Any time I’m given the opportunity to boast about Texas whiskey, particularly the bourbons, I take it. In fact, this year I was able to flex my tasting “muscles” as a judge of the Texas Whiskey Festival. Just when I thought I couldn’t be impressed even more about the unique whiskey Texas has to offer, I was enthralled even more by the varying nuances of bourbons across the state. Given that it’s never the wrong season for bourbon, I have my go-to drams throughout the year while also taking time to try the new kids on the block.
For this blind tasting, I’ve included a few of my go-to names alongside newbies to the world of Texas bourbon and my palate. While a couple of these bourbons are what I consider hard to find on the market (looking at you Milam & Greene and Grayson Whiskey), most bottles can be easily purchased online for under $50 in most regions.
So, which bottles are part of the blind tasting? See below.
- Treaty Oak The Day Drinker Texas Bourbon
- Still Austin The Musician Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Milam & Greene Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon
- Grayson Texas Blended Bourbon
- Nine Banded Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Nine Banded Wheated Straight Bourbon
- Silver Star 1849 Bourbon Whiskey
You might notice a few Texas bourbon rockstars missing from the lineup of this blind tasting. This was intentional. For one, this is the first Texas bourbon blind tasting for UPROXX. Two, there’s enough sun for everyone in that there’s a variety of sippers that warrant your attention too. And before you get all holy roller on me about including Nine Banded Whiskey — yes, I know it’s sourced from Indiana. I’m including it to see how Indiana juice compares to pure Texas distillate blind. Will it stand up? Let’s get into the tasting, y’all, and find out!
Part 1: The Taste
The golden amber hue coupled with the cinnamon aroma drew me in immediately. The flavor is riddled with toasted oak, leather, and reminiscent of the candied nuts I get from Buc-ee’s (a gas station convenience store). The finish fades nicely like that of a pleasant song that’s come to its end.
The baking spices, specifically clove and cinnamon, are coupled with honey upon the first whiff. Fruity flavors coupled with apple butter scream “Autumn!” but also buttery toffee notes make this quite an exceptional pour. Warm, spicy finish at the back of the palate.
There’s a butterscotch color along with the same fragrant allure similar to Werther’s Originals. Hints of oak and vanilla dance across the taste buds before its fleeting soft sweet finish.
The aroma reminds me of the orange cookies my grandmother made for me as a child. They were toasted, fruity, and rich just like this whiskey. The palate is full of dark chocolate with a long-drawn finish that’s just as sweet and sumptuous as the first sip. I have a feeling this is Milam & Greene’s bourbon.
The nose encompasses a few things I appreciate about bourbon including oak, brown sugar, and spice. There’s a creamy, caramel mouthfeel that’s made complete with a quick flame of heat at the finish.
The honeysuckle hue partnered with the toasted almond nose drew me in, but it’s the torched brown sugar and hints of honey on the palate that kept my rapt attention. The finish is a warm hug in potency, just enough to be comforting without being squeezed to death.
Reddish mahogany color is certainly different, so I surmised this bourbon had a solid oak presence, and I was right on the nose (literally). Heavy oak aroma is accompanied by roasted chocolate coffee beans with a velvety mouthfeel that’s made even more appealing by its maple and allspice flavors. Spice nibbles at the finish with a slow burn at the front of the palate.
For breakfast as a child, I used to enjoy toasted bread with butter and honey. The nose reminds me of this fond memory. The mouthfeel is enjoyably creamy with a soft hint of vanilla bean. The finish is underwhelming and left me asking: Where’s the heat?
Part 2: The Ranking
8. Treaty Oak The Day Drinker Texas Bourbon — Taste 8
Average Price: $25
The Day Drinker has a mash bill consisting of 57 percent Yellow Corn No. 1, 32 percent Texas wheat, and eleven percent malted barley. It’s aged for one year in first use American white oak with a medium char level.
Not bad for a one-year-old bourbon in terms of flavor complexity. I just wish the finish left more of an impression.
7. Nine Banded Straight Bourbon — Taste 6
Average Price: $32
This whiskey has a mash bill consisting of 87 percent corn, eleven percent rye, and two percent malted barley made in Indiana. The whiskey is then sent down to Texas’ Hill Country where it’s cut with our limestone-filtered water and bottled locally.
Nine Banded won me over as a fan. However, this is a bourbon that’s best suited for an old fashioned rather than sipping neat.
6. Nine Banded Wheated Bourbon — Taste 5
Average Price: $38
This wheated bourbon is crafted with 51 percent corn, 45 percent wheat, and four percent malted barley in Indiana. Like Nine Banded Straight Bourbon, this dram is made complete with limestone-filtered water from the Texas Hill Country.
This one is the polar opposite of Nine Banded Straight Bourbon, and that’s a good thing. You can enjoy this neat as much as you would in a spirit-forward cocktail.
5. Grayson Texas Blended Bourbon — Taste 7
Average Price: $60
Batch one of Grayson contains a blend of Texas whiskeys from some of the biggest names in the game, including Ironroot Republic Distilling, Balcones Distilling, and Five Points Distilling (the masterminds behind Lone Elm Whiskey). Each barrel in the blend was three to seven years old. Fun fact: Grayson is the first black-owned whiskey brand from Texas. It was co-founded by author and craft spirits expert Nico Martini, former MLB three-time All-Star Vernon Wells, and private equity investor Brandon Davis.
If you’re not into a heavy oak presence, this one isn’t for you. It’s an all-around solid sipper and I look forward to batch two.
4. Milam & Greene Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 4
Average Price: $100
This limited edition grain-to-glass straight bourbon was the distillery’s first “Certified Texas Whiskey” produced in Texas Hill Country (Blanco, Texas specifically). The mash bill is comprised of 70 percent corn, 22 percent rye, and eight percent malted barley.
If you’re a chocoholic, then you’ll fall in love with this limited release. We’re all chocoholics at the end of the day, right? Also, I wish you well in finding a bottle outside of Texas.
3. Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon — Taste 1
Average Price: $31
This grain-to-glass bourbon is crafted using a traditional pot still distillation. It’s made from a four-grain mash of corn, wheat, rye, and barley and aged for a minimum of two years in Balcones’ Waco rickhouse.
This is a must-have for any bourbon lover in the country, even if you’re not a fan of Texas!
2. Silver Star 1849 Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 3
Average Price: $46
This Fort Worth-based distillery remains a mystery in terms of its distillate origins. It’s crafted with a mash of corn, rye, and barley and aged in a 30-gallon white oak barrel for just over three years. Cool fact: The bourbon is cut with Texas rainwater.
This one was a shocker in the best way. Hello, new go-to.
1. Still Austin The Musician Straight Bourbon Whiskey — Taste 2
Average Price: $40
The Musician consists of a mash bill of 70 percent white corn, 25 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. It’s then aged for around two years before getting cut with local water and bottled.
Young, yum, and fun! The Musician has easily become my go-to bourbon for sipping neat and in cocktails. This bourbon proves the adage that sometimes “age ain’t nothing but a number.”
As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.