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Bourbon Whiskeys We Haven’t Paid Nearly Enough Attention To

We talk a lot about bourbon whiskey on UPROXX. We’re also the first to admit that sometimes the names getting loved can feel repetitive. We all like certain whiskeys more than others and those whiskeys tend to get a lot of love from us. Personally, when it comes to bourbon, I tend to go on and on about Wild Turkey, Michter’s, Balcones, Peerless, Jack Daniel’s, and the many, many products from Beam, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace to name only a few.

But there’s so much more out there and, luckily, I get to try a lot of other bourbons too. Today it’s high time to give them some shine.

For this exercise, I’m calling out 20 bourbons that I’ll readily admit I don’t talk about enough. That’s not to say I’ve never called out one of these bottles. But they’ve each fallen through the cracks one too many times. Let’s flip that.

Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of 2021

Leopold Bros. Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

Leopold Bros. Bourbon
Leopold Bros.

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This expression dropped last year and has been garnering a lot of attention. The mash is made from 64 percent corn, 21 percent malted barley, and 15 percent Abruzzi Heritage Rye that Todd Leopold grew for 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:

Todd Leopold — the brand’s master distiller — is a gentle genius. He’s a big teddy bear of a man. He’s also one of those whiskey makers that see beyond the stills, fermenters, yeasts, and grains and sees the process and product of whiskey kind of like Neo in The Matrix. And that’s what comes through in his expressions.

This really is special stuff that deserves far more of our/my attention.

Redwood Empire Pipe Dream Bourbon

Redwood Empire Bourbon
Redwood Empire

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

While this whiskey is a blend of sourced juice, it really shines as a classic bourbon from a new brand. The juice in the bottles is a blend of bourbons from California, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana that are four to 12 years old. The final blend means the whiskey is made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and only four percent barley.

Tasting Notes:

Again, this is a classic bourbon. The nose opens with a build of vanilla pods next to caramel, a touch of oak, and a thin line of fresh maple syrup. The palate has a pecan pie vibe with the maple syrup turning into Caro syrup as the oak gets a little toasty with rich buttery toffee and a dollop of creamy vanilla pudding. The rye comes in late with a mild pepperiness and a slight savory fruit vibe.

Bottom Line:

This is a cool-looking bottle that celebrates one of the tallest redwood trees in California. It’s also a classic through and through. You can’t go wrong with having a bottle of this around for mixing into cocktails or sipping on the rocks.

Bomberger’s Declaration 2021

Michters Distillery

ABV: 54%

Average Price: $170

The Whiskey:

This whiskey heralds back to Michter’s historical roots in the 19th century before the brand was even called “Michter’s.” The juice on the bottle is rendered from a very small batch of bourbons that were aged in Chinquapin oak which was air-dried for three years before charring and filling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with this rich and meaty plum presence next to a hint of buttery toffee and creamy vanilla with a touch of wood lurking in the background. The palate goes full crème brûlée with sticky burnt sugar over the top and a slight touch of allspice and nutmeg next to a dark cacao powder dryness with a touch of smoke salt and light, dry cedar. The mid-palate leans back into the dark stone fruit and sweetness as it only slightly dries out.

Bottom Line:

While I tend to go on and on about Michter’s, I also tend to forget they have other labels outside of the core line. This year’s Bomberger’s (and pretty much every previous release) is one of those under-the-radar bourbons that always wows. Yes, this can get lost in the mix when talking about Michter’s, and bourbon in general, but it’s also one of the finest whiskeys out there.

Old Elk Wheated Bourbon

Old Elk Distillery

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $72

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 amount 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:

We’re already back in Colorado! This craft whiskey is pretty delightful. But it being crafty means that it’s harder to find than your average bottle. Still, this is a really winning wheated bourbon that stands up with the big dogs from Buffalo Trace, Beam, and Heaven Hill.

