Despite tariff pressures, the American whiskey category is brimming with producers of all sizes offering exceptional liquid. We round up the expressions that scored highly in our recent blind-tasting competition.
Top 10 award-winning American whiskeysBy Nicola Carruthers
The Spirits Business held its annual American Whiskey Masters last month, where an experienced panel of judges recognised the best bottlings in the business.
Looking across multiple categories, from single malt to Tennessee whiskey, Bourbon to rye, a wide range of whiskeys were awarded the top accolades of Master and Gold medals for their quality.
The individual scores of each entrant have not been revealed, however these are 10 of the highest rated medalists in the competition, in no particular order.
While some expressions are not standard priced, our judges have given each American whiskey listed here the seal of approval for offering excellent quality within their respective price categories.
Click through to the following pages to view the top 10 award-winning expressions from this year’s American Whiskey Masters.
Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: £94.95 (US$114.50)
Sazerac Company’s Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon grabbed a Master in the ultra-premium leg of the Bourbon round.
The judges enjoyed the expression’s aroma of “soft vanilla and fudge”, and “complex” palate filled with flavours of “tarte tatin and spice”.
The brand is named after Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, a historic Bourbon figure from from the 1800s.
New York Distilling Company 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Rye Company)
Price: £37.95 (US$45.80)
In the Rye – Aged up to 7 Years flight, Master-winning New York Distilling Company 2 Year Old – Batch 1 (That Boutique‐y Rye Company), was praised for its “classy maturity”.
“A lovely rounded rye with all the character you’d expect from a middle‐aged rye,” one judge noted.
The 53% abv expression is made from rye selected and grown exclusively by Pedersen Family Farm in the Fingerlakes region of upstate New York.
Ironroot Harbinger Bourbon
Price: £35 (US$42.23)
In the Bourbon – Aged up to 7 Years round, a Master medal was bestowed upon Ironroot Harbinger Bourbon, which had a “fresh, complex” nose, despite being 57.5% abv.
Notes of “chilli chocolate, coffee and apple strudel” were prominent on the palate.
Texas-based grain-to-glass distillery Ironroot Republic also produces a corn whiskey, gin, vodka and moonshine.
Old Forester 1870 Original Batch
Brown‐Forman took home a Master for its Old Forester 1870 Original Batch, in which judges were thrilled to find flavours of “marmalade, leather, pear juice, black cherry”. The expression also swiped the coveted Taste Master title.
The US drinks firm created Old Forester 1870 Original Batch to celebrate the year 1870 when George Garvin Brown created Old Forester on Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky.
291 Colorado Rye Whiskey Aspen Stave Finish
Price: £86.95 (US$105)
A tasting of the ultra‐premium ryes unearthed another Master in 291 Colorado Rye Whiskey Aspen Stave Finished.
One judge said: “I was excited to taste this; the nose was so enticing. There’s nice subtle barbecue smoke in there.”
The expression is a single barrel rye whiskey distilled in a copper pot still, aged in American white oak barrels for one year, and finished with aspen stave.
St George 2 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rye Company)
Price: £54.95 (US$66.30)
Master winner St George 2 Year Old from That Boutique‐y Rye Company was commended for its “wonderful Riesling grape nose” and “cloves, dried orange and banana”.
The two-year-old rye from California-based distiller St George Spirits is bottled at 55% abv. Batch one is limited to a release of 400 bottles.
Elmer T Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: £62 (US$74.82)
Judges found notes of “strawberry laces” and “berry pie” in Sazerac Company’s Elmer T Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which was awarded with a Master medal in the super-premium Bourbon round.
The limited edition whiskey was launched in honour of master distiller Emeritus Elmer T Lee, who died in 2013 at the age of 93.
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey
Price: £55 (US$66.37)
In the Tennessee – Super Premium heat, a Gold medal was handed to Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey for its “really interesting” flavours, such as “passion fruit cheesecake”.
Bottled at 50% abv, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey is produced in Tennessee using a combination of corn and rye, and is put through the Lincoln County Process before being aged in new American oak barrels.
Balcones Texas No 1 Single Malt
Price: £79.99 (US$96.55)
Storming to success in the Single Malt – Ultra Premium category was Gold medallist Balcones Texas No.1 Single Malt, with its flavours of “pink pepper, wheat and mulberry”.
Texas-based Balcones Distilling uses “classic techniques and ingredients adapted for New World tastes” to create the 53% abv expression.
Old Forester Rye Whiskey
The Rye – Premium round delivered a Gold medal to Brown‐Forman’s Old Forester Rye Whiskey, which judges said had “cracking rye spice”. “This was textbook – and light for the abv,” noted one judge.
The 50% abv expression was made with a historic recipe, acquired in 1940 by Owsley Brown I, and features a mash bill of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn.