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.
>>>>>>>Set Your Reminder: December 22, 9 p.m. EST<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
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 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
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.
Affiliate links used in this story. Set the reminder to watch the livestream on Tuesday.Stay In Touch!