Life

Bartenders Shout Out The Most Underrated Bourbon Whiskeys On The Shelf

Most whiskey drinkers have their “go-to” whiskeys. They rarely give other bottles a second look when they’re darting in and out of a liquor store. It makes sense, really. If you’ve been enjoying Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, or Jack Daniel’s for most of your legal-drinking adult life, why would you want to try anything different?

Those brands all make damn fine juice.

That does mean, however, that many of the lesser-known whiskey expressions out there don’t get the shine they deserve. We’re not blaming you for that. It’s more a matter of there being so many brands fighting for shelf space these days that some great bottles (in this case, bourbons) inevitably get overlooked.

The remedy? Experiment a little. Develop your palate and expand your tastes.

To help you find something new, we asked a handful of bartenders to name their picks for the most overlooked bourbon whiskeys on the market. Of course, that definition is going to vary massively. Some of the bottles below are well-known and maybe don’t get the respect they deserve. Others simply aren’t household names (unless you live in Kentucky). Either way, if any of them sound enticing, click on their prices to check them out yourself.

Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon

Larceny

Daniel Yang, lead bartender at Rosina inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

ABV: 61.6%

Average Price: $75

Why This Whiskey?

This bourbon won Whisky Advocate’s Whisky of the Year in 2020, making it the first wheated bourbon to ever win this coveted title. It has a higher wheat blend found in the mash bill and smooth notes of caramel and honey.

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon

Frey Ranch

Rustyn Lee, beverage director at Atomic Saloon Show in Las Vegas

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $56

Why This Whiskey?

Frey Ranch is distilled here in Nevada and has made quite a splash since releasing their bourbon. Rich enough to drink neat and fills out a cocktail nicely. It’s definitely a brand that more drinkers are going to become aware of in the next few years.

This is a very underrated bottle.

Isaac Bowman Port Barrel Finished Bourbon

Bowman

Scott Wenger, bartender at The Continental in Tampa, Florida

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $89

Why This Whiskey?

I am originally from Virginia, and I have been partial to bourbon from the Commonwealth forever. That bias aside, I still think the Bowman Distillery puts out some of the best bourbons in the country and is highly underrated. Specifically, their Isaac Bowman Port Wood Barrel Finish really shines. That hint of port at the end is really just magical.

It’s sweet, rich, and highly memorable.

Ancient Age Bourbon

Ancient Age

Brandi Wheat, consultant at The G Spot Cigar and Bar Lounge in Memphis, Tennessee

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $14

Why This Whiskey?

The most underrated bourbon to drink is Ancient Age. Priced at a little under $20, this rare beauty is packed with flavor. Having a lighter proof compared to the other Buffalo Trace brands, this bourbon is great for a nice summer day. Flavors include butterscotch, caramel, and cinnamon.

If you come across it, buy it and hold on to it.

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon

Russell

Michael Lay, assistant director of bars for MINA Group in San Francisco, California

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $49

Why This Whiskey?

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year seems to fly below the radar but is outstanding. This is what I will be drinking this summer. Filled with hints of pipe tobacco, caramel, vanilla, and wood char, this is a mellow, sweet, easy-drinking bourbon that should be on everyone’s summer drinking list.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon

Evan Williams

Joel Ortega owner and founder of Timber & Blues in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

ABV: 43.3%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

Evan Williams is underrated, at least down here. If I had to pick one of its expressions, I’d choose Evan Williams Single Barrel. Its caramel and wooden notes make it one of my favorites.

Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength Bourbon

Maker

Young Kim, beverage director at Fine & Rare in New York City

ABV: 54.8%

Average Price: $59

Why This Whiskey?

Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength (2021 release) is the standard Maker’s 46 on steroids. Surprisingly smooth for its proof, it is bold with Graham cracker, vanilla, cinnamon, and oak. It’s certainly one of the best-valued cask strength bourbons on the market.

You should try it this summer, especially since it’s limited.

Very Old Barton Bourbon

Barton

Jeremy Williams, mixologist at MDRD at the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton in Grand Rapids, Michigan

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $15

Why This Whiskey?

Very Old Barton 100 proof is a solid option for cocktails. It’s on the drier side, and the higher proof accentuates its classic bourbon flavors. On a hot day, I like it in a highball with honey and lemon. The caramel and vanilla flavors work well in this summery cocktail.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon

Old Grand-Dad

Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier in Wilmington, Delaware

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

I think this bourbon gets a bad reputation for some of the wrong reasons. The 100 proof Old Grand-Dad has a high rye count in the mash bill. So for some people, this bourbon may come off too harsh. However, the rye brings complexity to the flavor profile and the spice really lengthens the finish on this bourbon.

The price point is exceptional, and this bourbon works in cocktails as well as being enjoyable on the rocks in the summer sun.

Old Forester 100 Bourbon

Old Forester

Jacob Mata, bar manager of Garden & Grain in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $40

Why This Whiskey?

This bourbon is a go-to for me when mixing up any whiskey cocktails. I like to enjoy barrel-strength bourbon because you are getting a more pronounced flavor profile. While this bourbon isn’t barrel strength, it’s a happy medium sitting at exactly 50 percent ABV. This proof allows the flavors of ripe apple, baking spices, and toasted oak to shine with a sweet oaky finish.

Old Forester 100 proof is also my go-to bourbon for an old fashioned.

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Four Roses

Chaz Gallo, director of food & beverage at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol, Virginia

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $65

Why This Whiskey?

Four Roses Single Barrel is a mix of tart-sweet fruit with warming spices complemented by dark espresso beans and dark chocolate. The fruit-forward flavor lends great for summer drinking.

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon

Wild Turkey

Ryan Anderson, complex director of beverage at Ace Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $35

Why This Whiskey?

Wild Turkey 101 may be at the end of some jokes or bad memories — like shooting high-proof whiskey in your younger days — but it’s the only bourbon I drink these days. The Wild Turkey Distillery cranks out the standard for blendable or drinkable whiskey that is just at the right price.

Because the distillery is so historic, it may lose sales to younger whiskey companies but deserves all the glory.

Baker’s 7-Year-Old Bourbon

Jim Beam

Matt Nicholas, bar manager for The Kennedy Bar in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $65

Why This Whiskey?

Baker’s 7-Year Bourbon is my top choice for most overlooked. Hailing from the famous Jim Beam distillery, Baker’s is a minimum 7-year bourbon with a sweet vanilla finish and a heavy baking spice palate. It can stand up to other higher-end bourbons without any compromise.

Redemption High Rye Bourbon

Redemption

Benjamin Pozar, bartender at Fogo de Chao in Dallas

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $25

Why This Whiskey?

In summer, whiskey is for mixing. I suggest having a highball or a whiskey sour. For a sour, have a bit of rye content like Redemption. This brings in some spice depth. The peppery notes paired with the caramel, vanilla, and oaky flavors pair well with the citrus notes.


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

×