Four Bourbons You’ve Never Heard Of But Need To Try This Spring, Ranked

If you follow bourbon, then you know that most brands like to release new expressions in the fall to get a jump on the holiday season. Well, now that the calendar has flipped and spring has sprung this is the perfect time to take a gander at what you may have overlooked during the doldrums of winter. After all, just because you missed out on tasting the latest Buffalo Trace Antique Collection doesn’t mean there aren’t other excellent bottles of bourbon just waiting to be discovered.

Lucky for you, we looked high and low to find the very best of those gems that are hiding in plain sight. Whether you’re looking for something light and sweet to enjoy on a balmy evening or something full of flavor to toss into a cocktail, we’ve got you covered.

Chances are you’ve walked right past one of these bottles without even realizing how good it is. With this list, you won’t get caught slipping ever again. Now you can impress your friends (and expand your palate too!) by adding them all to your personal collection.

Let’s get into it!

4. Starlight Distillery Carl T. Huber’s Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

Starlight Bottled in Bond
Starlight Distillery

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

For an introduction to one of the best craft whiskey brands in America, you don’t need to look any further than this bottle from Starlight Distillery. Starlight has made a bit of a name for themselves with their exotic finishing casks but tasting their base bourbon is the kind of eye-opening experience that you’ll want to start with.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Take me out to the ballgame! This is a box of Cracker Jacks on the nose, where you can expect caramel sweetness and subtle nuttiness to be present along with some barrel char and corn-forward graininess.

Palate: On the palate this retains its nutty quality while providing just enough butterscotch balance plus plenty of nutmeg to make this an enjoyable pour that comes across as straightforward but savory.

Finish: Carl T. Huber’s Bottled in Bond shines on the medium-length finish, where each sip exudes balance between the mellow baking spices like nutmeg and clove along with a gentle sweetness anchored by the notes of butterscotch.

Bottom Line:

It’s full of nutmeg, Nutella-like hazelnut, and warm brown sugar which gives it a commanding enough presence to be enjoyed neat, but it will really shine in boozy cocktails like an Old Fashioned making it a versatile choice.

3. Pinhook 5-Year Cask Strength Bourbon

Pinhook 5-Year Cask Strength Bourbon
Pinhook Bourbon

ABV: 59.1%
Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

Pinhook’s bottles feature eye-catching wax tops in a variety of colors and admittedly it can be a bit confusing to try and keep track of which is which, but remember this – the new 5-Year Cask Strength Bourbon belongs in your shopping cart. Featuring a bubblegum-pink wax this particular bottle is hard to overlook and once you peel off the top it’s even harder to forget.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Apricot jam and vanilla come tumbling out of the glass along with graham cracker pie crust and a bit of burnt sugar.

Palate: The stone fruit carries through to the palate where the flavor of candied apricots and peanut shells coats the tongue leaving little room for the slightly doughy note that emerges at mid-palate.

Finish: The finish features a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper and turns slightly lip-puckering which does well to conclude the light and sweet flavors found at first.

Bottom Line:

The first of Pinhook’s contract-distilled bourbon to come out of Castle & Key is a portend of great things to come. With well-developed flavor despite being only 5 years old and a proof point that will shock you with how easily it drinks, you’d do well to get in on the ground floor with the whiskey Pinhook is producing.

2. Frank August Case Study 02

Frank August CASE STUDY:02
Frank August

ABV: 50.5%
Average Price: $160

The Whiskey:

Tasting Notes:

Nose: At first this pour comes across as overly sweet but once given some time to settle you’ll notice that there are degrees to the sweetness. Red berries come out swinging but they’re soon joined by honey, an infusion of oak from the casks, and an abundance of white pepper and thyme.

Palate: The influence of the brandy cask this bourbon was finished in isn’t overbearing. Instead, it offers a kiss of cherry syrup sweetness with a dash of black pepper and allspice that showcases the beauty of balance in a whiskey.

Finish: The effect of black pepper only becomes more prominent on the finish, and that’s a good thing! It helps to curb the sweetness from becoming cloying and leads to lip-smacking after every sip.

Bottom Line:

This is the best bourbon that Frank August has ever produced. Period. You may have admired their sleek bottle design from afar, but if you haven’t indulged in a taste, well… this is the peak of the mountain. If you want your socks knocked off with a single sip, treat yourself to a bottle of this.

1. Ben Holladay Soft Red Wheat Rickhouse Proof

Ben Holladay Soft Red Wheat Rickhouse Proof
Holladay Distillery

ABV: Varies by batch.
Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

Ben Holladay is one of those curious brands that simultaneously has a rich history and a short track record. That’s because while the Holladay Distillery was established 166 years ago, a 30-year hiatus preceded their $10 million renovation in 2015. After releasing the first bourbon under their current regime in 2022, a traditional Bottled in Bond bourbon, Ben Holladay followed that up with two 6-year age-stated wheated bourbons in 2023 –– this high-proof version and a Bottled in Bond variant.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Leather, like the kind you might find on old books, and brandied cherries leap out at first before a slightly floral aspect joins nutmeg and berbere spice to round out the aromas.

Palate: Nutmeg and a distinct oakiness lead the way before basil, clove, and red apple skin begin to emerge on the palate. From there you’ll pick up the more familiar sweet note of caramel.

Finish: On the finish the sweetness of this pour cascades away leaving oak and a medley of baking spices in its wake. It’s lengthy and savory –– punctuated with walnuts and orange zest.

Bottom Line:

In a category dominated by Pappy Van Winkle and Maker’s Mark, this inaugural barrel-proof release by Ben Holladay already places them in the conversation as the next best thing in wheated bourbon. Its earthy backbone allows flavors like Jamaican allspice berries, walnut meat, and a subtle infusion of dried cranberries to blossom across your palate. You’ll want a backup of this bottle so do yourself a favor and buy two the first time.