Obviously, since the spirit category shares its name with Bourbon County, Kentucky and bourbon whiskey go hand in hand. However, this distinctly American style of liquor does not hail exclusively from that region. In fact, some of the best bourbons available don’t even come from within the state of Kentucky. As many folks know, especially with the worldwide popularity of Jack Daniel’s, Tennessee is also a locale rife with superb bourbon. But it doesn’t stop there — head out to Utah and you’ll find High West, an award-winning distillery that you can ski up to if the conditions are right. There are even distillers in Alaska crafting the stuff from local ingredients.
But if you’re looking for a bourbon whiskey that’s imbued with the outlaw spirit and unapologetic boldness, there’s plenty to be had in the great state of Texas. The largest contiguous state in the U.S.A, this western wonderland is home to some truly fantastic offerings from the shores of Galveston all the way to El Paso. Of course, if you can’t head out there yourself, you can always consult our list of the 10 best bourbon whiskeys from Texas.
Iron Wolf Select Bourbon
Conceived by Lester Singleton back in 2013 and founded alongside Jordan Watters, Glenda Watters and Randy Aylieff, Iron Wolf is a distillery that hinges on the power of friendship and family — a pack, in other words. And their award-winning spirits certainly speak to that power — especially when it comes to the brand’s Select Bourbon you see before you. This small-batch spirit is aged for a minimum of three years but can be as old as five and features a unique flavor palette thanks to an unusually-high rye content in the mash bill. Aged in new barrels and featuring spiciness and a complex finish, it’s no wonder this beverage was recognized as a superb whiskey by the American Distilling Institute. It certainly helps that it’s very affordable, as well.
Age: 3-5 Years
Ranger Creek .36 Texas Straight Bourbon
Another multiple award-winning distillery from Texas, Ranger Creek is headquartered out of San Antonio. And their flagship offering, the .36 Texas Straight Bourbon is a brilliantly bold representation of everything they are. Originally conceived and created by the brand’s Co-Founder and Head Distiller emeritus, TJ Miller, this whiskey strictly follows the brand’s “grain-to-glass philosophy” — meaning they source their corn from local farms in Texas. As good as it is in cocktails as it is on the rocks, this complex straight bourbon boasts notes of caramel, butterscotch, and cinnamon and has a nose of vanilla and brown sugar. And, despite the fact that it has won multiple awards at the American Craft Spirits competition, it’s still plenty affordable.
Age: 3+ Years
Herman Marshall Texas Bourbon Whiskey
While just about every distillery around the world has a unique and interesting founding story, Herman Marshall’s is certainly a bit more kismet. In fact, the brand only came into existence by happenstance — following a chance meeting at a North Dallas Starbucks, of all places. Flash forward 15 years and Herman Marshall, the first whiskey distillery in Dallas County, is making some of the best whiskey — bourbon, rye, and Texas whiskey — anywhere. Their small-batch bourbon you see here, however, might just be their best offering. Mellow and refreshing, yet intensely complex when sipped by a seasoned veteran, this whiskey is as good in a cocktail as it is on the rocks.
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon Whiskey
Named after Treaty Oak’s home, a 28-acre ranch in Dripping Springs, Ghost Hill Bourbon is one of the most interesting takes on the Texas style of bourbon, as they actually sourced the grain for the mash from Barton Springs Mill — just a stone’s throw from the distillery. Containing a mash bill of corn, wheat, and barley and aged two years under the Texas sun in new American White Oak Char 3 Barrels, this spirit embodies The Lone Star State’s energy perhaps more than most others. In fact, even their limestone-filtered water is sourced from the land on which they call home. The culmination of years of experimentation, Treaty Oak should be extremely proud of this craft bourbon.
