Despite what the drinking masses seem to think, bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky, even though 95 percent of America’s native whiskey hails from the Bluegrass State. If you take a look around the country, you’ll find a small but growing bounty of good bourbon, including this diverse coast-to-coast selection. There's easily another dozen worth seeking out. We're just suggesting you start here.
Dry Fly Distilling's Straight Washington Bourbon 101 is aged in 53-gallon barrels for a minimum of three years, with a four-year release on the way. While the "101" may signal that it's your introductory class to Washington State–produced bourbon, it actually signifies its proof, bottled at 50.5 percent ABV. It's a wheated bourbon made from a mashbill of 60 percent corn, 20 percent wheat and 20 percent barley, showcasing notes of vanilla bean, biscuit, corn and baking spices.
FEW bourbon is made from a traditional mashbill of 70 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 10 percent malted barley. Like with many craft distilleries, the quality of its whiskeys have been on the uptick, as it has not only honed its techniques but has been able to age its product more patiently. Expect a mix of classic dry spice and oak with sweeter undertones. All the better that it comes from Evanston, Ill., a famous onetime home of the temperance movement.
What's an estate distillery? It's a distillery that grows its own grain right on-site, and in the case of New York's Hillrock Estate, it even floor-malts its own barley. More unique yet is that Hillrock solera-ages its bourbon (including a stock of mature "seed bourbon") and this year will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the release as the first ever solera-aged American whiskey.
Hudson Baby from New York's Tuthilltown Spirits is a high-corn bourbon, made with a whopping 90 percent corn and 10 percent malted barley. It uses a range of cask sizes for aging and bottles at 92 proof. Now that the whole distillery has been acquired by William Grant & Sons, as opposed to strictly the Hudson brand itself, expect to hear plenty more from these guys in the near future.
Virginia's A. Smith Bowman Distillery offers this single-barrel, 100-proof bourbon with a typical age between nine and 11 years. This bold bourbon lays out rich vanilla and oak flavors with a big, chewy mouthfeel. Considering its age and price but still growing reputation, it's a sneaky sensation in the making. The same base whiskey is also offered as a younger small-batch edition called Bowman Brothers ($30), which showcases lighter and fruitier characteristics.
Pittsburgh's Wigle Whiskey is one of the more innovative craft distilleries in the country. It releases a sweeping range of different products: whiskeys made from beers, aged in funky casks, some with added apple, ginger, even hops. Start with the Organic Wapsie Valley Pennsylvania bourbon, made with Wapsie Valley corn, wheat and malted barley. It’s rich and sweet with notes of smoke, spice and oak.
From the great whiskey state of Washington, Woodinville's straight bourbon is bottled at 90 proofs and consists of grain entirely sourced from a local farm in Quincy. The bourbon is aged for five years in full-size casks, delivering one of the most well-developed craft bourbons on the market. The American Distilling Institute certainly thinks so, honoring it as the Best of Class craft distilled whiskey in 2016. Expect a flourish of rich caramels with a complex, smooth profile.
Aged for a minimum of five years in full-size casks, Wyoming Whiskey makes use of a wheated mashbill, a limestone water supply and the extreme weather shifts of its Kirby, Wyo., setting to deliver a refined, sweet and smooth-sipping profile. It also started to unveil a number of exciting new riffs, including single-barrel and cask-strength editions, as well as a Double Cask, finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Even newer is a special Wyoming-only Eclipse Edition, a small batch named in homage of August's total solar eclipse, also intended to show the seasonal impact of maturation by selecting barrels in spring.