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All The Double Gold-Winning Small Batch Bourbons From This Year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Small batch bourbon whiskey” is sort of a catch-all category. It’s a theoretical step above standard “straight bourbon” but the definition of “small batch” is almost non-existent. That means any list of great small batch bourbons is kind of going to be all over the place with age statements, cask strength offerings, crafty and big-name brands, and even bottled-in-bond expressions.

What exactly does “small batch” mean when it comes to bourbon then? Well, sort of nothing. There’s no law or hard and fast rule that makes a bourbon a small batch expression. What it does mean is that a “smaller” number of barrels were used for an expression than a standard “straight” whiskey. But even then, there’s no specific number of barrels that makes that moniker true. Some small batch bourbons are made with six or 12 barrels, others are made with 400 barrels. Regular old Jack Daniel’s usually comes from around 350 barrels per batch and no one calls that small batch.

Brasstacks, this is a marketing term with, again, no rule adding any consistency whatsoever.

All of that said, there are some great bourbons out there that are also marketed as “small batch” bourbons. To help find them, we’re listing all 21 Double Gold winning small batch bourbons from this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition (you can see all the bottles here). We’ve added our own tasting notes where we could but pulled notes from the bottlers, blenders, and distillers where we had gaps.

Let’s dive in and see what’s winning awards out there in small batch bourbon.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This is Elijah Craig’s entry-point bottle. The mash is corn-focused, with more malted barley than rye (12 percent and ten percent respectively). Originally, this was branded as a 12-year-old whiskey. The brand decided to move away from that labeling and started blending younger whiskeys — six to eight-year-old barrels — for this expression while saving the 12-year-old barrels for their Barrel Proof release.

Tasting Notes:

Classic bourbon notes greet you with a clear focus on vanilla, caramel, oak, orchard fruit, and a touch of fresh mint on the nose. The palate holds onto those flavors while adding in mild Christmas spices with a touch of oak and tobacco. The end is short, simple, and will leave you with a warm Kentucky hug.

Bottom Line:

This is a simple and classic bourbon. There are no frills but it delivers a decent flavor profile. In the end, this really is a cocktail base more than anything else.

Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $24

The Whiskey:

So this is a “small batch” in theory and name more than practice. The expression is a marrying of 200 barrels of bourbon from Heaven Hill’s warehouses. The new bottling also comes with a new proof of 90, bumping this up from the previous version.

Tasting Notes:

This is soft on the nose with a hint of vanilla next to new leather, cornmeal, and a touch of orchard fruit. The taste is all caramel apples, buttered cornbread, mild cherry, and a hint of eggnog spice. The end is sweet to the point of a honey candy with a touch more of that apple but fades really quickly.

Bottom Line:

I really dig this as a cocktail base but also pour it over some rocks from time to time. It’s a great workhorse whiskey like that. It has real depth without anything that’s going to challenge your palate.

Ezra Brooks Old Ezra 7 Year Old Bourbon

Old Ezra 7
Luxco

ABV: 58.5%

Average Price: $97

The Whiskey:

This brand from Luxco is still sourced juice though they did start distilling their own in 2018. This bottle is a seven-year-old blend of barrels with a bourbon mash bill of 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and ten percent rye, which just so happens to be Heaven Hill’s bourbon mash bill. These barrels are blended down and left as-is at cask strength for bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is a pretty classic bourbon from nose to finish with a strong sense of rich caramel, pancakes with plenty of vanilla, sweet oak, wet brown sugar, and a whiff of cherry tobacco. The palate leans into the woody brown spices as a dark cherry vibe sweetens the mid-palate. The end circles back to that sweet oak and spicy cherry tobacco on a short finish.

Bottom Line:

This is good, classic, and strong bourbon. For me, those higher ABVs scream “cocktails” but this does work as a sipper with plenty of ice to calm down that high proof.

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Four Roses

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a blend of four whiskeys. The blend is split evenly between the high and low ryes with a focus on “slight spice” and “rich fruit” yeasts. The whiskey is then blended, cut with soft Kentucky water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Soft and sweet orchard woods (think apple and cherry) greet you alongside hints of dusty brown spices and ripe red berries. Hints of caramel lead back to the berries and an almost vine-y earthiness next to a bit more of those spices. The end is velvety and lasting. The fruit really is what you’re left with, sort of like a blackberry jam that’s been steeped with cinnamon sticks at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is another great cocktail bourbon. It’s a big step up from the standard Four Roses but doesn’t quite hit the easy-sipping mark.

Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon

Four Roses

ABV: 52%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This expression uses six of Four Rose’s ten whiskeys in their small-batching process. The idea is to blend both high and low-rye bourbons with yeast strains that highlight “delicate fruit,” “slight spice,” and “herbal notes.” The whiskeys tend to spend at least six years in the barrel before blending and proofing with just a touch of Kentucky’s soft limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

Raspberry and cloves mix with old oak on the nose and boy, does it draw you in. The palate amps up the dark berry sweetness with a bit of tartness, as a stone fruit vibe comes into play. The spice heightens and leans more Christmas spice with a focus on nutmeg. Finally, a wisp of fresh mint arrives to counterpoint the whole sip as the oak, vanilla, fruit, and spice all slowly fade out.

Bottom Line:

This, on the other hand, is a nice sipping bourbon. I tend to pour it over a rock or two but it rules in a neat Glencairn too. All of that said, this makes a mean Manhattan too.

Laws Whiskey Bonded Four Grain Bourbon

Laws Whiskey House

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $87

The Whiskey:

A.D. Laws out in Colorado is renowned for its award-winning four-grain bourbons. The juice is made from 60 percent corn, 20 percent heirloom wheat, ten percent heirloom rye, and ten percent heirloom malted barley. That hot juice is then aged for over six years before it’s batched and cut down to 100 proof per bonded whiskey laws.

Tasting Notes:

This feels more crafty on the nose with a balance between bitter black tea that’s been cut with a summery and floral honey as touches of cinnamon and orange pop in the background. The orange and spice thickens and leans into an orange pound cake with a buttery and spicy streusel crumble as that black tea bitterness circles back to cut through all that butter, spice, and orange. The end leans into the spice with more of a cinnamon candy vibe that leads towards a final dusting of dark cocoa.

Bottom Line:

This is a nice outlier on the list. It’s a great entry point for Laws’ wider selection while also being a nice, summery sipper over some rocks or in a bright cocktail.

Widow Jane 10 Year Bourbon Whiskey

Widow Jane

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $79

The Whiskey:

This is sourced from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee bourbons (though that’s likely to change since Heaven Hill bought the brand). The hand-selected barrels are sent to New York where they’re blended in small batches of no more than five barrels, proofed with New York limestone mine water, and bottled. What you’re paying for here is the exactness of a whiskey blender finding great barrels and knowing how to marry them to make something bigger and better.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a raw pancake batter note on the nose next to mulled red wine with plenty of spice and orange next to a vanilla pudding and light mint waxiness. The taste has a mix of marzipan next to dark chocolate and real, almost woody maple syrup. The finish adds some cherry to that dark chocolate and layers in woody birch water on the end.

Bottom Line:

This is really damn nice, especially as a sipper on a rock or two. It definitely lives up to the hype.

1620 Distilling Small Batch Bourbon

1620 Bourbon
1620 Bourbon

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $42

The Whiskey:

Not a whole lot is known about this tiny brand. The juice is from Indiana (MGP), for now, and has a 75 percent corn mash bill (with 21 percent rye and four percent malted barley). Beyond that, we know that this is around four to five years old before it’s blended, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Tasting Notes: Caramel, vanilla, fruit, dried fruit, slightly candied, slight spice. Aroma: Vanilla, caramel, dried fruit, cream. Light rye spice in the finish.

Bottom Line:

This sounds very standard. Still, there are a lot of four/five-year-old MGP barrels out there and they tend to be pretty damn good. All of that said, I can’t see going out of my way to track this one down.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 030

Barrell Batch 030
Barrell Craft Spirits

ABV: 58.66%

Average Price: $93

The Whiskey:

Barrell’s batches tend to be some of the most anticipated drops of the year. Batch 030 — which dropped in September 2021 — is comprised of bourbons from Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wyoming. The barrels are a blend of five, six, nine, ten, eleven, and 15-year-old barrels that were blended in Kentucky. The blend was then bottled as-is with no cutting or fussing.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a buttery note that draws you in on the nose as fresh apple cider, mint, and Almond Joy counterpoint black potting soil, a hint of raw pumpkin, and an echo of sesame seed candies. The palate has an oatmeal raisin cookie vibe with vanilla ice cream just touched with espresso and dark chocolate next to green tea, more mint, and peach pie. The sweetness of the mid-palate gives way to a savory herbal feeling next to honeycombs, marzipan, orange oils, and rum-soaked tobacco leaves in a wet cedar box.

Bottom Line:

This is excellent and unique. There’s nothing quite like it and I dig that. Just make sure to add a few drops of water to really let this one bloom in the glass while you dig into the depths of the nose and palate.

