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Top 3 Craft Bourbon Producers


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DeepCover
On 10/21/2021 at 5:42 AM, dcbt said:

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.)

As a fellow Texan, I hear you. A couple weeks ago, I had a friend speak highly of Treaty Oak Ghost Hill, so asked for a sample of a TW store pick he had. It was absolute swill. Aside from the cask strength True Blue from Balcones, I can’t stomach anything from TX. I want to, but I just can’t.

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On 10/23/2021 at 9:26 PM, smokinjoe said:

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…

My experience aligns very closely with yours.  And yeah, I've half reached for a bottle of Peerless several times but the price is still prohibitive to me.  And you  know I'll spend stupid money on whiskey so that should really say something. 

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54 minutes ago, BigRich said:

My experience aligns very closely with yours.  And yeah, I've half reached for a bottle of Peerless several times but the price is still prohibitive to me.  And you  know I'll spend stupid money on whiskey so that should really say something. 

I really think you guys will see some value in Peerless.   I am not begrudging them from taking the secondary away from the flippers.   I thoroughly enjoy that they have priced it so that the taters leave it alone for us to buy.  FWIW -  Their new double oak has done very well in my own blind SBS's - blowing away Woodford DO amongst others.

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7 hours ago, geclbxf said:

I really think you guys will see some value in Peerless.   I am not begrudging them from taking the secondary away from the flippers.   I thoroughly enjoy that they have priced it so that the taters leave it alone for us to buy.  FWIW -  Their new double oak has done very well in my own blind SBS's - blowing away Woodford DO amongst others.

I echo this - Peerless has rock solid quality and is well worth a try.   Whether the price warrants a repeat purchase is an individual decision - if it were at the $50 price point that Woodonville, New Riff and other quality crafts charge, it would be in my regular rotation.   I have no issues spending more for what craft distillers bring to the table,  but there's a limit.

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smokinjoe
9 hours ago, BigRich said:

My experience aligns very closely with yours.  And yeah, I've half reached for a bottle of Peerless several times but the price is still prohibitive to me.  And you  know I'll spend stupid money on whiskey so that should really say something. 

Perhaps, we’ll need to stop at Peerless in April on the way to Sampler, and after I drop the $120, you can channel Tullahoma and step right in line afterwards!   🤣🤣

 

 

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On 10/25/2021 at 3:58 PM, smokinjoe said:

Perhaps, we’ll need to stop at Peerless in April on the way to Sampler, and after I drop the $120, you can channel Tullahoma and step right in line afterwards!   🤣🤣

 

 

They do have smaller format.  That's how I ended up purchasing the full monty.

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CardsandBourbon
On 10/22/2021 at 2:28 PM, 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.

From what I can gather it's various distilleries.  I was at BIB restaurant for dinner and was talking to the gift shop manager and asked where the sourced juice came from.  He said he couldn't tell me but if I looked at the mashbill I would know.  That particular bottle was their stuff and some HH.

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Old Hippie

How are you good folks defining Craft Bourbon? Does it count if a legacy distiller has a "Craft" brand. I.E, different mash bill, different aging, etc.

If it does count I would say Cooper's Craft Barrel Reserve 100 proof is pretty tasty at a reasonable price.

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Personally,  I consider a craft distiller to be a non-legacy distiller that distills and bottles or barrels its own juice.   It may be a contract distiller like Bardstown Bourbon Company or a marketer of its own brands like FEW,  but sourcing or blending is not, IMO, craft distilling.   

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On 10/25/2021 at 3:58 PM, smokinjoe said:

Perhaps, we’ll need to stop at Peerless in April on the way to Sampler, and after I drop the $120, you can channel Tullahoma and step right in line afterwards!   🤣🤣

 

 

I will meet you there.

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tanstaafl2
On 10/21/2021 at 1:28 PM, kcgumbohead said:

 

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.

 

ASW releases very little bourbon that isn't sourced. What they do make is still young. They are focused on young malt whiskey with the emphasis on young. For bourbon in Atlanta the best option is Independent Distillery although they don't have much if any whiskey that is released at 4+ years. But even they are still behind most of the craft producers like Peerless, New Riff and Wilderness trail as they just don't have the capacity to make much bourbon or let it age long enough. They arte starting to use more 53 gallon barrels though.

