of the things that can make or break your Old Fashioned is the bourbon that you choose to use. There are so many bourbons that are available on the market today that you might find yourself becoming overwhelmed at the thought of picking the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned.

Thankfully we took the guesswork out of this for you. We went through and tasted different bourbons both on their own and mixed with the ingredients to form an Old Fashioned.

That being said, my personal favorite bourbon to use for an Old Fashioned is Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon. This is now how I order the drink when I am out at a bar or how I make the drink when I am sitting at home and using bourbon instead of rye.

Related: Best Whiskey Glasses

Some people are not fans of bourbon. But as a bourbon lover, I simply cannot understand why someone would not enjoy a delicious Old Fashioned using “America’s Spirit”bourbon. I whole-heartedly recommend taking a chance on this fantastic classic.

Stay Gold & Drink Up.


About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

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