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Expand Your Whiskey Palate With These Sourced Bourbons

If you still feel like “sourced” bourbon is somehow automatically bad, you need to step out of 2005. The idea of sourced whiskey being inferior has been so thoroughly debunked that even suggesting as much is passé. Here in 2021, sourced juice makes up many of the most sought-after and beautiful whiskey expressions on the market. In fact, some of the most beloved and awarded bottles of bourbon whiskey in the past decade have been from master blenders and masters of maturation who’ve pulled amazing barrels from the abyss.

David Carpenter, Master Blender at Redepemtion, puts it this way: “As a chef, I wasn’t growing the beef or carrots or oysters I used. But I was drawing the absolute best products I could to create the best dish that I could. That’s what I’m doing when I source my whiskey.”

That’s a good start but there’s some nuance that’s worth shading in. Bib & Tucker — famously sourced from a very prominent but unnamed Tennessee distillery — has been laying down their own juice for years now. That being said, their much-sought-after ten-year expression is still a few years out from being completely own-make. Belle Meade — which was sourced by Nelson’s Green Brier in Nashville from MGP of Indiana — is now contract distilled and aged by Bardstown Bourbon Company in Kentucky. Still, that MGP juice is what you’ll primarily find in bottles at the moment.

We know, it’s a lot to parse. To get you started, we’re calling out ten really freaking good bottles of sourced juice that we love to drink. We’ve ranked them based on taste alone — whether or not you can find or afford these bottles is none of our business. If you want to try any of these yourself, click on their prices!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

10. Belle Meade Single Barrel

Nelson Green Brier

ABV: 54.65%

Average Price: $89

Source: MGP of Indiana

The Whiskey:

This expression is all about the prowess of the team at Nelson Green Brier. Each of these barrels is hand-selected for its beauty and then bottled at cask strength to let that barrel shine through in the finished product.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with deep vanilla that mingles with hints of dark chocolate sugar cookies with a touch of mint. The palate centers the creamy vanilla while adding in a cinnamon bark vibe with notes of black pepper and floral honey moved into the background. The end is long-ish and carries more of that vanilla cream while that cinnamon becomes slightly chewy with a dried choco-mint tobacco buzz on the tip of the tongue.

Bottom Line:

This is a stellar single barrel for a fairly accessible price point. I like having fun with this juice and mixing it into Manhattans and old fashioneds. But it’s also a perfectly suitable sipper with a single rock.

9. Bib & Tucker 10-Year-Old Small Batch Bourbon

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $85

Source: Undisclosed Tennessee Distillery

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 Tennessee water.

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 pretty f*cking tasty and definitely complex. You’re going to need to give it time and water to really plumb the depths of the pine and choco-citrus, but it’s worth the effort. This is also, for me, the sweet spot on Bib & Tucker’s small but dialed-in line.

8. Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea Cask Strength

Castle Brands

ABV: 59.8%

Average Price: $84

Source: Undisclosed

The Whiskey:

Jefferson’s Ocean is an experiment in finishing that’s pretty unique. The blenders pull in six to eight-year-old whiskeys sourced from four Kentucky distilleries. They marry those barrels and then re-barrel the whiskey, load them onto a ship, and sail those barrels around the world for almost a year.

The best of those barrels are married and bottled at cask strength with no additional fussing.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear crème brûlée vibe on the nose with touches of orange zest, cinnamon toast, slightly singed marshmallow. The taste dives into salted caramel notes with hints of Almond Joys covered in dark chocolate next to a savory fruit edge. That fruit turns figgy as the end fades slowly, hitting on spicy tobacco warmth and a final touch of fresh mint.

Bottom Line:

While this one will be a little harder to find, it’s worth checking out. If you do find it, take your time, open it up with water or a rock, and dig in to find those velvety flavor notes.

