The terms non-alcoholic Whiskey or alcohol-free spirit sounds somewhat contradictory. Yet, with the sober lifestyle getting more attention, an increasing number of bars specialize in alcohol-free craft cocktails.
Summary Best Non-Alcoholic Bourbon Alternatives
- Best Overall: Kentucky 74
- Best for Mocktails: Lyre's American Malt
- Best for Old Fashioned: Monday non-alcoholic Whiskey
If you're seeking bourbon alternatives you've come to the right place. We've compiled a list best non-alcoholic bourbon for Whiskey enthusiasts.
What is Non-Alcoholic Bourbon?
Non-alcoholic bourbon is an alcohol-free beverage that mimics the taste and aroma of real bourbon. It's an ideal solution for everyone who wants to enjoy a glass of whiskey without getting a headache the next morning.
They often have the same characteristic flavors as real bourbon - vanilla, oak, and caramel. However, most are lacking body that's typically part of a high alcohol content. To compensate for this, producers of non-alcoholic bourbon often use a significant amount of sugar.
The 5 Best Non-Alcoholic Bourbon Alternatives
Thanks to the current hype around non-alcoholic spirits for drinks, there are more and more brands and products, offering an incredible selection. However, this list focuses exclusively on the best options.
As with most other alternative products, there is no perfect substitute. Some are best for drinking neat or chilled, while others are ideal for classic mocktails. So, here are the best non-alcoholic bourbon alternatives.
1. Kentucky 74
- Produced by: Spiritless Inc.
- Flavors: Caramel, vanilla, and oak
- Price: $38
Kentucky 74 is probably one of the best alcohol-free whiskey alternatives on the market. With rich and sweet notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak - this alternative strongly resembles the taste of real bourbon.
For that, Spiritless produces a classic high-proof bourbon and strips out the alcohol. That is done by using a reverse-distillation process. The stripped-out ethanol goes into the making of the next batch.
It was awarded as the best non-alcoholic spirit by LA Spirits Awards in 2021.  However, talking to others, Kentucky 74 seems to be quite divisive. Some claim it almost tastes like the real deal, while others can't stand it. Even though I wouldn't say it is close to real bourbon but it's one of my favorite alcohol-free bourbon alternatives.
2. Lyre's American Malt
- Produced by: Lyre's Spirit Co
- Flavors: Brown sugar, caramel, and raisin
- Price: $36
Lyre's American Malt combines a subtle hint of heat with sweet flavors of brown sugar and raisins. It's one of the most advertised alcohol-free bourbon substitutes.
The biggest issue here is texture. Spirits like bourbon are full-bodied and thick in consistency. In comparison, Lyre's American Malt is almost as fluid as water.
While this makes it not an ideal choice to have neat, it's in mixed drinks where American Malt shines. Here, you can compensate for the lack of body by pairing it with ingredients that bring body into mixed drinks. That can be either a rich simple syrup or gomme syrup.
3. The Spirit Of Bourbon
- Produced by: The free spirits company
- Flavors: Oak, caramel, and sugar
- Price: $37
This non-alcoholic bourbon substitute is light and sweet in taste with flavors like caramel, burnt sugar, and toasted almonds. It carries a hint of anise and citrus, breaking through the overall sweet palate.
Although this product is designed to be a bourbon alternative, we found that it shows a strong resemblance to Jack Daniels when combined with a mixer like Coke or ginger ale.
4. Drummerboy American Dark
- Produced by: Innovation Beverage Group Limited
- Flavors: Vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, and toffee
- Price: $30 (not yet available in the US)
Despite its name, this fancy alcohol-free spirit is produced in Australia. It's a solid replacement for your standard bourbon and shows a classic sweet flavor profile.
Sweet notes of caramel, toffee, nuts, vanilla, and sweet fig ensure a round flavor profile. It performs best when paired with sweet mixers in non-alcoholic highballs.
5. Monday non-alcoholic Whiskey
- Produced by: Drink Monday
- Flavors: Butterscotch, brown sugar, and molasses
- Price: $45
This option is produced by a California-based distillery called Drink Monday. It's one of the pricier options you can get but also among the top products.
Inspired by traditional American spirits, this alcohol-free alternative is best used in classic drinks like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan Mocktail.