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HoustonNit
On 10/24/2021 at 9:13 PM, DeepCover said:

As a fellow Texan, I hear you. A couple weeks ago, I had a friend speak highly of Treaty Oak Ghost Hill, so asked for a sample of a TW store pick he had. It was absolute swill. Aside from the cask strength True Blue from Balcones, I can’t stomach anything from TX. I want to, but I just can’t.


I had a Balcones malt that was a pick that Poison Girl did.  I thought it was good, tons of chocolate.  Don’t know if I’d dish out money for a full bottle before trying it.  Does remind me I need to try a malt from a bourbon producer, maybe Woodford.

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mbroo5880i

So, today I stepped out my wheelhouse and purchased a craft bourbon - Woodinville.  While I could have certainly just added it onto my total purchase, I opted to put a KC9 back on the shelf to keep my purchase total at the 6 required for a 30% discount.  So, I immediately set a high hurdle for the purchase.  Of course, I am not expecting it to match a stellar bottle like KC9 but the price was close so I thought why not.   As mentioned in another thread, the store was crowded and several of us were chatting about preferences, interests, etc. and a few of the guys said they had had it before and really liked and they picked up a bottle.  I also remembered this thread and so I picked up a bottle.

 

I have seen this increasingly in my area, both in the standard 90 proof and also cask strength.  The price for this experiment was reasonable - $27.99.  Normally, I see this bottle around $40 and the cask strength around $60?  

 

I have opened the bottle.  My first impression is good.

 

The nose is faint but I do pick up green apples (we ate a lot of these as kid since we had a green apple tree in our yard).  Entry on the palate is mild.  I taste a hint of green apples, caramel, and cherry cola.  The latter might be subliminal since I read about that characteristic in several reviews.  Yet, I do note it.  I also note a hint of tobacco and leather in a most pleasant way.  Almost like I am sitting on my grandfather's porch while he is drinking Falstaff and smoking cigarettes while I put wax on my baseball glove to soften it.  It makes me think of getting ready for a little league game.  Too bad that was almost 50 years ago.  The finish is the part I enjoyed the most.  Nice and spicy with a lingering cherry and tobacco flavor.  Not that I like the taste of tobacco - never been a smoker - it is pleasant.  Maybe more of a pipe tobacco.  The entire time I drank the two moderate pours, every aspect of the experience reminded of my grandfather who, by the way, was from Louisville.  

 

Now mind you this is not a complex bourbon.  The problem is that it is readily accessible (as in easy drinker).  I see some similarities to BT but moreso with Old Charter with slightly less caramel and a less oily mouthfeel.   Experiment is tentatively a success.  I plan to let the open bottle sit a little while before approaching it again.  However, my experience now has me contemplating what the cask strength version tastes like.  If I see one at the right price, I might just expand the experiment to establish more data points.

 

 

 

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B.B. Babington
5 hours ago, mbroo5880i said:

...  If I see one at the right price, I might just expand the experiment to establish more data points.

 

Yeppers, that's the way it's done.  ✍️ 🥽 🥼 ⚗️ 🔬 

 

I'm sure you'll practice good laboratory safety protocols, as in don't drop your sippin' glass.

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18 hours ago, mbroo5880i said:

So, today I stepped out my wheelhouse and purchased a craft bourbon - Woodinville.  While I could have certainly just added it onto my total purchase, I opted to put a KC9 back on the shelf to keep my purchase total at the 6 required for a 30% discount.  So, I immediately set a high hurdle for the purchase.  Of course, I am not expecting it to match a stellar bottle like KC9 but the price was close so I thought why not.   As mentioned in another thread, the store was crowded and several of us were chatting about preferences, interests, etc. and a few of the guys said they had had it before and really liked and they picked up a bottle.  I also remembered this thread and so I picked up a bottle.

 

I have seen this increasingly in my area, both in the standard 90 proof and also cask strength.  The price for this experiment was reasonable - $27.99.  Normally, I see this bottle around $40 and the cask strength around $60?  

 

I have opened the bottle.  My first impression is good.

