If you’re an avid whiskey drinker, you’re probably at least vaguely aware of the term “sourced.” For whiskey purists, the word brings up negative connotations. They might even go as far as to steer clear of any bottle known to be sourced. We think that’s a shame because they’re missing out on a great expression just because of preconceived notions that likely aren’t true. And if you have no clue what we’re talking about, settle in. Here’s your primer on sourced bourbon whiskey.
Two definitions of sourced bourbon whiskey
When it comes to sourced whiskey (we’re focusing on bourbon in this roundup), there are a few different meanings. The first is the most controversial: contract distillation. A brand that doesn’t have a distillery and/or a warehouse will purchase whiskey made by someone else, then blend and finish it before adding it to their own labeled bottles. This variety of sourced whiskey is the crux of why some drinkers avoid it.
They assume when they purchase a bottle from a specific brand, it’s that brand who made the whiskey. In fact, it was sourced from Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, or somewhere else. But that’s okay. Just taste it before you decide it’s not worth your time.
The second type of sourced whiskey comes from a new brand that does have a distillery and barrelhouse, but no aged whiskey to sell. There’s no magical way to mature whiskey, so these brands source whiskey from other distilleries while they wait for theirs to mature. Some brands blend their whiskey with sourced whiskey; others purchase matured barrels from other distilleries and simply bottle and label them as their own.
Like with any form of whiskey, there are great sourced bourbons and not-so-great sourced bourbons. The hard part is finding them. Lucky for you, we did the work. Below, you’ll find 10 of our favorite sourced bourbons that are so mellow and flavorful they’ll make you forget about any debate over the term “sourced.”
1. Savage & Cooke The Burning Chair Bourbon
One brand that hopes to dispel any negativity surrounding the term “sourced” is Savage & Cooke. Its bourbon is a blend of whiskeys sourced from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee with the youngest being four years old. Once married, the juice is finished in cabernet casks. It’s proofed down to 88 proof using spring water from Alexander Valley in Northern California. The result is a flavorful, memorable bourbon with notes of rich oaky wood, brown sugar, buttery caramel, vanilla beans, and spicy, fruity sweetness throughout.
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