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10 Small-Batch Bourbons to Buy Now

April 25, 2014

Photo credit: Facebook/Angel’s Envy Bourbon

Raise the banners and ring the bells, there’s a bourbon renaissance on. Perhaps you’ve already noticed it in the hushed tones used to describe Pappy Van Winkle, the hard-to-find bourbon so beloved that $26,000-worth of it was spirited away last year in a still-unsolved heist.

Part of Pappy’s appeal is that it’s small-batch, which means the product is made in only a few barrels at a time (as opposed to large-scale production, which can require a massive number of barrels). In many cases, small-batch products are more customizable than bigger batches; producers can more easily switch up the type of barrel used to age a spirit, use different ingredients and equipment, and so on. And because less is made at a time, small-batch spirits can be harder to find—the perfect recipe for cult status.

But you don’t have to turn to a life of crime if you can’t find any Pappy. We turned to Kara Newman, the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, for a breakdown of her favorite small-batch bourbon picks.

Photo credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery

Name: Blanton’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Producer: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Origin: Frankfort, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 46.5 Percent
Price: $50

"Light-bodied but luxurious, it gets more aromatic the longer you let it open up, with beautiful caramel and orange peel tones."

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Heaven Hill Distillery

Name: Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 Edition
Producer: Heaven Hill Distillery
Origin: Bardstown, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume:  43.3 Percent
Price: $26

"Evan Williams has released a vintage bourbon every year since 1986, and they tend to be excellent. The 2004 upholds that tradition—I believe this is the 19th in the series. Can’t wait for number 20. This one layers butterscotch, fresh apple, and baking spice in a velvety, robust dram.”

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Four Roses Distillery

Name: Four Roses Small Batch
Producer: Four Roses Distillery
Origin: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 45 Percent
Price: $30

"This blended bourbon starts smooth and sweet, with sarsaparilla and maple sugar, then explodes with bold cassia, cinnamon, and cayenne razzle-dazzle.” 

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Louisville Distilling Company

Name: Angel’s Envy Cask Strength
Producer: Louisville Distilling Company
Origin: Louisville, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 61.85 Percent
Price: $149

"The nose is rich with touches of peach and toffee, while the palate finds velvety caramel and dark fruit notes (attributable to a turn in port barrels). [Only] 600 bottles released."

This bourbon is hard to find, so keep a lookout at your local liquor stores.

Photo credit: Hillrock Estate Distillery

Name: Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey
Producer: Hillrock Estate Distillery
Origin: Hudson Valley, New York
Alcohol by Volume: 46.30 Percent
Price: $80

"From master distiller Dave Pickerell, this estate-grown field-to-flask offering makes good use of Oloroso sherry barrels. Look for peach and vanilla aromas, bold raisin and brown sugar flavors, and a gentle exit that just hints at sherry. At nearly 93 proof, the alcohol makes its presence known, so add some water or vermouth … if you must.”

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Jefferson’s Bourbon

Name: Jeff’s Chef’s Collaboration
Producer: Jefferson’s Bourbon
Origin: Louisville, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 46 Percent
Price: $40

"Louisville chef Edward Lee (of Milkwood, 610 Magnolia) teamed up with bourbon maker Trey Zoeller for this bourbon-rye blend deliberately intended to be food-friendly. It’s nuanced and mellow, with gentle vanilla and lemon-cream flavors, braced up with ginger and cinnamon sparks from the rye.”

Buy it here.


Photo credit: Beam

Name: Jim Beam Single Barrel
Producer: Beam
Origin: Louisville, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 47.5 Percent
Price: $30

"It’s bold and unapologetically so, at 95 proof. But it’s rich with caramel and maple, with a hint of black cherry and clove on the drying finish. Adding just a touch of water cools the proof and brings out additional buttered toast and maple."

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Heaven Hill Distillery

Name: Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Producer: Heaven Hill Distillery
Origin: Bardstown, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 46 Percent
Price: $25

"This small-batch bourbon uses wheat in place of rye to create a softer, rounded character. At an astonishing 92 proof, it’s a wonder that the alcohol feels so moderate, but makes its presence known in the cinnamon firework finish." 

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Oola Distillery

Name: Oola Waitsburg Bourbon Whiskey
Producer: Oola Distillery
Origin: Seattle, Washington
Alcohol by Volume: 47 Percent
Price: $40

"This craft distiller is making bourbon with a four-grain mash bill (corn, wheat, barley and rye), and it’s surprisingly delicious for a whiskey aged a mere three years. It’s soft and spicy with a nice sweet caramel fade. Would be great in cocktails, too."

Buy it here.

Photo credit: Austin Nichols Distilling Company

Name: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch 10-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon 
Producer: Austin Nichols Distilling Company
Origin: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 45 Percent
Price: $29

"From Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie Russell, this tawny and full-bodied whiskey is complex and seems to evolve with every sip."

Buy it here.

Thirsty yet? Us, too. Snatch one of these babies up and pour yourself a drink.