 

The nose is faint but I do pick up green apples (we ate a lot of these as kid since we had a green apple tree in our yard).  Entry on the palate is mild.  I taste a hint of green apples, caramel, and cherry cola.  The latter might be subliminal since I read about that characteristic in several reviews.  Yet, I do note it.  I also note a hint of tobacco and leather in a most pleasant way.  Almost like I am sitting on my grandfather's porch while he is drinking Falstaff and smoking cigarettes while I put wax on my baseball glove to soften it.  It makes me think of getting ready for a little league game.  Too bad that was almost 50 years ago.  The finish is the part I enjoyed the most.  Nice and spicy with a lingering cherry and tobacco flavor.  Not that I like the taste of tobacco - never been a smoker - it is pleasant.  Maybe more of a pipe tobacco.  The entire time I drank the two moderate pours, every aspect of the experience reminded of my grandfather who, by the way, was from Louisville.  

 

Now mind you this is not a complex bourbon.  The problem is that it is readily accessible (as in easy drinker).  I see some similarities to BT but moreso with Old Charter with slightly less caramel and a less oily mouthfeel.   Experiment is tentatively a success.  I plan to let the open bottle sit a little while before approaching it again.  However, my experience now has me contemplating what the cask strength version tastes like.  If I see one at the right price, I might just expand the experiment to establish more data points.

 

 

 

I haven't tried the 90 proof but I really liked the couple of cask strength store pick SiBs that I've had.  I'd probably buy it more if it was $50 but it's a decent buy at $60 IMO. 

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20 hours ago, mbroo5880i said:

So, today I stepped out my wheelhouse and purchased a craft bourbon - Woodinville.  While I could have certainly just added it onto my total purchase, I opted to put a KC9 back on the shelf to keep my purchase total at the 6 required for a 30% discount.  So, I immediately set a high hurdle for the purchase.  Of course, I am not expecting it to match a stellar bottle like KC9 but the price was close so I thought why not.   As mentioned in another thread, the store was crowded and several of us were chatting about preferences, interests, etc. and a few of the guys said they had had it before and really liked and they picked up a bottle.  I also remembered this thread and so I picked up a bottle.

 

I have seen this increasingly in my area, both in the standard 90 proof and also cask strength.  The price for this experiment was reasonable - $27.99.  Normally, I see this bottle around $40 and the cask strength around $60?  

 

I have opened the bottle.  My first impression is good.

 

The nose is faint but I do pick up green apples (we ate a lot of these as kid since we had a green apple tree in our yard).  Entry on the palate is mild.  I taste a hint of green apples, caramel, and cherry cola.  The latter might be subliminal since I read about that characteristic in several reviews.  Yet, I do note it.  I also note a hint of tobacco and leather in a most pleasant way.  Almost like I am sitting on my grandfather's porch while he is drinking Falstaff and smoking cigarettes while I put wax on my baseball glove to soften it.  It makes me think of getting ready for a little league game.  Too bad that was almost 50 years ago.  The finish is the part I enjoyed the most.  Nice and spicy with a lingering cherry and tobacco flavor.  Not that I like the taste of tobacco - never been a smoker - it is pleasant.  Maybe more of a pipe tobacco.  The entire time I drank the two moderate pours, every aspect of the experience reminded of my grandfather who, by the way, was from Louisville.  

 

Now mind you this is not a complex bourbon.  The problem is that it is readily accessible (as in easy drinker).  I see some similarities to BT but moreso with Old Charter with slightly less caramel and a less oily mouthfeel.   Experiment is tentatively a success.  I plan to let the open bottle sit a little while before approaching it again.  However, my experience now has me contemplating what the cask strength version tastes like.  If I see one at the right price, I might just expand the experiment to establish more data points.

 

 

 

It's cool how something as simple as a good bourbon can conjure up a pleasant memory from 50 years ago.   

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On 10/21/2021 at 10:28 AM, kcgumbohead said:

I too read that WT has grown to the point of no longer being considered craft...

 

I thought about that question too when reading this thread.  How do we define "Craft?"  Some of the selections mentioned didn't initially strike me as "Craft" just because they seem to be large enough to be readily available and distributed nationally (New Riff, Wilderness Trail, Woodinville, etc.), but that's just my non-quantitative perception.  They are certainly smaller than Beam, Buffalo Trace, etc.  When I Googled some of these distilleries to learn their production, no small number of first-page hits were "XYZ Distillery plans massive expansion" or "ABC Distillery completes huge expansion."  (good for them, BTW).