7. Bulleit Bourbon 10

Diageo

ABV: 45.6%

Average Price: $49

Source: Undisclosed Kentucky Distilleries

The Whiskey:

This is classic Bulleit Bourbon that’s aged up to ten years before it’s blended and bottled. These barrels are hand-selected to really amplify and highlight the classic flavors that make Bulleit so damn accessible in the first place.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot going on with butter and spicy stewed apples, maple syrup, Christmas cakes full of nuts and dried fruit, and a hint of savory herbs all pinging through your olfactory. The palate brings about smooth and creamy vanilla with plenty of butter toffee, sourdough crust, more X-mas spice, cedar bark, and a hint of dried roses. The finish is long, warming, and really embraces the toffee and spice.

Bottom Line:

While Bulleit does have its own, huge distillery these days, this juice is still sourced and a damn fine example of what the Bulleit blending team can do, which has us pretty excited for when their own-make finally hits these bottles in the next decade.

6. Redemption High-Rye Bourbon Aged 10 Years

Redemption

ABV: 57.2%

Average Price: $100

Source: MGP of Indiana

The Whiskey:

This limited edition from Redemption is all about the barrel picking process. The whiskey starts with a mash of 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malted barley. That rye-heavy juice is then aged for ten long years. Then the Redemption team sorts through those barrels to find the perfect one to bottle untouched.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a definite sense of the whole vanilla bean (husk to oils) next to nuttiness and a mild floral flourish that’s fresh and… almost wet. The taste veers away from that and indulges in eggnog spices, rich and buttery toffee, pecans and walnuts, cedar, and a silken vanilla texture. The end is long-ish and has this very distant hint of lemon curd that leads back to those eggnog spices and egg custard creaminess, paired with a little high-proof buzz.

Bottom Line:

This is a complex sipper. The high ABVs will tempt you to add a rock, which will open up more of the lemon, cedar, and nutty nature. In the end, this is a testament to the power of great barrel selection from MGP’s famed warehouses.

5. Kentucky Owl Confiscated

SPI Group

ABV: 48.2%

Average Price: $175

Source: Undisclosed Kentucky Distilleries

The Whiskey:

Kentucky Owl is another resurrection brand by Master Blender Dixon Dedman, the great-great-grandson of the shingle’s original founder. Yes, this is sourced juice from an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky, meaning we don’t know a whole lot of what’s in the bottle, but that leaves the family story and the taste of the whiskey as our only touchstones.

On those two levels: this expression excels.

Tasting Notes:

The sip draws you in with a slight rye note of anise and maybe even licorice next to old cellar oak, vanilla cream, and a touch of ripe cherry. The taste warms on the tongue with dark spices, more of that old oak, and a touch of raw leather. The end is long and touches back on those spices, building a real buzzing on your senses, and hitting back towards that oak and leather, with just a hint of cherry tobacco.

Bottom Line:

While Dedman is no longer part of Kentucky Owl, these old releases are his vision and worth seeking (to drink and lay down in a vault). These also make us pretty stoked to see what Dedman does post-Kentucky Owl.

4. Heaven’s Door Redbreast Master Blender’s Edition

Heavens Door

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $115

Source: Undisclosed Tennessee Distillery

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a collaboration between Heaven’s Door Master Blender Ryan Perry and Redbreast’s legendary Master Blender Billy Leighton. The duo worked long and hard to create multiple whiskey expressions, which Bob Dylan taste-tested and granted final approval on.

The juice in the bottle is Heaven Door’s low-rye ten-year-old Tennessee bourbon. They take that whiskey and fill it into Redbreast whiskey casks that had previously aged Irish whiskey for 12 years. After 15 months of final maturation, those barrels are vatted and slightly proofed down with soft Tennessee spring water.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with this medley of marzipan, soft leather, prunes and dates, Gala apples, a hint of cedar, and a whisper of ripe red cherry. There’s this body of nutmeg that leads towards a light vanilla pound cake full of candied and dried fruits with a soft Niederegger marzipan center. That then draws towards subtle pops of orange oils, floral honey, walnuts in buttery brown sugar syrup, and this mild touch of spiced apple tobacco leaf. The end lasts for just the right amount of time and leaves you with a walnut shell dryness, soft warmth, and slight tobacco chew buzz that all circles back towards a raisin sherry sweetness and a final morsel of that vanilla pound cake.

