A couple weeks back, when we looked at the best whiskey distillery in every state, we intentionally omitted Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. It just seemed futile to name one "best" in three states that have such long-standing, self-evident histories—and a hell of a lot of great products to boot. Still, people kept asking: "But what about Kentucky?"
Admittedly, it did seem a little unfair to highlight the best up-and-coming distillers in every other state while ignoring those in whiskey's three most important states, especially those distilleries that don't source their products. The search for the best in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana begins here.
Note: Most of these distilleries' bottles are in the $30 to $75 range.
The Best of Kentucky
These are the distilleries outside of the "big six" (Buffalo Trace, Brown-Forman, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, and Wild Turkey) that deserve notice, from a fiery startup to an old-timey brand recently resurrected.
You have probably heard of Willett, and perhaps even tried it. In fact, older bottles of Willett rye are some of the best American whiskey you will ever taste. It also used to be 100 percent sourced from an undisclosed location. The once-proud distillery quit producing "juice" in the early 1980s, but master distiller Drew Kulsveen was able to reopen and refurbish his family's business this century when bourbon became sexy again. In 2012, Kulsveen, already a skillful blender of sourced liquid, started doing his own distilling, and his bourbon and rye distillate finally hit the market in the last couple of years. These distinctive Willett Family Estate bottles have their ages hand-scrawled on the label. Though they are a bit younger than the whiskey Kulsveen once sourced, they show great promise.
SHOP NOW: Willett Family Estate
Located in a town founded by Daniel Boone, Maysville has been a crucial part of bourbon history; it is said the state's first-ever distillery was located there. In 1876 Pogue opened as Kentucky's third-ever registered distillery, though by the 1940s it had stopped distilling. In 2012, fifth and sixth generation Pogues revived the family name. The distillery's Old Maysville Club Rye is intended as a modern rendition of the company's original bottled-in-bond single barrel offering. At four years old, it explodes with oily, toasty notes.
SHOP NOW: Old Maysville Club Rye
Kentucky's first ever "grain to glass" distillery uses a former Amish dairy farm to grow its ingredients for eventual distilling and bottling. Its white corn Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a blended small batch bottled at barrel proof, and it also produces Kentucky Dark Fired Whiskey, made with smoked corn. Even more gimmicky offerings include a pink lemonade moonshine. While MB Roland's "uncut and unfiltered" Single Barrel release is decadent like dessert, the distillery only releases a couple hundred bottles per batch.
The Best of Tennessee
Jack Daniel's is such a singular force that it created its own spirits category: Tennessee whiskey, which is essentially bourbon filtered through charcoal, known as the Lincoln County Process. But others in the state, including these three distilleries, have put their own stamp on the category.
City: Cascade Hollow
While hardly a "little guy," the Diageo-owned Dickel is nevertheless overshadowed by its nearby neighbor Jack, and has been for quite awhile. Most folks aren't even aware of this venerable brand, even though many whiskey enthusiasts actually think Dickel makes better products than Jack Daniel's. Classic No. 8 is its most famed whiskey, but George Dickel Barrel Select, smoky and quite silky, is easily its best bottle.
SHOP NOW: George Dickel Barrel
Surely one of the most ambitious whiskey distilleries in the world, Corsair burst onto the scene with Triple Smoke (made with Scottish peat, American cherry wood, and German beechwood, which manages to make it both sweet and smoky) and has only gotten more experimental since. Whiskeys like Graniac 9 Bourbon (made with buckwheat and spelt, among other grains) and Quinoa Whiskey certainly aren't for everybody, but all are worth trying. Corsair also has a distillery in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and it has started selling its own beer.
SHOP NOW: Triple Smoke
Though located in Lincoln County, Prichard's is the only Tennessee whiskey not produced using the Lincoln County Process, ironically enough. Its flagship Tennessee Whiskey is made with white corn, creating a slightly sweeter whiskey. If you have heard of Prichard's, though, it is most likely because of its Double Chocolate Bourbon, a collaboration with Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company that makes for one of the better flavored bourbons on the market.
SHOP NOW: Double Chocolate Bourbon
The Best of Indiana
Most craft whiskey in America actually comes from Indiana, mass-produced at a factory called Midwest Grain Products. Yet, there are actually a couple "true" micro-distilleries in-state doing solid work, even if this only became legal in 2013.
Located on a grape orchard and winery that were first settled in 1843, Huber's distillery portion wasn't opened until 2000, and mainly for the purpose of making brandy. It took until 2013 for Indiana to allow craft whiskey to be produced and directly sold to the consumer. Luckily, Starlight (under the auspices of Ted Huber) was set to immediately begin making it. Today, the distillery has "Carl T" Bourbon, a high rye whiskey that is well-balanced between sweet and spicy.
SHOP NOW: "Carl T" Bourbon
City: South Bend
Owned by veterans, the company's simple name honors the fact that all its equipment and ingredients come from in-state. While it has a wheated bourbon amusingly called "Just Whiskey," which is strong on the vanilla notes, it also produces more unique products. Hoosier Sweat Heat is a cinnamon-flavored whiskey, while Breakfast of Degenerates is spiked with maple syrup.
Read the entire article here.