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Top 3 Craft Bourbon Producers


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smokinjoe

Many craft distilleries have now entered the arena where their bourbons have at least the minimum age of 4 years to be competitive with the min age of legacy offerings.  Some, are even offering aged whiskey beyond 4 yrs.  Personally, I go with the “It must at least be as good as Evan Williams Black Label”.  Though, I am open to individuality points of exotic mashbills, aging manipulations, and other innovations.
 

So, SB Nation:  Craft time is at the table to be judged. Now, it’s who will survive on the quality of their bourbon.  Which three are worthy of us pursuing further?  

Edited by smokinjoe
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Being a Kentucky homer, Wilderness Trace, Peerless and New Riff.  
That is all…

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I'll put in my usual plug for Woodinville Whiskey - also being a homer!

I'd also say Wilderness Trail but they recently moved up into the big leagues and are no longer considered craft.

I can get behind Peerless. Don't like their prices but the whiskey is legitimately good.

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9 hours ago, Paddy said:

Being a Kentucky homer, Wilderness Trace, Peerless and New Riff.  
That is all…

I agree with those 100%.   I am a New Riff fan - and really love the 6 year Malted Rye.   Peerless barrel picks are one of the best kept secrets going, and their new Double Oak is off the chain good!

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JCwhammie
16 hours ago, Paddy said:

Being a Kentucky homer, Wilderness Trace, Peerless and New Riff.  
That is all…

I'm not a Kentuckian, but I 100% agree with the rest of Paddy's statement. 

Peerless and Wilderness Trsil are doing some great things with their ryes. I think their bourbons will be really nice with a few more years in the barrel. 

New Riff's BIB rye is also very nice. I do like New Riff bourbon more than the bourbons from the other 2. 

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I think Peerless is first by a wide Kentucky mile. Nothing I’ve had from any other craft distiller comes even remotely close. Yeah yeah, the pricing is high - but as a wise man once said, “you gotta pay the cost to be the boss.”

 

I think next on my list would Bardstown Bourbon Co. Their Fusion Series, in which they blend their own distillate, is typically very good. I think they are destined for big, big things.
 

Tied for third would be New Riff and Chattanooga Whiskey, both of which impress me greatly. 

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bayouredd

I do have to give a vote to Dettling. No sbs but as i see it, it tops Woodinville hands down even though it's apples n oranges. The bottle I have is quite tasty and a 111 cask,  just under 5yrs. I enjoy it more with a cube and tend to think at this age a BiB might be preferable. 

Hate to say it but Woodinville is still way better than any I've tried from TX (and I've tried several); so is the Breckenridge though it was low proof.

 

Sorry, no 3rd option. Just too little experience...

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14 hours ago, Rhettro said:

I think Peerless is first by a wide Kentucky mile. Nothing I’ve had from any other craft distiller comes even remotely close. Yeah yeah, the pricing is high - but as a wise man once said, “you gotta pay the cost to be the boss.”

 

I think next on my list would Bardstown Bourbon Co. Their Fusion Series, in which they blend their own distillate, is typically very good. I think they are destined for big, big things.
 

Tied for third would be New Riff and Chattanooga Whiskey, both of which impress me greatly. 

I agree on both Peerless and Bardstown.   I did not count them in my original content - no single owned sourced yet - but I have tasted their juice in the thieving tasting they do and it is well on their way.   I do also have to say that Discovery label continues to impress with their blending skills.

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PhantomLamb
18 hours ago, Rhettro said:

I think Peerless is first by a wide Kentucky mile. Nothing I’ve had from any other craft distiller comes even remotely close. Yeah yeah, the pricing is high - but as a wise man once said, “you gotta pay the cost to be the boss.”

 

I think next on my list would Bardstown Bourbon Co. Their Fusion Series, in which they blend their own distillate, is typically very good. I think they are destined for big, big things.
 

Tied for third would be New Riff and Chattanooga Whiskey, both of which impress me greatly. 

Didn't you state that Peerless pricing structure would be "fixed" even when they have more aged stocks?  That would draw me in for sure.

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Nice topic, Joe.  With my usual suspects flying off the shelves, this topic becomes more and more relevant.  Finger Lakes, Tom's Foolery and Frey Ranch.

Edited by Shizzy
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3 hours ago, PhantomLamb said:

Didn't you state that Peerless pricing structure would be "fixed" even when they have more aged stocks?  That would draw me in for sure.

That’s what I’ve heard, yes. 
 

My understanding is that the prices you see now will continue to be the price on the shelf, no matter the age of the barrel and bottle. So in time, what’s expensive on the shelf now should turn into a relative value in ten to twenty years. 

