Life

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

Winning a Double Gold medal at any spirits competition definitely makes a big impact. It means your product stood out amongst its peers and found fans among some truly seasoned tasters. When that competition is as highly regarded as the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, (SFWSC) it’s kind of like being nominated for a liquor Oscar. You’re not “best in show,” but you are near the top of the heap.

Today, Uproxx is listing all the Double Gold straight bourbon winners from the SFWSC. These aren’t the very top but they are accessible, very drinkable bourbons that the judges enjoyed. Look at it this way: A medal means the bottle stood out in some way. A “double gold” means it wowed (I speak from experience, as I was literally a judge in this competition).

First a little context: “Straight bourbon” is a legal term describing bourbon (which is itself by definition made in the USA, of at least 51% corn, and aged in new oak barrels with no added flavoring or coloring) that has been aged at least two years, and which must carry an age statement if aged fewer than four. All of those mentioned here meet the requirements. Some manufacturers provide more information than strictly required (age statements, mash bills), some don’t.

For this list, I’ll be drawing on my own tasting notes where possible and filling in from the distiller/blender where not (there are a few I haven’t been able to taste yet — not all judges taste every expression). Yes, there’s a lot to parse here for those of us just looking for a little guidance on our next bottle or two. My advice: scroll through, and if a certain description sounds particularly good to you, give it shot. For the most part, these are all pretty accessible and affordable straight bourbons. We’ll get to the small-batch, single barrels, special finishings, and “best in show” a little later.

Until then, let’s enjoy some straight bourbon whiskeys!

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

15 STARS Timeless Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

15 Stars
15 Stars

ABV: 51.5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

The Whiskey:

15 Stars bourbon is a bit of an outlier. The whiskey is a blend of old barrels of bourbon from Bardstown, Kentucky. The whiskey then spends 14 years in the barrel before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

On the nose, an indulgent bouquet of butterscotch and maple is highlighted by roasted nuts and tobacco. Dark chocolate and molasses complement cream and vanilla to create an incredibly rich mouthfeel. Dark chocolate carries over from the palate with initial notes of oak and coffee followed by a bold and enduring hazelnut finish.

Bottom Line:

This sounds delightful. Add in that it’s a 10-plus-year-old expression and we’re intrigued. Now we just have to find a bottle.

1792 Bottled-In-Bond Straight Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $55

The Whiskey:

Hailing from the legendary Barton 1792 Distillery, 1792 Bottled-In-Bond tends to rake in the awards. The whiskey in the bottle is a mid-rye bourbon (around 15 percent), though Sazerac and Barton don’t publish their mash bills. The yearly release is a blend of bonded bourbons that are meant to be affordable, sippable, and mixable.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a cinnamon and nutmeg forward apple compote on the nose, with a hint of wet oak and maybe a little bit of mint. The spices marry to a rush of vanilla and caramel apple sweetness and smoothness as the feel of the dram remains very mellow. The end is short-ish and full of that spice and caramel apple, leaving you with a touch of vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This is a great “high-end” whiskey that delivers. It’s not going to blow any minds, but it makes a hell of a Manhattan. And, sometimes, that’s enough.

1792 Full Proof Straight Bourbon

1792 Full Proof Bourbon
Sazerac Company

ABV: 62.5%

Average Price: $100

The Whiskey:

This bourbon is the same as above, but with a little more oomph. The whiskey is around eight years old, though there’s no age statement. The juice is bottled as-is at a paltry 125 proof without the usual chill filtration that 1792 goes through.

Tasting Notes:

This is hot on the nose with a supporting act of classic bourbon notes of vanilla, toffee, and booze-soaked oak. The palate delivers on those promises while adding in notes of cinnamon sticks soaked in mulled wine, grilled corn cobs, and dried cherries soaked in brandy and covered in dark chocolate. The mid-palate is just hot, hot, hot as a sense of Irish Spring soap arrives next to sweetgrass, vanilla tobacco, and a pile of firewood on the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is a really nice whiskey, but a little hot for me. I tend to reach for it for cocktail mixing more than anything else.