 

Kinda like "Small Batch," I guess "Craft" is up to individual definition.

 

That said, I have only had one New Riff (BIB) but i like it a lot.

 

 

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Jazz June

There are several different ways of looking at whether a distillery is a "craft" distillery or not. Output and/or number of barrels aging is one. Corporate ownership is another.

 

A Chuck Cowdery blog post from years ago identified the following distilleries and I think of this list as the major legacy distilleries:

 

Barton 1792

Booker Noe

Brown-Forman

Buffalo Trace

Four Roses

George Dickel

Heaven Hill

Jack Daniels

Jim Beam

Maker's Mark

MGP

Wild Turkey

Woodford Reserve

 

In addition to these are a number of smaller/newer distillieries that I would not consider craft:

 

Bowman - small, but been around for a long time and owned by Sazerac

 

Bulleit - built by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the business with a long history of whiskey distilling

 

Following the merger with Luxco, MGP now shares corporate parents with Lux Row and Limestone Branch, so maybe they are now part of a "major."

 

There is also the case of Pernod Ricard. They are very large in the whiskey business, but have somewhat recently re-entered the U.S. whiskey industry through acquisitions: (1) Smooth Ambler (2) Kentucky Artisan Distillery - Jefferson's (3) Rabbit Hole. I'd still consider these places "craft" but their association with a "major" is worth noting.

 

After that, there are some distilleries that were bought out by large beverage alcohol companies, but not necessarily ones with as significant whiskey distillery ownership - High West, Angel's Envy, Kentucky Owl.

 

Then we get to the "new" small (or now medium), independent distilleries: New Riff, Wilderness Trail, etc. Their founders may have had some connection to the industry, but they are not owned by large distilling businesses.

 

One final distillery that maybe doesn't fit neatly into the above is Bardstown Bourbon Company. While they are "new," they built a very large distillery and their capacity exceeds a number of those legacy "majors."

 

As noted earlier in the thread, I consider Willett craft because while their grounds have been a distillery for a long time and there is family institutional knowledge, they have been distilling a decade or less, are relatively small in output, and are not owned by a larger corporate distiller. Anchor distilling is another "craft" that has been around for quite a while, but has remained small and independent.

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As mentioned above there are two primary ways to determine "craft" and it depends on the organization providing the definition.

However, there is a very easy way to find out who is and is not craft in Kentucky - The Kentucky Distiller's Association. In addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (which is the "big leagues") there is a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.

Here are the links showing you who is who.

 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour

 

And Jazz June is correct - Willett is on the craft tour.

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  • 2 weeks later...
EarthQuake

I'll throw my homer hat into the ring too: Cedar Ridge, about 10 miles north of Iowa City, Iowa. They use heavily charred barrels and their bourbon has a flavor profile that's not too far off from Wild Turkey. The rye is 100% malted rye which is interesting - trending a bit closer to Irish whiskey in style than typical rye.

 

I'm not a big fan of their 86pf stand release, but the bottled in bond is solid and some of the barrel proof store picks have been quite good (I'm in a local whiskey group that has done a few picks). Standouts have been a bourbon and a rye finished in port barrels. Plus they make some of the best American single malt I've had - though admittedly that's a small list/category.

 

Recently they've put out a couple limited release single barrel barrel proof bourbons in the 6-year range that have been as good or better than anything I've had from most of the newer Kentucky distilleries like Wilderness Trail. They're not on Willett's level, which personally is my favorite distillery producing younger stuff, but they're solid and their stuff has gotten better and better over the past 3 or 4 years. I'm not sure I would call Willett craft whiskey, but they're my clear cut #1 if that's how we're categorizing them.

 

 

In general I'll second Wilderness Trail and Starlight, though I'm a bigger fan of their ryes than their bourbons, which have generally tasted like they would be good, maybe great, if left in the barrel a few more years. To be fair, I haven't had their ~6 year stuff yet, only 4 year old releases I think.

 

I work with a guy in Seattle and have tried a few different releases of Woodinville on his recommendation, but haven't been impressed with any of them.

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