6 Top Flight American Whiskeys
While the history of whiskey begins in ancient Europe, the spirit is closely associated with parts of America. From Texas to Tennessee, Kansas City to Kentucky, connoisseurs of this celebrated beverage have myriad flavors and brands to choose from. Here, in no particular order, are companies based in the United States that are dedicated to producing premium whiskey.
Starting off the list at #1 is Tom's Town Distilling Co., based in Kansas City, Missouri. Co-founders David Epstein and Steve Revare named it after one of the city's most notorious local figures, Boss Tom Pendergast, a saloon keeper and the founder of a wholesale liquor company. In addition to whiskey, the company makes gin, vodka, and brandy.
Its award-winning spirits include Pendergast's Royal Gold Bourbon, which features notes of caramelized sugar, pleasant oak, and stone fruits, and is finished in hand-selected fourteen-year-old ruby port casks. Tom's Town Distilling Co. hosts in-person and virtual distillery tours and tastings, where participants can learn how the spirits are made, hear the history behind the organization, and sample different flavors. In 2017, USA Today named it "Best Craft Vodka Distillery."
Joining the list at #2 is Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, inspired by the first known African-American master distiller, Nathan Nearest Green. All of its spirits are mellowed using the Lincoln County Process, which filters bourbon through sugar maple charcoal. It is distilled, aged, bottled, and hand-labeled in Tennessee.
Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey has its barrels hand-selected by the company's founders, with each blend curated by descendants of Green. Its flavors include warm brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Among its numerous accolades are a place on Cigar & Spirits Magazine's Top 5 Whiskies in the World, and a Chairman's Trophy, Platinum, and Double Gold from SIP Awards.
At #3 is Maverick Whiskey in San Antonio, a distillery and brewery located in the historic Lockwood National Bank. Its signature Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged in new charred white oak barrels and proofed using reverse osmosis filtered water. Other offerings include a traditional dry gin and a white rum made from imported Colombian panela, a raw sugar created from cane juice.
Dedicated to Sam and Mary Ann Maverick, the former mayor and first lady of San Antonio, the company is known for its Distiller for a Day private tour, which offers a guided spirits tasting. Its restaurant and bar features seasonally updated lunch and dinner menus, with such fare as burgers, chicken fried quail, and tacos. Among the media outlets to profile it are The Whiskey Wash, the Houston Chronicle, and Men's Journal.
Coming in at #4 is Five & 20. In partnership with Mazza Chautauqua Cellars, it is New York State's first combination winery, distillery, and brewery. Its award-winning Straight Rye Whiskey is pot-distilled with a mixture of caramel and vanilla flavors, and is recommended for use in such cocktails as a Maple Old Fashioned or Saratoga. Honors for the company include a silver in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits competition, and recognition as a 2019 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.
Popular events at Five & 20 include Spirit Night, where guests can sample new cocktails, and Patio Yoga, which involves an instructor-led class and a post-session tasting with choice of beverage. It also hosts Sunday Sesh, a concert series featuring performances from local musicians. The company has been profiled in Forbes, the Buffalo News, and PELOTON Magazine.
Entering the list at #5 is Clyde May's, created in 1946 by an Alabama moonshiner of the same name. Its whiskey offerings include Straight Bourbon, a gold winner at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition; Special Reserve; and Cask Strength, which features notes of citrus, peach, and cedar. The company's online store includes such merchandise as pillows, retro trucker caps, T-shirts, and tote bags.
The company's signature Alabama Style Whiskey is aged four years in oak barrels and finished with a hint of apple. The website features a variety of cocktail recipes made with its spirits, including warm apple cider, an Old Fashioned, and the Conecuh Ridge, which is named for the family home. Clyde May’s is the official whiskey of the Talladega Superspeedway.
Rounding out the list at #6 is New Riff, which specializes in Kentucky bourbon. Founded in 2014 by Ken Lewis, a liquor retailer and entrepreneur, the company crafts a range of spirits including single barrel bourbon, rye, and Kentucky Wild Gin. Its Tower Room venue, which features views of Cincinnati and the Ohio River, is a popular destination for weddings, networking events, and galas.
To give customers a bourbon immersion experience, the Bonded Tour offers a firsthand look at the company's distilling process, from grain to barrel, and includes a complimentary tasting of spirits. The New Riff shop features glassware, barrel-aged honey, smoked spices, and bar items. Among the media outlets to spotlight the company are Paste, Esquire, Whisky Advocate, and the Los Angeles Times.