15 Exceptional Texas Bourbons, According To Experts

With 739 whiskey distilleries operating in the U.S. in 2023, according to IBIS, it's no wonder American whiskey production is a multi-billion dollar industry. Now, it's unclear just how many of the 130 spirits distilleries operating in Texas as of 2020 — less than 20 years after the Lone Star state's first legal distillery opened — were making whiskey. But the booming Texas bourbon market indicates a substantial portion of those distilleries are almost certainly dedicated to bourbon whiskey production.

Texas' craft whiskey expansion has the climate to thank. The region's hot, dry weather — with extremely high temperatures throughout the year — is essential to the growing success of the state's bourbon products. Whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years to qualify as bourbon, after all, and the longer the liquor stays in the barrel, the more complex and flavorful it becomes. And while bourbon typically ages at least four years in states like Kentucky, Texas achieves the same results in half the time.

When temperatures rise, the alcohol in the barrel expands; when they fall, it contracts — intensifying the bourbon's flavor, color, and character. With an advantageous climate, high-volume sales, and built-in loyalty (re: Texans' fierce sense of state pride), the production of Texas bourbon is a home run. To help assist any consumers in obtaining a top-notch, Texas-distilled whiskey expression, here are 15 exceptional Texas bourbon whiskeys according to experts.

Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon

The Texas whiskey industry is a bit like the Wild West: There are no regulations or standards beyond the basic national bourbon requirements. With a commitment to quality and authenticity, a group of premium distilleries formed the Texas Whiskey Association (TXWA) in 2018, uniting to define quality standards within the growing industry. Today, you can find a Certified Texas Whiskey notation on authentic, grain-to-glass Texas-made whiskey. The first president of the TXWA was Jared Himstedt — head distiller of Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX — and the organization's purpose is evident in the distillery's Texas Blue Corn Bourbon.

Balcones Distillery began underneath a Waco overpass in 2008. One of the state's oldest distilleries, Balcones began as Himstedt's passion and soon became an award-winning profession. The 100% Texas-made, grain-to-glass spirits are made with uncompromised quality, initially using Native American blue corn as its base. Legally, bourbon requires the use of 51% corn. But Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon ups that percentage with a mash bill (or blend) of 100% Texas-grown blue corn.

This bourbon is more potent than the original Baby Blue, delivering bold, rustic spiciness with toasted marshmallow, caramel, and candied orange peel. Balcones Baby Blue Bourbon was the first legal, post-Prohibition whiskey made in Texas, and the team continues to make what they like to drink: expressive (and exceptionally delicious) bourbons from quality ingredients.

Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Jared Himstedt told Tasting Table about the state's rise in whiskey and the whiskeys he makes. With such state pride and whiskey appreciation, he noted it's surprising that Texas whiskey has only been around for 15 years, as it "seems like an obvious place to have a strong and rich whiskey heritage." Himstedt believes making Texas whiskey is exciting because the relationship between the product and the maker continuously evolves. "There is a seemingly endless horizon for discovery," Himstedt told us — and we agree.

Himstedt stated his favorite (current) whiskey to craft is the single malt. For everyday drinking, the Balcones Pot Still Bourbon is perfect for its richness, strength, and character. A blend of at least 51% roasted blue corn, Texas wheat, Texas rye, and malted barley, the juice is aged for two years and non-chill filtered — like all Balcones whiskey. Himstedt believes non-chill filtering is essential with traditional pot still whiskey as chilling would strip away the whiskey's delicate flavors. This selection is the most affordable Balcones offering (about $30), with notes of honeysuckle, roasted peanuts, and dusty leather.

Ironroot Republic Harbinger Bourbon

Working with family can be a blessing and a curse. For Ironroot Republic Distilling, it's a blessing. After all, the distillery is run by two brothers and their mother out of Denison, TX. Initially, one brother was an engineer and the other was on the path to becoming a lawyer — but they were more interested in producing bourbon. In 2011, they chose to follow the whiskey path into the unknown, and Jonathan and Robert Likarish began Ironroot Republic (bringing on their mother, Marcia, to run the day-to-day operations).

The family's distilling techniques are the same as those used to make brandy. They began their distilling education using French techniques for distilled wine and followed practices focused on terroir (or having a sense of place) and a grain-to-glass philosophy. No matter the process, the distillery must be doing something right, given its signature whiskey Ironroot Harbinger Bourbon won "World's Best Non-Kentucky Bourbon" at the World Whiskey Awards in 2020.

A blend of distinct, non-GMO heirloom corn (like bloody butcher and red flint) goes into the bourbon. This (along with rye) gives the whiskey a spicy earthiness, and non-chill filtering locks in aromas and viscosity, with flavors of caramel apple, orange marmalade, and Dr. Pepper. Ironroot Harbinger delivers a surprising depth of flavor thanks to its production techniques and the North Texas heat, given its relatively short 32 months of aging.

