There always seems to be something new going on in the bourbon world. Thanks to young distilleries making their debuts to fresh and innovative expressions from legendary brands, each trip to the neighborhood bottle shop carries the potential to deliver a new delight. The promise of discovery makes the bourbon category exciting, but it can also make things a bit overwhelming, even for the most seasoned tippler.
Bartenders can simplify this process, which makes perfect sense. After all, they tend to enjoy educating curious customers about the new labels hanging out on their back bars. With that in mind, we asked 11 bartenders what new bourbons have found a home at their watering holes. Some are new to market and some are new to the bartenders themselves, but either way, there’s plenty to love here.
The best new bourbons, according to bartenders:
- Widow Jane
- Brother’s Bond Cask Strength
- Leopold Brothers Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Four Roses Small Batch
- Widow Jane Vault Edition
- Garrison Brothers Honeydew Bourbon
- Blue Run High Rye Bourbon
- Jack Daniels Bonded
- Milam & Greene’s Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Left Bank Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- FEW Bottled in Bond
“From the moment I tasted Widow Jane, I knew it was something special and I had to spread the word. Being a bourbon from Brooklyn already makes it an interesting contender for attention and scrutiny, since mixologists can be notorious haters. But what makes Widow Jane unique to me comes from the limestone mines where they source their water. The result is a bourbon without the typical caramel and toasty vanilla notes, but instead a distinct minerality and salinity which almost forces you to look at it with a beginners’ mind when incorporating it into cocktails beyond your classic Old Fashioned and sour riffs.” —Grace Tomczak, lead bartender, MAKfam, Denver
“Brother’s Bond Cask Strength has certainly earned a spot behind the bar at The Golden Swan. Great for shaken and stirred drinks, it’s 115.1 proof so the liquid stands up for sure. In our Hudson Duster cocktail, I infuse the bourbon with Moroccan mint tea as the base of an Old Fashioned with Ceylon cinnamon syrup and Angostura. Deceptively simple and deliciously complex for any time of year.” —Andy May, head bartender, The Golden Swan, NYC
“Leopold Brothers Bottled In Bond Bourbon. It’s five years old and has a more mellow corn flavor while still keeping some of the more floral elements present in their Bottled in Bond Maryland rye, which is the best new American whiskey to hit my shelves recently.” —Adam Fournier, bar director, Spago, Beverly Hills
“Four Roses Small Batch. Four Roses generally has a tendency to be smooth, but when honing it down into a small batch, you really get that dedication to specific barrels. It’s a perfect medium between the mass-produced Four Roses bourbon and the single barrel, which has a much higher price point. As with batching any beverage, you will get greater areas of inconsistencies when going larger, and the smaller the more true to the original flavor you’ll get.” —Yosef Riad, general manager and beverage director, Alta Strada Mosaic, Fairfax, Va.
“We recently started offering a vertical from upstate New York, Widow Jane Vault Edition. Specifically, a tasting from their releases in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Most guests I introduce to Jane leave here loving her!” —Alexandra Downing, bar manager, Grey Hen at Century Grand, Phoenix
“When anyone asks for a new recommendation lately, I reach for Garrison Brothers Honeydew Bourbon. Made in Hye, Texas, Garrison Brothers released this bourbon as their first flavored whiskey. I normally shy away from flavored whiskey because they often [taste] artificial, which takes away from the complexity of the whiskey. This isn’t the case with Honeydew. It’s made with actual Texas wildflower honey that’s not overpowering but adds the perfect sweet finish. The whiskey itself has a light flavor profile that lends itself towards a fruited finish, making it perfect for a Whiskey Smash, Gold Rush or [serving] just on the rocks.” —Sabrina Galaviz, bartender, Fat Cat, Las Vegas
“Blue Run Spirits’ High Rye Bourbon is incredible. In addition to the bourbon being delicious, the distillery has great marketing and branding and are in the process of creating a distillery in Georgetown, Ky., the hometown of bourbon.” —Diego DeLeon, beverage manager, Kaori, Miami
“Taking a household name and modernizing it, my go-to new bottle is Jack Daniel’s Bonded. While technically a Tennessee whiskey, it follows the criteria required to be called bourbon and was a smart pivot for the brand. As a whiskey drinker, I gravitate towards a higher-proof whiskey because it can hold its own in cocktails and all its subtle notes are amplified and balanced while sipping. Jack Daniel’s Bonded sustains a quintessential note of banana that its predecessor is known for, followed by a round caramel, toasted oak palate and a punchy spiced finish. This release scratches the itch for a Jack and Coke drinker, and can be enjoyed by a one-cube whiskey sipper. But for me, I tend to gravitate toward this whiskey when making an Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour.” —Kristina Veltri, assistant general manager/head bartender, Sportsman’s Club, Chicago
“There are countless new bourbons that I am excited to see hitting our market at this point, but there is one that stands out to me above the rest: Milam and Greene Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This award-winning bourbon out of Texas comes from the talented minds of Heather Green and Marlene Holmes and was a showstopper from the first sip. From its creamy and rich mouthfeel to notes of almonds and cherries, this new bourbon deserves a permanent home on your back bar.” —Delena Humble, beverage director and bar manager, First and Last & Little Debbie’s, Phoenix
“I’m excited about a bourbon local to me called Left Bank. It’s distilled and aged in Owensboro, Ky., and then sent down the Ohio and Missouri rivers to be bottled here in New Orleans. On its way down the river, it is sloshed about, pulling tons of flavor from both the charred new oak barrel and the added French oak staves. It seems to give the spirit a roundness I personally really enjoy. It’s currently only available in a handful of states, but they have plans to expand this year.”—Andy Pratt, lead bartender, Dovetail Bar, New Orleans
“FEW’s Bottled In Bond Bourbon was a no-brainer when it came to choosing a higher-proof whiskey that we could create our most memorable bourbon cocktails around. It’s not just because our bar is a mile away from FEW’s distillery. We’re just lucky to share the same city. Our customers already love those spicy clove and cherry notes that FEW has perfected over the years, and their Bottled in Bond only serves to make those flavors even fuller. It doesn’t just hold its own against other tasting notes in a cocktail; it establishes a necessary base to grow those flavors around. It’s a bourbon that demands creativity from our crew. And hey, it’s just plain tasty. That’s the most important part!” —Lolo McGrath, founder and general manager, Bitter Blossom, Evanston, Ill.
*Image retrieved from Alexandr Vlassyuk via stock.adobe.com