Bottom Line:

This has already sold out of its initial pre-order run on Reservebar. The secondary market is going to be where you find this from now on and it’ll only be getting more expensive. Looking at current prices: this is worth every penny.

3. Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon Aged 15 Years

Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 52.5%

Average Price: $250

Source: Undisclosed Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana Distilleries

The Whiskey:

Barrell Craft Spirits is another craft blendery that’s sourcing some of the best barrels in the game and expertly marrying those barrels. This expression blends 15-year-old bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennesse into a final product that reaches new heights for blended bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot to draw you in with this nose of rich tobacco spiciness next to soft cedar, tart cherry pie filling, saffron stewed pears, salted toffee, and what almost feels like the salted water left after boiling artichokes (seriously). The fruitiness really builds as the cherry leads towards a bowl full of ripe raspberries swimming in cream with a dusting of dark spices and brown sugar that’s countered by a dose of floral tea leaves, culminating with a mildly bitter coffee bean. The end is long and really holds onto the cherry and raspberry fruit while a note of that soft cedar dips back in with a hint of menthol tobacco buzz.

Bottom Line:

This is another bottle that easily outshines bottles twice the price (secondary mark-up wise). It’s interestingly complex while still feeling 100 percent accessible. That makes it sort of an education in that it takes you somewhere new without pushing you away.

2. Blue Run 13.5-Year Barrel #3 “Honey Barrel”

Blue Run

ABV: 63.41%

Average Price: $230

Source: Undisclosed Kentucky Distillery

The Whiskey:

The juice in the bottle is hand-selected by Jim Rutledge and barreled as a single barrel at cask strength with less than 150 bottles per release. That makes each release extremely unique… and fleeting. Beyond that, very little is known beyond the age statement.

Tasting Notes:

You get a deep sense of buttery toffee on the nose that leads you down a rocky path through a cherry orchard as soft notes of vanilla, worn leather, and warm, spicy tobacco leaves gently settle in your senses. The taste leans into the dark and bold cherry with a deeper dark berry underbelly that’s accentuated by heavily roasted cacao beans, singed vanilla husks, and a sticky toffee pudding made with rich dates. The end softens the leather as the dark chocolate lingers the longest on your senses with a final touch of almost peppery spice.

Bottom Line:

This is a real eye-opener when it comes to what great bourbon can be and what’s waiting out there in orphan barrels across the industry’s warehouses. Although this is going to be impossible to find anywhere near suggested retail (or at all), it’s worth the hunt to both expand your bourbon palate and really enriched your collection.

1. Michter’s 25-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Michters Distilling

ABV: 58.1%

Average Price: $9,000

Source: Undisclosed Kentucky Distillery

The Whiskey:

This is a sourced barrel of 25-year-old juice. That’s all we really know besides that it’s a whiskey that needed zero cutting to taste amazing.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with this matrix of rich and brandy-soaked holiday cake brimming with candied and dried fruits that edges into a smoked almond nuttiness and an almost funky rummy molasses next to browned butter on its own. That browned butter is what informs the palate, as the silkiness of this taste cannot be overstated. The palate really leans into the smoked almonds with a nice savory edge while the butter marries the holiday cake and almonds to create rich marzipan with a very mild cedar note that’s like a very old cigar humidor. The end just sits on your palate — like a soft hug from an old friend as the nuttiness and sweetness slowly fade out, leaving you … happy.

Bottom Line:

This 25-year-old bourbon is a masterpiece. We’ll never know where these barrels came from. But you know what? Who cares? This juice is the nectar of the gods.

Look at it this way, there’s a reason this costs about twice as much as Pappy 23 on the secondary market.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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