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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

5 all-american bourbon distilleries

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We Crossed The Land Of Liberty To Find 5 Fantastic Bourbon Distilleries

Bourbon, often hailed as “America’s native spirit,” holds a special place in the nation’s history and culture. Its roots trace back to the early days of American settlement, with distillation techniques brought over by European settlers. The term “bourbon” itself likely originates from Bourbon County, Kentucky, although its exact etymology remains debated. Over time, bourbon production became synonymous with Kentucky, benefiting from the region’s limestone-filtered water and ideal climate for aging whiskey in charred oak barrels.

Bourbon is primarily made from corn, alongside other grains like rye, barley, and wheat. This mash bill gives bourbon its signature sweetness, balanced by notes of spice and oak imparted during aging. Rye whiskey, a close cousin to bourbon, substitutes a higher proportion of rye grain in its mash bill, resulting in a spicier and drier flavor profile.

Both bourbon and rye whiskey boast a rich heritage deeply intertwined with American history, representing craftsmanship, innovation, and the spirit of the frontier.

While pursuing your outdoor “thing,” whatever that may be, consider bringing along one of these true American spirits to help celebrate a successful day in the woods or on the water. Most are available for shipping to many states.

Michigan – Iron Fish Bourbon

Iron Fish Distillery, nestled amidst the rolling hills and lush landscapes of northern Michigan, stands as a testament to the state’s proud bourbon heritage. Situated on a historic farmstead, Thompsonville, Michigan, is near the Betsie River. Iron Fish (from the Steelhead trout) embodies the essence of Michigan’s agricultural legacy, sourcing locally grown grains and drawing water from pristine artesian wells scattered across the region. Unique for most distilleries, every step of their soil-to-spirit process, starting in their farm fields where they grow and harvest their own grain to milling, mashing fermenting, and distilling/barrel aging, is done onsite. 

Iron Fish Bourbon

Each bottle of Iron Fish Bourbon is a tribute to the Great Lakes state, meticulously crafted to capture the rugged, outdoor spirit of Michigan. From the careful selection of grains to the patient aging process in charred oak barrels, Iron Fish’s expert distillers ensure that every sip of bourbon reflects the authenticity and craftsmanship for which Michigan is renowned. With its rich and complex flavor profile, featuring notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, Iron Fish Bourbon (several varieties) offers a sensory journey through Michigan’s vibrant flavors dependent on ingredients or barrels (stout beer, maple syrup, oak, etc.). Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the base of a classic cocktail, Iron Fish Bourbon is crafted to enhance time while in deer camp or fishing for its namesake steelhead trout. (ironfishdistillery.com)

Texas – Balcones TX Still Pot Bourbon

Balcones Distilling, located in the heart of Texas, embodies the rugged spirit and proud heritage of the Lone Star State with its bold and distinctive Balcones TX Still Pot Bourbon. Crafted using traditional pot stills, this smooth bourbon captures the essence of Texas’s terroir with its robust flavor profile and smooth finish. The unique climate of Texas, characterized by hot summers and cool winters, accelerates the aging process, imparting depth and complexity to the bourbon. 

Balcones TX Still Pot Bourbon

Each batch of  Balcones TX Still Pot Bourbon is a testament to the spirit of independence and craftsmanship that defines Texas. With its notes of spicy rye, sweet corn, and hints of oak, Balcones Bourbon pays homage to the state’s proud bourbon tradition. This still pot bourbon can be enjoyed neat or mixed into a classic Texas cocktail. Big flavors have always been the cornerstone of prized Texas spirits, and Texas Pot Still Bourbon is no exception. Made grain-to-glass using a traditional pot still distillation ensures a rich and viscous spirit that stands up to aging in new charred oak without losing its essence. Each dram is full of character and body, with an aromatic entry and soft finish, for an approachable yet memorable experience. (balconesdistilling.com)

Kentucky – Chicken Cock Bourbon

Chicken Cock Bourbon, a revered icon of Kentucky’s bourbon tradition, boasts a legacy as rich as the Bluegrass State’s storied history. Originating in the pre-Prohibition era, Chicken Cock was once favored by American icons like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone, embodying the essence of an era known for its elegance and indulgence. Recently revived with a blend of historical reverence and modern craftsmanship, this bourbon carries the torch of tradition into the present day. Distilled from locally sourced grains and aged to perfection in Kentucky’s legendary rickhouses, Chicken Cock Bourbon offers a smooth and balanced flavor profile. 