A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength 10-Year-Old Straight Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 70.55%

Average Price: $100 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

This release from Sazerac is all about the boldness of the Virginia spirit. The juice is from a few hand-selected 10-year-old barrels from Master Distiller Brian Prewitt from the lowest ricks in warehouses A and A1 at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. The juice is vatted and then bottled as is, at what is clearly an extremely high cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

I’m not going to lie, the ethanol is absolutely there on the nose. But it doesn’t overpower the deeply-rooted flavors — starting with buttery pie crust that’s well toasted leading towards a few layers of toasted and honeyed pecans, dark Karo syrup-soaked brown sugar, and toasted off, dark spice-filled streusel. The spice really leans into woody cinnamon sticks, plenty of old leather pouches that held decades of tobacco, dry cedar bark ripped from the woodpile, and … the creamy vanilla base and toasted coconut from a coconut cream pie. That creamy mid-palate leads towards a very dry and charred finish that’s cut with bitter espresso oils and the darkest of chocolates that turns into a burnt caramel sweet/bitter heat that torches you down to your soul.

Bottom Line:

Again, this really is good with a lot of ice or in a cocktail. That said, sipping this neat might turn you off whiskey forever because that heat is a lot.

Horse Soldier “Premium” Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Horse Soldier Small Batch
American Freedom Distillery

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $61

The Whiskey:

This craft whiskey from Kentucky is made with a mash bill of 65 percent corn, 30 percent rye, and five percent malted barley. The barrels have aged a minimum of six years before batching, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Butterscotch leads the nose on this sip as ginger snaps mingle with rich and sharp toffee candies next to a touch of vanilla, pepper, and cherry lurk underneath everything. The taste really amps up the creaminess of the vanilla and the butteriness of the toffee, as a slight marzipan flourish arrives with a thin layer of freshly cracked black pepper and salted black licorice. That pepper marries to the ginger as the heat levels off and fades out leading towards a finish with more of the vanilla and dry wood than anything else.

Bottom Line:

This is a shockingly good whiskey for a straight bourbon with no bells or whistles. That said, I’d generally use this for mixing cocktails, in a high ball, or over rocks in a pinch.

Avonak Post Oak

Post Cask
Post Cask

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This Texas bourbon is a bit of an enigma. Besides being produced in Houston, there’s not a whole lot known about the provenance of this one.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Aroma: Rich, deep vanilla, caramel, and oak notes upfront, followed by subtle fruit. Taste: Bold, heavy mouthfeel with vanilla, caramel, and oak. Heavy finish without a high-proof burn.

Bottom Line:

Color us intrigued. But given the proof and price, I’m guessing this is a great mixer for cocktails and an easy sipper on ice.

Backbone Bourbon Decade Down “Anniversary Edition” Uncut-Batch 2021

Backbone Bourbon
Backbone Bourbon

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $100

The Whiskey:

This modifier-filled whiskey is branded as the “biggest, baddest bourbon from Indiana.” The juice in the bottle is a blend of five to seven-year-old “honey barrels” from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana. Those barrels are blended and then finished in sherry for a year before bottling.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Our blend begins on the palate with rich, caramel notes. Subtle spices and dry sweetness start to make way, following with a smooth oak finish while the sherry barrels add a pleasant mouth feel. Decade Down is best sipped neat with a drop or two of water.

Bottom Line:

This sounds pretty classic with a nice, sweet edge.

Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion Series #6 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 48.95%

Average Price: $64

The Whiskey:

Bardstown Bourbon Company is one of the best blenders/distillers around. Their Fusion Series #6 release marries 56 percent three-year-old high-ish rye bourbon with 30 percent 11-year-old low-rye bourbon and 14 percent three-year-old low-rye bourbon to create this mix. Both three-year-olds are from Bardstown’s own still with the 11-year-old being sourced juice.

