Life

The Best Bourbons Made Outside Of Kentucky, Ranked

Although bourbon is inextricably tied to Kentucky and the greater Ohio Valley, it can be made anywhere in the U.S.A. by law. That being said, the vast majority is made in Kentucky, which means those bottles tend to dominate liquor store shelves, home-delivery websites, and the discourse around bourbon, in general.

That said, given the explosion of craft distilling across America, you can now get bourbon from nearly every state in the nation. And many of those bottles are worthy of mainstream love.

Today, we’re highlighting 20 bottles of bourbon whiskey that aren’t from Kentucky. These are bottles I’ve tasted and vouch for. I’ve gone ahead and ranked them by flavor alone — though I did try to keep the MGP of Indiana entries to a minimum — to give you a better idea of which ones might be worth your hard-earned cash.

Let’s jump in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

20. Cedar Ridge Reserve Iowa Bourbon Whiskey (Iowa)

Cedar Ridge Bourbon
Cedar Ridge

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $36

The Whiskey:

Iowa’s first distillery planted itself right in the middle of America’s grain belt. They’re making a product that requires corn, rye, and barley, so there’s really no better place to set up a distillery. Cedar Ridge’s Reserve Iowa Bourbon wins awards pretty much everywhere it drops a new expression. The corn-fueled bourbon spends five years aging, adding a deep complexity that’ll help you fall in love with bourbon in general.

Tasting Notes:

This is a big whiskey with a lot to ponder. It opens with a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper, warm honeycombs, and fields of blooming jasmine. There’s a dry nature to the sip with fresh herbs — dill and fennel, predominately — hitting first. Then the corn arrives. You can almost taste the fresh green husks in the whiskey. This is a spring farm in full bloom, distilled into a glass.

Bottom Line:

This is a great place to start a non-Kentucky bourbon whiskey journey. I really dig this whiskey for mixing, but the lower ABV does shave some of the bigger notes off while also creating a soft and approachable experience.

19. Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey (Wyoming)

Wyoming Whiskey

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $44

The Whiskey:

This small-town craft distillery is making some of the finest grain-to-glass whiskey on the market. Their signature bourbon is a wheated bourbon that utilizes grains grown within 100 miles of the Wyoming distillery. The juice is aged for at least four years before it’s small-batched, proofed with local water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The vanilla and caramel on the nose are creamy to the point of feeling like a stiff pudding with a hint of wildflowers. The palate holds onto those flowers and pudding while adding cinnamon sticks warming in browned butter with a note of cedar. That spice broadens out to a Christmas spice vibe as a buttery toffee sweetness and mouthfeel lead you toward a finish that’s just the right length.

Bottom Line:

This feels very classic while packing a little bit more “punch” than your average macro bourbon at the same ABV. Still, I’d highly recommend this for mixing over sipping neat. Or sip it neat if you dig it! We’re not here to judge.

18. Hudson Whiskey Bright Lights, Big Bourbon (New York)

Hudson Bourbon
Hudson Whiskey NY

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This redesigned New York whiskey starts off a super rare mash bill of 95 percent corn and five percent malted barley. That juice is aged for three short years before batching, proofing, and bottling along the Hudson Valley.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with hints of dry corn kernels, vanilla extract, salted caramel, a slight hint of rum-raisin, and a touch of raw sourdough pancake batter. That sourdough batter draws a line into the palate with an echo of wet oak next to a vanilla cake with dark chocolate frosting next to damp cornmeal. The end is all about that damp cornmeal and more sourdough pancake batter as salted caramel and vanilla make a sweet and fleeting return.

Bottom Line:

This is a very young whiskey that is specifically built to highlight those green flavor notes. If you dig that sourdough, cornmeal, and caramel vibe, you’ll love it. If you’re looking for deep and dark spices, sugars, and fruits, this isn’t for you.

Either way, it knows what it is and shines therein.

