non kentucky bourbon

Kentucky gets a lot of credit for the glorious liquor that is bourbon, and those accolades are well-deserved. Bourbon was first distilled by the original settlers of Kentucky and it got its name from Bourbon County, which was established in 1785 when Kentucky was still part of Virginia. Farmers would stamp their oak whiskey barrels with “Bourbon County” and send them down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. After a while, people just started calling the liquor “Bourbon whiskey.”

Because of Kentucky’s ties to bourbon, a lot of people seem to believe that in order to be labeled as “real” bourbon, it must be made there. Guess what? That’s wrong.

Bourbon can be made anywhere. Well, anywhere in the United States. In 1964, Congress officially recognized bourbon as a uniquely American product; it’s known as “America’s Native Spirit.” As long as you’re drinking bourbon made in the good ole’ U.S. of A, you’re drinking the real deal. The whole Kentucky craze is really just a novelty.

So, which bourbon brands aren’t made in Kentucky? With approximately 95 percent of bourbon being made in the Bluegrass State, it’s a bit of a challenge to find those that are not, but we’re always up for a good challenge. Luckily, we didn’t end up having to try very hard because we found the perfect list of all of the non Kentucky U.S. bourbon distilleries by Jim Hofman, a bourbon aficionado of sorts. In general, these distilleries are pretty small and the bourbon doesn’t always get shipped very far, so if you have a distillery in your home state, consider yourself blessed.

If you’re looking for a non-Kentucky bourbon in your liquor store, you may be able to find these easily:

  • Hirsch – They do have some Kentucky bourbons, but their A.H. Hirsch Reserve was made at Michter’s Distillery in Pennsylvania.
  • Kings County Distillery – This Brooklyn establishment is New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery.

Do you have a favorite bourbon that is not made in Kentucky? Tell us what it is and we’ll add it to our list.