Tasting Notes:

Honey really stands out on the nose next to tart apples leaning towards apple cores or seeds, supported by classic notes of vanilla pods, caramel, and light oak. That apple becomes slightly stewed and spicy with the caramel lending sweetness as a hint of walnuts arrive with a buttery crust vibe that’s very apple pie. The end is slightly oaky but sweet in the way that cherry-flavored pipe tobacco is.

Bottom Line:

This is a great sipper, especially on a rock or two. It also works wonders in a cocktail. Try it in your next old fashioned, you won’t be disappointed.

Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #6 Straight Bourbon

Bardstown Discovery
Bardstown Bourbon Company

ABV: 55.55%

Average Price: $129

The Whiskey:

This limited release from a couple of months ago is a blend of heavy-hitting bourbons. The lion’s share, 68 percent, is derived from an 11-year-old Kentucky bourbon that’s made with 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley. That’s batched with 16 percent from a 17-year-old Tennessee whiskey that’s made with 84 percent corn, eight percent rye, and eight percent malted barley. The final 16 percent is a seven-year Indiana bourbon made with 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and four perfectly malted barley.

Tasting Notes:

The age comes through with a big medley of dark cherries sitting in a big cedar bowl with a dark leather jacket imbued with decades of cigarette smoke and perfume next to a hint of dark chocolate orange balls. That orange and dark chocolate drive the taste as the dark cherry becomes brandy-soaked and the cedar feels more like an old cigar humidor full of cigars laced with vanilla, orange, cherry, and chocolate individually, creating a bigger whole on the palate. The finish takes its time as the tobacco spice and fruit slowly fade out, leaving you with a dry woody note and a touch of sweet and buttery toffee.

Bottom Line:

Make sure to drop in some water to let this one bloom in the glass. Give it time, aerate, and go back and forth on the nose. It’s worth taking your time on this as a sipper.

Benchmark Bonded Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

The McAfree brothers were the trio who followed the Great Buffalo Trail from Virginia into Kentucky in the 1770s and founded what would become part of today’s Buffalo Trace. The juice in this bottle is from Buffalo Trace’s Mash #1, which has a scant amount of barley and rye next to mostly corn. This is the same mash that’s used for bigger hitting brands like Eagle Rare, Stagg, and E.H. Taylor. In this case, this is a four-year-old bonded that’s sort of like a proto-E.H. Taylor Small Batch.

Tasting Notes:

This is surprisingly bright with a nose full of lemon-honey tart sweetness, a touch of vanilla extract, a hint of charred wood, and maybe a little wet leather. The taste keeps it simple and really leans into the oak and vanilla while the honey sweetness mellows to a standard caramel with a hint of spicy tobacco. The end is pretty short but leaves you with that vanilla, honey, and tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid “bourbon and Coke” whiskey. But, in all honesty, that’s about it.

Bespoken Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Bespoken Bourbon
Bespoken Bourbon

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This Northern California distillery is all about making “craft spirits.” The juice in the bottle is a standard straight bourbon that’s distilled at MGP and aged for two years before being finished/blended in California.

Tasting Notes (from the blender):

Focus Flavors: Sweet Spice, Mocha, Pumpernickel. Nose: Marzipan, peanut butter candy, pickled ginger root, cookies & cream frosting. Palate: Sweet spice, mocha macaroons, and toasted pumpernickel bread. Finish: Complex.

Bottom Line:

“Pumpernickel” and “marzipan” have me intrigued. This definitely sounds complex and interesting.

Blue Note Juke Joint Straight Bourbon

Blue Note
Blue Note

ABV: 46.5%

Average Price: $30

The Whiskey:

This sourced whiskey comes from Kentucky. The juice is a blend of 70 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and nine percent malted barley whiskey that’s aged for up to four years before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This smells like “bourbon” on the nose with hints of caramel, vanilla, oak, and a dollop of maple syrup. The palate has a thick winter spice vibe with dusty cinnamon and eggnog-heavy nutmeg with a creamy edge next to vanilla tobacco with a whisper of cedar humidor. That spice really amps up toward the finish with a Red Hot tobacco chew and dry wicker finish.

Bottom Line:

This is nice. That said, I always forget this on the shelf. At the end of the day, I’d mix this into a highball with good fizzy water or ginger ale.