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Brough Brothers Bourbon
Brough Brothers Bourbon

ABV: 41%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This tiny and new distillery was founded in West Louisville by brothers Victor, Chris, and Bryson Yarbrough. The distillery is the first African-American-owned brand working in the state. For now, this bottle is contract-distilled (distilled at a big distillery based on their own recipe/concept) in Indiana from a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four percent malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with dried roses, marzipan, and creamy eggnog on the nose with a hint of apple and corn. That apple drives the taste with more orchard fruit (think pears) as the nutmeg really spikes and the marzipan takes on a rosewater vibe next to a very distant flutter of pepper spice in the background. The finish sweetens with a spoonful of fresh and floral honey as those orchard fruits affix to a mildly spicy and vanilla-forward tobacco leaf.

Bottom Line:

While this is still pretty young, it has some serious potential. Now that the brothers are actually distilling in Kentucky, it’ll be interesting to see what comes next for this upstart bourbon.

Paul Sutton Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Paul Sutton

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

Paul Sutton is a new bourbon from an old family recipe. I know, we’ve all heard it before. The new whiskey is not a blend of sourced bourbons. The brand took the time to release its own contract distilled juice. The bourbon mash bill has a touch of rye in it and it aged for up to five years in medium char barrels. It’s then proofed with that famously soft Kentucky limestone water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this has a distinct barnyard funk tied to wet bales of straw that leads to a salted caramel sweetness with a twinge of a pine box full of cherry pits. The taste veers away from most of that towards sweet corn cakes with a touch of vanilla cream and eggnog spice. A Caro syrup-soaked pecan sweetness and nuttiness drive the mid-palate towards a cherry tobacco finish with a hint of dark cacao powder.

Bottom Line:

This really is a nice-drinking whiskey. It works wonders in your favorite bourbon cocktail while also standing up to a glass full of rocks as a sipper.

Noah’s Mill

Willett

ABV: 57.15%

Average Price: $73

The Whiskey:

This small-batch bourbon from Willett Distillery hits a lot of high marks. The brand keeps their cards pretty close to their chest when it comes to mash bills (they use four for their various bourbons), barrel ages, and so forth. This whiskey used to carry an age statement of 15 years but that was dropped due to demand. What we do know is that after aging, the small-batched bourbon goes into the bottle unfussed with and close to barrel proof.

Tasting Notes:

Maply syrup-covered walnuts greet you with a sense of dark dried fruit and a hint of rose water. The taste holds onto those notes while adding in an almost sherried plummy depth with a whisper of caramel apple and orange oils. The vanilla and oak kick in with a rich depth and well-rounded lightness to the sip as it fades slowly away.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bottles that are very high-end yet is both findable and relatively affordable. It’s sleek and refined. It’s also one of the best “on the rocks” bourbons on this list.

Ezra Brooks 99

Ezra Brooks 99
Luxco

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $26

The Whiskey:

This whiskey, distilled at Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown, is kind of like a Tennessee whiskey made in Kentucky. The juice has a pretty standard mash bill corn, rye, and barley. But, once the spirit comes off the stills it’s filtered through charcoal, just like Tennessee whiskey, before it’s filled into the barrels.

That whiskey is then batched, proofed down with limestone water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This also leans very classic bourbon with hints of corn on the cob with melty salted butter next to hints of soft leather pouches filled with roasted peanut shells, a touch of caramel, and a vanilla/chocolate ice cream vibe. The palate keeps things super easy as that rich vanilla ice cream leads towards holiday spices, tart green apples, and a freshly baked cornbread bespeckled with dried chili flakes and black pepper. The finish is soft and fast with that spice leading back towards a leather tobacco chew.

Bottom Line:

This list could have been just all the Lux Row bourbons we’ve been sleeping on. However, this new 2021 release hits high marks for being a damn-near-perfect workhorse whiskey. It’s a solid mixer that you can easily drink on the rocks or take as a shot with a beer back. You can’t beat that price either.

Blade & Bow

Diageo

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

This is a fascinating and unique bottle from Diageo. The core of this whiskey is orphan barrels from Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller distillery (which is now dedicated to the brand). Those last barrels from the iconic distillery — that once made Old Fitzgerald back in the day — are blended with sourced whiskeys from unnamed distilleries. The blend is then proofed and bottled with no age statement.

