Updated on June 14, 2023
Did you know that in 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson gave bourbon his presidential stamp when he signed an Act of Congress that designated bourbon as “The Official Spirit of America”? We honor this unique distilled liquor during National Bourbon Day on June 14th, 2023.
Today, we raise a glass to the delicious, caramel-noted spirit responsible for your incredible karaoke performances. Or which goes great in the perfect Old Fashioned.
To celebrate the taste of American history, we’ve hand-selected the most unique bourbons that should be on your radar next time you’re thirsty for a stiff drink.
This National Bourbon Day, sip on a few of our favorite bourbons below.
What Is The Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon?
You may have heard the saying that all bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. To categorize whiskey as bourbon, you must make it in the U.S. Most recipes use about seventy percent corn, alluding to the nickname “corn whiskey.”
Known to be the home of bourbon, Kentucky’s limestone spring water lends a distinctive flavor to the spirit.
Bourbon is a whiskey distilled from corn and aged in new, charred American White Oak barrels. Distillers must age bourbon for at least two years, but many keep bourbon in the barrel for four years or longer.
Speaking of bourbon barrels, did you know you can only use them once? Many get recycled into furniture or firewood. Or re-used by breweries to make those delicious bourbon barrel-aged stouts.
The Very Short History Behind Bourbon
Bourbon’s roots go hand in hand with the migration of settlers from the original colonies who moved in the 18th and 19th centuries. They included Scots-Irish descendants of the men who invented Scotch and Irish whiskies, along with other English, Welsh, German, and French settlers.
The bourbon name comes from Bourbon County, a prominent Kentucky district founded after the American Revolution, ripe for crops, especially corn.
By 1785, Bourbon County had dozens of small farmer-distillers making whiskey throughout the region.
Today, ten major whiskey makers produce hundreds of brands, including many top-priced single-barrel, small-batch, and cask-strength variations.
Hop Culture’s 8 Unique Bourbons to Celebrate National Bourbon Day
Brough Brothers – Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The Story: Kentucky’s first African American-owned distillery, Brough Brothers Co-Founders Victor, Bryson, and Christian Yarbrough traveled the world before landing back in their hometown of Louisville to start making bourbon. Their passion and dedication exude through the bottle, featuring depictions of Kentucky culture from bourbon to boxing to basketball.
The bourbon itself includes a mash bill of seventy-five percent corn, twenty-one percent rye, and four-percent malted barley for a medium-bodied, golden-colored spirit rich in history and taste.
Tasting Notes: Green apple, pear, ginger, nutmeg
Nashville Barrel Company – Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The Story: Southern Grist Co-Founder Kevin Antoon turned us onto Nashville Barrel Company, which he thinks is putting out some of the best bourbons in the country! Winner of double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the most prestigious spirits championships in the world, the Straight Bourbon Whiskey ages for five to eight years, bottling at cask strength.
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, strawberry, caramel, unabashedly bourbon
Bulleit – 10 Year Bourbon
The Story: Three-time-gold-medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Bulleit 10 Year aged in charred American white oak barrels set aside for an incredible ten years.
The extra time, care, and attention with this bourbon mean you get a smooth, sophisticated spirit perfectly embodying what it means to enjoy the finer things in life.
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, oak, dried fruit, smoke
Blade and Bow – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The Story: The Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon pays tribute to tradition, infused with the essence of American hospitality.
A blend of sweet corn, robust rye, and spicy grains bring this bourbon’s distinct flavor to life.
The distinctive bourbon draws inspiration from its namesake symbol that can be found throughout the Stitzel-Weller Distillery—representing the three steps of crafting bourbon: grain fermentation, distillation, and aging.
Tasting Notes: Apricot, vanilla, and baking spices
Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co. – Barterhouse Bourbon
The Story: The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Co. started to share barrels of delicious and rare whiskey, hidden away and nearly forgotten in the back of brick houses and distilleries.
Orphan Barrel meticulously bottles each of its bourbons to ensure extra care because many unique bottles will only be available once.
Aged for twenty years, the Barterhouse Bourbon only occasionally appears on shelves. Collect this rare, exclusive bottle to store in your collector’s bar. Or bust it out to enjoy on National Bourbon Day.
Tasting Notes: Warm biscuits and buttercream with spice and brown sugar
Nine Banded – Straight Bourbon
The Story: A nod to the nine-banded armadillo and the old Armadillo World Headquarters, where Texans banded together in the ‘70s in the name of great music and good times, Nine Banded stays true to its name.
An ideal cocktail base for classics like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, Nine Banded Straight Bourbon even won silver and double gold awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2020 and 2021.
Tasting Notes: Buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow, and a salted caramel finish
Old Elk – Wheated Bourbon
Fort Collins, CO
The Story: Instead of taking a few days to proof, Old Elk uses a process called “Slow Cut,” which proves the spirit slowly between barrel and bottle for weeks to make the whiskey extra mellow and smooth.
Old Elk uses four times more malted barley than traditional recipes and a slow reduction proofing process, creating a rich, smooth flavor. All harmoniously blend with caramel cues evoked by charred barrels and spicy notes of rye.
Oh, and for those bourbon barrel-aged beer lovers, you may remember when WeldWerks partnered with Old Elk last year, deploying Old Elk bourbon barrels to craft Old Elk Medianoche.
Tasting Notes: Brown sugar, cocoa, and maple syrup
Milam & Greene – Triple Cask Straight Bourbon
The Story: Milam & Greene created this award-winning bourbon by collecting ingredients from across America: corn from Texas and Oregon, barley from Wyoming, and Milam & Greene’s proprietary yeast recipe from Kentucky.
Milam & Greene openly embraces a traditional and innovative distilling technique, using a 300-gallon copper pot still in the heart of the Texas Hill Country and classic column stills in Bardstown, KY. Each produces different bodies and flavors.
As an independently owned and operated company, Milam & Greene’s Triple Cask Straight Bourbon makes for a perfect one to sip on National Bourbon Day.
Tasting Notes: Charred Oak, creamy vanilla, and clover honey
Just like you probably want to share a bottle of bourbon with good friends, go ahead and send this list to a fellow enthusiast!