Blue Note Crossroads Straight Bourbon

Blue Note Crossroads
Blue Note

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $41

The Whiskey:

This is the same bourbon as above but finished in toasted French oak. Those barrels are blended in Memphis and proofed down to a little higher proof, allowing more of that toasted barrel to shine through.

Tasting Notes:

That oak comes through on the nose with a mix of dry cedar and resin-heavy pine as more standard notes of toffee, vanilla, and cherry shine. The palate largely follows that path with the mid-palate leaning into dried fruit and more of a dry tobacco leaf. The finish is short and sweet with a dry woodiness that’s part old cedar box and part moldy wicker deck furniture with a hint of hot mulled wine.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those whiskeys where you sip it and say, “yeah, that’s nice” and then kind of forget it exists. It’s fine, just not overly enticing.

Boulder Spirits Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

Boulder Bourbon
Boulder Spirits

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $90

The Whiskey:

This Colorado bourbon is a bit of an outlier. The juice is made from a mash bill of 51 percent corn, 44 percent malted barley, and only five percent rye. That makes this one almost closer to a grain whiskey from Ireland or Scotland than a standard bourbon. The whiskey ages for four years before blending, proofing, and bottling in the Rocky Mountains.

Tasting Notes:

This is very fruity and young on the nose with an almost hazy IPA vibe — think papaya, mango, and pineapple juiciness next to vanilla beans, oak, and caramel. The palate is a cross between sticky toffee pudding and a tropical rum cocktail with orange, lime, more pineapple, and a mix of Christmas spices next to dates and dried apricot. The finish has a sweet edge with marshmallows and cotton candy next to all that fruit and a little bit of dark chocolate tobacco on the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is definitely worth seeking out, especially if you’re heading to Denver for a vacation. It’s also worth mixing into your next cocktail if you bring a bottle home.

Chestnut Farms Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Chestnut Farms
Chestnut Farms

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $100

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a bit of an enigma. It’s distilled by Sazerac for Clear Spring Distilling Company at Barton 1792 Distillery. It’s basically the same spirit that goes into brands like Trader Joe’s and Kirkland Signature bourbon but under a Sazerac shingle. Beyond that, not much else is known.

Tasting Notes:

This is all about the fruit cake on the nose with a lot of nuts, raisins, rumminess, and winter spice next to raw pancake batter and a hint of leather. The palate is a mix of eggnog latte with an extra dusting of nutmeg next to dark chocolate powder, plenty of vanilla, and a good dose of cedar bark. The finish is long-ish with more of that nutmeg, dark chocolate, dried fruit, and cedar.

Bottom Line:

This feels like more of a really good average bourbon than a $100 bottle. It’s not going to blow any minds but it’s really good for what it is. Still, I’d buy two $50 bottles before I’d take time tracking this one down.

Clyde May’s Special Reserve Bourbon

Clyde May's
Clyde Mays

ABV: 55%

Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is sourced from an “undisclosed” distillery in Indiana (cough, cough, MGP, cough, cough). It’s aged for about three years and proofed a tad before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Spice and wet brown sugar mix on the nose with a sense of apple crumble with plenty of butter and maybe a little too much clove and allspice. The palate has a sense of savory fruit (think cantaloupe) with black peppercorns, pancake syrup, and woodiness. The whole sip is very “general” and ends with cornbread meets brown butter cut with dark sugar, vanilla, and tobacco vibe.

Bottom Line:

This is pretty damn good overall, especially if you’re looking for something that leans classic and easy sipping. It’s a little sweet for me but that’s not a knock. That’s just my palate.

Four Roses Straight Bourbon

Four Roses

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $19

The Whiskey:

This introductory juice from Four Roses is a blend of all 10 of their whiskeys. The barrels are a minimum of five years old when they’re plucked from the warehouses, blended, brought down to proof, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Apple chips (and maybe even banana chips) mingle with spiced honey, mild leather, and a green line of kiwi skins and fennel tops on the nose. Apple and honey granola cereal in heavy cream lead toward a vanilla pod and plenty of wintry spices. The finish has a dry firewood note that leads to honey tobacco with a hint of dried kiwi and red berries.

