Top 10 award-winning American whiskeysBy Melita Kiely
Served straight up, on the rocks or mixed in your favourite cocktail, these show-stopping American whiskeys demonstrate the cornucopia of styles available across the category.
From straight Bourbon whiskeys to American rye and Tennessee whiskeys, the breadth of styles coming from the American whiskey scene is hugely exciting.
And if there were any doubts about the quality of liquid coming from this fast-growing part of the spirits world, our annual American Whiskey Masters blind tasting, held in May 2022, erased any fragments of doubt.
Below, we’ve selected 10 Master- and Gold-winning whiskeys that were praised by our panels of independent, expert judges.
This year’s judges were: Michael Fichtner, whisky sommelier at The Coburg Bar at The Connaught; Herchelle Perez Terrado, director of Drinks Partnership; Chris Tanner, general manager of Silverleaf bar in London; Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog; Derek Millar, retired whisky sales advisor; Angelo Sparvoli, head bartender at St James Bar at the Sofitel St James in London; Marie Cheong Thong, wine and spirits judge, and Wine and Spirit Education Trust educator; Billy Abbott, ambassador at The Whisky Exchange; Caroline Roddis, editor of The Whisky Exchange; drinks consultant Stephen Kennard, of SMJK Consulting; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions.
Keep reading to find out which of this year’s medal winners made our top 10.
Remus Repeal Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
In the top price tier of the Bourbon heat, which looked at ultra-premium bottlings priced at £51 (US$63) and above, Remus Repeal Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey secured a Master medal. The Bourbon comprises a blend of five whiskeys aged between eight and 14 years.
Launched by Luxco-owned Ross & Squibb Distillery, the Bourbon was praised for notes of “lilacs and peonies” and “burnt sugar fields”.
WL Weller 12 Years Old
If you’re after a whiskey that’s brimming with notes of vanilla, coconut, chocolate and a touch of fruitiness, then this is the bottling for you. Our judges were thoroughly impressed by this Master-winning Bourbon. Bottled at 45% ABV, this whiskey retails for around £42 (US$52) per bottle.
Chambers noted during the tasting: “Super silky on the palate with a lovely balance of sweetness, oak and spice, plenty of depth. Feels very classy – superb.”
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon
When paying a top-end price for a Bourbon, you should expect nothing less than top quality – and that is precisely what you get with Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon. In the Bourbon – Ultra Premium heat, this whiskey secured a Gold medal.
Bottled at 58.4% ABV, this whiskey is packed with flavours of “caramel, oak” leading to a “fresh finish”. Delicious.
High West American Prairie Bourbon
This whiskey was bottled while High West waits for its own liquid to fully mature – but it’s an absolute cracker of a bottling. Combining a blend of six- and 13-year-old Bourbons, it sits at 46% ABV.
Tasting notes from our judges included “creamy palate” with “wood spices and a long, lingering” finish.
291 Colorado Rye Whiskey Finished with Aspen Wood Staves, Single Barrel
Deep-charred American white oak barrels and toasted aspen staves to finish give this Master-winning rye whiskey its distinctive flavour. Crafted from rye malt, sour mash, the whiskey is distilled in a copper pot still, then aged in American white oak deep-char barrels, before being finished with toasted aspen staves.
Its final ABV rests at 50.8%, giving notes of “unbaked banana bread dough, dark roasted coffee and malt”. An utterly moreish pour, we’re sure you’ll agree.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye
Master-winning Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye was uncovered in the penultimate round of The American Whiskey Masters 2022: Rye – Single Barrel. Perez Terrado described the whiskey as having “dry tannins on the palate. Warming rye spice runs through; long complex finish, and nuttiness overall.”
The whiskey comes from Wild Turkey, and has an ABV of 52%. Those who like this sound of this bottling can find it retailing for around £75 (US$93).
Whistlepig Piggyback Rye
Gold-winning Whistlepig Piggyback Rye was created by the brand’s master blender Pete Lynch, and late master distiller Dave Pickerall. Aged for six years, this rye whiskey boasts an alcohol strength of 48.3% ABV.
Expect to find intriguing flavours of “cherry pop and cream soda” in this “mouth-coating” whiskey.
Ole Smokey Peanut Butter
This flavoured whiskey always goes down a treat in our blind tastings – and 2022 was no exception. Consistently delivering a high-quality flavoured whiskey, Ole Smokey Peanut Butter Whiskey is a fun, crowd-pleasing bottling.
Think warming whiskey spice mingled with Butterkist popcorn – a smooth, easy-sipper, or something to play with in cocktails. The possibilities are endless…
Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition – Batch No.001
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is a brand that is seemingly going from strength to strength – just look at its recent sales performance. In the ultra-premium segment of the tasting, a Gold medal was presented to the brand’s Master Blender Edition Batch No.001.
Taylor found notes of “praline, sour cherries and orange peel”, before adding: “Manhattan in a glass – just add the garnish.”
Eagle Rare 10 Years Old
“Very balanced and expressive” is how the judges described Eagle Rare 10 Years Old. The whiskey bagged a Gold medal in the Bourbon – Aged over 8 Years heat. Made by the pros at Buffalo Trace, this Bourbon has been bottled at 45% ABV and offers great value for money, retailing for around £35 (US$43) per bottle.