Ironroot Icarus Straight Corn Whiskey

Making a straight corn whiskey shows the distillery's commitment to showcasing Texas terroir. Ironroot COO (and mom) Marcia Likarish grows rows of corn for some of the bourbons in her backyard. After all, she believes where the corn is grown affects the flavor as much as the different kinds of corn used. Sourcing from local growers and using non-GMO grains is also essential to the brand. Adding each corn type produces a different result. Those with more protein have a robust, earthy flavor and those with more starch provide a juicy sweetness.

Ironroot's use of heirloom corn was inspired by what Balcones' was doing with blue corn and sparked the brothers' interest in using other varieties. Along those lines, Denison-grown grains create one of the country's most unusual brown spirits in Ironroot Icarus. Using heirloom purple, red flint, and non-GMO yellow dent corn, Icarus is bold, punchy, and strong — earning it the award of "World's Best Corn Whiskey" at the 2022 World Whiskey Awards.

Icarus is first aged in oak barrels that previously held Ironroot bourbon. It then ages for an additional year in peated barrels used for Scotch and port wine barrels. The peated barrels give the whiskey an earthy, forest-floor smokiness, while the port barrels provide fruity, caramel flavors to the aged spirit. The total aging time is 39 months, but the liquor's depth of flavor — with dried fruits, smoky earth, and sweet spice — feels much longer.

Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon

Garrison Brothers is a Texas whiskey pioneer, though it began less than 20 years ago. The bourbon boom in the state can be partially attributed to the forward-thinking founder of Garrison Brothers, Dan Garrison. Understanding the effects of heat on aging whiskey, he knew Texas would be able to produce the finest bourbon in the world. This premium bourbon producer was founded in 2006, becoming the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas. It fittingly released its first bourbon on March 2, 2010 — Texas Independence Day.

With a philosophy that celebrates independence and values hard work and honesty, Garrison Brothers Distillery has become one of the finest American whiskey brands on the market. On that note, we love Garrison Brothers Small Batch bourbon, as did the judges at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge (where it scored 97 points).

The distillery told Tasting Table that it only uses food-grade, sweet white corn grown in the Texas panhandle. This premium corn (along with locally-grown winter wheat and two-row barley) is aged in American oak for three years. The resulting 94 proof bourbon is incredibly smooth, with sweet aromas of honeycomb, roasted red apple, and a toasty spiciness.

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea Bourbon Single Barrel

Bold and assertive, Garrison Brothers holds nothing back in its Balmorhea Double-Aged Single Barrel Bourbon. Lead distiller, Donnis Todd, stated his goal in the creation of Balmorhea was to produce a double barrel bourbon that wouldn't overpower the authenticity of Garrison Brothers' bourbon. Clearly, this worked, as the whiskey won double gold at the San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition in 2020 and the best "Grain-to-Glass Borbon" at the 2021 Texas Whiskey Festival. 

The mash bill for the bourbon seems to be top secret. However, the bourbon is aged for four years in new, charred American oak and then another year in a brand new set of charred American oak barrels. The combination — along with the intense heat of a Texas summer — delivers a textured, viscous, tannic whiskey with layers of toasted spice and dried fruit melding with cherry cola and toffee.

Furthermore, Jim Murray, renowned author of "The Whisky Bible," has named this bourbon the American Micro Whiskey of the year on multiple occasions. In other words, it's undoubtedly one of the best Texas bourbons out there – though you'll want to sip and savor it since each bottle rings in at about $200 a pop.

Herman Marshall Texas Bourbon

Two friends who met while having coffee at a North Dallas Starbucks established the first distillery in Dallas County. Home distillers Marshall Louis and Herman Beckley brought their knowledge and enthusiasm for whiskey together, creating Dallas Distilleries in Garland, TX. The duo's product quickly became a favorite in the state's emerging whiskey scene, and received a 93-point score in 2013 at the American Whiskey Institute's annual spirits competition for its Herman Marshall Texas bourbon.

The partners researched traditional bourbon-making recipes from the 1800s, perfected their process, and created a small-batch bourbon using only Texas-grown corn. The mash bill is 77% corn and 23% malted barley. It's fermented in 500-gallon Cyprus wood tanks and distilled in 400-gallon copper stills heated with steam. Aging in the Texas heat where the liquid constantly expands and contracts in the barrel imparts spicy, toasted oak and vanilla flavors with a smooth, easy palate. Herman Marshall is an easy go-to for your favorite bourbon cocktails with an approachable style and straightforward character.

