10 Great Bourbons Distilled Outside Of Kentucky
There’s a common misconception that bourbon has to be produced inside Kentucky to be called bourbon. Yes, many (OK most) of the best bourbons on the market hail from Bluegrass Country. We’re talking your Pappy Van Winkle, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Elijah Craig, Col. E.H. Taylor, and countless others. But bourbon need not come from Kentucky to be called bourbon. It simply needs to follow a few strict regulations, including being made in the U.S. from at least 51 percent corn and aged in new oak barrels. Otherwise, game on. Here are 10 stellar bourbons made everywhere but Kentucky.
WYOMING WHISKEY CO. SMALL BATCH BOURBON WHISKEY (KIRBY, WYO.)
This independent fifth-generation Wyoming family-owned distillery produces its bourbon from non-GMO, locally grown, hand-selected corn, and water sourced from an ancient limestone aquifer. The result is a minimum five-year-aged small-batch amber-colored bourbon with a bit of a wintry edge offering cinnamon, vanilla, and caramel.
FEW SPIRITS BOURBON WHISKEY (EVANSTON, ILL.)
A 93-proof stunner, Few’s charred-oak-aged bourbon comprises corn, northern rye, and a bit of malt. It took home the gold medal in 2014 from the Beverage Tasting Institute for its profile, offering vanilla, chocolate, dried fruit, spice, and mint. Shake it up with fresh mint, bitters, lime, and simple syrup for a twist on a Mint Julep.
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GARRISON BROTHERS TEXAS STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY (HYE, TEXAS)
Unlike other craft distillers, Garrison Brothers focus solely on making bourbon. Using Texas-grown organic corn, Garrison produces its dark, rich-colored bourbon in white American oak barrels, tweaking it slightly each year to produce unique batches. Also seek out the hefty 136-proof, limited-release Cowboy Bourbon, named the American macro whiskey of the year in 2013 by Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible.
NELSON’S GREEN BRIER DISTILLERY BELLE MEADE BOURBON (NASHVILLE, TENN.)
The original pre-Prohibition Nelson’s Green Brier was once one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the country. Flash forward and Charles Nelson’s three-time great-grandsons revived the brand. This double-gold winner, made from blending bourbon from four barrels, offers a bit of maple on the nose and caramel and vanilla with a supersmooth finish. Look for their 10-year and 9-year sherry cask-finished bourbons for something truly special.
ROUGHSTOCK DISTILLERY MONTANA BOURBON WHISKEY (BOZEMAN, MONT.)
Taking a grain-to-glass approach, RoughStock, the first distillery in Montana in 100 years, allows the bourbon to age in temperature-controlled rooms influenced by the high-low climate fluctuations of the Bridger Mountains. This release is a blend from a mix of four bourbons of varying grain content, but RoughStock also has a complex wheated bourbon that gives off chocolate and apple notes.
KOVAL SINGLE BARREL BOURBON WHISKEY (CHICAGO, ILL.)
Koval was the first legal post-Prohibition distillery in Chicago and now produces a range of spirits and liqueurs, including this organic bourbon crafted from corn and, surprisingly, millet. The single-barrel caramel-colored bourbon offers a bit of tropical notes and some apricot on the palate alongside vanilla and spice.
TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS HUDSON BABY BOURBON (GARDINER, N.Y.)
While bourbon is required to comprise at least 51 percent corn, this multiple-award winner gets distilled from 100 percent corn, differentiating it from many others on the market. It’s a bit peppery, slightly sweet from the corn, and oaky from the small oak barrels it ages in. And at $40 for a 375ml, it’s definitely on the pricier end, but fans love it.
JOURNEYMAN DISTILLERY FEATHERBONE BOURBON (THREE OAKS, MICH.)
Ironically, this organic spirits distillery resides in a former corset factory whose owner was a strict prohibitionist. These days, Journeyman produces a wide line of whiskey, rum, gin, and more. The Featherbone Bourbon comprises Midwest grains offering up classic bourbon flavors of spice, vanilla, and caramel with a balanced, rounded mouthfeel.
LONG ISLAND SPIRITS ROUGH RIDER STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY (BAITING HOLLOW, N.Y.)
Inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, this eastern Long Island bourbon rests in Merlot and Chardonnay barrels that get washed with high-proof brandy after initially aging in new oak, giving essence of both oak and wine characteristics. And at around $33 a bottle, it’s a solid deal.
SONOMA COUNTY DISTILLING WEST OF KENTUCKY BOURBON (ROHNERT PARK, CALIF.)
If a bourbon were ever truly not from Kentucky, this would be it. Claiming to produce a “true California bourbon,” SCD distills corn, unmalted rye, and cherrywood-smoked barley in a pot still set over an open fire. It first rests in new barrels before being transferred into used barrels, and all the while, cool coastal air helps it mature. Look for hints of cherry, spices, and vanilla when you sip it, if you can find this limited-release bourbon.