The Cowboy Cocktail, Brown Water, whatever you like to call it, there’s a whiskey for every lover of the western lifestyle.
From its birthplace in Bourbon County, Kentucky, to its craft resurgence in the Pacific Northwest, American whiskey is as diverse as the settlers who transported the charred oak barrels westward. Here is a round-up of some of our favorites.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The bourbon coming out of this distillery — located at the point where the bison’s westward migration crossed the Kentucky River — is an ideal gateway whiskey for the wet-behind-the-ears drinker.
Frankfort, Kentucky, www.buffalotrace.com
Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year
If you’re lucky enough to acquire — or inherit — a bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, it’s recommended that it be hoarded, enjoyed in moderation, and served neat. This rare, sought-after bourbon might just be the pinnacle of whiskey distilling.
Frankfort, Kentucky, www.oldripvanwinkle.com
Texas Single Malt Whisky
2012 was the year this American whiskey beat the tar out of some of the best single malts in the world — including Scotland’s. A newbie in the distilling business with just five years under its belt, Balcones produces six other spirits, among them the fierce scrub oak-smoked Brimstone and True Blue, a Hopi blue corn number, all equally masterful.
Waco, Texas, www.balconesdistilling.com
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.
TX Blended Whiskey
Smooth, refined, and original, TX Blended Whiskey is an upstart with class. The aromatic vanilla wallop is followed by hints of cherry, nutmeg, and a touch of smoke. If the distillery’s inaugural aged bourbon is as polished, old-timers have reason to shake in their boots.
Fort Worth, Texas, www.frdistilling.com
High West Distillery
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to end a day around a small fire after driving cattle — or hitting the slopes, as High West’s headquarters is a ski-in operation — it tastes like this concoction of bourbon, rye, and Scotch. And it is glorious.
Park City, Utah, www.highwest.com
Clear Creek Distillery
McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey
Steve McCarthy’s distillery was born from a practical use for his family’s fruit orchard harvest, and while Clear Creek specializes in grappa and brandy, its smoky single malt is a peat-soaked winner.
Portland, Oregon, www.clearcreekdistillery.com
Garrison Brothers Distillery
Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Produced with equal parts yellow dent corn and Texas bravado, this small-batch bourbon takes advantage of Hill Country water and Texas heat to extract exceptional flavor.
Hye, Texas, www.garrisonbros.com
Hood River Distillers
Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky
It doesn’t get any more cowboy than this. Pendleton Whisky was created in 2003 to pay homage to the now century-old Pendleton Round-Up. Moreover, this C&I reader favorite is the official spirit of the PRCA. There’s no bucking this tradition.
Hood River, Oregon, www.pendletonwhisky.com
From the May/June 2013 issue.