Bottom Line:

This has no business being as good as it is for $20. That said, this is squarely in the “mixing” category. But no one is stopping you from pouring this over some rocks and having a good time.

I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Straight Bourbon

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $93

The Whiskey:

I.W. Harper has a long history with a new feel. The booze is made at Heaven Hill’s New Bernheim Distillery but aged at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery — a classic contract distilling partnership. The juice spends 15 years mellowing before it’s married and proofed down to a very approachable 86 proof.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of almost fresh off-the-stalk sweet corn and bright berries on the nose with hints of orange zest, oily vanilla, and cedar. The palate leads with the cedar towards tobacco spiciness, more of that concentrated vanilla, and a very mild whisper of minty dark chocolate nibs. The finish takes its time and starts with the dry cedar, passes through that spicy tobacco buzz, and ends up on a sweet vanilla/caramel softness.

Bottom Line:

This feels like a proper $100 bourbon. It’s complex and satisfying. Add a rock to really let it open up on the glass and take your time enjoying this one.

Jim Beam Straight Bourbon

Jim Beam

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $24 (1-liter bottle)

The Whiskey:

This bourbon has a low-rye mash bill of 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and 12 percent malted barley made with Beam’s own yeast strain and plenty of spring water from the ground below the distillery. That juice is aged for at least four years before the barrels are mingled and it’s cut down to 80 proof with more of that soft Kentucky limestone water.

Tasting Notes:

You get a sourdough note that leads right into a vanilla extract that turns it into a sort of raw pancake batter. That morphs into a Cherry Coke on the nose with a soft oak that eventually fades into a light cedar note with an underlying mineral water vibe. Yes, that’s just the nose. The palate is soft with a cherry wood vibe next to a hint of corn muffins (close to Jiffy) that turns into cherry cough syrup with a woody underbelly. Next, light caramel sweetness works the mid-palate towards a warm “spice” countered by dry, woody vanilla and a final hint of sourness tied to yeast that closes the circle, so to speak.

Bottom Line:

Never underestimate the power of good, standard bourbon. This stuff rules, especially if you’re looking for a highball base with some good mineral water and a twist of lime.

Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Jim Beam

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $20

The Whiskey:

This expression replaced the old Jim Beam Black Label 8 Year. The juice in this bottle is aged longer than your average four-year-old Beam, but there is no age statement on exactly how long. The best way to think of it is that it’s aged for as long as it needs to be, according to the distilling team.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with hints of old leather, orchard fruits, vanilla caramel candies, and dried pepper tree kindling. Wet corn husks open the palate as Vanilla Coke and cherry candy create a sweet base before dry wicker break the palate towards the finished. Charred oak staves with a hint of bitterness lead toward a creamy end with hints of vanilla and apples.

Bottom Line:

This is one of my favorite on-the-rocks bourbons. It’s easy, deep, and very comforting. You can’t miss with this one.

Kentucky Owl Wiseman Bourbon

Kentucky Owl Wiseman
SPI Group

ABV: 45.4%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This new-ish release from Kentucky Owl is meant to be an affordable and accessible Kentucky Owl from the otherwise elite brand. The juice is a blend of contract distilled whiskey from Bardstown Bourbon Company and sourced barrels from around Kentucky that are four to eight years old.

Tasting Notes:

This is very interesting on the nose with a mix of circus peanut, garam masala, sweet grass, and pine resin next to a hint of rich and buttery toffee sauce with a flake of salt. The palate leans into that toffee and then layers in raspberry sorbet, vanilla beans, masa azul, and wet cedar planks. A leathery tobacco pouch rounds out the sip near the end with more of that cedar, dry sweet grass, and a hint more of the spice.

Bottom Line:

This is a home run. It’s awesome on the rocks but really kills in a cocktail. Try it in your next Manhattan.