17. Bib & Tucker 10-Year-Old Small Batch Bourbon (Tennessee)

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

Bib & Tucker is another classic example of what great blending can do with sourced juice. The Tennessee whiskey is a marriage of ten-year-old whiskeys aged in the lowest char barrels available, allowing more direct contact with dried wood rather than black char. Those barrels are blended and then proofed down with soft limestone water from Tennessee.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of vanilla bean (pod, seeds, essence) up top with hints of spicy chewy tobacco, dry oak (almost pine), and a distant note of fresh corn husks. The palate really holds onto that velvety vanilla as the corn husks dry out and notes of orange-infused dark chocolate mingle with that spicy tobacco, which starts buzzing on your tongue. The end is long-ish, has touches of that dry pine, and holds onto both the vanilla and dried corn husks.

Bottom Line:

This is my favorite expression from Bib & Tucker. I’d argue this is the sweet spot of the line (it’s expertly built) and this particular pour really shines neat or on a rock or two.

16. FEW Bourbon Whiskey (Illinois)

FEW

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $49

The Whiskey:

This grain-to-glass craft whiskey from outside of Chicago is quickly becoming a craft classic. The grains in the high-rye mash bill are all sourced within 100 miles of the distillery. The juice is then aged for just under four years in small format Minnesota oak before it’s small-batched, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a richness that’s welcoming with oily vanilla, rich caramel, Christmas spices, and a hint of cherry. Those spices really amp up and get chewy on the palate, as buttery toffee with a hint of almond arrives with oak. The end is medium-length and brings more oak and spice with a hint of those local grains popping in.

Bottom Line:

This grew on me over the last year. While I still contend it’s a solid mixer first and foremost, I can see pouring it over some rocks as a good “everyday” pour.

15. Traverse City Bourbon Barrel Proof (Michigan)

Traverse City Whiskey

ABV: 59% (varies)

Average Price: $96

The Whiskey:

This Michigan whiskey is made to highlight a true grain-to-glass experience. The juice is made from a mash of 71 percent corn, 25 percent rye, and four percent barley. It’s aged for four years in the extreme weather of the Great Lakes. Barrels are then hand-picked and bottled with no fussing.

Tasting Notes:

The milled corn comes through with a touch of orange zest, vanilla, toffee, and lemon jam. The taste amps up the toffee with a caramel kettle corn vibe next to hints of cedar and orchard fruit. The end is long and very clearly all about the velvety vanilla and toffee sweetness with a slight alcohol warmth, thanks to a touch of spice and citrus.

Bottom Line:

This is another young bourbon that lets the corn shine through early but then goes much deeper than many others at this age. This makes for a great cocktail bourbon thanks to those powerful ABVs.

14. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Nevada)

Frey Ranch

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $57

The Whiskey:

Frey Ranch is all about the farm behind the whiskey. In this case, that’s a 165+-year-old farm in the Sierra Nevada basin near Lake Tahoe. The grains (corn, wheat, rye, and barley), fermentation, distilling, aging, and bottling all happen on-site at Frey Ranch.

Tasting Notes:

The sip draws you in with hints of burnt orange rings next to fresh honey, apple-cider-soaked cinnamon sticks, cherry tobacco, and vanilla pods. The palate leans dry with cornmeal, bales of straw, woody eggnog spices, cherry stems, and a touch of dried mint next to cedar boxes full of vanilla tobacco. The mid-palate turns with a note of pancake syrup that leads back towards the dry woods and tobacco.

Bottom Line:

Frey Ranch is doing great work, even with their entry-level bottle. This works wonders in a cocktail but I like it over some rocks just the same.

13. Leopold Bros. Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon (Colorado)

Leopold Bros. Bourbon
Leopold Bros.

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This Colorado crafty whiskey gets a lot of attention from bourbon drinkers in the know. The mash is made from 64 percent corn, 21 percent malted barley, and 15 percent Abruzzi Heritage Rye that Master Distiller Todd Leopold malted at his malting house at the distillery in Denver. That mash ran through a classic pot still before it was barreled and left to rest for five years.

Tasting Notes:

The floral and spicy nature of that Abruzzi rye really comes out on the nose with a touch of candied apples, Quick powder, and the faintest hint of sourdough rye with a light smear of salted butter. The taste leans into stewed pears with nutmeg and clove spices leading the way as Almond Roca and green peppercorns jostle for space on your palate. The end mellows out as that spice fades towards an eggnog vibe with a creamy vanilla underbelly and a final touch of that floral rye and hint of pear.

