Van Winkle Dominates Small-Batch Bourbons

eauty before age. That’s the consensus of’s panel of small-batch bourbon tasters. Our experts put a highly-decorated 15-year-old blend ahead other older (and more expensive) bourbons. Old Rip Van Winkle’s got high marks for its complex nose, mellow palate and smooth finish. Second-placed Knob Creek wasn’t far behind, winning accolades for its sweet, full flavor and subtle, somewhat smoky finish.

Our bourbon-sippers were impressed by the overall quality of these spirits. The products were, without exception, first-rate. Even Maker’s Mark, which the editors of put at a significant handicap, exceeded expectations. In fact, we would gladly stock our personal bar with the lowest-rated of the small-batch bourbon’s, the Elijah Craig 12-year-old – which, we believe rated poorly only because it tasted so different from the others.

When the quality of small-batch bourbons is this uniform, the only real differentiator becomes price – and by that criteria, we’re sold on Maker’s Mark, which easily wins our price-performace award.

RankBrandPriceScoreTastes Like …
1Old Rip Van Winkle 15-year-old$4999Caramel
2Knob Creek Aged 9 years$3598.5Vanilla
3Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23-year-old$17198Brown Sugar
4Old Fitzgerald$3097Clove
5Basil Hayden’s Small Batch$3896Cherry
6Booker’s Small Batch$5495.5Molasses
7Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon$2994Cinammon
8Woodford Reserve, Distiller’s Select$4593Walnut
9Baker’s Aged 7 years$4292.5Maple
10Jefferson’s Reserve, very small batch$4792Candy
11Sam Houston, very small batch$2790Cherry
12Elijah Craig 12-year-old$2089Citrus

The editors of would like to thank the manufacturers of the aforementioned bourbons for allowing us to evaluate their products.