I’ve got some exciting news to share about bourbon, and it’s more than just the fact that this tippled correspondent has got a pretty sweet buzz going right now. Make no mistake, I am feeling gloriously lubricated at the moment, like a piston inside the engine of a mighty locomotive barreling down the tracks toward Tipsyville. By the way, if you’ve never been before, I highly recommend you check out Tipsyville. It’s definitely the most fun place to visit in all of Drunkyland. But whatever you do, make sure to hop off that train before the last stop, Sex-with-anything-that-moves-burg. That place is filled with nothing but pathetic losers.
So where was I? Ah, yes, in a booze-soaked state of grace induced by the rapturous charms of these enchanting new American-made bourbons, which are all made outside Kentucky.
Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Double Barrel Bourbon ($70)
Aging may very well be the most consequential step in bourbon production, and what’s unusual about this small-batch 100-proof hooch from Virginia is that over the course of seven-plus years of maturation it moved around more than the Obama administration’s position on torture. After several years of resting in a warehouse in new oak barrels, the juice was transferred to different barrels at another warehouse. The displacement was intended to imbue the whiskey with character, and somehow it worked. Let’s call it Moving Magic. Smooth, sweet and full of toasty oak flavor, the Bowman Double Barrel is a wandering spirit of exceptional quality.
Hillrock Estate Solera Aged Bourbon ($80)
Speaking of maturation and moving stuff around, solera—or “fractional aging”—is a centuries-old process that involves marrying fortified liquids of various ages. Hillrock Estate’s master distiller, Dave Pickerell (formerly of Maker’s Mark), is the first commercial bourbon maker to employ the solera method, and he’s doing to solve a simple problem: His Hudson Valley distillery hasn’t been around long enough to build up a stock of those much sought after traditionally aged whiskies that people love to pay lots of money for. Pickerell blends his young spirit with mature high-rye bourbon, then finishes it in 20-year-old oloroso sherry casks. In so doing he flat-out nails the delicate balance between sweet and spice, grain and fruit.
Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($75)
OK, so the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas isn’t brand-new (it has been around since 2007) but up until now the Garrison Brothers’ wares weren’t for sale anywhere but in the Lone Star State. Due to popular demand, however, it’s now available in New York and Arizona, with a number of other markets soon to come. This is a family-owned operation headed by Dan Garrison. He and his team cook and ferment a sweet mash of organic locally grown corn, wheat and barley, then distill it in a small antique copper pot still nicknamed the Copper Cowgirl. The result is authentic and delectable and very approachable. Indeed, Garrison’s so confident in his bourbon’s quality, taste and character that he’s offered to stake his reputation in a blind taste test against any Kentucky or Tennessee bourbon out there—even the great Pappy Van Winkle. I gotta say, I wouldn’t bet against him.