Bottom Line:

There’s a young, crafty note to this that works thanks to everything else that’s going on in the nose, taste, and finish. There’s a great depth at play here that shines as a sipper or high-end cocktail mixer.

12. Smooth Ambler Contradiction (West Virginia/Indiana)

Smooth Ambler

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $44

The Whiskey:

Smooth Ambler is a great example of how smaller craft operations get up and running. This expression is a blend of sourced high-rye bourbon that’s aged for nine years with their own-make, a wheated bourbon that’s aged for two years. The sourced bourbon is MGP of Indiana, giving the blenders a quality foundation to build their bourbon off of.

Tasting Notes:

Classic notes of bourbon vanilla and oak mingle with spicy stewed cherries buried in a sourdough pancake on the nose. The palate holds onto that sweet fruit and spice, as notes of worn leather and soft cedar arrive with a hint of grain. The end is short-ish with the spice, oak, and cherry lasting the longest until a nice and velvety vanilla mouthfeel arrives.

Bottom Line:

This is kind of like a magic trick. The nose is young but the palate is old. It’s a nice balance and helps this work as a nice sipper, especially on a rock or two.

11. Old Elk Wheated Bourbon (Colorado)

Old Elk Distillery

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This craft whiskey from Colorado takes the idea of wheated bourbon to the very edge of its limits. The mash bill carries a whopping 45 percent wheat, pushing this very close to being a wheated whiskey. The juice is then aged for an undisclosed number of years before it’s batched and cut down to proof with that soft Rocky Mountain spring water Colorado is known for.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in by a big bowl of vanilla ice cream drizzled with salted caramel sauce next to a very faint hint of dried florals. The palate builds on that ice cream, creating a sundae with crushed almonds, creamy toffee brittle, and a hint of eggnog spice. The end is medium-length with a touch of that buttery sweetness carrying the sip to a warm end.

Bottom Line:

This just works. It’s easy drinking, mixable, sippable, and all-around enjoyable.

10. Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon (Texas)

Balcones

ABV: 64.9%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This is the most unique bottle on the list and worth the search (and money). The mash bill is 100 percent blue corn. The juice is aged in the Balcone’s Waco rickhouse under the hot Texas sun, allowing the sugars from the wood to really imbue themselves into the bourbon more quickly than in cooler Kentucky. The results are vatted and bottled at cask-proof, letting every detail of the barrel shine through.

Tasting Notes:

Salted butter melting on freshly baked cornbread mingles with fresh tobacco, dried mint sprigs, and powdery white pepper. The sip then takes a left turn into Red Hots, orange marmalade, and fire-roasted marshmallow territory with black tea bitterness cutting through. The pepper and corn return on the finish as this one takes its time to say goodbye.

Bottom Line:

This whisky is aged for just over two years and it barely registers as “young.” It’s a bold and deeply hewn sipper that pushed the limits of what a “bourbon” profile is while being extremely drinkable, mixable, and enjoyable.

9. George Dickel Single Barrel 15 (Tennessee)

Diageo

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $69

The Whisky:

This is a very old whiskey, all things considered. The juice is from single barrels, aged 15 years or more, and the proof varies accordingly (sometimes it’s cut with water, too). The whiskey showcases Dickel’s vast warehouses and the gems they have hidden deep on those ricks.

Tasting Notes:

This is all about the cherry pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream next to a slight apple-tobacco vibe on the nose. The palate is full of red berries leading towards bourbon-soaked oak and a rush of dry sweet grass before a cherry-choco soda pop and more vanilla cream pop on the mid-palate. That sweetness gives way to a musty corner of a cellar as a soft cherry tobacco finish leaves you with a velvet and almost powdery (think vanilla pudding powder) mouthfeel.

Bottom Line:

This is an unsung hero of Tennessee whiskey and, thereby, bourbon. Dickel 15 grows on you if you give it time. It’s pretty damn good neat but really blooms with a touch of water. Plus, we’re talking about a 15-year-old whiskey for around $70 — that’s wild.

8. Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered Bourbon (Indiana)

Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered
Smoke Wagon

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

Smoke Wagon is everywhere these days. That’s thanks, in part, to co-founder Aaron Chepenik killing it on IG. The other part of the brand’s meteoric rise is that Smoke Wagon’s crew is masterfully blending some of the best barrels from MGP of Indiana that were made available. Case in point, the latest batch from the company was a high-rye bourbon (60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malted barley) that was an instant hit.