Still Austin The Musician Straight Bourbon

Three families (and a few friends) with a passion for whiskey established the first distillery in Austin, Still Austin, several years ago. With a still named "Nancy," the state capital's first whiskey producer is fast becoming a household favorite throughout the state. It only uses locally grown Texas grains and crafts each bottle from grain to glass. Additionally, everything is produced on-site, and the staff even built its own still (the aforementioned "Nancy").

Tasting Table spoke with Still Austin's CEO and co-founder, Chris Seals, on how the still got its name. "Our still, Nancy, has a total height of a remarkable 50 feet, top to bottom," he told us. "When we tried to think of a name, we thought of the cult film, 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.' Nancy's name in the film seemed fitting for our tall lady. Long may she produce!"

Still Austin's signature whiskey, The Musician, has a mash bill of 70% chef-grade corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley. The rye gives spiciness to the roasted sweetness of the bourbon. It's aged only two years but layered with rich flavors of toffee, molasses, and a long, easy finish. Simply put, the result is "music in the bottle."

Still Austin Cask Strength Bourbon

Tasting Table spoke with bartender Jimmy Yee of Dallas' whiskey-centric Billy Can Can Saloon to garner his take on Texas bourbon. "When Texas bourbon started," Yee said, "it was trying to be like Kentucky bourbons. And after many, many years of trials, it has finally made a name for itself in a discriminatory world that often rejects new ideas." Yee likens it to an aspiring young singer who finally makes it to stardom after years of trying to break into the business, and his favorite is Still Austin Cask Strength.

Yee is in good company. After all, the bourbon won "Best Grain to Glass" at the 2022 Texas Whiskey Fest. "It's a bold and very aggressive expression of what their line has to offer," said Yee. It's an impressively powerful whiskey for only two years of aging. Bottled at the same alcohol strength as when it entered the barrel (118 proof), this cask-strength bourbon is complex and textured with a deep chocolate brown color.

Dark chocolate carries through in the aromas and flavors of the whiskey, imparting a welcome hint of bitterness, melding with blackberry pie, roasted chestnuts, and molasses. With these characteristics, it is the ideal whiskey to use in our bourbon blackberry cocktail.

Firestone & Robertson TX Straight Bourbon

Tasting Table asked Dallas restauranteur and cocktail expert Michael Martensen who makes the best Texas bourbon. Without missing a beat, Martensen said F&R TX Straight Bourbon. "The F&R owners brought in rockstar Rob Arnold as head distiller," he told us. A Louisville, Kentucky native, Arnold thought he would be a doctor, earning a master's degree in biochemistry. But his passion for whiskey led him to become head distiller with Firestone and Robertson Distillery Co. two years into his doctorate.

Arnold used his science background to create a unique yeast strain for the whiskey from a Glen Ellen ranch. Martensen added, "Rob (Arnold) saw pecan shells on the ground everywhere. He extracted a yeast from that shell." Lone Star Ag Credit and Hillsboro's Sawyer Farms are the sole providers of the corn and wheat for F&R. The proprietary yeast combined with Texas-grown grains creates a uniquely Texas product. After tasting the whiskey, Martensen said that "the pecan spoke" to him and "the bourbon is a balanced crowd pleaser." We concur — the nuttiness comes through with delicious flavors of fig, maple, and allspice.

Firestone and Robertson Distillery Co. (F&R) began in 2010 when two oil and gas executives, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson — who had an interest in distilling (but no formal training) — came together to create a whiskey brand in Fort Worth. Though global beverage powerhouse Pernod Ricard acquired the brand in 2019, it still makes exceptional bourbon.

Grayson Blended Texas Bourbon

Michael Martensen also turned us on to this blended bourbon from Grayson Whiskey. The brainchild of former MLB All-Star player Vernon Wells, award-winning craft spirits author Nico Martini, and beverage businessperson Brandon Davis, Grayson is unlike anything in Texas. It's a blended bourbon from hand-selected barrels of straight Texas whiskey originally produced by Ironroot Republic, Balcones, and Lone Elm Wheat Whiskey Distilleries.

Lead distiller and Ironroot founder, Jonathan Likarish, blends the bourbons to create Grayson. The collaboration speaks to the camaraderie that many of the Texas producers embrace, and the resulting bourbon is an authentic, harmonious blend that tells the story of Texas. With a deep amber color, the whiskey has pronounced dried fig and raisin flavors with toasted brown sugar and toffee notes. Martensen said he thought he was drinking Maker's Mark after tasting it for the first time. But as Martensen noted, "if Grayson bottles this quality, we drinkers win."

Milam & Greene Triple Cask Bourbon

Some of the best whiskey in the country is made by the three dynamic whiskey women behind Milam & Greene. In 2017, Marsha Milam, master blender Heather Greene, and master distiller Marlene Holmes came together to create Milam & Greene in the Texas Hill Country. The trio employs techniques, styles, and grains from across the country, including copper pot distilling in Texas and continuous column distilling in Kentucky.