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I think the only crafts I've even tried are local (TX), so I have none to recommend (let alone trying to come up with three.)

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Wilderness Trail, Woodinville (SiB SC store picks), Crater Lake (reserve rye).  I would have put Finger Lakes on this list but I got burned recently by the new release of McKenzie wheated BiB; it had a horrible musty funk to it.

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kcgumbohead

New Riff and WT top the list for me and have become mainstay purchases. I too read that WT has grown to the point of no longer being considered craft, but I still consider them that ,and by no means in a bad way.

Chattanooga is doing interesting things and the recent AD LAWS has been very enjoyable. I see all of them having a long term future.

Castle and Key will perhaps join the mix in the coming years, they seem poised to join the majors in term of production but I've yet to taste any of their whiskey, holding out for the BiB we were promised years ago.

Jeptha Creed is one that I think is on the verge of 4 yrs and I am very interested in trying some of this Bloody Butcher bourbon they have been producing.

Price has kept me away from Peerless but I may cave at a point and grab one of the 375s as several here have had good impressions, probably wait for the April trip and taste at the distillery.

I'd like to throw a bone to the local ASW here in ATL but they seem fixated on releasing sub 4 yr old, though I hold out hope that some 4+ yr will eventually see the light of day. They could have the legs for the long haul if they get the age up as the locales seem very popular with locals and visitors alike, also the local stores have a decent stock  from them so the support system is in place. I can't help but feel that they are a bit of a dark horse if the market were to turn negative with all the 4+ established product on the shelves.

Dads Hat had a tasty BiB I enjoyed and I will pick up a cask strength so they are a repeat buy from me, but being young I will wait to purchase at a place where I can taste first, come to think of it, MOST of any purchases I am likely to do going forward will be of the "taste first" variety. Looks like I will be a buyer primarily when travelling LOL!!

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Jazz June

I consider Willett craft, so I’d add them. Also:

 

New Riff

Wilderness Trail 

Starlight

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mbroo5880i

I am a cheap bastard so it is difficult for me to fork over a chunk of change I could use to purchase a known entity.  Therefore, I can easily count one hand the number of craft bourbons I have tried or bought.  

 

New Riff - If it still qualifies as a craft bourbon tops my list.  I have purchased several bottles and enjoyed each of them.  Some of their single barrels are stellar for their age.  I believe my enjoyment and experience with this brand matches those I have with many of the majors.  I continue to be a buyer and look forward to their products as they age.

 

Tom's Foolery - I bought a bottle from Binny's several years ago when it first became available.  It was a little over two years old.  I really liked it for the age.  I would love to try a bottle again now that their product has aged.  Maybe someday they will offer it for sale in Indiana.

 

Peerless - If it qualifies was pretty solid.  I was gifted a nice portion of a bottle with someone I share pours with.  The price has kept me from picking up another bottle.

 

Grand Traverse  - I had a flight of their whiskies.  I hated them all.  I didn't even finish two of the samples. I actually wanted to give the free shot glass back.

 

Starlight - I bought a store pick of Carl T bourbon Cask Strength.  I used it to proof up other lower proof bourbons and even then it came close to being undrinkable.  I only bought it because it was a store pick and on clearance at $20.  The original price was $50.  

 

I see Jeptha Creed, Woodinville, Old 55, and Chattanooga regularly.  I would really like to try the Old 55 since its in my backyard.  However, the price makes it difficult without trying first.  A friend who regular visits the distillery and purchased several bottles has promised some samples.  The others sound interesting as well but I will need to try before I buy.

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14 hours ago, mbroo5880i said:

Tom's Foolery - I bought a bottle from Binny's several years ago when it first became available.  It was a little over two years old.  I really liked it for the age.  I would love to try a bottle again now that their product has aged.  Maybe someday they will offer it for sale in Indiana.

Got a 7 year 9 month pick from them this year.  It was really remarkable.  Unlike any bourbon I've ever had.  A lot going on with it in terms of complexity and a medium to long finish.  I had previously purchased a 6 year from them in 2019 which was quite good also.  Finally, I got a rye at 100 proof that is good.  Not great, but good.  They might be the most transparent distillery I've come across with all of their barrels inventoried and then when you drill down on each barrel they have all of the information from mash to maturation.  It's impressive.  Inventory | Tom's Foolery Distillery (tomsfoolery.net)  I look forward to more offerings from them and I'd really like to try some of their Apple Jack.

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Best craft-distiilled bourbons I've had are from Woodinville , FEW, and Finger Lakes (McKenzies).   Each has garnered my repeat business, to the tune of at least 3 additional bottles.

