As spirits go, bourbon is one of the most popular and versatile options out there. Whether you like yours served straight or on the rocks, stirred or shaken in a cocktail, or even just topped with soda in a highball, the options are practically limitless. So, too, are the options for which new bourbon to try next. To sort through all the options, we asked bartenders from across the country to share their favorite new bottles they’ve recently added to their back bars. Here’s what they said.
The best new bourbons, according to bartenders:
- Off Hours Bourbon
- Uncle Nearest Rye
- High Dive Bourbon
- Great Jones Bourbon
- Milam & Green Triple Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Very Old Barton
- Filibuster Dual Cask Straight Bourbon
- Legent Bourbon
- Dickel 8-year Bourbon
- Ransom Bourbon
“There have been a lot of great launches recently, but Off Hours Bourbon has earned a front-and-center spot on my bar. It’s a super-versatile bourbon with hints of vanilla, nutmeg, pecans, and a silky finish that makes it appealing to regular bourbon drinkers and a great option for specialty cocktails. I find myself reaching for it regularly when people want to try something new.” —Alan Painter, bar manager, Miss Angeline’s, Denton, Texas
“Not only is the story behind Uncle Nearest inspiring, but the actual product outshines its competitors. CEO Fawn Weaver heard the story of how Nathan Green (also known as Uncle Nearest, and a slave at the time) taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey. She wanted to bring that to light, and showcase the wonderful whiskey [Green] had created. We recently got a hold of their rye, which I recommend everyone get [for] their Old Fashioned. The high-proof rye combined with the pepper and orange peel notes you get make a perfect pair for the semi-sweet classic cocktail.” —Agustina Sofo, bartender, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, Chicago
“My favorite new spirit on our bar would have to be High Dive bourbon. I’ve worked at a lot of bars with a lot of different rail bourbons ranging from stuff that probably should be priced higher than rail to barrel-flavored ethanol, so I wasn’t expecting anything when we switched to High Dive. But holy crap, does it deliver. It’s great on its own, but its bright and full-flavored profile makes it killer in classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, and honestly gives a lot of higher-end whiskeys a run for their money. I’ll definitely be recommending it to anyone who asks.” —Nick Puzzanghera, bartender, Lutèce, Washington, D.C.
“Great Jones is an amazing local bourbon. It’s produced in the first distillery on Manhattan Island since Prohibition.” —Mathew Scherl, general manager & beverage director, Lagos Restaurant & Lounge, New York
“I have recently discovered the Milam & Green Triple Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey. What makes this whiskey unique is that each batch is a skillful blend of three distinct casks, carefully selected by master blender Heather Green. The first cask, a 2- to 3-year Texas bourbon, brings warm spices to the mix while the second, a 3- to 4-year Kentucky bourbon, adds rich vanilla and fruity notes. Finally, an 11- to 12-year Tennessee whiskey brings structure and depth to the flavor profile. Master blender Heather Heather Green chooses each cask personally, and I appreciate how transparent they are about where they source the bourbon from. The blending of these elements comes together to make a spirit that has richness, personality, and a real sense of place. In addition, the company is woman-owned and -run — another reason to love it. I would highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates fine bourbon.” —Alvin Pugeda, bar director, Mister A’s, San Diego
“A bourbon that has earned a spot on Formento’s bar and has become a go-to is Very Old Barton, owned by Sazerac. This particular bourbon is aged 4 to 6 years in charred American oak barrels. Visually, it has a rich amber color with flavor notes of vanilla bean and chewy leather, making it a perfect spirit in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.” —Josh Fassett, lead mixologist, Formento’s, Chicago
“Filibuster Dual Cask Straight Bourbon. It’s a beautiful bourbon that’s finished in French Oak barrels. The distillery is located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. At 90 proof, this whiskey is perfect for classics such as Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. With wonderful notes of caramel and vanilla, this whiskey also works great in sours and juleps. At Ruse we love supporting local distilleries on our spirits menu.” —Alex Lightly, bartender, Ruse, St. Michaels, Md.
“I’ve been loving Legent bourbon, which is a collaboration between two master distillers: seventh- generation Jim Beam distiller Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo of Suntory. Legent does a great job of showcasing what a Kentucky bourbon should taste like with notes of oak, vanilla, and clove, but it also provides something new with notes of stewed fruits, which is likely a product of the blending techniques typical of Japanese whiskey-making. We are going to use it this summer in a charred strawberry whiskey highball.” —Sulaiman Popal, bar manager, Lapis, Washington, D.C.
“The best new bourbon we’ve brought into Porchlight is Dickel 8-year Bourbon. It’s great in an Old Fashioned or on its own. The wonderful sweet corn dominates, but an earthy secondary note offers some complexity as well. At $30 a bottle, this is my favorite new workhorse whiskey.” —Benjamin Brown, beverage director, Porchlight, New York
“It’s rare in bourbon production to find a bottle that feels both exciting while still maintaining bourbon tasting notes reserved for longer-aged whiskeys such as toffee, caramel, and cocoa. Ransom Bourbon out of Oregon does just that with their newly released Bourbon. A blend of 66 percent corn, 23 percent rye, 6 percent wheat, and 4 percent barley, Ransom Bourbon is somehow both zesty and warming. Being so small, I’m amazed at their ability to balance depth, complexity, and quality with a deft hand generally reserved for much larger producers.” —Brandon Thrash, general manager and beverage director, Middle Child Clubhouse, Philadelphia