Chicken Cock Bourbon

Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a rich, elegant mahogany color and a nose that’s a nice balance of oak and sweet notes with dried fruit, caramel, and vanilla. Each sip evokes the rolling hills and fertile farmland of Kentucky, where the bourbon heritage runs deep, and the tradition of craftsmanship is celebrated with every bottle. Enjoyed neat or in a classic Kentucky cocktail, Chicken Cock Bourbon captures the essence of the Bluegrass State, where enthusiasts can savor flavors and traditions that define Kentucky’s rich bourbon heritage. (chickencockwhiskey.com)

Oregon – Bull Run Straight Bourbon

Located in Portland, Oregon, Bull Run Distillery embodies the pioneering spirit of the Pacific Northwest with its meticulously crafted Bull Run Straight Bourbon. Inspired by the historic Oregon Trail, this bourbon represents the adventurous and rich heritage of the region. Bull Run Straight Bourbon is carefully crafted using locally sourced grains, including corn, rye, and barley, reflecting the environment of Oregon’s fertile soil. It’s a small batch, high rye bourbon—25% rye, 65% corn, 10% malted barley—that uses raw water from the Bull Run Watershed. It’s barrel-aged for a minimum of four to six years. The pristine waters of the Cascade Mountains contribute to its smoothness and purity, enhancing its distinct flavor profile. 

Bull Run Straight Bourbon

Each bottle of Bull Run Straight Bourbon celebrates Oregon’s natural beauty and rich history, inviting enthusiasts to embark on a sensory journey through the state’s storied past. With its complex palate, characterized by hints of caramel, vanilla, and oak, Bull Run Straight Bourbon offers a classic bourbon taste of the Pacific Northwest. This bourbon is best enjoyed neat as its traditional flavor comes through, but it can also be utilized in any traditional cocktail. If visiting the Northwest, either to hike near Mt. Hood or fish the Clackamas River near Portland, this bourbon is sure to add to the memories. (bullrundistillery.com)

Maine – New England Gunpowder Rye

This close relative of bourbon is included as a tasty “cousin” to sample. Crafted amidst the rugged terrain of Maine, New England Distilling’s Gunpowder Rye whiskey pays tribute to local maritime heritage and coastal charm. Made from a blend of locally grown rye grains and aged in charred oak barrels, this whiskey offers a nuanced flavor profile with hints of spice and sweetness of a true to classic rye. With its smooth texture and lingering finish, Gunpowder Rye embodies the essence of New England craftsmanship and maritime tradition, offering a taste of the region’s bourbon heritage. With a classic taste enjoyed neat or mixed, Gunpowder Rye makes any outdoor activity special. 

New England Gunpowder Rye

Located on the coastline of Maine, the maritime history creates an unforgettable whiskey experience. Gunpowder Rye Whiskey is named for the Gunpowder River in northeastern Maryland, the location of the post-Prohibition Wight family distillery. Gunpowder is a spicy Maryland-style rye, distilled from rye and malted barley and matured in new American oak barrels. This whiskey enters with flavors of rye grain and cinnamon, builds with baking spice, clove, and sassafras, and finishes with toasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, and vanilla. (newenglanddistilling.com

mad angler bourbon

Best Bourbon Drinking Practices

SAVOR THE SIP: Take your time to appreciate the complexities of bourbon by sipping it slowly. Let each flavor unfold on your palate.

GLASS UP: Opt for a tulip-shaped glass or a classic Glencairn glass to enhance the aroma and taste of bourbon.

DILUTION DONE RIGHT: While some enjoy bourbon neat, a few drops of water can open up flavors and aromas, especially in higher-proof varieties.

RESPECT THE RITUAL: Whether it’s the clink of ice in a glass or the sound of a cork popping, honor bourbon’s traditions and rituals as part of the experience.

• PAIRING PERFECTION: Experiment with food pairings to complement bourbon’s rich flavors, from dark chocolate to grilled meats.

2 All-American Favorite Bourbon-Based Drink Recipes

Balcones Special

balcones special

Ingredients

• 1 ½ oz. Balcones Texas Still Pot Bourbon

• ¾ oz. Fresh Lime Juice

• ¾ oz. Ginger Beer

• ½ oz. Falernum

• 2 Dashes of Angostura bitters

Garnish with lime wheel saturated with sugar and Ango bitters (torched).

Method

Shake with ice and pour contents into a rocks glass (dirty pour), then garnish and serve.

Iron Fish: Salted Maple Old Fashioned RTD Cocktail

iron fish distillery

If “premix” is more your style for on-the-go, try an Iron Fish Salted Maple Old Fashioned RTD Cocktail. Marked by the glow of the familiar and by a desire to return: A warm meal with good friends, the crackle of a woodfire, and the sturdy heft of a rocks glass. Makes six 2 oz. cocktails.

Ingredients

• Iron Fish Bourbon Whiskey

• Iron Fish Maple Syrup

• Bitters

• Salt

Method

Simply pour over ice in a rocks glass, garnish with a twist of orange, and enjoy!

Big Bucks from Bourbon
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