Founder, CEO, and master blender Heather Greene spoke with Tasting Table about making whiskey in Texas. "I love the aspect of experimentation that I'm able to do regarding the effects of climate on whiskey and to compare what's happening in Hill Country to Kentucky," she explained. When we asked why the distillery opened in Texas versus Kentucky (or another part of the country), Greene said, "I think Texas chose me" — which we take as a smart move (especially since the distillery tripled its sales year-over-year since it began).

Milam & Greene Triple Cask is a unique blend of three straight bourbons from Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, each aged over various years to create a character-filled whiskey. Two-to-three-year-old pot still Texas bourbon lends rusticity and spice, while three-to-four-year-old Kentucky bourbon provides vanilla and fruity flavors. Then, 10-to-11-year-old Tennessee whiskey adds structure and tannins. After blending, it is blind-proofed to taste and bottled at its Blanco, Texas distillery. We think it's one of the best bourbons to use in your old-fashioned.

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon

Just outside of Austin in Dripping Springs, Texas, Treaty Oak is the fourth oldest distillery in Texas. Founded in 2006 by Daniel Barnes, he named the brand after a 500-year-old oak tree that Stephen Austin sat beneath when he defined the borders for the Republic of Texas. The Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon is a 100% grain-to-glass Texas bourbon. It is a heavily wheated bourbon, with a mash bill of 57% yellow corn, 32% Texas wheat, and 11% barley. Much of the base is from sustainably grown, non-GMO grains grown locally and milled by Barton Springs Mill.

The distillery takes a unique approach when handling the over 100-degree days of Texas summers. The distillery ages its barrels vertically on palates, regulating the temperature in the non-climate controlled warehouse. The method reduces the amount of whiskey lost to the angel share while creating a textured, concentrated juice that tastes more complex than its mere two years of aging lets on. The resulting bourbon has an earthy, grassy, herbaceous note that melds with flavors of buttered biscuits, sweet honey, and orange marmalade. It's an excellent option when pairing bourbon with food and is best served neat and enjoyed with spicy dishes.

Bendt No. 5 American Blended Whiskey

One newer distillery Jimmy Yee is excited about actually started in an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Lewisville, Texas. Bendt Distillery, formerly Witherspoon Distillery, has been crafting small-batch whiskeys from North Texas-grown grains for the past few years. "Bendt shows what Texas bourbons have achieved in such a short time," Yee told us. He believes they still have a bit to go to achieve true greatness, but "as they stand now, they are strong competitors to traditional Kentucky bourbons."

Its latest product can potentially be a game-changer for the producer, thanks to the quality of the whiskey. Bent No. 5 American Blended Whiskey brings five small-batch Texas-made whiskeys into one blend. Each whiskey, including bourbon, rye, wheat, malt, and light whiskey, is individually made without additives. Bendt then blends the five, showcasing the best of each to create one complete, unique, delicious flavor profile. The result is textured, flavorful, and balanced, each contributing its best characteristics to create a harmonious product. Add a splash to a classic pound cake recipe for a tasty, whiskey-baked treat.

Blackland Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon

Just the name of Blackland's flavored bourbon makes our mouths water with dreams of maple pecan donuts or warm pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. And we would expect nothing less from owner Markus Kypreos. His love of cooking, wine, and spirits led the Fort Worth native into the whiskey business.  

The former trial attorney grew up with a family of foodies, crisscrossing the country for fine dining. Though his profession was in the legal world, he was passionate about the food and beverage industry. So, he graduated from culinary school, became a certified sommelier, and eventually moved to distilling. He started Blackland Distillery in 2019, and Blackland added the Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon in 2020.

The Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon quickly became a fan favorite. Using its straight bourbon as the base, Blackland adds pecan essence and Muscavado sugar. The result is an aromatic, smooth whiskey with toasty nuttiness, caramel, and toffee flavors. Drizzle a bit into the custard for our eggnog French toast casserole for a sweet, boozy addition to your weekend brunch.


We assembled this list of exceptional Texas bourbon whiskeys based on a combination of factors, including taste, quality of ingredients, prestige and professional reputation, price, availability, and accessibility (among others). When determining which bourbons to include, we used a combination of our own bourbon expertise, research into Texas-produced bourbon whiskeys, and consultation with several whiskey experts located within the Lone Star state.

Though we spoke with several distillers and producers of bourbons included on this list, that did not influence any of our decisions to include a particular bourbon or skew our recommendations. Each bourbon was selected before conducting interviews with any Texas-based whiskey distillers. Additionally, firsthand opinions and recommendations are based on the author's personal knowledge and experience with several listed bourbon whiskeys.