As drinking palates around the world become more refined and economic wealth continues to rise, drinkers are eschewing vodkas, beers and rum for one delicious brown liquor that shows no signs of slowing down -- bourbon.
Bourbon has become a big business in the U.S., accounting for more than $8.5 billion in revenue in the state of Kentucky, where 95% of all bourbon is made, according to the Kentucky Distillers Association.
The liquor, which must be comprised of at least 51% corn, has become a huge source of growth in the state of Kentucky, with several distilleries around the state undergoing multi-year expansion projects just to keep up with demand. Nearly 6.7 million barrels of whiskey have been made in Kentucky, the highest figure since 1974, highlighting demand.
Italian distiller Davide Campari-Milano SpA, which owns Wild Turkey, saw its shares jump the most in eight years when it recently reported first-quarter results, thanks in part to 24% sales growth of its Wild Turkey bourbon, indicating the demand for the liquor.
Unlike several other liquors, there is only one way to make bourbon. The process starts with combining the corn and other wheat and mashing it up until it ferments, then running it through a series of tubs and vats where it eventually becomes "white dog," or effectively moonshine. From there, it's set into charred white oak barrels for a number of years until it becomes bourbon.
Given the demand of the liquor and the continued new uses for it (mint juleps, Manhattans and Moscow mules are just a few), bourbon is likely to remain popular for years to come, be it in the U.S., Japan or other parts of the world that are changing their spirits consumption.
Here are the 10 best bourbons in the U.S. in no particular order, according to TheStreet.
Evan Williams is one of Kentucky's oldest distillers and with good cause -- its products have stood the test of time for their robust flavors and inexpensive prices.
While there are several different options for Evan Williams (and with all bourbon makers), a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel has some hints of caramel and vanilla in it. It goes down smooth, all for around $30.
Jim Beam is another staple of the Kentucky bourbon industry, using the same formula since 1795.
A bottle of Jim Beam White Label bourbon is aged for four years and has some hints of spice in it, which can give it that
something to keep you warm on a cold winter night.
Pappy Van Winkle
Pappy Van Winkle is a bourbon unlike any other, one with a cult following. It's often described as one of the finest bourbons in the world and is extremely rare, often costing several thousand dollars per
Made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, it's aged for 15, 20 or 23 years, far longer than most bourbons, which rarely go past 12 years.
The home of Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace makes some fine bourbon of its own.
Like several other distillers across the state, the company is expanding, adding additional warehouses and towers to aid in the distilling process in an effort to keep up with demand.
Most of Buffalo Trace's bottles can be had for around $60, but getting a nice bottle of single barrel aged around 10 years is a real treat for the bourbon connoisseur.
One of the higher-end bourbons on the list, Angel's Envy is known for its award-winning taste.
Most bottles -- which often stand out from the crowd because of their fine etching and engraving -- are aged less than 8 years.
The company has kept up its tradition for more than 200 years in the state of Kentucky.
Four Roses offers one of the better single barrel batch experiences, but that comes at a price.
A great alternative is the Yellow Label bottle, which is aged at 5 years and has a few fruit and floral hints to it such as apple and pear. This pairs with a sweet aftertaste and a hint of spice on the way down. The Yellow Label can be bought for around $20 before taxes.
Another high-end bourbon maker on this list, Woodford Reserve hand crafts its bourbon in small batches to give them distinct flavors.
The winner of several
over the years, a good bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon can be had for around $60. And if you're giving it as a gift, Woodford allows you to engrave the bottle to make it extra special.
George T. Stagg
Another product from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, George T. Stagg is a high-proof uncut and unfiltered bourbon, that's aged for around 15 years. It's distributed twice a year and is very rare to find outside the U.S. and difficult to find within the country as well.
It's won countless awards and a good bottle aged around 15 years will set you back around
Started in 2008, Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is the newest brand on the list, but its roots trace back years.
Originally known as Willet, it changed its name to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in 1984, before changing it back in October 2012.
Willet Pot often makes small batch bourbon, whereas it used to make single barrel bourbon. It was named one of the top ten new whiskies in 2008 and its distinctive bottles will set you back around
for a bourbon aged 8 years.
The last name on the list, Eagle Rare is another Buffalo Trace product.
A 10-year bottle is in the middle of the list price range, but spending a decade in the charred oak allows for dark fruit, orange peel and other finishes to aid in the tasting. It's smooth enough to drink straight and get that light spice or sweet finish.