Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time writing about well-known American whiskeys. Especially hard-to-find bottles of bourbon, like Pappy Van Winkle, EH Taylor, Weller, and the like. But those brands are all so beloved, so sought-after that — frankly — they don’t need the hype. Even without us, they’d still be allocated, difficult to find, and have ridiculous secondary market prices.
You know who does need a little signal boost? Smaller American craft whiskey brands. We’re talking about the underrated, often overlooked craft whiskeys made right here in the United States. Many are delightful, nuanced, and even award-winning, but still don’t get the press or have the followings they deserve. And we’re keen on changing that.
Below, you’ll find eight of our favorite underrated American craft whiskeys. We know it’s hard to add a new expression into your drinking rotation, but give a few of these a try — you just might find a new favorite!
Still Austin Bourbon
Average Price: $40
This award-winning (Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition), Austin, Texas-made bourbon has a mash bill of 70% white corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley. Every ingredient is sourced from Texas. It’s distilled in 42-foot column stills before being matured in charred American oak barrels.
The nose reveals hints of caramel apples, dried fruits, almond cookies, and shaved coconut. The palate is full of raisins, buttery caramel, vanilla beans, sweet corn, and baking spices. The finish is long, filled with warming heat and features notes of butterscotch paired with a slight bit of peppery rye.
This just might be the most underrated bourbon in the country. While it took home a prestigious award, it’s still not even close to as popular as any of the expressions from Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, or even the smaller Kentucky brands. It ought to be.
Sagamore Spirit Double Oak Rye
Average Price: $59.99
This award-winning straight rye whiskey is first aged for four years in a charred American oak barrel before being matured a second time in a toasted American oak cask. It ends up maturing for 4-5 years in total. The result is a peppery, rich whiskey with a great sweet-to-rye spice ratio.
Right away, you’ll be struck by the aromas of peppery rye, sweet cinnamon sugar, vanilla beans, and candied orange peels. The palate delivers notes of candied pecans, butterscotch, shaved coconut, and more vanilla. It all ends in a crescendo of sweet caramel and spicy cracked black pepper.
For the price, it’s hard to find a better craft rye whiskey. After one sip, this will become your new go-to sweet-meets-peppery summer sipper.
Coppersea Excelsior Bourbon
Average Price: $99
With the likes of Hudson, Black Button, Kings County, and Widow Jane, New York has become a leader in the non-Kentucky bourbon world in recent years. But one of the best is often even overlooked in the state. Coppersea Excelsior Bourbon is a high rye, 100% New York-produced bourbon that’s made using grain sourced from the state and even matured in charred Hudson Valley oak barrels.
Before your first sip, take a moment to nose this whiskey — you’re sure to pick up aromas of caramel corn, brown sugar, cooking spices, and a nice wallop of peppery rye. The palate swirls with vanilla beans, maple candy, dried fruits, a gentle nutty backbone, and more spicy rye at the very end.
This is an old-school, prohibition-style bourbon. It requires multiple samplings to reveal all of the different flavors. It’s definitely young, however, and should be treated as such — try mixing it into your next old fashioned or Manhattan.
Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon
Average Price: $60
Whiskey aficionados have heard of Laws, but many drinkers haven’t yet had a chance to appreciate these well-crafted, high-quality Colorado whiskeys. The brand’s flagship expression is its Four Grain Straight Bourbon. The corn, wheat, barley, and rye in the mash bill come from local farms and the distillate is aged for three years in charred oak barrels at high altitudes.
This is a very herbal, citrus-filled whiskey on the nose. There’s also caramel, vanilla, and just a hint of peppery rye. Sipping it reveals notes of toasted wood, vanilla beans, pipe tobacco, candied orange peels, and gentle spice. The finish is warming, dry, and beguiling enough to be memorable.
If you’ve never enjoyed whiskey from Laws, start with this expression and work your way through the whole portfolio. At the very least, try this one and then the bonded version.
New Liberty Dutch Malt
Average Price: $50
Philadelphia’s New Liberty is making some high-quality, underrated whiskey. The brand’s Dutch Malt Whiskey was made to pay tribute to the “Pennsylvania Dutch” who settled in the state after emigrating from Germany in the 17th century. It’s made with two-row barley from Deer Creek Malt House in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
On the nose, aromas include sweet malts, vanilla, dried fruits, and gentle spice. The palate is loaded with chocolate fudge, cereal-like malts, buttery caramel, and oaky wood. The finish is warming, long, and ends with a mixture of sweetness and spice.
This is a different whiskey than you’re used to. It’s filled with hints of malts, grains, and a nice nutty sweetness you just can’t put your finger on.
Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon
Average Price: $39.99
We know what you’re thinking. Bourbon and Iowa don’t really seem to make sense together. But if you know anything at all about the state, you know there are a lot of cornfields there — why wouldn’t they end up with some bourbon?
Cedar Ridge’s flagship expression is its Straight Bourbon. This award-winning whiskey has a mash bill of 74% corn, 14% rye, and 12% malted barley. It’s aged for three years in charred, American oak barrels.
This 86 proof whiskey begins with scents of caramel corn, vanilla beans, oak, and gentle rye warmth. The palate features hints of raisins, apricots, buttery caramel, vanilla, and a nice minerality. It’s made with family-farmed corn, and it tastes like you’d expect a bold, rich bourbon from the Midwest to taste.
Cedar Ridge has gained in popularity in recent years due to its slew of awards. But it still doesn’t have the name recognition of many of its Kentucky counterparts — it deserves some shine.
Westward American Single Malt
Average Price: $70
If you pay attention to the American craft whiskey world, you’ve probably heard of Westward. But, in general, it’s still utterly underrated when it comes to single malt whiskey worldwide. While many drinkers don’t look to the US for single malt whiskeys at all, after one sip of this expression, they’ll have to expand their understanding of the genre.
Made with locally sourced malted barley, brewed using ale yeast, and matured in lightly charred American oak casks, this is a truly unique single malt whiskey.
If you’re a fan of Scotch, you’ll recognize some of its notable aromas in this expression. There’s honey, dried orange peels, almonds, and caramel malts throughout. After nosing, your first sip will feature subtle ale yeast flavor, buttery caramel, toffee, gentle spices, and a nice malty backbone. It’s sweet, slightly spicy, and highly sippable.
While nobody is going to tell you to stop enjoying your favorite single malt Scotch. You should keep an open mind and try this excellent American riff on the style.
Yellowstone Bourbon Select 93
Average Price: $42
This whiskey from Lebanon, Kentucky’s Limestone Branch Distillery is made to pay tribute to America’s national park system (they even donate a portion of the proceeds to the National Parks Conservation Association). The straight bourbon whiskey is a blend of four and seven-year-old bourbons selected for their rich, sippable, mellow flavors.
The nose is heaped with aromas of toasted marshmallows, rich oak, vanilla beans, and subtle spice. The palate drives forward dried apricots, raisins, toasted vanilla beans, sweet treacle, and butterscotch. The last sip is a nice combination of caramelized sugar and woody oak.
This is a great whiskey for two reasons. For one, drinking it helps conserve our National Parks. Second, it’s flavorful, sweet, and well-suited for slow sipping on a cool summer’s night.
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