Black Band Bourbon

Black Band Bourbon
Black Band Bourbon

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This tiny distillery is attached to a restaurant in Peoria, Illinois. The juice is a crafty bourbon made with a mash bill of 66 percent corn, 27 percent rye, and seven percent malted barley. That distillate rests for around four to five years before it’s proofed down and bottled.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

SMELL: figs, apricots, bubble gum & orange. TASTE: fresh leather, birch & slight peat. FINISH: allspice & sandalwood.

Bottom Line:

If I ever find myself in Central Illinois, I’ll give this a shot.

Boone’s Bourbon

Boone's Bourbon
Boones Bourbon

ABV: 58.5%

Average Price: $42

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is from singer/songwriter Tyler Boone and is made by Striped Pig Distillery in Charleston, South Carolina. There isn’t a whole lot known besides it’s a mash bill of 75 percent. corn, 21 percent rye, and four percent malted barley. The whiskey then spends up to five years in oak before it’s bottled at very high proof.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

Nose: The aroma a pleasantly sweet with caramel corn, cloves, a bit of pepper, and vanilla. Flavor: Caramel is the opening act on the palate with warm butter, cinnamon, smokiness, and a dash of apple. Finish: The finish has a burst of cinnamon and rancio.

Bottom Line:

This is another “If I’m in x-place, I’ll look it up.” Beyond that, this sounds like pretty standard stuff with a high ABV, making it feel more like a cocktail/mixing bourbon at this price point.

Branch & Barrel Distilling Flagship Bourbon

Branch & Barrel Bourbon
Branch & Barrel Bourbon

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Branch & Barrel Distilling out in Colorado is making this juice in the suburbs of Denver. The whiskey is made from a unique mash bill of 80 percent corn and 20 percent malted barley. It’s then aged for about four years before it’s proofed with that Rocky Mountain water and bottled.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Caramel, vanilla, oak. Traditional, savory, clean.

Bottom Line:

Colorado is one of the most interesting states for whiskey right now, so color me intrigued.

Detroit City Distillery Butcher’s Cut Bourbon

Butcher's Cut Bourbon
Detroit City Distilling

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

Thie whiskey in this bottle is all about craft distilling. The juice is made of 68% corn, 27% rye, and five percent specialty roasted barley malts. All of the grains are locally and sustainably sourced. The whiskey spends a few years in the barrel before it’s “double-barreled” into hand-smoked Michigan northern oak barrels for a final rest. It’s then barely proofed down to 100 proof.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Spicy, oaky, and smoky.

Bottom Line:

I’m very intrigued by this whiskey. Smoked barrels are going to be a big thing in the coming years in bourbon (yes, I’m calling it now) and this feels ahead of the curve on that front.

FEW Bottled in Bond Bourbon

FEW Bottled-in-Bond
FEW Spirits

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This expression from Illinois’ FEW Spirits marks the 125th anniversary of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. The juice is made from 70 percent corn, 20 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley. That whiskey spends four years resting before it’s proofed down to 100 proof and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a sense of vanilla cream pie with an extra thick vanilla pudding next to dry cedar bark with a touch of white moss, a touch of black licorice, and a hint of barrel smoke. The palate leans into cherry bark with a light cherry tobacco spiciness that melds with the vanilla pudding, a pan of fresh sticky buns with plenty of cinnamon and walnuts, and a hint of black pepper and more of that dry cedar bark. The finish has a bit of an oatmeal cookie vibe that leads back to the spicy cherry tobacco and white moss.

Bottom Line:

This punches way above its weight class. It’s complex, unique, and very drinkable, even neat. It’s also a killer Manhattan or old fashioned base thanks to those ABVs.

Five Brothers Small Batch Bourbon

Heaven Hill

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

This brand new bourbon from Heaven Hill celebrates the five brothers who started the distillery back in 1935. The bottle was released to celebrate the brand-new visitor’s center at Heaven Hill and is largely only available there. The juice in this bottle is a blend of five bourbons of varying ages between five and nine years old made with Heaven Hill’s mash bill of 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and ten percent rye.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with maple syrup, apple tobacco, resinous pine, and a touch of unpopped popcorn kernels on the nose. The palate is pecan-loaded waffles smothered in butter and syrup with vanilla ice cream, light brown spiciness, and maple-infused sweet tobacco on the end.

Bottom Line:

I really liked this last year. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it got the job done as a great end-of-the-day pour over some rocks.

King’s Family Distillery Bourbon

King's Family Distilling Bourbon
Kings Family Distilling Bourbon

ABV: 43.5%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This Tennessee whiskey is made in a tiny distillery in the Smoky Mountains. The whiskey is made from a mash bill of 99 percent corn and one percent malted barley, making it the biggest outlier on this list. That juice is aged for about four years before it’s proofed down and bottled.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

It [King’s Bourbon] features bourbon’s signature smoky tobacco and vanilla notes, but with hints of sweet raisin, fig, and date.

