New York is the best state for Bourbon in America right now – yes, you read that correctly. You might be wondering, “Isn’t bourbon only made in Kentucky?” The answer, as we’ve written before, is no. While bourbon has to be made in America, the production is certainly not limited to the one state of Kentucky and currently excellent bourbon is being created all over the country. But if you’re looking for the best bourbon America has to offer you should head to the Empire State. Here’s why:
Go To Upstate New York For Unique, Out-Of-The-Box Bourbon
Remember, New York isn’t just comprised of the city. Upstate New York is not only a beautiful place to go on vacation (it’s super popular in the summer time, seriously, try booking a b&b less than a month in advance), but a great place to drink good bourbon. And that should come as no shock: Upstate New York grows superb corn. Superb corn means delicious bourbon, and one of the places making great hooch that’s set amidst a drop dead gorgeous landscape, is Black Dirt Distillery. At Black Dirt they create a lovely, gentle bourbon aged between 2-3 years – ideal for sipping straight. Try it in the Black Dirt tasting room, along with their delicious apple brandy.
Meanwhile, two hours away is Hillrock Estate Distillery, the first distillery in America to create a solera-aged bourbon. Solera is a process in which a spirit, in this case new whiskey, is moved through a stack of barrels. Each barrel is never fully emptied, and more whiskey is continually introduced. The bourbon is then blended with mature seed bourbon and finished in sherry casks. The result is a rich, decadent, layered spirit that tastes more complex than plenty of “mature” bourbons. Additionally, Hillrock makes for a beautiful place to visit: the lush fields are filled with grain they grow themselves, and they even have their own malting room. And for the Southern skeptics, the Master Distiller at Hillrock is Dave Pickerell, formerly the Master Distiller (for 14 years) of a brand you’ve probably heard of: Maker’s Mark.
Head Over To Brooklyn For The Next Generation Of Bourbon
New York City bourbon doesn’t rely on reputation, it relies on innovation. Instead of time-tested and “safe” tastes, NYC distillers tinker with ingredients and method, delivering bourbon that doesn’t taste like the same thing you’ve been drinking for years (although that could be delicious). Van Brunt Stillhouse distills a wheated bourbon that, while palatable and easy to drink, has enough rustic flavor – think hay and smoke – to confirm that what you’re drinking is a true-grit American spirit.
Not so far away, King’s County Distillery has a vast, almost gothic building open regularly for tours and often special events (like square dancing). Oh, and their bourbon is delicious, plus portable. Buy the little glass flasks right there in the tasting room and get sipping right away. Colin Spoelman, co-founder and Kentucky native, is proud of the distinct identity the bourbon has formed, stating, “At Kings County…we do something noticeably different, using organic ingredients, pot-still Scotch-style distillation, and unusual recipes to make whiskeys that are younger, but creative and different”
New York State Allows Local Distilleries To Sell At Farmers Markets
Another great aspect of New York bourbon is that you can check out the latest and greatest simply by heading to a local farmers market. It’s legal for New York State distilleries to sell their products directly to consumers in the context of one of these markets, which makes for a fun weekend outing. Talk directly to the distillers about their product, process, and where they get their ingredients (most of them will be locally grown or sourced). Plus, try some free samples! Some farmers markets to check out are Greenmarket, Down to Earth, and EcoStation.
Get Fancy (Or Not) At A Bourbon Bar
In New York City alone, there are tons of places to explore bourbon, both casual and swanky. Laid back joints like Noorman’s Kil serve up grilled cheese sammies alongside a fine selection of amber spirits, while dimly lit venues like Brandy Library transport you from the busy streets of New York to an elegant portal of bourbon glory.
With either kind of venue, you’ll be sure to try fantastic bourbon from all over the country and outstanding whiskey from all over the world. Check out Copper & Oak, Char No. 4, American Whiskey, and The Flatiron Room as well.
When It Comes To Your Bourbon, Strength Is In Taste, Not Numbers
New York only recently opened itself up to craft distilling, and in that short amount of time, it’s created a class of bourbon in its own right. It may not be aged as long as the juice produced in some of the factory-like behemoths down south, but that doesn’t take away from its scrumptious taste. Don’t look for Kentucky in a glass of New York bourbon, just enjoy and appreciate it for what it is – something incredibly exciting and enjoyable.