The World’s Best American Whiskeys

A total of 24 American whiskeys have received top honors at the recent World Whiskey Awards. Five whiskeys won the top honor of ‘Best in the World’ and 19 won their group award of ‘Best’. The winners were announced at the Whiskey Magazine Awards Dinner in Louisville, Kentucky on February 9th. Three of the top five American whiskeys came from craft distilleries, and all three came from outside of the historic heartland of American whiskey in Kentucky-Tennessee.

To win the grand prize as World’s Best Bourbon The representative, Small Batch Bourbon bottled by Proof and Wood Ventures, a New Canaan, Connecticut-based spirits company that “buys, sells and bottles American whiskey.” Representative Small Batch Bourbon was distilled at MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana from a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley.

American whiskey connoisseurs sometimes criticize craft producers who source their whiskeys from MGP as less authentic. In all honesty, MGP produces some of the finest American whiskeys in the US and with careful cask selection can produce some truly stunning whiskeys.

The success of Proof and Wood, founded by Dave Schmier, is also compelling evidence of the American independent whiskey bottler’s revival. This sector, which was fairly prominent before Prohibition, never recovered after Prohibition was repealed and is only now making a comeback.

The world’s best finished bourbon was Ironroot Republic, Apotheosis. Finished bourbon refers to a bourbon whiskey that, after maturation, is transferred to another cask, neither new nor charred, that previously held a different liquid.

The practice is somewhat controversial, as TTB regulations require a whiskey to be aged in a new, charred oak cask to bear the Bourbon designation. Purists have argued that bourbon finished in other casks should not bear the designation. The TTB has yet to decide on this matter.

Ironroot is a Denison, Texas based distillery that was one of the first craft distilleries in Texas. Founded in 2011 by two brothers, Robert and Jonathan Likarish. Skillfully run by her mother Marcia, who expertly directs both the distillery operations and the brothers, the distillery is a consistent winner in spirits competitions. Ironroot uses locally grown, high quality heirloom and non-GMO corn to “capture the authentic taste of North Texas.”

Ironroot has three different versions of Apotheosis, one in an Armagnac cask, one in a Pineau de Charentes (PDC) cask and one in a red wine cask. A fourth bottling, due out this May, will feature a blend of Pineau casks and another unnamed cask finish.

The expression that won the World’s Best Finished Bourbon was the Eisenwurz Republic, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Pineau de Charentes Cask Finish. It is a 3-YO bourbon that has spent just over two years in a PDC cask and was bottled at 63.8 ABV (127.6 proof).

The World’s Best Single Barrel Bourbon was Tumblin Cube, single barrel. Tumblin Dice is another Proof and Wood Ventures brand. It is also sourced from MGP. This high rye mash consists of 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. It’s bottled at 58.65% ABV (117 proof) and routinely retails for less than $60.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C922 received top honors as The World’s Best Small Batch Bourbon. The term “small series” is not precisely defined. It can be anything from a handful to 10,000 casks. This expression is a 12 YO bourbon based on a mash note of 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It carries a list price of $70. It is bottled at 62.4% ABV (124.8 proof) and often retails around $60.

The World’s Best Tennessee Whiskey Award went to Jack Daniels, Connected. This expression is a No-Age Statement (NAS) whiskey. Bonded is a range of bottlings based on Jack Daniel’s traditional mash bill of 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye from hand-picked casks that exhibit a deeper colour, flavor and aroma. The result is a classic Jack Daniel’s aroma and flavor profile that is darker, richer and woodier in character. The Jack Daniel’s Bonded has a list price of $37 but can often be found for around $30.

Breckenridge Distillery won three awards. Breckenridge Distillery, strong bourbon whiskeywon the Best American Blended Award. Collectors Art Seriesanother NAS expression, won Best Blended Limited Release and Two clans blended whiskey won Best Blended Malt.

Ironroot Republic, Hubriswon the Best American Corn Whiskey Award while Sons of Liberty Spirits, coffee flavored whiskywon the Best American Flavored Whiskey. Bainbridge, Yama Mizunara Fassa consistent winner in liquor competitions, received the award for Best American Grain.

Among Colorado Distillers291 Colorado Distillery White Dog won Best American New Make while Talnua Distillery, Virgin White Oak Cask, won the Best American Pot Still Award. The term pot still refers to whiskey based on a mash of malted and unmalted barley. While this mash bill is widespread in Ireland, it is relatively rare elsewhere.

Sazerac, 18 years old, ryereceived the award for Best American Rye, while its sister distillery Buffalo Trace received the award for Best Kentucky Bourbon WL Weller, CYPB (Create Your Perfect Bourbon).

Hogback Distillery, The Wallace Collectionmeanwhile was awarded Best Single Cask, Single Malt Smooth Ambler, Old Scout Rye Single Barrel, won Best Single Cask Single Rye. The Notch Nantucket Island 15 Year Old Single Malt won Best Small Batch Single Malt while Lone Elm, 4 years single barrel, took Best American Wheat.

Two Washington distilleries received Best awards. Westland Whisky, Solum Edition 1, a pioneer of the American single malt category, received the Best American Single Malt award. At the same time Storm King Distilling Co, Side Gig Whiskywon Best American Whiskey.

Broken Barrel Whisky, Cask Strength Bourbon, won Best Kentucky Finished Bourbon. The Broken Barrel Bourbon is a barrel-proof whiskey that is finished with staves from new French oak, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. 1792, single cask received the award for Best Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon.

Additionally, two longtime industry figures, Steve Nally and Lance Winters, have been recognized as Icons of Whiskey USA and inducted into the WWA USA Hall of Fame.

Steve Nally has spent more than 50 years in the bourbon industry, including 30 years at Maker’s Mark and 15 years as Master Distiller from 1988 to 2003. He founded Wyoming Whiskey (2009) and most recently Bardstown Bourbon Company (2014).

Lance Winters is a nuclear engineer turned distiller and was the driving force behind St George’s Spirits’ growth into one of the pre-eminent craft distillers in the nation. He has received five nominations from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer.

The American whiskey winners at the World Whiskey Awards represent a wide spectrum of distillers. Alongside classic brands like Jack Daniel’s, Sazerac, and Elijah Craig, there are also numerous leading craft distilleries like Ironroot Republic, Westland, 291 Colorado Whiskey, and Bainbridge, as well as more than a dozen little-known, up-and-coming distillers destined for greatness.

All five of the best whiskeys are available for around $60 or less, with Jack Daniel’s Bonded often being around $30/bottle. Compelling proof that great American whiskeys don’t have to be expensive.

In fact, there were several thousand dollar plus whiskeys that performed relatively poorly. It is equally convincing proof that high price does not equate to high quality and that exorbitant prices reflect a brand owner’s vanity rather than a sign of exceptional whiskey.

There are plenty of whiskeys to explore and discover here, and the good news is that most of them are reasonably priced.


Read  World’s Best Bourbon Whiskey According To 2023 ADI Spirits Competition

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button