United States of Bourbon (and Whiskey)

Somewhere in the middle of my summer travel, I decided I ought to check out the local bourbon. Or at least, I should look for stuff I can’t find at home. I mean, if I have to spend the entire freaking summer in the car, shouldn’t I have something to show for it?

Yeah, I thought so too! 

So. Many. Choices!!!!

Good timing too, because Esquire recently put out that article declaring the best bourbons in each state. Did you read it?  How can someone decide what’s best and what’s not? I mean, taste is extraordinarily subjective!

Besides, how can such a list be complete without all-stars like Breckenridge?! Every bourbon fan I know likes Breckenridge! Fine, they outsource ‘some’ barrels, but they make a lot of their own too! Instead, they chose Leopold for their fruit flavored whiskey. WHAT???

Booze shopping with a childhood friend in OKC

Then there’s that Food & Wine article about the ‘most important’ bourbons. At least it’s based on votes and influence/significance, but again, it’s still pretty damn subjective. They included Jim Beam (hopefully for their ad campaigns in the 80s and 90s), but I am not a fan. However, they did put my beloved Wild Turkey 101 near the top.

Sorry, sorry – off the soapbox now. Clearly I will not be ranking anything. All I can say is I like trying new things and maybe you’ll see a bourbon in this post you wanna try.  Bonus: it’s always fun for a rookie girl like me to introduce a veteran whiskey drinker to something new.

Yep, we save the bottles

So. Buckle up, this is a looooong post! I present, in a somewhat chronological order, the state bourbons (few whiskeys) I’ve tried so far:

Obviously there’s Breckenridge, one of my first ever bourbons. I can’t tell you much more than that, just that it’s the first whiskey/bourbon that didn’t get my beer face! And as I said, just about every bourbon drinker I know is a fan.

That time in Boulder with Eric…

Leopold – this is one of the few whiskeys I’ll mention here. We bought it on a family vacay a few years back. I blame Eric. The Husband’s oldest friend moves to Boulder and says it’s his favorite? Sure, let’s get it. We’ll even go through the fuss of packing it in our checked bag. Big mistake. Huge! We hated every minute of that bottle.

Koval – this Chicago whiskey was a gift from another friend and equally unsuccessful. I just could not get into this.

But! We do NOT waste whiskey! As such, Koval and Leopold ended up being the whiskey we’d shoot at the beginning of a PPC night, or a sort of initiation to guests who ventured into one of our Whiskey Club nights.

Central New York getting into the whiskey game

Scissortail  (sorry, couldn’t find a website!) – who knew Oklahoma made bourbon?? I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a fave. But, it harkens back to a super fun weekend showing the kids my old home town and catching up with childhood friends. Little did we know it was the beginning of a years’ long journey to try a bunch of state bourbons.

Early in my Whiskey Training – hope you can’t tell I’m tipsy!

Dark Horse – we first tried this at dinner with friends of friends. But! I don’t know if this counts as Kansas or Missouri. They’re supposedly in Kansas City, Missouri, but they give a Kansas address. Oh wait, it’s not even Dark Horse anymore – they became Union Horse over a year ago! Luckily this time, a friend’s (Jess!) recommendation was spot on. I like my bourbon with a bit of bite along with a little sweetness. Just like Jess!

Cedar Ridge – Iowa for the win! This is quite possibly my favorite from the state collection. I don’t know, maybe it’s aged longer? It just doesn’t taste as raw as some other small distillers. Iowa, thank you; I’m a fan.

Pike Street – remember my trip to the lake? Being in the middle of rural Minnesota can’t stop me from finding local bourbon. In fact, Panther Distillery was quite close to the house. If I achieve my goal of making Lake Life an annual thing, maybe I’ll go check out the distillery next year.

Wyoming – oddly enough, we bought this in Missouri. It’s not that I’m against going to Wyoming, I’ve just never really had the opportunity. What if I never do?! I better try their bourbon while I have the chance.

Our beloved PPC co-founders

Wood Hat Double Wood – a teeny little bottle of Missouri whiskey Uncle Chris bought during our July 4 festivities. This happened after they wouldn’t let me pick out any more bottles. I only bought four! Ok, so it was terrible when we all opened it and first tried it. But (and maybe it’s the 2 glasses I’ve already had), it seems to keep evolving. Tonight? I swear I can taste the pecan barrel they use to finish the product.

The Locals – in the year since moving to this area, we’ve had the chance to check out Journeyman, Few and Traverse City whiskeys. Though I haven’t gotten to visit any of the distilleries, I can easily find these at local shops. I still plan on visiting them all, and soon!

The collection has grown a bunch since this pic!

The one big thing we’ve learned along the way is that some (if not all) of these bourbons benefit from a bit of air. Especially the youngsters – they need a little time to let that raw alcohol burn to evaporate. I mean, the first time we tried Pike Street, I started calling it Panther Pee (haven’t we already established that I have some unexplained thing for alliteration?). But a week later with the neighbor, it wasn’t half bad!

So let’s keep this list moving – do you have a favorite local bourbon I should try?

Better yet, wanna make a trade?? You send me some, I’ll send you something back!

For now, Central New York should stick to wine…

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