Best New Craft Bourbon Brands
© DNA Seattle
New distilleries and brands are bringing innovative tastes to the bourbon market.
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, but distilleries from Colorado to West Virginia and even New York are showing how a touch of creativity, an experimental mind-set and a passion for distilling can lead to delicious bourbon no matter what state it is aged in.
Back in Vogue
Tom Fischer, founder and host of BourbonBlog.com, said the reason for the current trend in bourbon is difficult to pinpoint. “I think part of it is its sense of Americana, part of it is its flavor and part of it is that trends are very cyclical,” says Fischer. “I think we’re going back to a pre-Prohibition era where people are getting more comfortable experimenting with drinking and cocktails, and bourbon happens to be very mixable and approachable to the palate.”
Learning the Ropes
There are laws surrounding what makes bourbon different from just any ol’ whiskey. It must be made from 51 percent corn, aged in new, charred-oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof or more, among other regulations. According to Fischer, bourbon is generally aged for 4 to 16 years, but because many of the craft bourbon distilleries are still only 5 or 6 years old, we haven’t been able to see their true magic and potential yet.
Get Your Taste Buds Going
According to Fischer, craft bourbon distilleries are gaining traction because they are smaller, mom-and-pop-type companies that can afford to take risks. Below are some of Fischer’s distillery recommendations for those new to the craft distillery scene. The bourbons can be purchased at the distillery, online and in some retail stores.
Distilled in Breckenridge, Colo., this bourbon is a personal favorite of Fischer. A combination of 56 percent yellow corn, 38 percent green rye and 6 percent malted barley, the bourbon is aged for 2 to 3 years and was ranked the second best bourbon in the world at the 2011 International Wine & Spirit Competition. breckenridgedistillery.com
New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition, Tutthilltown can also boast New York’s first bourbon: Hudson Baby Bourbon. Made from 100 percent New York corn, it’s the distillery’s most popular spirit. Tutthilltown also brews the Hudson Four-Grain, a combination of corn, rye, wheat and malted barley. tutthilltown.com
Located in West Virginia and launched in 2009, Smooth Ambler offers two craft whiskeys: the Old Scout, a 99 proof bourbon with a high rye content, and the Yearling, a double-pot distilled bourbon made from a range of different grains. smoothambler.com
Corsair is known for its spirit of innovation. With distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky, it has introduced several creative bourbons, such as one made with cocoa and another made from 12 grains. Corsair also offers a traditional classic Kentucky aged bourbon. corsairartisan.com
Jamie Friedlander is a former staff writer at Executive Travel.