What is the best bourbon for making vanilla extract at home?
While we are constantly experimenting with Bourbons in extract making, the list above is our current top-10 favorite list, with our most favorite as #1 and our least favorite as #10, but all of them work just fine. Bourbons are all American and have their own defining characteristics different than whiskey, which is why they say, "All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon."
Check back often as we will update this list from time to time as we conduct more experiments. Click any of the links below to learn more about each spirit. Our good friends at Drizly offer thorough descriptions (and often great deals if available for shipping in your area) on each spirit. Happy extracting!!
Order The Art of Extract Making. The first professionally published extract-making book of its kind will begin shipping in October, 2023. .
- Woodford Reserve - This has been our favorite bourbon (perhaps our favorite overall spirit) for years. It boasts more than 200 sweet and spicy flavor notes that brings extracts to life, especially Mexican, Indonesian, African and Madagascar vanilla beans.
- Buffalo Trace - A beautiful smooth bourbon with hints of brown sugar vanilla...yes, vanilla. That makes it a perfect vanilla extract medium, if bourbon is your spirit of choice.
- Makers Mark - Made with a soft red winter wheat instead the usual rye used by most bourbon makers, Makers Mark is soft, smooth and sweet with undertones of caramel for a great extract-making experience.
- Elijah Craig - Another beautiful bourbon with honey taste, but this bourbon also has undertones of marzipan and wildflowers. Married with a dark, earthy vanilla bean (like Ugandan or Sumatra Indonesian) this bourbon will produce and extract that is beautiful, sweet and unique.
- Angel's Envy - What happens when you store a bourbon in a cask that was used to make port in Portugal? You get a bourbon with characteristic sweet and smokey notes, but also hints of raisins, bitter chocolate and maple syrup, and what a beautiful vanilla extract it makes.
- 1792 - This beautiful bourbon boasts a colorful flavor profile that is smokey, sweet vanilla oak, apples, a hint of mint and coffee. It makes one of the sweetest mocha extracts that is lovely and worth the try.
- Breckenridge - This is a newer bourbon that we had to try, given our home in a state the neighbors Colorado, and we were rewarded. It's a beautiful high rye bourbon with notes of cacao, butterscotch, apples, honey and orange and it makes a beautiful vanilla extract with nearly all V. planifolia species from any origin.
- Woodford Reserve Double Oak - What happens when you store bourbon a second time after it's fully matured? A beautiful bourbon experience with hints of caramel, hazelnut, apple and spice. It's no surprise that two Woodford Reserve bourbons made our top-10 list.
- Bulleit - Bold and spicy with a hint of nutmeg, this is a beautiful bourbon that sits just outside of our top-10, but still worth look for your next extract at a pretty reasonable price.
- Jefferson Ocean Aged at Sea - We haven't tried this bourbon ourselves, but it was recommended by one of our very respected extract making cohorts, Bruce. He found it smooth and very well rounded in his extract, and given our respect for Bruce's extracting experience and knowledge, we added it to this list and it may move up once we get a chance to try it. It's flavor profile of caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon and sea salt are very intriguing to us.
- Jim Beam - One of America's top bourbons and certainly worthy of a great extract. A spicy, vanilla backdrop against a predictable bourbon sweetness with smokey oak undertones. A good bourbon, but outside of the top-10 on our list.
Learn more tips and tricks about extract making by visiting our DIY Extract Guide Center.