Tasting Notes:

Based on Batch 29, expect a nose full of classic bourbon notes of orange oils, cinnamon stewed apples, caramel with a touch of salt, and peachy wood chips. The palate really embraces the fruit and moves from that peach vibe towards a blackberry crumble that’s just kissed with nutmeg and clove that leads towards a hint of old leather, singed cedar planks, and a late hint of cherry-touched tobacco. That leather, berry tobacco, and cedar drive the finish towards a dry end.

Bottom Line:

These releases do not disappoint. I resisted these for a long time (mostly due to being skeptical of internet hype). I finally gave in last year and haven’t looked back. This is great juice from MGP that’s damn near inexplicably tasty.

7. Jack Daniel’s 10 (Tennessee)

Jack Daniel's 10
Brown-Forman

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $195

The Whiskey:

This new age statement release from Jack Daniel’s feels like a throwback to a bygone era in Tennessee whiskey. During the expression’s ten years of aging, the barrels spend time in the “Buzzard’s Roost” at the top of the rickhouse. Once they hit the right flavor profile, those barrels are moved to the bottom floors of other warehouses to slow the aging down. Finally, the whiskey is vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a rich matrix of cherry syrup, apple cores, sticky toffee, vanilla ice cream, and a thin line of wet and sweet wood. The palate opens up towards the dark fruit but dries it out and married it to a sticky and spicy tobacco leaf while toasted cedar soaked in salted caramel vibes with dry corn husks that are just singed. The finish really takes its time as the cherry attaches to an old cinnamon stick and the tobacco takes on a sticky chewiness with a mild savory fruit edge.

Bottom Line:

Jack Daniel’s is woefully maligned for being the biggest seller in the world. This release proves they’re hitting in the highest weight class of great bourbon whiskey and deserve your attention.

6. 291 Small Batch Colorado Bourbon Whiskey (Colorado)

291 Colorado Bourbon Small Batch
Distillery 291

ABV: 50.8%

Average Price: $78

The Whiskey:

291 Colorado Whiskey’s Small Batch is a great entry point into the wider world of the crafty brand. The juice isn’t a “straight” bourbon since it’s only aged for one year. That very young whiskey is amped up thanks to Aspen wood staves which are added into the barrels to create a deeper sense of maturation without taking half a decade to achieve those layers.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a push towards cornbread dripping with butter next to hints of berry bushes plus a touch of caramel apples. The taste adds a good dose of cinnamon to the mix as the caramel leans away from apple and towards kettle corn with hints of nougat and maple syrup arriving late. The end holds onto the warmth of the cinnamon and the sweeter edges while a pine-y resinous note sneaks on the short finish, adding a nice nuance to the sip.

Bottom Line:

While the corn is still very present on this very young whiskey, there’s real depth at play in this bottle. It’s sort of the best of both worlds — young and old whiskey-wise — while feeling unique but, well, familiar.

5. Remus Repeal Reserve Series V Straight Bourbon (Indiana)

Luxco

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $94

The Whiskey:

Last year’s Remus Repeal Reserve V is a hell of a whiskey. The MGP of Indiana (now Ross & Squibb) signature bourbon is comprised of nine percent 2005 bourbon with a 21 percent high-rye mash, five percent 2006 bourbon with a very high-rye mash of 36 percent of the sticky grain, 19 percent 2006 bourbon with the same 21 percent high-rye mash, 13 percent 2008 bourbon with that 21 percent rye mash, and 54 percent 2008 bourbon with the 36 percent high-rye mash.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is brilliantly fruity with touches of fresh raspberries, strawberries resting in dry straw, candied cherries, freshly peeled mandarins, apple cores and stems, and a touch of caramel malts. That caramel sweetness merges into a fresh honeycomb next to Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda vanilla flavor and pep while the fruit dries out, leaving you with meaty dried figs, dates, and prunes driving the midpalate toward the finish. A touch of candied ginger spices things up as a fruity but dry tobacco leaf rounds out the end with the faintest touch of walnut shells.

Bottom Line:

This is just goddamn delightful. Pour a glass and enjoy every last drop.

