As the year comes to a close, we look back at the Top Bourbon Brands of 2022 that people should be drinking. Some people may know these brands better than others, but there is no question about the quality of the spirit.
The way bourbon is being sold has changed. More people are getting into the business and as they do, they look for ways to make their brand unique and appealing to the consumer.
One thing we do know is that people are passionate about bourbon, specifically about their brand. How you feel about bourbon is solely subjective.
10. Wolf Spirit’s
How can you not root for a distillery that used to be a laundromat? Wolf Spirit’s has released Puncher’s Chance, The D12TANCE and most recently, The Left Cross bourbon in the last couple of years. Another West Coast bourbon producer, Wolf Spirit’s has come out of the corner swinging.
As you may have guessed, Wolf Spirit is unconventional in its branding—it’s a good thing they have sophisticated bourbons to back it up. At a price point of around $30, this brand knows what it is and what it is not. True bourbon drinkers will love their expressions as they are straightforward and on point. Others may view the lack of a unique flavor profile as a hindrance.
If you like straight bourbon, then you will love this brand. The bourbon is perfect for sipping neat or mixing in a cocktail. The newest Left Cross is aged in ex-rum barrels and delivers a finish way above its weight division.
Watershed Distillery was founded in 2010 in Grandview, Ohio, and its bourbon has quickly become a sought-after spirit. Currently, they have a lottery open for the Nocino Finish. Nocino is a brown liqueur from Italy composed of unripened green walnuts.
I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the barrel strength, but the straight bourbon finished in apple brandy barrels is excellent. Forbes magazine called them “One of the 10 best bourbons beyond Kentucky.”
Unfortunately, you must travel to Ohio, Georgia, Michigan or Illinois to buy a bottle from a retailer. You can order online, but there is something about going into a store and purchasing a bottle that is so satisfying.
8. Woodinville Whiskey
Most craft whiskies need help in developing a mature flavor profile—call it lack of aging or immaturity in the mash bill. But Woodinville, a whiskey from Washington State, has solved that problem.
Woodinville whiskies are mature and easy on the palate. That maturity could be from the aging process since they ship off the newly filled barrels to central Washington. This location has temperature fluctuations similar to Kentucky, as cold nights and hot days push the juice deeper into the wood. The deeper the bourbon penetrates the wood, the more flavor is released into the barrel.
Being on the West Coast hinders the product, as most people are unfamiliar with the bourbon brand. They have produced some fine bourbon, especially the port wine-finished bourbon. With other expressions deep in flavor, Woodinville should be on the shelves of most bourbon lovers.
7. Broken Barrel
Broken Barrel is a California bourbon that comes via Owensboro, Kentucky. Sourced from Owensboro Distilling Co., Broken Barrel uses a proprietary oak bill to create a uniquely deep bourbon. Its first bourbon was released in 2017.
The company uses broken staves—hence the name—to finish its bourbon. The staves are from French, sherry and other bourbon barrels. When they started using broken staves, the industry wasn’t quite where it is today on exclusive finishes, so it was a shot in the dark that paid off.
The individual staves give the cask-strength and small-batch bourbon a layered finish that rivals more expensive bourbons. Do not let the California area code prevent you from trying this spirit. It is Kentucky through and through. Less than $40, these two bourbons are a steal for any aficionado.
Does altitude create better whiskey? Not sure, but Breckenridge’s blended bourbon has medals to prove it does. Claiming to be the world’s highest distillery, this Colorado gem has made some fine bourbons.
The distillery has multiple bourbons to try, from reserve to single barrel. The one that everyone should be drinking is the High Proof. Refrain from letting the name fool you—it is only 105 proof, much lower than others in the same category. The blend projects baking chocolate and caramel with a subtle hint of vanilla.
If you can find the High Proof on the shelf, buy a couple of bottles because it is well worth the money and you will not have to make several trips back to the store to buy another bottle.
5. RD1 Spirits
Recently, they changed the whole lineup of spirits, going from William Tarr to RD1 (Register Distillery No. 1). If you tried Wm. Tarr and did not like it, you are in luck because the new straight bourbons are terrific and nothing like the old. This is an example of knowing your customer, as RD1 knew they were limited with the Tarr collection.
Now wanting to expand nationwide, the brand has put together some top-shelf whiskeys. With only two bottles in the current RD1 portfolio, the company knew they needed to go big. Both bourbons have the depth of flavor that connoisseurs look for but are approachable for newbies.
Between 98 and 101 proof, each expression has features that will endear the brand to you. RD1 has other releases slated for the coming years, but this Lexington, Kentucky, the brand should be a must-drink in 2023.
4. Wyoming Whiskey
Wyoming is not the first state I would look to for a great bourbon but after a rocky start, the brand has rebounded to produce many fine bourbons. The rebound came from releasing an under-matured whiskey that fell short of the distillery’s expectations. They did make it right by buying back numerous bottles.
Not that anyone needs a reason to drink bourbon, but Wyoming Whiskey has partnered with the National Parks Foundation to protect and save for future generations. They have released several expressions of the National Parks Limited Edition.
The 1872 edition is a 9-year-old blend that honors the first 150 years of Yellowstone National Park. This bourbon sneaks up on you quickly at 115 proof. With only 150 bottles made, this will be a classic for the flavor and what it represents.
3. Barrell Bourbon
Some brands outsource bourbon, put a label on it and hope for the best. Then there is Barrell Bourbon (Barrell Craft Spirits), which meticulously picks inventory from several bourbon-producing states. What comes next is what puts Barrell Bourbon in our Top Ten.
Barrell Craft Spirits painstakingly blends each expression into a beautiful expression enthusiast have grown to expect from the brand. Each release shows the brand’s versatility, from Dovetail’s sweeter side to Vantage’s rich espresso flavors.
The brand has continued to grow since its founding in 2013. Barrell Craft Spirits knows its consumer and consistently delivers a high-quality product. The price point coincides with the quality, as you will pay a little more for this brand.
2. Company Distillery
The former master distiller at Jack Daniels, Jeff Arnett, decided to take a shot at creating his own bourbon. That shot has paid off in spades as Company Distillery continues to set the bourbon world on fire.
Located in Tennessee, Company Distillery has expanded and now has two locations. The distillery’s first expression, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, finished with maple wood, was an all-around perfect bourbon—easy on the palate for sipping but with a complex finish that created an urge to want more.
The brand recently released its cask-strength bourbon. At 121 proof, this spirit hits all the notes you want out of cask-strength bourbon. Cask strength is the most authentic expression of the distiller. This brand should be on everyone’s wish list.
1. Milam & Greene
A Texas-based hybrid distiller/sourced brand, Milam & Greene continues to break through distillery ceilings. Three women founded the brand and released bourbons that could be displayed next to the Blantons and Stagg’s.
The bourbon is aged in the Texas Hill Country, which gets a wide range of temperatures throughout the year. This variation has helped the distillery develop intense flavor profiles for its blends.
The Triple Cask Blend is by far the star of the group. Made from 2- to 11-year-old whiskies, the Triple Cask is priced at around $45. It’s a great spirit to sip by the fire on cold nights or enjoy with friends, but I suggest you try all the brand’s expressions because I have yet to be let down.
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