September is Bourbon Heritage Month in the United States and it is a month-long celebration of our beloved American spirit. While Kentucky has become the epicenter of bourbon culture, bourbons are distilled and produced all over the country!
Although it’s undeniable that many of the best bourbons are from Kentucky, today we turn our attention elsewhere, with our Top 10 Best Bourbons Not From Kentucky. With bottles from California all the way to New York, there may even be a distillery in your home state on the list making delicious bourbon.
We’ll start just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, in southern Indiana, and home to the family-owned Starlight Distillery. When most bourbon enthusiasts think of Indiana, MGP comes to mind, but Starlight has not so quietly been making noise with their large range of uniquely finished bourbons and rye.
For number 10, we’ll stick with a classic, bottled in bond bourbon. Named after the farming family’s original patriarch, Carl T. Huber, the Huber family is still farming and distilling great whiskey 6 generations later.
Virginia, the historic birthplace of the original American colonies, is also no stranger to crafting their own whiskey. A. Smith Bowman, Virginia’s oldest active distillery, may only have been founded in the 20th century, but that has been more than enough time to perfect their Virginia-style bourbon.
Number 9 on the list of Top 10 Best Bourbons Not from Kentucky is the John J. Bowman Single Barrel edition.
Next up, we head to Tennessee, just south of Kentucky. Unlike other Tennessee distilleries locked in the endless debate of “is Tennessee Whiskey the same as bourbon?”, Belle Meade produces it’s bourbon in the Kentucky style.
The Belle Meade Reserve Cask Strength bottling is exemplary of that style, with rich caramel and spicy oak notes. Sweet, bold, and a fine bourbon!
Distilled in Indiana (by MGP) but aged in Nevada H&C Distilling Company’s Las Vegas rickhouses, next up is Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered. This high proof, high rye bourbon packs a punch!
While many brands leverage MGP as the source of their whiskey, Smoke Wagon is known for their blending and unique Nevada aging, making it one of the most popular MGP-sourced bourbons on the market.
Next on our tour of bourbons, we head to the base of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, home of Breckenridge Distillery. You may be noticing a trend, but the high proof bourbons are winning out!
Their Distillers High Proof Blend comes in at 105 proof (52.5% ABV) yet is deceptively smooth. With big notes of cherry and barrel char, this is a hands down favorite from Breckenridge.
Utah may be the most unlikely place you’d think of to find a good bottle of bourbon, let alone an entire distillery, and yet this is where you will find the immensely popular High West Distillery. With an entire range of bourbons and ryes, and a multitude of uniquely finished single barrels, it’s actually the classic American Prairie that comes in at #5.
We pivot back to the East Coast for the next entry on our list of Top 10 Best Bourbons Not From Kentucky. Although any number of great New York distilleries could have taken this spot, we went with McKenzie Bottled in Bond from Finger Lakes Distilling.
Located in upstate New York, between Rochester and Syracuse, Finger Lakes Distilling is a hidden gem. Like many small distilleries in the region, McKenzie is produced entirely from local corn, rye, and barley.
It would be damn near impossible to not have a Texas whiskey on this list, as the state has truly proven itself as a hotbed for innovative whiskey makers. Garrison Brothers is definitely one such distillery.
Their Balmorhea Bourbon, named after the large state park in the area, leverages a wheated mash bill (very similar recipe to Buffalo Trace’s Weller bourbon) and a double maturation. That is 4 years in an American Oak Barrel, and then 1 additional year of aging in a second, new barrel.
South Carolina, here we come! High Wire Distilling in Charleston is unique in that all of the corn in their mashes is “Jimmy Red” a nearly extinct local strain of corn that in fact, is red/magenta colored.
Their flagship bourbon, New Southern Revival, is made from 100% of the red stuff, making it amazingly sweet and fruity, not to mention one-of-a-kind!
According to Abov users, the best bourbon in the country not made in the Bluegrass State is from California of all places. *gasping and clutching of pearls*
But when you see that it comes from Redwood Empire (and is actually also sourced from MGP), your shock may wear off. A brand whose popularity has only been growing, their Haystack Needle Bourbon claims the top spot on the list.
From California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for… bourbon! As you can see, Bourbon Heritage Month is really a celebration of the American spirit for all of us.
Two asks as we bring this list to a close:
- Go find a bourbon in your state that you have never tried and give it a taste. (If you don’t live in the States and therefore don’t have a local bourbon, try any distillery local to you!)
- If you have a favorite non-Kentucky bourbon that wasn’t on the list, let us know what it is in the comments below and go rate it in the Abov App!