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Bartenders Share Their Favorite Award-Winning Whiskeys

There are so many good whiskeys on the market these days that drinkers are blessed with a wealth of choices. You can sort them by style. By price. By mash bill. By flavor notes. By proof. Or you can go with straight-up award-winners.

As far as whiskey sorting goes, being swayed a little award shine is a perfectly valid way to pick a new brand. But it’s also not a magic bullet. Because while there are tons of whiskies on the market, there are also tons of awards to be had.

Today, we’re combining two methods for finding new bottles that we’ve liked in the past. We asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the award-winning whiskies that they love best. Check their answers below and click on the prices if you’re interested in trying any of these.

Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old Bourbon

Eagle Rare

Felipe Muñoz head bartender Sweetleaf Cocktails in Long Island City, New York

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $45

Why This Whiskey?

I really love drinking Eagle Rare Bourbon right now. It is my drink of choice in the fall on the rocks since it has nice mocha-sweet notes with just a dash of spice. It’s nice and rich.

Award: Gold Medal; Best Age Statement Bourbon – World Whiskies Awards

Old Forester 86 Bourbon

Old Forester

Erin Delaney, food and beverage director at Barn8 Restaurant & Bourbon Bar in Goshen, Kentucky

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $25

Why This Whiskey?

My favorite award-winning whiskey is Old Forester 86 because it doesn’t have such a high proof that it knocks you out of your boots, but it still has a full body with rich caramel flavors as well as an earthiness to it.

Award: Gold – 2019 San Francisco Spirits Competition

Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #2 Bourbon

Bardstown Bourbon

Brandon “Habi” Habenstein, beverage director at The Kitchen & Bar in Bardstown, Kentucky

ABV: 61.1%

Average Price: $145

Why This Whiskey?

Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #2 won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and is easily one of my favorite bourbons to drink neat. Discovery #2 was the first offering from Bardstown Bourbon Co. that embraced an earthy tobacco and leather profile which is my favorite profile of whiskey. Additionally, I crafted the blend that made it through our intense blind-tasting process that decides which blend goes to bottle! While there is certainly an argument of bias to be made here, this bourbon is outstanding.

Award: Double Gold – 2020 San Francisco Spirits Competition

Rebel Single Barrel 10-Year-Old

Rebel

Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $80

Why This Whiskey?

Rebel Single Barrel 10-Year-Old recently won Best Single Barrel at the World Whiskies Awards. It starts out with a nice amount of toffee and vanilla on the palate. You immediately notice that the body is unique and luscious as it finishes with dark fruits and dank lumber. This is one to savor with close friends on a chilly night.

Award: Best Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon – 2020 World Whiskies Awards

John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon

Bowm

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $60

Why This Whiskey?

John J. Bowman Single Barrel really does have some great notes of subtle sweetness, though you do need a bit of dilution thanks to the high proof.

Award: America’s Best Non-Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon of 2020 – Whisky Magazine

Peerless Straight Rye Whiskey

Peerless

Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California

ABV: 54.7%

Average Price: $115

Why This Whiskey?

I have quite a selection of whiskey for drinking neat, but at the moment my go-to is the Peerless Straight Rye Whiskey. I’m almost always going to reach for rye because I love the spicy notes that are frequently present, and they’re definitely there, although not overwhelmingly so in Peerless. It’s a superbly balanced rye with some caramel, brown sugar notes, and almost a citrus zest quality. It’s got the spicy bite that I want, but without being overly aggressive.

It goes down beautifully smooth.

Award: Gold – 2020 World Whiskies Awards

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye

Catoctin Creek

Dan Marlowe, mixologist at Modena in Washington, DC

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $45

Why This Whiskey?

Hands down Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whiskey. Simply put, 100 percent rye mash bills are tricky from a distiller’s perspective. Finding one that has such a robust complexity and underlying sweet sultry notes can be a challenge, but Catoctin hits the mark every time.

Award: Double Gold – New York World Wine & Spirits Competition 2018

Reservoir Rye

Reservoir

Eric Vincent, bartender at Sparrow in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $80

Why This Whiskey?

I pick up on two main flavors of intense, spicy rye and dark, rich chocolate notes. The two balance each other nicely and the flavors linger on end while coating the entire palate.

Award: 89 Points – 2019 Ultimate Spirits Challenge

George T. Stagg Bourbon

Buffalo Trace

Frederic Yarm, USBG bartender in Boston

ABV: 58.45%

Average Price: $500

Why This Whiskey?

George T. Stagg is a gem if your timing is good enough to acquire a bottle in late fall. Despite its cask strength, the sweetness from a long time in the barrel hides this fact all too well. Graham crackers, cinnamon, leather, vanilla, and elegant nutty notes make it a dream to sip on.

Award: Best North American Whiskey – 2013 World Whiskies Awards

Writer’s Pick: Widow Jane 10 Year Old Bourbon

Widow Jane

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $75

Why This Whiskey?

This award-winning bourbon was aged for ten years in charred oak casks. It’s filled with hints of dried cherries, sweet caramel, sticky toffee pudding, and subtle, spicy cinnamon. It’s a great sipper on a cold, fall night.

Award: Gold for ‘Bourbon over 6 years’ – 2018 Whiskies of the World Awards


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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