Kirkland Signature Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Kirkland Signature Bottled In Bond
Costco

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is made at Barton 1792 Distillery. Basically, you’re getting a 1792 Bottled In Bond for about half the price thanks to Costo’s branding.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a rich and hot apple pie with a lard crust, plenty of dark spices, and hints of raisins and walnut next to a whisper of fresh mint. The palate leans into the spice as the apple gets a little tart with caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream, and a touch of wet cedar. The finish feels like an apple fritter dipped in dark chocolate with a touch of spicy tobacco and dry wicker in the background.

Bottom Line:

This is the best deal on this list. If you have a Costo card, go and grab a bottle of this right now. Then mix up some serious cocktails with it. Or just enjoy it on some rocks.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond Spring 2022 Bourbon

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 17
Heaven Hill

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $185 (MSRP)

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was distilled and laid down in barrels back in 2004. The barrels were vatted after 17 years and proofed down to the bottled-in-bond standard of 100 proof and then bottled in the iconic Old Fitz decanter for a Spring 2022 release.

Tasting Notes:

A hint of woodiness comes through on the nose via cherry tree bark with the faintest echo of dried rose next to soft vanilla oil, a hint of cedar, a distant thought of old leather, and a touch of burnt orange peels. The palate starts off softly with a lush vanilla cream that builds towards a winter spice matrix of nutmeg, allspice, and clove with a touch of cherrywood that sweetens toward dried cherries. That mid-palate builds on the cherry with spices (nutmeg and allspice) and sticky tobacco vibes as the finish arrives next to a super creamy dark cherry in vanilla cream feel with a dusting of dark chocolate and more of that dry cherry tree bark.

Bottom Line:

This might be the best bottle on this list. In fact, this might be my favorite whiskey of the year. I know it’s early but this whiskey slaps.

Old Forester 100 Proof Straight Bourbon

Brown-Forman

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $28

The Whisky:

This line of bourbon is a stone-cold classic. Their 100-proof expression is made in the same way as their 86 proof. The key difference is after these barrels are blended, they’re barely touched with water, keeping the proof very hearty.

Tasting Notes:

Oak and caramel draw you in on the nose with a nice dose of cherry candy and a hint of coffee bitterness. The palate wallows in vanilla as a spicy apple pie with a vanilla-flecked, buttery crust drives the taste. The oak, apple, and spice really power the dram home with a medium-length fade and plenty of bourbon warmth.

Bottom Line:

This is a great mixer for your next cocktail. That’s all you really need to know.

Old Scout Bourbon

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon
Smooth Ambler

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $41

The Whiskey:

Old Scout is MGP’s classic high rye bourbon — 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malt barley — that’s aged for five years. The juice is batched in small quantities and proofed down with West Virginia’s Appalachian water.

Tasting Notes:

The nose draws you in with a soft masa vibe with a mix of Tex-Mex spices (think chili powder and a hint of cumin and garlic powder) that’s countered by cedar park and chocolate-laced tobacco leaves (the nose takes me straight back to my favorite childhood Tex-Mex joint). The taste veers more toward a classic bourbon with cherry tobacco and bales of damp straw next to a smooth vanilla foundation cinnamon-infused dark chocolate and a touch of dry oak. The finish lingers for a bit as vanilla toffees, a smidge of marshmallow, and spicy cherry tobacco round everything out.

Bottom Line:

This is another great sipper that also works wonders in a cocktail thanks to all that spice.

Rebel 100 Proof

Rebel
Luxco

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This bourbon comes from Lux Row in Kentucky but is sourced from other distilleries. The whiskey is a wheated bourbon without an age statement but is generally at least four years old.

Tasting Notes:

This starts off with classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak that veers toward dry cornmeal, a hint of cedar, and a touch of old leather. The palate has a silky mouthfeel with vanilla oils, rich caramel syrup, buttered cornbread, and a dusting of thin white pepper. That pepper and vanilla mingle on the finish as the cornbread gets even more buttery and sweet with a vanilla tobacco chew closing out the sip with an edge of dryness.