 

I like Peerless bourbon as well,  but the price point has discouraged me from acquiring a second bottle.

 

I should also mention the Bardstown BC Fusion series,  which are superb,  but are blends of self-distilled and sourced product.   Does anyone know what brands use BBC distillate?    I understand they are mostly a contract distillery a la MGP.

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mbroo5880i
6 hours ago, Shizzy said:

Got a 7 year 9 month pick from them this year.  It was really remarkable.  Unlike any bourbon I've ever had.  A lot going on with it in terms of complexity and a medium to long finish.  I had previously purchased a 6 year from them in 2019 which was quite good also.  Finally, I got a rye at 100 proof that is good.  Not great, but good.  They might be the most transparent distillery I've come across with all of their barrels inventoried and then when you drill down on each barrel they have all of the information from mash to maturation.  It's impressive.  Inventory | Tom's Foolery Distillery (tomsfoolery.net)  I look forward to more offerings from them and I'd really like to try some of their Apple Jack.

I would be all in on paying up a little to try an older expression.  I have never had Apple Jack but it sounds interesting.

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mbroo5880i
4 hours ago, Jazzhead said:

Best craft-distiilled bourbons I've had are from Woodinville , FEW, and Finger Lakes (McKenzies).   Each has garnered my repeat business, to the tune of at least 3 additional bottles.

 

I like Peerless bourbon as well,  but the price point has discouraged me from acquiring a second bottle.

 

I should also mention the Bardstown BC Fusion series,  which are superb,  but are blends of self-distilled and sourced product.   Does anyone know what brands use BBC distillate?    I understand they are mostly a contract distillery a la MGP.

Is the Bardstown BC Fusion series the less or more expensive one.? I see a few different expressions of their product around $50 and then another $100+.  

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1 hour ago, mbroo5880i said:

Is the Bardstown BC Fusion series the less or more expensive one.? I see a few different expressions of their product around $50 and then another $100+.  

The Fusion series is the less expensive one,  around 55 bucks.   The Discovery series,  which is entirely sourced,  is around $125.  

 

Fusion batch 4 is 40% 13-year sourced bourbon, with 18% rye (Barton's?).   The rest is three different rye mashbill BBC bourbons, most of which is 4 years old.   I strongly recommend it especially if you enjoy the proof point.

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8 hours ago, Shizzy said:

Got a 7 year 9 month pick from them this year.  It was really remarkable.  Unlike any bourbon I've ever had.  A lot going on with it in terms of complexity and a medium to long finish.  I had previously purchased a 6 year from them in 2019 which was quite good also.  Finally, I got a rye at 100 proof that is good.  Not great, but good.  They might be the most transparent distillery I've come across with all of their barrels inventoried and then when you drill down on each barrel they have all of the information from mash to maturation.  It's impressive.  Inventory | Tom's Foolery Distillery (tomsfoolery.net)  I look forward to more offerings from them and I'd really like to try some of their Apple Jack.

Tom's Foolery is one I'd love to find again.  I had and enjoyed of their early BIBs a few years back, but haven't  seen one in several years.   My memory is fading,  but I associate it with the taste of FEW bourbon.  

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B.B. Babington

I've liked Virginia's Copper Fox and their allied Wasmund's.  Many products very reasonably priced.  Wasmund's was one of the earliest USA malts of current genre.  SB'ers might remember Wasmund's as they sold whisky with small keg for home aging.  Copper Fox is now selling their high proof white dog rye under Copper Fox rather than previous Wasmund's label.  I have at least a case of this, but rarely feel manly enough to drink it.  

 

Another interesting Virginia craft is Catoctin Creek.  Price is higher, but unusual high quality, smooth (but 1 dimensional) product.  I contemplated getting their pomegranate at $70/375ml, should have.

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smokinjoe

Nice responses.  Thanks for y’all’s thoughts.  New Riff was the first craft that moved my needle that a craft could make a quality bourbon.  It is good, and I believe it will only get better.  My first bottle of Wilderness Trail showed promise, but it’s hotness just turned me off.  My recent bottle, which led me to start this thread was much better.  Still a bit hot, but I see it coming together.  I am intrigued to go with the Peerless based on recommendations here, but I just can’t do those prices.  I’ve been looking around town, but $80 -$100 is a non-starter for me.  
 

So, I’m at 1 to probably 2 crafts, but I’m thinking there is potential from some of these guys.  
 

I need to take another run at Tom’s Foolery, Limestone Branch, and some others.  My mind has been opened…

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