Tasting Notes:

This is a nuanced bourbon with hints of dried apricot, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and a slight whisper of banana pulling you in. The palate veers more towards the dried stone fruits and raisins, as a counterpoint of juicy pear leads towards hints of soft oak next to touches of grain. The end leans into the warming spices with a Christmas edge, with the oak and fruits fading out slowly.

Bottom Line:

You’re starting to see this more and more on shelves and it’s easy to see why (well, beyond a company as huge as Diageo pushing it hard). This really is a tasty bourbon that’s easy to drink while being just bespoke enough to feel special. It’s one of those whiskeys that falls under the radar for being a mix-and-match of bourbons but 100 percent delivers with an end product that shines.

Rabbit Hole Cavehill

Rabbite Hole Cavehill
Rabbit Hole Distilling

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This four-grain Kentucky bourbon is made with 70 percent corn, ten percent malted wheat, ten percent honey malted barley, and ten percent malted barley. That spirit is then aged for three years in toasted and charred barrels before it’s batched from 15 barrels, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This has a lot of apple cobbler on the nose with sweet and bright stewed apples, plenty of dark brown spices, brown sugar, buttery pastry cobbles, and a touch of honey sweetness. The honey becomes creamy and spiked with orange zest as the malt shines through as a digestive cookie with a hint of fresh mint and more of that honey with a flake of salt. The finish brings about that spice again with a little more of a peppery edge this time as the fade slowly falls off, leaving you with a creamy vanilla tobacco feeling.

Bottom Line:

This truly small-batch whiskey really is a fine example of what this craft distillery can achieve. This is a super easy, well-rounded, and tasty all-around whiskey.

Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon 101

Yellowstone Limtied
Limestone Branch

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $110

The Whiskey:

This year’s drop from Stephen Beam’s Yellowstone line is a mix of seven-year-old and 15-year-old bourbons. The 15-year barrels are high-quality bourbons hand-selected by Beam. The seven-year barrels were finished by Beam in Amarone red wine casks before this batch was put together, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a balance of dark stewed fruits — think holiday cake spices with dates, prunes, figs, and raisins — next to this bright burst of bright red berries with a slight tartness and powdered sugar sweetness swimming in vanilla cream with mild hints of old leather, dark cacao powder, and toffee lurking in the background. The palate really embraces that vanilla cream base while the berries go full dark and sweet cherry with more of that buttery toffee, dark cacao, and meaty fig adding a dark depth to the sip. The finish builds on the sweet and dark fruits of the mid-palate towards an end that’s full of bright cherry tobacco and small lines of cedar plank that’s lightly singed on the edges.

Bottom Line:

Stephen Beam — who’s descended from both the Beams and Dants of Kentucky bourbon — brings some serious heritage to these whiskeys from Limestone Branch. This release is quickly climbing the ranks as what might be one of our favorite releases of the year.

Expect us to talk about more in the near future.

Bardstown Discovery Series #6

Bardstown Discovery
Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 55.55%

Average Price: $129

The Whiskey:

This limited release from a couple of months ago is a blend of heavy-hitting bourbons. The lion’s share, 68 percent, is derived from an eleven-year-old Kentucky bourbon that’s made with 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. That’s batched with 16 percent from a 17-year-old Tennessee whiskey that’s made with 84 percent corn, eight percent rye, and eight percent malted barley. The final 16 percent is a seven-year Indian bourbon made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four perfect malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

The age comes through with a big medley of dark cherries sitting in a big cedar bowl with a dark leather jacket imbued with decades of cigarette smoke and perfume next to a hint of dark chocolate orange balls. That orange and dark chocolate drive the taste as the dark cherry becomes brandy-soaked and the cedar feels more like an old cigar humidor full of cigars laced with vanilla, orange, cherry, and chocolate individually, creating a bigger whole on the palate. The finish takes its time as the tobacco spice and fruit slowly fade out, leaving you with a dry woody note and a touch of sweet and buttery toffee.

