Whiskey fans never tire of searching for the next fleet of great new bourbon brands. These fresh arrivals are your next big sips.
If it seems like there’s a new
whiskey release every month, that’s because there actually is. Longstanding brands and distilleries continue to expand their lineups with new additions and limited-edition annual releases, while new startups seem to enter the market every month. The latter category has been gaining momentum over the past few years, with newbie brands usually sourcing from other distilleries and sometimes even bottling their own juice after patiently waiting for it to mature. Related: 13 Bartender-Approved Whiskey Cocktails You Need to Try
Whiskey fans have an unquenchable thirst, and bourbon in particular continues to grow in popularity. Here are five new bourbon brands to check out now. All of them are sourcing their whiskey from reputable distilleries, with various levels of transparency (of course)—but that’s as old as whiskey itself.
1. Hand Barrel
The first thing that jumps out about the new
Hand Barrel whiskey brand is its bottle. Yes, the barrel-shaped stunt has been done before, but Hand Barrel’s modern design doesn’t compare to anything else available at the moment. Of course, it’s what’s inside that counts. The quality whiskey comes from Bardstown Bourbon Company, a Kentucky-based distillery that contract distills for other brands, and bottles its own bourbon, rye whiskey, and blends. There are a few different expressions made from Hand Barrel, each with a high-rye mashbill of 64 percent corn, 24 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. These include black and white bottles of 105 proof bourbon (the black version will relaunch as a double barrel expression this spring) and a cask-strength single barrel bourbon.
2. High N’ Wicked Kentucky Straight Bourbon
High N’ Wicked has released some unique Irish whiskeys over the past few years (as well as a recent limited-edition Tennessee bourbon), but this bottle marks the wider introduction of bourbon to the brand’s lineup. The term “high rye” gets thrown around a lot, but it actually means something here with a mashbill of 51 percent corn, 39 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. Unlike many whiskeys,
High N’ Wicked Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made using the sweet mash method instead of sour mash. Simply put, sour mash utilizes the backset (some of the leftovers from a previous distillation) to produce the whiskey, while sweet mash starts fresh with every distillation. The difference, according to the brand, is in the flavor. Aged for a minimum of five years at an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky, the whiskey comes in 104-proof and cask-strength versions.
3. Puncher’s Chance Bourbon Puncher’s Chance is the product of Wolf Spirit, a Eugene, OR, booze company. The initial 2020 release was a blend of five- to six-year-old bourbon, but the latest is much older than that. The Left Cross is a 14-year bourbon that was finished in a 12-year-old rum cask for an additional two to four months. IJW is the distillery behind the whiskey, but given that it’s only been in production since 2016, this was obviously sourced from elsewhere. The Left Cross is a fairly limited release, and a pricy one at that, but it’s a good example of a well-aged bourbon undergoing a secondary maturation that augments flavor rather than masking it. Whiskey hunters should be able to find a bottle from various retailers or directly from the brand’s website.
4. Frank August Frank August is a new whiskey brand that’s been getting buzz since launching last year—with some accounts selling out within days after its release. Its first whiskey arrived last spring, a high-rye bourbon made in Kentucky at an undisclosed distillery. This fall, two more expressions were announced as part of the brand’s “Cask Study” program. The first is a five-year-old single-barrel bourbon (just five barrels were selected), each bottled between 123 and 125 proof. The second is called Case Study: 01 | Mizunara | Japanese Oak. For this, five barrels of bourbon were finished with toasted Japanese mizunara oak staves—known for imbuing whiskey with flavors like sandalwood and spice. Keep an eye out for the second batch of the Small Batch bourbon, arriving in stores this March.
5. Hirsch The Bivouac
The Hirsch whiskey brand is an old one, dating back to the 1970s when the A.H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey was first distilled. A 16-year-old version was bottled in 1991, and that bottle became an expensive unicorn before expensive unicorns really existed—selling for thousands of dollars as long as a decade ago. This brings us to the current incarnation of Hirsch. The brand has been owned by Hotaling & Co. (formerly Anchor Distilling) for 30 years, relaunching in 2020 as
HIRSCH Selected Whiskies. These new whiskeys, distilled in Bardstown, KY, really have nothing in common with the original but are decent expressions all the same. The Bivouac came out last fall with a mashbill that’s said to be “inspired” by the original: 95 percent of it comprised 74 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and 8 percent malted barley; the remaining five percent is a high malted barley mash aged for a minimum of eight years. If you’re looking for something a tad stronger, a cask-strength version finished in cognac casks was released last November. This one has been aged for six years before being put into HINE XO barrels for an additional 18 months.