Age: 2 Years
Ben Milam Straight Bourbon Whiskey
You have to love a whiskey that comes with its own toast, like Ben Milam’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey, especially when it’s as catchy as, “To the bold, the true, the gallant.” Of course, a clever slogan doesn’t mean much if the spirit itself doesn’t back things up. Thankfully, that’s the last worry you should have about this award-winning, small-batch bourbon. Hand-selected and tasted by an elite, expert group, this magnificently smooth and complex spirit makes for some excellent whiskey cocktails — but you might want to just sip it straight or on the rocks. And if you want to try it out in the company of the folks responsible for crafting it, you can check out the brand’s tasting room in Blanco, Texas.
Firestone & Robertson TX Straight Bourbon
While all the offerings on our list hail from the great state of Texas, this Firestone & Robertson bourbon might be the most Texan of them all. And there’s a very good and specific reason for this: the yeast they use in its creation is actually a proprietary strain that the distillery owns made from locally-sourced Texas pecans. On top of that, it’s also made with a mash crafted from yellow dent corn and soft red winter wheat — which are both also sourced from Texas. The recipe also includes wheat, rather than barley, making this a “wheated bourbon.” As unique as the land from which it hails, this is a must-try for any whiskey fans interested in what Texas has to offer.
Age: 4+ Years
Ironroot Harbinger Bourbon Whiskey
Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to choose from Ironroot’s offerings, as they’re all stupendous and several of them have won multiple awards. But we’re pretty happy with this six-time gold winner, their Harbinger Bourbon whiskey. After all, it is their flagship offering for a reason. This non-chill filtered whiskey is made from an exotic mash bill of 4 heirloom corn stocks and rye, resulting in a complex spirit that’s sweet at the outset with fruity notes of pear and vanilla and spicy on the tail end with just a hint of caramel. At over 100-proof, it’s not for the faint of heart. But those who can appreciate a unique bourbon with a bit of a kick will be rewarded in turn.
Age: 2+ Years
Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon
Balcones is extremely proud of their Texas heritage. In fact, they imbue the state’s outlaw spirit into just about everything they do. And their Texas Blue Corn Bourbon is definitely no exception; rather, it’s one of the rule-setters. As the name suggests, this spirit is actually specially crafted from a real, cherished blue corn mash and aged in new oak barrels to preserve its unique flavor profile. It’s big, bold, and offers a long finish — and it’s suggested that you enjoy it neat or with a few drops of spring water, meaning you should appreciate it in its most natural form and not sullied by cocktail ingredients that might hide its beauty. And if you’re worried that it sounds a bit overwhelming, there are dozens of awards that suggest you should think otherwise.
Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon Whiskey
While you might expect something called “Outlaw Bourbon” to exist on the fringes of society, crafted in a still in a shack out in the badlands, this spirit was actually made in the heart of Houston — one of the largest cities in the United States. Still, the gunslinging spirit of its name is still well intact, as this offering definitely doesn’t adhere to tradition. It’s made from a mash of locally-sourced Texas yellow corn, aged in small American oak barrels, and isn’t even protected from Houston’s frequent temperature swings — imparting characteristics you’ll not find anywhere else. Try one sip and you’ll see this is a singular inebriate worth trying again and again.
Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
Even for die-hard enthusiasts, $250 is a lot to ask for a bottle of bourbon. But if any deserve that high price tag, it’s the Cowboy Bourbon from Garrison Brothers. Completely uncut and unfiltered, this is whiskey in its purest cask-strength form and is specially selected by the Garrison Brothers — Dan and Donnis — themselves before being set aside for an extra couple years of maturation. This is about as close to liquid gold as Texas whiskeys get. And if that’s not enough to convince you of how special it is, maybe this will: Cowboy Bourbon was selected as the American Whiskey of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible… twice. It’s a high price, but that’s what you have to pay for perfection.
What's The Difference: Whiskey vs. Bourbon
The world of liquor can be a difficult one to manage for the uninformed, which is why we try to help impart as much knowledge as possible. For instance, we’ve outlined exactly how to tell the difference between bourbon and whiskey — and yes, there are some major differences.