Bottom Line:

Bardstown Bourbon Company could also take up a few slots on this list. The massive and brand new distillery is changing the game in soucing, contract distilling, and tourism right now and will be on a lot of whiskey drinkers’ minds for years to come.

KOVAL Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

KOVAL Bourbon
Koval

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

There are a lot of great, interesting independent craft distillers out there. Hell, this list could also be just that. However, Chicago’s KOVAL does stand out from the crowd for us. Their bourbon has a unique mash bill of only corn and millet. The spirit then spends four years in the barrel before it’s proofed and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose has a classic bourbon opening with plenty of vanilla, caramel, and oak. A distinct whiff of smoke arrives (think more of old brisket smokers than a campfire) while tart apples covered in caramel mix with a bright berry burst and dustings of spice and brown sugar. The sip has a velvet body that really embraces the bitterness of charred oak staves with an almost Graham cracker maltiness lurking in there.

Bottom Line:

KOVAL is doing so many interesting things with unique mash bills. This millet-fueled bourbon only scratches the surface of the craft brand’s unique expressions. That being said, this is a great place to start with this crafty distillery.

Calumet Farm 14 Single Rack Black

Calumet Farm

ABV: 48.1%

Average Price: $128

The Whiskey:

This bourbon is kind of like Kentucky in a bottle — it’s all about Derby horses and the state’s own spirit. The juice is sourced from a set of 19 barrels from the center of an unnamed warehouse. Those barrels are small batched after 14 long years of resting and the whiskey is proofed with soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

This sip draws you in with a silken balance of cherry and vanilla cream that’s shockingly light. The taste builds on that foundation by adding in soft notes of cedar and cinnamon sticks next to a hint of dark chocolate with a whisper of pancake syrup sweetness. The end marries the cherry and vanilla into a cherry bespeckled ice cream, with hints of those woody cinnamon sticks and dark chocolate peeking in on the velvet finish.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those bottles that seems needlessly expensive for a sourced whiskey. But all of those feels melt away once you taste what’s actually in these bottles. It’s just really tasty bourbon that feels unique yet familiar.

Early Times Bottled-in-Bond

Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

Sazerac’s Early Times spent decades as the best-selling bourbon in the world. Their Bottled-in-Bond is a throwback to that heady era in the early to mid-1900s when bourbon was king of the booze scene. Then this whiskey nearly died in the 1970s and 80s when bourbon took a massive hit in sales. This particular expression was reintroduced in 2017 as a limited release.

It was such a huge hit so it turned into a standard release.

Tasting Notes:

The low-rye and longer aging create a dram where the orange oils, pancake syrup, and holiday spices mingle on the soft nose. The palate luxuriates in this rich and creamy vanilla next to a mildly spicy tobacco leaf and another hit of those orange oils. The end adds in a slight allspice pepperiness with more of that creamy vanilla, tobacco, and a final hint of buttery brown sugar syrup.

Bottom Line:

This adds a great choice to Sazerac’s low-end bourbons, which tend to be a little rough (looking at you, Ancient Age and Benchmark). This is a really solid bottled-in-bond that stands up to Evan Williams, Beam, and even Dickel.

New Riff Single Barrel

New Riff Single Barrel
New Riff

ABV: 55.8%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

These releases from New Riff will vary from location to location as they’re largely reserved for retailers. The juice in the bottle is New Riff’s standard bourbon mash of 65 percent corn, 30 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. The spirit is aged for four years before they’re bottled individually without cutting or filtration.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on these tends to be soft, kind of like freshly baked rye bread, with notes of eggnog spices, slick vanilla flan, thin caramel sauce, and hints of spicy orange zest. The palate amps everything up as the orange peel becomes candied and attaches to a moist holiday cake, dried cranberry and cherry, more dark spice, a touch of nuttiness, and plenty of that vanilla. The end takes its time as the whole thing comes together like a rich and boozy fruit cake as little notes of leather and tobacco spice keep things interesting on the slow fade.

Bottom Line:

We should probably be talking about New Riff more, in general. There’s always something interesting from them on the shelf and the prices are always pretty accessible for the high-quality of the whiskey in the bottle.