Aroma-wise it's close to a real bourbon, but the taste is lacking, at least when consumed neat. It still has a slight bourbon flavor, but not enough to be fully convincing.
|Kentucky 74||$38||Caramel, vanilla, and oak|
|Lyre's American Malt||$36||Brown sugar, caramel, and raisin|
|The Spirit of Bourbon||$37||Oak, caramel, and sugar|
|Drummerboy American Dark||$30||Vanilla, toasted nuts, caramel, and toffee|
|Monday||$45||Butterscotch, brown sugar, and molasses|
What To Look For in Non-Alcoholic Bourbon
When looking for non-alcoholic bourbon, you should pay attention to a few things. In addition to the essential characteristics like flavor profile and price, you should also pay attention to the ingredients and the way a brand produces its products.
Traditional bourbon whiskey has strict regulations when it comes to production. That includes ingredients, production methods, resting in barrels, and alcohol content. For non-alcoholic bourbon, there are no strict regulations, at least not yet.
However, that also means that every producer approaches the task in a different way. Some more professional, some less. Make sure to do your research to find out how a specific brand produces its alcohol-free alternative to bourbon.
Look out for high amounts of sugar, artificial flavorings, and coloring. In simple terms, the less the better. I don't like my spirits sweet, so I also don't like sugary non-alcoholic drinks. However, keep in mind that the majority of options at the moment compensate for the lack of body in their products with sugar. That means, there will always be a considerate amount of sweetness.
Often products are not made to mimic a specific sub-type of spirits like bourbon. Instead, they often address the whole whiskey category. That means, you will find smoky flavors to mimic Scotch or spicy ones to mimic Rye. Make sure to pay close attention to how the brands market their product to make sure you buy what you actually want to buy.
Resting or aging in wooden barrels is not legally necessary for non-alcoholic alternatives, but it's one of the things I'm looking for. It's the most natural and traditional way to bring distinct wooden notes into a drink. Some products use artificial flavoring to mimic this taste, but honestly, that doesn't work too well.
How is it made?
There is no uniform way how alcohol-free spirit alternatives to be made. Each producer has his own way of making non-alcoholic bourbon. Some distill their products like real bourbon whiskey and then remove the alcohol. This process takes advantage of the fact that water and alcohol evaporate at different temperatures.
In addition, most producers age their alcohol-free bourbon in barrels to get that distinct oaky flavor into the liquids.
What Does Non-Alcoholic Bourbon Taste Like?
Unsurprisingly, non-alcoholic bourbon or whiskey does not taste exactly like their alcoholic counterparts. They impart characteristic bourbon notes like vanilla, okay, and caramel, but they lack body, the distinct bite of alcohol, and most importantly they're typically too sweet.
Is it Legally Bourbon or Whiskey?
No, it's not legally classified as bourbon or whiskey, as it doesn't contain alcohol. That's also the reason, why you won't find that on the label of products. Brands typically promote them as non-alcoholic bourbon alternatives, non-alcoholic spirits, or zero-alcohol whiskey.
To be classified as a true bourbon or whiskey, a spirit must contain a minimum of 40% ABV. Depending on the type, there are further requirements that the non-alcoholic alternatives do not meet, like ingredients, aging, and so on.
Is Non-Alcoholic Bourbon Good For Me?
Well, to answer the answer precisely: no, it's not good for you, because alcohol-free bourbon typically contains high amounts of sugar or other sweeteners. On the other hand, it's probably better for you than alcoholic bourbon.
Some brands advertise that their product contains no calories. Please be careful about what this means. In most cases, artificial sweeteners are part of the recipe that do not hold any calories but are usually not very healthy.
Alternatives to Non-Alcoholic Bourbon
There are many alternatives to alcohol-free bourbon substitutes. Some are spicy like rye, others slightly smoky like a Scotch. Since there are no strict regulations, many products even combine various styles. For example, Kentucky 74 combines characteristic bourbon flavors with a distinct smoky note you typically expect from a Scotch.
On top, there are also non-alcoholic options for other spirits like alcohol-free gin, tequila, and rum.
Frankly, none of these bottles comes close to bourbon whiskey. They sometimes nail the sweetness, aroma, or flavors but still lack the body an alcoholic spirit has. So I can only really recommend using them in mixed drinks.
Among all the options, Kentucky 47 is one of the best ones to replace your bourbon. It kind of works neat and also when used in non-alcoholic Mocktail recipes.
Also, Monday's non-alcoholic Whiskey or The Spirit of Bourbon are two decent alternatives for craft mocktails.