Bottom Line:

For 20 bucks, you cannot beat this. This works as an on the rocks sipper as well as a cocktail base.

Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered Bourbon

Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered
Smoke Wagon

ABV: Varies

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

Smoke Wagon’s meteoric rise can be attributed to their crew masterfully sourcing and blending some of the best barrels from MGP of Indiana that were made available in the modern era. Case in point, the latest batch from the company was a high-rye bourbon (60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and four percent malted barley) that was an instant hit and was filled into bottles with no fussing at all.

Tasting Notes:

Based on Batch 29, expect a nose full of classic bourbon notes of orange oils, cinnamon stewed apples, caramel with a touch of salt, and peachy wood chips. The palate really embraces the fruit and moves from that peach vibe towards a blackberry crumble that’s just kissed with nutmeg and clove that leads towards a hint of old leather, singed cedar planks, and a late hint of cherry-touched tobacco. That leather, berry tobacco, and cedar drive the finish towards a dry end.

Bottom Line:

This is just classic from top to bottom. I like sipping on this with a rock but also use it for Manhattans thanks to the higher ABVs.

The Depot John C. Fremont Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The Depot Bourbon
The Depot

ABV: 44%

Average Price: Limited Availability

The Whiskey:

This Nevada whiskey is made with local sustainable grains. The whiskey is then aged in small, 10-gallon barrels (average barrels are 53 gallons) under the hot Nevada sun for four years before blending, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

The result is a sublime whiskey: notes of vanilla, oak, honey, and a touch of cinnamon spice.

Bottom Line:

This sounds interesting, I guess. I’d definitely look it up if I was in Reno but am not going out of my way to find it otherwise.

Thirteenth Colony Distillery Southern Bourbon

Southern Whiskey
Southern Whiskey

ABV: 47.5%

Average Price: $42

The Whiskey:

This is another Kentucky sourced whiskey with a familiar mash bill of 70 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and nine percent malted barley (like Blue Note above). This version ages for over four years before blending, proofing, and bottling in Georgia.

Tasting Notes (from the blender):

Medium to long finish, sweet corn cobs, leather, cinnamon, tobacco, cherry.

Bottom Line:

Again, I’d probably seek this out if I was in Georgia, but I doubt I’ll spend much time thinking of it otherwise.

William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Sazerac Company

ABV: 62.65%

Average Price: $2,195

The Whiskey:

Distilled back in the fall of 2009, this barrel-strength bourbon skips the Minnesota rye and instead uses North Dakota wheat with that NoDak barley and Kentucky corn. The juice spent 12-and-a-half years mellowing in warehouses C, D, K, L, and Q on floors one through three. While maturing, 64 percent of the whiskey was lost to the angels before it was small-batched and bottled as is.

Tasting Notes:

The creaminess of the vanilla on the nose is extraordinary. Imagine the softness and richest crème anglaise with a touch of salted caramel syrup, eggnog spice, and a towering croquembouche with all the spun hard sugar holding the whole thing together. That light yet buttery cream puff drives towards a slight shortbread vibe with toasted cinnamon sticks, moist cherry tobacco, more vanilla cream, and a soft echo of dried smoked stone fruits. The finish drives back towards the sweetness of that salted caramel but this time it’s covered in dark chocolate and sitting inside an old cedar box that once held fistfuls of menthol-laced tobacco leaves.

Bottom Line:

This, like Old Fitzgerald, blows away a lot of the competition on this list. Going back to the opening point of these medals being like nominations, this is likely to win best in show. It’s really that good.

Wolcott Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Wolcott
Wolcott

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $48

The Whiskey:

This whiskey comes from Sazerac under the “Clear Springs Distilling Co.” banner, but this time it’s Buffalo Trace juice instead of Barton 1792. Beyond that, not much else is known about the bottle.

Tasting Notes (from the blender):

Shy on the nose, big and zesty on the palate with sweet corn tinged with berries and a touch of apricot. Leather and cinnamon on the finish.

Bottom Line:

This certainly sounds interesting. Though, I’d likely just get a bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon before I’d spend time seeking this out.

×