Finding the most underrated bourbon (or anything for that matter) is a difficult task. What is even the litmus test for what is or isn’t underrated? Is it awards or lack thereof? Price? Distribution? Social media hype? Is it simply the quality versus the exposure? Can you even find it? Point being, calling anything “underrated” gets pretty subjective.
What isn’t quite as hard to define are under-the-radar bourbons that I think deserve more hype. I get to sample a seemingly endless amount of whisk(e)ys throughout the year — seriously, I’m into the mid-1,000s for 2022 so far. That means I see a lot of bourbons that fly under the radar of the mainstream whiskey media machine.
So how am I defining “under-the-radar bourbons that deserve more hype”? Basically, I’m calling out bottles that are niche or very small that haven’t hit that nebulous area of super-charged hype in the whiskey world. These are bottles that you don’t see on shows like Yellowstone or Billions or plastered on every other Instagram influencer’s feed or reviewed on every other whiskey podcast. These are the bottles that haven’t quite broken through the noise created by the Wellers, Pappys, Old Fitzgeralds, Beams, Daniels, Bookers, Staggs, Heaven Hills, Willetts, Uncle Nearests, Makers, Turkeys, and so, so many others.
Below are the 20 bourbons that I think deserve more hype. These are the bottles that are straight delicious and under the radar when compared to the overly hyped bottles that get too much enough attention. And sure, you might have already heard of some of these, and if so, congratulations, but that’s not the point.
I’ve selected bourbons that aren’t from huge mega-brands. So sorry, overhyped bottles like Wild Turkey Rare Breed, everything from Heaven Hill and Sazerac, Jack Daniel’s limited releases, Beam’s whole line, all of Willett, and other big names are absent from the below list. That doesn’t mean that some of these bourbons aren’t sourced or contract distilled by big-name distilleries. This is about the little blending house or craft distillery that makes an amazing bourbon for us to enjoy that you may not have heard of or tried yet. Phew. Anyway, let’s dive in!
Kentucky Senator Bourbon 15 Years Release #1
Average Price: $199
This sourced whiskey celebrates both Kentucky’s bourbon heritage and U.S. Senators from the Bluegrass state. The sourced juice is made with a mash of 78.5% corn, 13% rye, and 8.5% malted barley. The whiskey is left alone for 15 years before the team at Kentucky Senator Spirits blends and bottles this one without filtering or proofing.
This whiskey opens with a medley of dry cedar, black cherries, burnt toffee, buttered sourdough pancake, old leather, cinnamon bark, and spiced chewy tobacco. The palate leans into the woody spices with cloves and anise taking center stage as soft maple syrup and pecan-cinnamon-butter create a spiced/sweet/creamy vibe on the palate. In the end, more woodsy spices mingle with rich cherry tobacco as old oak, salted caramel, and vanilla cream pie round everything out.
Why It Deserves More Hype:
This is another whiskey that’s just beautiful from top to bottom. This super-niche and rare brand is pretty off-the-radar if you’re not in Kentucky. Still, this is a highly coveted bottle of bourbon that you actually might bump into at a very high-end liquor store. So keep an eye out.