Bottom Line:

That super high-corn mash bill is enough to grab any whiskey drinker’s attention. Though, that does sound like this would be on the sweeter side of the bourbon spectrum. Still, it sounds like it’s worth giving a shot.

Louisiana Tradition Bourbon

Louisiana Tradition Bourbon
Louisiana Tradition Bourbon

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

Not a whole lot is known about this whiskey from New Orleans. The distillery claims “three generations” of whiskey-making tradition but little else about the actual process or what’s in the bottle.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Strong notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. Pleasant, very smooth notes enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Very soft to the palate and tends to be very mellow and soft.

Bottom Line:

Sure, this sounds fine. The lack of information about this whiskey though is a little off-putting. Distillers hiding everything in 2022 feels unnecessary.

Penelope Private Select Bourbon

Penelope Bourbon
Penelope Bourbon

ABV: 59.1%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This new-ish whiskey from Penelope really helps solidify the brand as a powerhouse in blending. The whiskey in the bottle is a blend of three bourbon mash bills (one is 21 percent rye, another 90 percent corn, and a 45 percent wheated bourbon — all from MGP), which create a four-grain (corn, wheat, rye, and barley) bourbon. Beyond that, this is about masterfully blending of four to five-year-old barrels into something bigger than the individual parts.

Tasting Notes:

You get a sense of dry cornmeal on the nose next to apple crumble, plenty of wintry spice, a hint of mulled wine, wet brown sugar, and a thin layer of wet yet sweet cedar. A hint of brandy-soaked cherries arrives on the palate with a dusting of dark chocolate powder next to more apple pie filling, spice, and buttery crust alongside a sweet, toffee-heavy mid-palate. The end arrives with a dry wicker vibe, cherry tobacco chewiness, and a hint of that dark chocolate.

Bottom Line:

These tend to be stellar one-offs. They’re great for a neat pour after a long day or mixing into a simple whiskey cocktail. You can’t go wrong here.

Still Austin Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Still Austin

ABV: 59%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

Still Austin is getting a lot of love for their very crafty (and fruity) bourbon, The Musician. This is that — but as cask strength and released as a limited offering. The juice in the bottle is a local, grain-to-glass operation that utilizes the best grains and water Texas has to offer.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, cedar greets you and forms a foundation for choco-cherry candies with a hint of dried mint. The taste moves into a blackberry feel with rich vanilla cream and plenty of cinnamon. The end takes on a warmth that feels more like a dried chili pepper than alcohol heat.

Bottom Line:

This is nice and fruity, which isn’t my thing per se. It’s fine but I always find it a little one-note with all those berries.

Swilled Dog Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon

Swilled Dog Bourbon
Swilled Dog

ABV: 58.5%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

First off, this has a great name and logo. Secondly, the juice is made from a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four percent malted barley at 117 proof (like Boone’s above) so we know this is MGP distillate, and that usually means high-quality booze.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

This is a complex whiskey that reveals a potpourri of baking spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice – all wrapped around dark fruits of fig, date, and plum. The finish is dominated by spice and charred oak, finishing quite clean.

Bottom Line:

I want this for the pup on the label. That aside, I’m confident the whiskey is tasty given that it’s classic MGP whiskey.

Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition (Up to Five Years)

Uncle Nearest Masters Select
Uncle Nearest

ABV: 59.2%

Average Price: $150

The Whiskey:

While Uncle Nearest is distilling their own juice these days, this is still the work of Master Blender Victoria Eady Butler with carefully sourced Tennessee whiskey barrels. In this case, Eady Bulter hand-selected the best-of-the-best from their inventory to create the perfect whiskey to exemplify the brand and Tennesee whiskey traditions.

Tasting Notes:

This draws you in with a piping hot fresh batch of cinnamon rolls with plenty of white sauce frosting, cinnamon and brown sugar filling, a touch of nutmeg, pecans, firewood bark, and a hint of pipe tobacco. The palate delivers on the bigger notes of the nose with pecan shells, cinnamon sticks dipped in cherry syrup, wet corn husks, old leather gloves that have worked in dirt and firewood, and mild yet spiced cherry tobacco. That mild cherry sweetness drives the mid-palate toward a hint of maple syrup that leans woody as firewood piles in black dirt rounding out the finish with an echo more of that peppery tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is likely to win best in class, it’s that good. Price aside, you should 100 percent taste this if you see it around at your local whiskey bar.

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