The 13 Best Bourbons In America

We brought you the
world’s best scotches. Then you cooled down with
some gin. But this is America
— here’s the bourbon.
In the “Whiskey – USA” category at last month’s International Wine and Spirit Competition, great bottles of bourbon won a “Gold,” but the very best took home a “Gold Outstanding” for setting the industry standard for excellence.

These bottles all went through the gauntlet. Wines and liquors are subject to professional blind tasting and chemical and microbiological analysis at the competition. Only the strong spirits survive.

From recognisable names like Jim Beam and Knob Creek to smaller distilleries that — if you can believe it — do not call Kentucky home, here are the best bourbons.

Jim Beam Signature Craft Bourbon Whiskey 12 YO

Comment: 'Very expressive nose with ripe cherries, fruit cake and liquorice leading followed by vanilla and cinnamon. Great intensity in the mouth with slow deliberate movement across the palate depositing flavours of dried dates, dark brown sugar and treacle. Great texture and super balance. Concentration of flavours lead into everlasting finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Jim Beam Devil's Cut Bourbon Whiskey 6 YO

Comment: 'Unusual notes of spearmint on the nose then some hickory, treacle and spicy surround. Soft entry into the mouth with silky flow yet firm texture. Hints of rye with great dark sugar statement with a scatter of vanilla with some cinnamon. Some soft fruit and more honey come in at the finish. A great individual expression of Bourbon.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 YO

Comment: 'The family resemblance is there but all in much higher gear. Enticing nose of nuttiness, honeycomb and vanilla in tight focus. Impactful entry into the mouth with the extra alcohol highlighting all the flavours. Rye and barley stand out with charred orange peel, rich honey and some treacle. Full flow across the palate and all in perfect balance. After the sweet sensations there is a decidedly dry but gorgeous finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Comment: 'Super attractive nose laden with toffee, old leather, caramel with hints of mint and aniseed. Full entry into the mouth with deep body and well rounded, super smooth palate. Flavours fill the taste buds ranging across spices, vanilla, honey, butterscotch and some dried fruit as well. Long, creamy finish with vanilla in at the finale.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Lidl UK Western Gold Kentucky Bourbon Whisky

Comment: 'Attractive fruity nose with oak, spice and nutty notes. Good floral backing with rich vanilla at the edge. Big, full, well rounded mouth where flavours follow the nose with some marzipan and brown sugar with hint of aniseed and vanilla. Lively mouth yet well balanced as is the full flavored finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Hogs Bourbon 3 YO

Comment: 'Very attractive nose packed with chocolate, coffee and loads of soft vanilla notes. Full, lively entry into the mouth where all the aromas on the nose transfer into full flavours. Lots of ripe fruit mingle with the chocolate, café and the spicy vanilla and cinnamon. Rich and mellow with some rye crispness all backed by well charred oak. Delightful long fruit and spice filled finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Pabst & Richarz Vertriebs GmbH Western Gold Bourbon Whiskey

Comment: 'Attractive fruity nose with oak, spice and nutty notes. Good floral backing with rich vanilla at the edge. Big, full, well rounded mouth where flavours follow the nose with some marzipan and brown sugar with hint of aniseed and vanilla. Lively mouth yet well balanced as is the full flavored finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

Comment: 'Delicate, refined nose that takes a while to lift off, then delivers a wide range of aromatics starting with rich vanilla, spicy oak, vanilla, rye, corn then some honey and mint. Sweet sensations as it enters the mouth with flavours generating as it flows across the palate. Much the same as the nose promised with more honey, some caramel and firm oak support. Super balance and fine texture. A really lovely drink.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Blanton's Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Comment: 'Corn and honey lead on the nose with some toasty oak and tropical fruit. Rich and full in the mouth with great development of spice and ripe fruit across the palate. Flavours of soft toffee mint and honey evolve with some time in the glass. Long, creamy, spice filled finish.'

Award: Gold

Source: IWSC

Jim Beam Black Bourbon Whiskey 8 YO

Comment: 'Bold, rye on the nose with brown sugar and rich honey. Caramel and butterscotch follow. Big, rich and full bodied in the mouth with toffee, gentle vanilla and some molasses giving sensation of slow, deliberate flow across the palate. Sweet oak does a good supporting job. Lovely, warming swallow. A delicious experience.'

Award: Gold Outstanding

Source: IWSC

Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey

Comment: 'Vanilla, malt and honey dominate the nose. Gorgeous entry into the mouth where honey leads the way. Good grainy character with oily smooth flow across the palate. Corn, honey and oak enrich the palate. Good balance. More oak shows in drying finish.'

Award: Gold Outstanding

Source: IWSC

Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon 10 YO Whiskey

Comment: 'Nose opens with the most inviting charred and caramelized oak and orange zest and loads of vanilla, old leather and ripe summer fruits. The palate is vanilla dominated to start then becomes more complex with almonds, chocolate, old leather and a hint of mint plus all the ripe summer fruits. Long, spicy finish where crème brûlée plays a part. Delicious whiskey.'

Award: Gold Outstanding

Source: IWSC

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