Pinhook Bohemia Bourbon High-Proof

Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon
Pinhook

ABV: 57.25%

Average Price: $52

The Whiskey:

Pinhook’s contract distilled bourbon is all about refinement. The expression is made from 100 barrels that are matured for 34 months before being small-batched by Pinhook’s Master Taster Sean Josephs. The juice is barely touched with that soft Kentucky limestone water to take the edge off.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a lemon curd vibe with a buttered bread — nearly croissant — feel next to a mild dose of spiced fruits. The taste is toffee sweet but is countered by a powdered dark chocolate bitterness, marzipan smoothness, and plenty of that creamy citrus. The sip ends quietly and fades quickly, leaving you with a nice touch of lemon oils next to dark chocolate powder and a hint of spicy stewed oranges.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those releases that’s been growing on me year after year. Pinhook is creating some truly fascinating and tasty whiskeys right now, and that makes me pretty excited for what’s coming next.

Horse Soldier Small Batch

Horse Soldier Small Batch
American Freedom Distillery

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This craft whiskey from Kentucky is made with a mash bill of 65 percent corn, 30 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. The barrels have aged a minimum of six years before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Butterscotch leads the nose on this sip as ginger snaps mingle with rich and sharp toffee candies next to a touch of vanilla, pepper, and cherry lurk underneath everything. The taste really amps up the creaminess of the vanilla and the butteriness of the toffee, as a slight marzipan flourish arrives with a thin layer of freshly cracked black pepper and salted black licorice. That pepper marries to the ginger as the heat levels off and fades out leading towards a finish with more of the vanilla and dry wood than anything else.

Bottom Line:

This is a very sippable whiskey started by Afghanistan War vets. The crew has just broken ground on a new distillery which means we’re sure to see more very soon from this brand.

Savage & Cooke The Burning Chair

Savage & Cooke
Savage & Cooke

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $58

The Whiskey:

This whiskey marries Napa Valley winemaking to Ohio Valley whiskey. Winemaker Dave Phinney sources four-year-old bourbons from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana and brings those to Napa. Once there, the bourbon is filled into Cabernet barrels for final maturation. Finally, the bourbon is cut with pure spring water from California’s Alexander Valley before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Those barrels come through with a note of a dry lumber yard next to caramel apples, butterscotch candy wrappers, and a sliver of vanilla bean. That vanilla drives the palate and comes creamy and thick as apples stewed in eggnog spices kick in with a slight woody maple syrup sweetness and sweet red grapes. That sweet note drives the mid-palate towards a finish that warms with the holiday spices and almost hot apple cider next to a vanilla cookie with a dusting of maple brown sugar.

Bottom Line:

This is a cool bottle and a cool concept. While this isn’t the only bourbon getting finished in wine barrels in Napa, it’s certainly one of the most accessible. Bonus points for serving this at parties next to the brand’s similarly-designed wine bottles.

Oak & Eden Bourbon & Spire

Sanctified Spirits

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $42

The Whiskey:

This Texas whiskey is planning on being fully and truly from Texas very soon. For now, the juice is primarily sourced from MGP of Indiana. Oak & Eden ships those barrels down to Texas where they blend their whiskey and then add the oak spire to recreate a sort of double-barrel finish in the bottle.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a Red Hots cinnamon-sweet opening, with plenty of oak, hints of caramel, and a slight touch of woody vanilla and pine. The extra oak creates a dry mouthfeel with a continued spicy/sweet edge that’s welcoming, while hints of orchard fruits mingle with butterscotch and a hint of bitterness. The finish is fairly short, dry, oaky, and resurfaces the Red Hots note for a warming end.

Bottom Line:

This feels a little gimmicky, sure. Still, the concept does make sense (the idea that oak staves in the bottle would continually shape the final dram) and the expression delivers as a nice sipper on the rocks or solid cocktail base. In the end, this is a cool concept and Oak & Eden is putting a big list of expressions that play with unique finishings and Texas vibes.


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