4. Belle Meade Reserve Bourbon (Indiana)

Nelson Green Brier

ABV: 54.15%

Average Price: $66

The Whiskey:

Belle Meade, the blending arm of Nashville’s Nelson Green Brier, sources some of the best barrels from MGP for their expressions (though, now they’re contact distilling in Kentucky). This whiskey is a hand-selected, marrying of high-rye seven to eleven-year-old bourbons that are bottled at nearly barrel strength (it’s just touched with water when needed), which allows the juice in the barrel to speak for itself.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla cake spiked with stewed and spicy peaches, rich caramel, soft wood, and light tobacco greet you. The sip really leans into the classic bourbon vibes on the palate with an apple pie with plenty of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg inside a buttery crust with hints of cedar, library leather, and tobacco chew. Hints of raisins and walnuts arrive late in that apple pie as the sip slowly fades, leaving you warmed and wanting more.

Bottom Line:

This Indiana whiskey, by way of Tennessee, is one of those bottles that helps you understand the power of the barrels coming out of MGP of Indiana and how varied and great they can be in the right hands.

3. Woodinville PX Sherry Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Washington)

Woodinville

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This whiskey takes Woodinville’s signature (and much-lauded) five-year-old straight bourbon and gives it a new finishing touch. The juice is finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Those barrels are then vatted and the whiskey is proofed and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a bouquet of dark spices next to dried orange rinds, soft Christmas cake, and a slight floral underpinning that’s more “damp” than “dried out.” The taste embraces the holiday spice matrix with a creamy veneer of dark chocolate oranges, eggnog spice, and a velvety mouthfeel with a hint of orchard fruit and toffee drizzle. The finish is long but doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s a sense of the woody spices that’s more akin to cinnamon sticks dipped in hot apple cider, leaving you with a dry note of spicy tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is a deeply warming, almost seasonal-tasting glass of great bourbon. There are really no faults here.

2. Garrison Brothers Balmorhea (Texas)

Garrison Brothers

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $200

The Whiskey:

This much-lauded Texas bourbon is the highwater mark of what great whiskey from Texas can be. The juice is aged in Ozark white oak for four years and then finished in oak from Minnesota for another year, all under that blazing West Texas sunshine. The bourbon is then small-batched, proofed with Texas spring water, and bottled at a healthy 115 proof.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a real sense of a corn-syrup-laced pecan pie next to hazelnut bespeckled cinnamon rolls and creamy milk chocolate. That chocolate drives the taste towards a mint-chocolate ice cream vibe (heavy on the chocolate part) with small dashes of holiday spices, hard toffee candies, worn leather, and a flourish of cedar boxes full of dried tobacco leaves. The end circles back around to all that sweet and chocolatey creaminess with a final slice of pecan pie on a slow fade.

Bottom Line:

This is pretty much my favorite sip at the moment. It’s so bold yet subtle. It’s easy drinking while also having a slight edge of “challenge” to it. It’s just great.

1. Dettling Single Barrel Cask Strength (Alabama)

Dettling Single Barrel
Dettling

ABV: 55.4% (Varies)

Average Price: $79

The Whiskey:

This Alabama whiskey is all about that grain-to-glass experience. What really stands out, though, is that this whiskey aged for four years. The whiskey takes on a dark hew thanks to it being stored at the top of the rickhouse and in hot and balmy Alabama. The results are bottled from a single one of those barrels without any cutting or fussing.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this one starts with cornbread that’s been baked in lard in a cast-iron skillet with an almost burnt crust, plenty of salted butter, and a dollop of honey that’s been cut with orange oils. The palate takes that cornbread, crumbles it up, and mixes in fresh cracked Tellicherry black peppercorns, dried roses, a touch of cedar, and a mild echo of orange-laced tobacco leaves. Finally, the sip layers in a wintry spice combo that leans towards cinnamon sticks soaked in mulled wine and apple cider that leads towards a soft finish with a dried mint that’s… almost menthol tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This has that “young” corn note but it feels like it’s aged to damn near perfection with the wood, tobacco, and spices. This is new, feels unique, and promises a bright future of releases from this distillery. Just make sure to drop some water in to let it fully bloom in your glass.

×