If you’re anything like us, you’re constantly in search of new bourbons to add to your bar cart. With the weather growing cooler in the weeks to come, you’re sure to be hunting for even more warming drams to sip on. Sure, you can go the easy route and grab a bottle of one of the more well-known names — Beam, Turkey, Makers… classics, all — or you can take the road less traveled and grab a bottle (or three) of bourbon whiskey that deserves a little more attention than it gets.
To find these gems, we went to the pros who spend their days mixing and pouring drinks behind the bar. We asked a handful of our favorite bartenders to tell us their picks for the lesser-known bourbons that deserve more acclaim. These bottles might be on your radar but, for the most part, we encouraged them to call out newbies and classics have been forgotten.
As always, if any of these pique your interest, click on the prices to give them a shot.
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J. Henry & Sons 5 Year Small Batch Bourbon
Hayden Miller, head bartender of Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Average Price: $59
J. Henry & Sons has a unique corn varietal as the mash and stands out on its own as a product of one house start to finish. The five-year-old bourbon is complex, rich, and well-suited for slow sipping. It’s a highly underrated whiskey.
Old Bardstown Estate Bottled 101
Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier in Wilmington, Delaware
Average Price: $43
Old Bardstown Estate Bottled 101 is a pretty great bourbon from the Willett line. The bottle and label are a touch misleading as they don’t have that razzle-dazzle that some other bottles have, but what’s in the bottle is an amazing bourbon. It has a lovely, sweet herbal nose, and the finish on this bourbon just goes on and on — with notes of cinnamon and vanilla.
Woodinville Straight Bourbon
Federico Doldi, beverage director of Gansevoort Meatpacking in New York City
Average Price: $42
I really like Woodinville — specifically its flagship straight bourbon. They just won the 2020 best straight bourbon and double gold at San Francisco World Spirit Competition. So it’s worth a try for anyone who hasn’t tasted it yet, even though it’s still pretty hard to get outside of the Pacific Northwest.
Grand Teton Colter’s Run Bourbon
Noah Serna, bar manager at The Arid Club in Boise, Idaho
Average Price: $40
Colter’s Run Bourbon Whiskey from Grand Teton Distillery certainly deserves a spotlight. Made in small batches, each bottle can be tracked with the barrel and bottle number. It’s oaky with some vanilla notes and the spice kicks in on the finish without the typical burn. It’s my number one choice for my signature “Meanhattan” cocktail. The taste and texture balance the sweetness and spice of the cocktail, making it an instant favorite.
It’s clear this is a craft product, and I hope more people give it a try.
Leopold Bros. Bottled In Bond Bourbon
Adam Fournier, bar director at Fellow in Los Angeles
Average Price: $59
Everything being produced by the Leopold Brothers out of Colorado deserves all of the love and attention you can give it. I’m particularly excited for their Three-Chamber Rye which comes out later this year. But, in the meantime, their 5-Year Old Bottled in Bond Bourbon is one of the best small-batch bourbons on the market. Filled with rich caramel and vanilla flavors, it’s highly sippable and deserves more praise.
Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon
Myles Holdsworth, director of food and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans
Average Price: $110
Garrison Brothers out of Hye, Texas is really making some special whiskey. I know the bourbon elites will say you can’t make a great bourbon outside of Kentucky, but I would put them to a blind test with Garrison Brothers Single Barrel any day.
John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon
Brian McDonough, food and beverage manager at The Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia
Average Price: $39
One of the bourbons that I have been spoiled with, being in Virginia, is the John J. Bowman Single Barrel. While it is a regular shelf item here in Virginia, it is generally difficult to find outside of the state. I do not want to minimize the story of the Bowman distillery – which goes back to the Revolutionary War. But it is the bourbon itself that makes this so special.
Not only is Bowman owned by the same company that makes Eagle Rare, Pappy, Weller, etc., but urban legend also has it that the juice for the bourbon is Buffalo Trace mash #1 that is distilled twice at the distillery, then shipped to Virginia, where it is distilled once more in the Bowman’s copper still, before being aged in Virginia for between nine and ten years.
Noah’s Mill Bourbon
Ryan Pines, beverage director at Ukiah in Asheville, North Carolina
Average Price: $60
There are so many bourbons that don’t get enough recognition. I could go on for days. One that I think needs a little more attention would be Willett’s Noah’s Mills. I got introduced to it probably around eight or nine years ago and it is one of the most delicious bourbons I’ve ever drunk.
Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Rebecca Monday, bartender at Vaso at the AC Hotel in Columbus, Ohio
Average Price: $36
Town Branch is a bourbon that I believe deserves more attention when selecting a bourbon to prepare cocktails with. The flavors of caramel, oak, and vanilla become a companion with drinks like juleps, bourbon smashes, sours and classic stirred cocktails. The price of the bottle allows for the home bartender or an established bar to use it within beverage programs without breaking the bank.
Affordability and quality of approachability are something that I think Town Branch highlights and that I take into consideration when using a spirit.
Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon
Jeremy Williams, head mixologist at MDRD atop the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Average Price: $30
Eastside Distilling’s ‘Burnside’ Bourbon out of Portland, Oregon is phenomenal and in my opinion one of the best bourbons from outside Kentucky. The time this bourbon spends in Oregon oak sets it apart and is absolutely wonderful at 96 proof.
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