15 Best Texas Bourbons For A Bold Drinking Experience

The number of whiskey distilleries in the United States is 740, up 15.4% from 2021 (via IBIS). In 2021, the category recorded over $4.5 billion in revenue, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Leaning into the idea that everything is bigger in the Lone Star state, Texas Monthly reports that 130 spirits distilleries are located throughout the state, though the first legal distillery opened less than twenty years ago. 

Texas craft whiskey growth has the climate to thank. To qualify as a bourbon, the alcohol must age in new, charred oak barrels for two years (via Liquor Laboratory). The longer the liquor stays in the barrel, the more complex and flavorful it becomes. In states like Kentucky, bourbon typically ages at least four years (via New Riff Distilling).

Texas achieves the same results half the time. The hot, dry climate, with extremely high temperatures throughout the year, is essential to the growing success of Texas bourbon. When temperatures rise, the alcohol in the barrel expands; when they fall, it contracts. This continuous barrel contact intensifies bourbon's flavor, color, and character. 

Vinepair adds that Texas is the country's second-largest alcohol market. High-volume sales and built-in loyalty (re: Texans' fierce sense of state pride) make producing Texas whiskey a home run. Texas distilleries have taken a firmly planted seat at the whiskey table, creating bold bourbon whiskey expressions like the ones on this list.

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 head distiller Jared Himstedt of Balcones Distillery in Waco, TX. He believes the organization's purpose is to "keep leading by uniting around common principles of quality and transparency."

Balcones Distillery began underneath a Waco overpass in 2008. One of the oldest Texas 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. Balcones Baby Blue Bourbon was the first legal, post-Prohibition whiskey made in Texas, Vinepair reports.

The team makes what they like to drink — expressive bourbons from quality ingredients that are "delectable," Himstedt shares with the Bourbon Road podcast. 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 roasted blue corn. Clocking in at 64.9% ABV, the bourbon is more potent than the original Baby Blue, delivering bold, rustic spiciness with toasted marshmallow, caramel, and candied orange peel.

Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon

Tasting Table asked Jared Himstedt about the state's rise in whiskey and the whiskies he makes. He said it's surprising that Texas whiskey has only been around for 15 years. With such state pride and whiskey appreciation, he said 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." We agree.

Right now, Himstedt's favorite 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 then 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

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

Their distilling techniques are the same as those used to make brandy. D Magazine writes that they began their distilling education using French techniques for distilled wine. They followed practices focused on terroir (or having a sense of place) and a grain-to-glass philosophy (via Bourbon Road.)

They must be doing something right. In 2020, their signature whiskey, Ironroot Harbinger Bourbon, won "World's Best Non-Kentucky Bourbon" at the World Whiskey Awards. A blend of distinct, non-GMO, and heirloom corn — like bloody butcher and red flint — goes into the bourbon, shares Robert Likarish (via Bourbon Road). It, along with rye, gives the whiskey a spicy earthiness. 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 their 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 and shares that where it is grown affects the flavor as much as the different kinds of corn used (via Bourbon Road). Robert Likarish adds that sourcing from local growers and using non-GMO grains is 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. Their use of heirloom corn was inspired by what Balcones' was doing with blue corn and sparked the brothers' interest in using other varieties.

Denison-grown grains create one of the country's most unusual brown spirits, Ironroot Icarus. Using heirloom purple, red flint, and non-GMO yellow dent corn, Icarus is bold, punchy, and strong. And it just won the World Whiskey Awards' "World's Best Corn Whiskey."

According to Spirited Matters, Icarus is first aged in oak barrels that previously held Ironroot bourbon. It then ages for another 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 whiskey brands in the country.

We love Garrison Brothers Small Batch bourbon, as do the judges at the San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, scoring 97 points. Tasting Table spoke with the distillery and learned they only use 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, shares the goal in the creation of Balmorhea was to produce a double barrel bourbon that wouldn't overpower the authenticity of Garrison Brothers bourbon. 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, according to Whiskey Wash. 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. The site goes on to share that Jim Murray, author of "The Whisky Bible," has named the bourbon the American Micro Whiskey of the year multiple times. 

It is one you will want to sip and savor and not use for taking shots as 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, Paste shares. 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. It 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. The mash is 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

Founding Austin writes that three families (and a few friends) with a passion for whiskey established the first distillery in Austin, Still Austin, a few years ago. With a still named "Nancy," the state capital's first whiskey producer is fast becoming a household favorite throughout the state.

They quickly agreed to use only locally grown Texas grains, crafting each bottle from grain to glass. Additionally, everything would be produced on-site, which included building their still (the aforementioned "Nancy").

Tasting Table spoke with Still Austin's CEO and co-founder, Chris Seals, on how the still got its name. He said, "Our still, Nancy, has a total height of a remarkable 50 feet, top to bottom. When we tried to think of a name, we thought of the cult film, 'Attack of the 50ft 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. Aged only two years but layered with rich flavors of toffee, molasses, and a long, easy finish, 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, it was trying to be like Kentucky bourbons," said Yee. "And after many, many years of trials, it has finally made a name for itself in a discriminatory world that often rejects new ideas." He likens it to an aspiring young singer who finally makes it to stardom after years of trying to break into the business.

His favorite is Still Austin Cask Strength, and he is in good company — 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. The Whiskey Vault adds that 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

Firestone and Robertson Distillery Co. (F&R) began in 2010 when two oil and gas executives — Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson — with an interest in distilling (but no formal training) came together to create a whiskey brand in Fort Worth (via D Magazine). In 2019, global beverage powerhouse Pernod Ricard acquired the brand (via Spirits Business).

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.

When considering spirits, he wants to know who makes the product. "The F&R owners brought in rockstar Rob Arnold as head distiller," said Martensen. 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 F&R 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 adds, "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 agree — the nuttiness comes through with delicious flavors of fig, maple, and allspice. 

Grayson Blended Texas Bourbon

Michael Martensen also turned us on to the 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.

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 Makers Mark after tasting it. He also said, "as innovation happens, we sometimes lose the base or standard. Makers Mark is an amazing whiskey; 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. She said, "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." 

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 seeing as how 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, creating 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 their Blanco, Texas distillery. We think it is the best bourbon 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 (via Scotch Noob).

The distillery takes a unique approach when handling the over 100-degree days of Texas summers. Whiskey Advocate reports that 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 is an excellent option for pairing with food — it's best served neat and enjoyed with spicy dishes.

Bendt No. 5 American Blended Whiskey

The one new distillery Jimmy Yee is most excited about started in an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Lewisville, Texas. Bendt Distillery, formerly Witherspoon Distillery, has been crafting small batch whiskies from North Texas-grown grains for the past few years. Yee said, "Bendt shows what Texas bourbons have achieved in such a short time." He does believe they still have a bit to go, 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.

As Craft Spirits Magazine notes, Bent No. 5 American Blended Whiskey brings five small-batch Texas-made whiskies 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 our classic pound cake for a tasty whiskey cake. 

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.  

D Magazine said 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. He graduated from culinary school, became a certified sommelier, and eventually moved to distilling. He started Blackland Distillery in 2019. 

According to Papercity, Blackland added the Pecan Brown Sugar Bourbon in 2020, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Using its straight bourbon as the base, Blackland adds pecan essence and Muscavado sugar (via Total Wine.) 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 for a sweet, boozy addition to your weekend brunch.