Everyone wants to know what they should be drinking. Whether we admit it or not, it’s fun to be clued into a spirit that’s under the radar. It adds a little cachet to your next bar experience, allowing you to order something that your friends might not know about.
To help you stay ahead of the game, we asked beverage professionals and bartenders what they think are the most underrated bourbons on the market. Here’s what they said.
The most underrated bourbon, according to beverage professionals
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Michter’s US 1 Small Batch Bourbon
Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon
Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon
New Southern Revival Jimmy Red Bourbon Whiskey
Tattersall Distilling’s Wheated Bottled in Bond Bourbon
Old 55 Sweet Corn Bourbon
Bardstown Fusion Series #8 Bourbon
David Nicholson Bourbon Reserve
Old Carter Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Old Grand-Dad Bourbon
Driftless Glen Single Barrel Bourbon
“My personal favorite underrated bourbon is Wild Turkey 101 or 101 Rye (depending on your palate). It is my workhorse bourbon. The high proof allows it to stand up in all types of cocktails, but it has enough refinement that you can drink it on its own. Basically, it can do whatever you want it to do — and at a cool $23 price point.” —Alex Cuper, beverage director, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, Chicago
“There are so many bourbons that fly under the radar: Bigger-production favorites would be Four Roses Single Barrel, Michter’s US 1 Small Batch, and Jefferson’s Reserve. When you hop over to the smaller, boutique bourbons, I’m a fan of everything by Barrell Craft.” —Kimber Stonehouse, director of beverage purchasing & analytics, Prime Steak Concepts, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Eagle Rare 10 Year. Craft cocktail bartenders and mixologists are no strangers to Eagle Rare 10 Year. Its price point and beautifully rich flavor profile make perfect Old Fashioneds all across the country. Still, I feel it is not ubiquitous enough in the same way that Maker’s Mark is, but it should be.” —Ricky Dolinsky, co-owner and mixologist, Paper Planes, New York
“A favorite on the Gair back bar is the New Southern Revival Jimmy Red Bourbon Whiskey finished In oloroso sherry casks, made by High Wire Distilling. The husband-and-wife team have aided in revitalizing a nearly extinct species of corn native to South Carolina that makes for a unique and beautiful-tasting spirit. There’s an incredible blend of graham cracker, baking spice, and white pepper on the palate, further elevated by the nuttiness brought in by time spent in sherry casks. I also love that the mouthfeel is much drier than your average bourbon, lacking the corn syrup sensation that’s far too common in more mainstream options.” —Robert Struthers, beverage director, Gair, Brooklyn
“Tattersall Distilling’s Wheated Bottled in Bond Bourbon. Tattersall Distilling crafts and excellent example of heated bourbon, with a mash bill of 55 percent corn, 35 percent Minnesota-grown wheat and 10 percent malted barley. It has comforting aromas of dulce de leche and fresh baked cherry pie combined with flavors of graham cracker and stone fruit. Subtle oak tannins round out the smooth finish. The wheat adds a softness that really makes this bottle stand out.” —Taylor Surdyk, owner, Surdyk’s Liquor Store, Minneapolis, Minn.
“Old 55 Sweet Corn Bourbon. In a category that occasionally feels a little stale for me, Old 55 makes excellent bourbon that is just a little outside the norm without straying too far. The distillery is local, and the grain is grown on the family farm — both things I like to support. Most importantly, though, it’s delicious.” —Zach Benson, bartender, Bar One Fourteen, Indianapolis
“One of the most underrated bourbons that I have found is the Bardstown Fusion Series #8 bourbon. A difference that you can taste, two bold high-rye bourbons are blended for this fusion series. The result is a spice that sits on your palate and makes this blend nicely balanced. Notes of ripe apricot and green tea are woven together with layers of caramel and honey over baked apples. This bourbon served neat provides the perfect spice for a casual sipper.” —Cosimo Bruno, beverage curator, Daxton Hotel, Birmingham, Mich.
“David Nicholson Reserve is a very underrated bourbon, especially for the often sub-$30 bottle pricing. It’s a very smooth bourbon, especially for the fact that it is 100 proof. On the nose, it carries a lot of sugary sweetness, vanilla, a touch of honey, and, of course, that 100 proof alcohol burn if you get too close. The palate is similar, but in a good way. Yes, it still has a bite, but the sweet, long-lasting caramel and vanilla you get through the mid-palate pulls you in and intrigues you. It then slowly shifts to quite a bit of oak, but still holds on to its sweet undertones. For the price, I love this bourbon. I think it’s great by itself, on the rocks, or can be used in a multitude [of cocktails] and still shine through due to the 100 proof it’s packing.” —Robbie Robinson, bartender, The Gallery Bar, Charlotte, N.C.
“Old Carter is one of the most underrated whiskey bottlers at the moment. Blending is an art form revered in Scotland and Japan but scoffed at stateside, and it’s a shame. Old Carter creates beautiful, understated blends using small batches (and I mean small) of barrels sourced from rickhouses throughout the U.S. Most of these batches are around three barrels, making each one only available for a short time, but they are all delicious and unique. These bottles have great potential to become collectors’ items down the line.” —Andrew Nichols, head of mixology, Atlas Restaurant Group, Baltimore
“One of the most underrated bourbons is Woodinville, which we are proud to have on our cocktail menu! It’s so soft on the palate, and I like its subtle floral notes, hints of spice, and smooth, caramel finish. It’s great to use in a cocktail to complement the nuances of other ingredients and has an interesting story coming out of Washington State that represents a unique climate and passion.” —Sara Chaudhuri, beverage director, Bresca, Washington, D.C.
“Old Grand-Dad Bourbon is the underrated king of the bourbon world. For the quality, taste, and versatility, it’s a great choice at such an affordable price.” —Ella Zoller, bar consultant, Superfine Playa, Los Angeles
“The most underrated bourbon is Driftless Glen Single Barrel Bourbon, a grain-to-glass concept. The distiller is based in Sand County, Wis., with a distinctive combination of temperature, water, soil, and weather — all of which combine to help form their remarkable spirits and unique flavor profile.” —Adnan Khan, director of food & beverage, FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, Chicago
The article We Asked 12 Bartenders: What’s the Most Underrated Bourbon? (2023) appeared first on VinePair.