Best Bourbon And American Whiskey of the Year Contenders


December 20, 2020

My 2020 American Whiskey of the Year contenders vary from the rare and hard-to-find to the exceptional everyday bourbons. And in the year of great challenges, when their backs were against the wall, craft distillers showed up big time this year. MB Roland, Peerless, Spirits of French Lick,  Journeyman, St. George and Rua are all small distillers with a taster’s chance of winning it all.

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I also found 2020 to be an exceptional year for barrel finishes. The Best Barrel Finish, Four Gate, allowed the bourbon to shine with accents of the Cognac and Rum barrels. Can this sourced finished whiskey win it all?

Of my categories, I was most disappointed with the celebrity whiskeys. I love the fact celebrities want to get into whiskey. But I want to see them get involved and do something more than just a clever bottle design, name or hire a consultant. That’s why for the second year in a row, No. 9 Iowa Whiskey, is my Best Celebrity Whiskey. Clown from Slipknot batched this with distiller Cedar Ridge. And you know what? It’s friggin’ good.

I’ve also come to the realization that Barrell is creating a monopoly on the Blend of Straights movement. They have three in the running this year. Perhaps it’s because they’ve mastered this category, but I’m just not seeing the depth I thought we might from the rest. In fact, if anything, blending shows flaws in components more times than not. But I wouldn’t rest on Old Elk or High West here; both are tasty. 

This year, I also added wild card picks and have spread out my categorical tastings. I’ve already selected Best Barrel Finish and Best Rye and will continue to narrow down before my livestream on December 22. Because, as I taste live on YouTube, I don’t want a repeat of last year where I am sipping on 40 whiskeys. I mean, I am only human.

So, here are my 2020 Contenders.

Best Barrel Finish

Four Gate Batch #6, 126.4 proof, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Cognac and Rum Casks

Best Celebrity Whiskey

No. 9 Reserve Iowa Whiskey, 99 Proof

Best Corn Whiskey

MB Roland Corn Whiskey, Batch No. 9, 115.6 Proof, 2 years old 

Best Wheat Whiskey

Journeyman Corsets Batch 10, 132.5 Proof, 100% Wheat

Best Rye

Sazerac 18 year old, 90 Proof

Best Blend of Straights 

Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 88 Proof

Barrell Batch 25, 5 years, 113.4 proof, Blend of Straight Bourbon from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee

Barrell Batch 26, 9 years, 112.64 Proof, Blend of Straight Bourbons from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee 

Barrell Private Release, Blend No. A01A, 107.98 Proof, Blend of Straight Bourbon from Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Ages in blend: 5 year (10%), 9 year (15%), 13 (5%) and 15 year (70%).

High West BouRye Blend of Straight Whiskeys (rye and bourbon), 92 Proof, Batch 19LO6

Best American Single Malt

Rua, aged 16 months, 92 Proof

Balcones Texas Single Malt 1, 106 Proof

St. George Single Malt Lot 20, 86 Proof

Westland Garryana, 5th Edition, 100 Proof

Wild Card Bourbon

Sweetens Cove Batch 3, 13 years old, 101.57 proof

Rare Breed, 116.8 proof

Lucky 7, 12 year, The Hold Up, 100 proof

Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon, 116.5 proof 

Kentucky Peerless Small Batch, 109.5 proof 

Three Chord 15 year, 117.9 proof

Best Bourbon

Wild Card Winner: Unknown

Best Non-Kentucky Bourbon: Lee W. Sinclair, Four Grain Bourbon (Corn, Wheat, Oats and Barley), 4 Years Old, 100 Proof

Best Everyday Winner: Old Forester 1920, 115 proof

William Larue Weller, BTAC: 12 years, 134.5 proof

Bulleit Blenders Select, 100 proof 

Four Roses 2020 Limited Edition Small Batch (OBSV 12 years, OESV 12 years, OESK 16 years, OBSK 19 years), 111.3 proof 

Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch 1, 125.6 proof

Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch 2, 126.4 proof

Wild Turkey Bottled in Bond 17 year, 100 proof

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series #2 (44% 10 year Kentucky Straight bourbon with 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malt; 39% 12 year Kentucky Bourbon with 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% malt; and 17% 14 year Kentucky Bourbon with 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malt). 122.2 proof. 

Larceny Barrel Proof 520, 122.2 proof

Old Fitzgerald 16 Year Bottled in Bond, 100 proof

Knob Creek 15 Year old, 100 proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A120, 136.6 proof

New Riff Maltster Wheated Bourbon, 100 proof

Booker’s 2020-02, 6 years 3 months, 126.5 proof

Pappy Van Winkle 15-year-old, 1007 proof 

George Remus Repeal Reserve IV (77% 2008 bourbon with 21% rye, 23% 2008 bourbon with 36% rye), 100 proof

Good luck to the contenders. Don’t miss it! Set your reminder now.

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