by John Mariani

An employee cools down a new oak barrel as it is being charred for bourbon use at Kelvin Cooperage … [+]AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Earlier this year on his video blog spirits expert and author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey Fred Minnick posed the question “Is the Bourbon Boom Over?” by indicating how many publicly traded liquor companies are making products based on what Wall Street wants rather than what the consumer wants or liquor stores sell, and, based on distributors’ input, that bourbon drinkers are not buying many of the relentless releases of new products. Ironically, he says, the industry itself is doing excellent business, but it’s a slippery slope for new, small distilleries going for a niche market, which, “if not supported by consumers will go away.”

Let’s look on the bright side, however, because there is a tumult of new bourbons (sometimes old bourbons in new bottles) from both individual producers and from the corporate brands, who, in fact, learned that “small batch” and “reserves” and “special barrel” claims by the little guys have caused the majors to come up with novelties as well, and with bigger ad budgets.(By the way, bourbon distillers have now paraphrased the food cliché “farm to table” as “ground to glass.”

Here are but a few bottlings new in the bourbon market.


Just released, it is made of 75% Bloody Butcher corn, 20% malted wheat and 5% malted barley at 93 … [+]JEPTHA CREEK

Jeptha Creed

JEPTHA CREED DISTILLERY SIX YEAR WHEATED BOURBON ($60). Released earlier this month, it is made of 75% Bloody Butcher corn, 20% malted wheat and 5% malted barley at 93 proof, aged for six years. Joyce Nethery is master distiller, who, with a Master’s in engineering, spent 15 years as a process engineer in industrial scale distillation. She then taught high school chemistry and physics before she and her husband Bruce opened their own distillery on a 1,000-acre farm in Selby County, KY, in 2016

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BARREL CRAFT SPIRITS ($90). This limited-release expression is a blend of 6-, 7- and 9- year-old bourbons from Indiana, 8- and 14-year-old Kentucky and 8-eight-year-old Tennessee further aged for one and a half years in Japanese Mizunara oak casks and bottled at cask strength (116.42 proof), from a mash bill of corn (76%), rye (20%), and malted barley (4%).

Based on the idea that intense heat and humidity affects aging bourbon, Jefferson’s aged its spirits … [+]JEFFERSON’S


JEFFERSON’S TROPICS ($100). Jefferson’s founder, Trey Zoeller’, having investigated maturation techniques and environments with his Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage Series, was convinced that climate could affect the maturation process more than the mash bill or barrel itself. Jefferson’s Tropics Aged in Humidity depends on year-round intense heat and humidity. He found it in Singapore shipping nine containers with a combined capacity of 720 barrels of fully matured Kentucky straight bourbon to Singapore in July 2019, where they were exposed to the climate for 18 months. The result is a bourbon of rich flavor and unabashed caramelization caused by the heat cooking the wood’s sugar. It was bottled in Kentucky at a high104 proof.


Savage & Cooke

SAVAGE & COOKE. Owned by Napa Valley winemaker Dave Phinney, this distillery, named California Bourbon Distillery of the year at the New York International Spirits Competition, is located on historic Mare Island and opened in 2018. “The heirloom corn we get from nearby Winters, California is the perfect example,” he says. “It makes these bottled in bond whiskeys so special. It was a long wait, but with each new release, we see how our patience paid off.” This spring he released two new bottled in bond bourbons in very limited supply. Howling Mob ($95), with just 31 barrels at 100 proof, using 93% corn and 7% malted barley, and Bloody Butcher ($99), made from 44 carefully selected barrels, to become an annual release. These are a California-style whiskey, full-bodied but not overpowering and aimed at a sophisticated audience.

Total Eclipse was named after this year’s rare solar eclipse. CASEY JONES

Casey Jones

CASEY JONES TOTAL ECLIPSE BOURBON ($50). This is a four grain bourbon, made from 70% corn, 19% wheat, 10% rye and 5% malted barley, each aged a minimum of two years in a four-char white oak barrel in small batches at 100 proof from a hybrid pot still designed by long-time producer A.J. Jones, who founded the distillery in 2014. It has a fine nutty quality and creaminess with a hint of sweetness and pleasing finish. Named after this year’s eclipse, the bourbon was named the “Official Spirit of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse” by Senator Whitney Westerfield on the Kentucky Senate floor.

Made in Memphis but not a Tennessee whiskey, this bourbon is distilled both in Tennessee and … [+]BLUE NOTE

B.R. Blue Note

B.R. BLUE NOTE RESERVE. Out of Memphis, though not classified as Tennessee Whiskey, there are actually six “expressions” in the Blue Note Line, including Juke Joint ($35), Juke Joint Uncut ($50), Crossroads ($45), 17-Year-Old $600 to a $1000) and Special Reserve ($20), which is a blend of seven different finishing techniques on bourbons comprised of three different mash bills distilled in Kentucky and Tennessee ranging from 4-19 years of age. It is then finished up to three additional years in Cognac, Madeira, Sherry, Port, vino de Naranja, and American white oak barrels, bottled at 112.5 proof.

BRUSH CREEK STRAIGHT ($60). Many bourbon producers depend on others’ distilleries for maturing barrels of whiskey. Brush Creek selects from hundreds from Kentucky, Indian and Tennessee, transferring them to its “barrel barn” to continue to age until four to twelve years. Since Brush Creek began in 2019, in Saratoga, Wyoming, they’ve waited till now for their first release, at 94 proof. In the future they plan on having their own on-site distillery.

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