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mercredi 5 août 2020

Here Are The Highest Scoring Bourbons From The Ultimate Spirits Challenge

The 2020 Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC) saw a record-setting number of entries from over 45 spirit-producing nations. The result was a genuinely diverse list of winners across categories, rather than the same old lobby-controlling stalwarts we often see taking home trophies. That’s good news — a shot in the arm for an industry where upstarts often don’t get the love they deserve.

The USC rolls-out their awards under the Ultimate Beverage Challenge banner — wherein experts in various drinks categories take their time to blindly taste a hell of a lot of liquids (in this case, booze). Unlike other spirits competitions, the USC judges don’t experience all the alcohol over a single wild festival weekend. The tastings are spaced out and hosted in a tasting center in Hawthrone, New York. Each dram is mulled over, savored, and awarded points; again blindly, to remove all bias.

This detailed judging generates a list of the very best bottles and expressions you can buy right now. And not only is flavor rated, but whiskeys are also credited as “Great Value” buys when deserved. Meaning the judges are not only telling you what tastes they favor but which prices, too. You can’t ask for more than that from a spirits contest.

The ten bottles below were rated the top ten bourbons available right now. We decided to use the Ultimate Spirits Challenge judge’s tasting notes where available to add their POV to the sipping experience. (When these weren’t available, we used our own notes.) We’ve also added delivery options if you want to try any of the bottles yourself — though be warned, a few of them get pretty pricey.

Stagg, JR. (98 points)

ABV: 64.2%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This was the top of the pile when it came to bourbon this year. Stagg, Jr. was also our choice for one of the best whiskey alternatives to ultra-expensive bottles. This bottle won the most awards, from being the top pick to also being a “Great Value” whiskey — a title which will not last long if the expression keeps taking home hardware.

Tasting Notes:

“Poundcake, grapefruit zest, chopped walnuts, red apple skin, and maple cream make for an alluring bouquet. The palate carries weight in terms of body and powerful spice, as well as ample fruit to add balance. Deep woodsy smoke and dark chocolate mark the finish.”

George T. Stagg (97 points)

ABV: 58.45%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $499 ($99 MSRP)

The Whiskey:

Every year, Buffalo Trace releases their Antique Collection which includes five highly sought-after bottles of the good stuff. George T. Stagg leads the way with whiskey that’s been aged at least 15 years and carries with it the mastery of distilling and aging that makes this bottle a collector’s dream.

Tasting Notes:

“Seductive aromas of thick spice, maple, cherries, and roasted tobacco leaf are a pleasure to smell. Robust in the mouth with more cigar box flavors that develop into concentrated dried fruit and vanilla toasted nuts. The velvet texture adds to the overall irresistible charm.”

Hillrock Estate Exceptional Cask Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey (97 points)

ABV: 58.4%
Distillery: Hillrock Estate, Ancram, NY
Average Price: $140

The Whiskey:

This tiny, grain-to-glass distillery up in New York creates some great drams. This expression is aged slowly using the “Solera” method. They use 20-year-old Olorosso sherry casks to age their bourbon with the classic “pyramid” Solera stacking of barrels in the rickhouse.

The result is an awarding-winning whiskey you’ll likely be hearing more and more about.

Tasting Notes:

“Deep spice, dried fruit, and nut aromas are enticing. Flavors kick off in the mouth with tart dried orchard fruits before turning to intense baking spice, and finally, brown sugar baked nuts. Hints of vanilla and creamy coffee linger on the fruity and endless finish.”

Bib & Tucker Small Batch 6 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey (96 points)

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits (Sourced in Tennessee)
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This bourbon continues to wow professionals and consumers alike. The juice utilizes a high-corn mash bill alongside plenty of rye, giving it a classic feel. The nuance and well-rounded feel to this dram come from the six years of aging in low-char barrels.

All of that makes for a unique and very tasty Tennessee bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

“Lifted aromas of peach and vanilla mingle with deeper notes of leather, buttered brioche, and egg nog. The palate offers more fruit and cream alongside earthy rolled oats and banana bread. The finish is punctuated by tinges of maple syrup and cashew, which linger on the tongue.”

Barrell Bourbon Batch 022 5 Years Old (96 points)

ABV: 58.3%
Distillery: Barrell Craft Spirits, Louisville, KY (Sourced)
Average Price: $120

The Whiskey:

Barrell Bourbon’s blending has become the gold standard of the process. This expression is a blend of Kentucky and Indiana bourbon that’s been aged for at least five years. The blending and bottling all happen in Kentucky under the watchful eyes of Barrell’s masters and the result is a cask strength beauty.

Tasting Notes:

“Creamy maple oatmeal and brown sugar roasted corn are sweet and heady aromas with an earthy backbone. Spice-laden in the mouth, baked stone fruits, and vanilla custard are pungent and luscious flavors. A gently leathery finish adds textural contrast to the otherwise smooth body.”

Horse Soldier Reserve Barrel Strength (96 points)

ABV: 58.45%
Distillery: American Freedom Distillery, St. Petersburg, FL (Middlewest Spirits)
Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This whiskey was created by war veterans to honor war veterans. The juice is distilled and aged in Ohio at Middlewest Spirits before bottling in Florida. This expression is a wheated bourbon that’s bottled with no fuss, giving you the pure experience of bourbon in every sip.

Tasting Notes:

“Bold and spicy on the nose, with soft notes of toasted hay, salted caramel, espresso, and cream. The palate is explosive and rife with spicy oak, roasted corn, and malted chocolate flavors that coalesce on a warm, peppery finish.”

William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon (96 points)

ABV: 64%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $699 ($99 MSRP)

The Whiskey:

Here we have another bourbon from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection. This wheated bourbon was distilled back in 2007 and spent its life aging in the main rickhouse of the Buffalo Trace facility. This one is pricey, but it’s also a master-class in what great bourbon distillation and barrelling looks like.

Tasting Notes:

“This whiskey offers a soft yet profound nose that rings true to its wheat-heavy mash bill: think vanilla, pipe tobacco, coffee liqueur, golden raisin, and orange marmalade. The palate is bold and structured with stone fruit and baking spice giving way to touches of cherry and green herbs.”

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon (96 points)

ABV: 45%
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

When Sazerac took over the George T. Stagg Distillery and renamed it Buffalo Trace, they also brought legendary distiller Elmer T. Lee out of retirement to make their signature bottle, Buffalo Trace. This whiskey was also rated “Great Value.” The low-rye/high-corn mashed bourbon is rendered as an entry point the vastness of the lines available via the distillery while also being one damn fine sip of bourbon.

Tasting Notes (Ours):

A combination of bourbon vanilla meets flourishes of fresh mint next to a deep molasses sweetness. That molasses softens, landing on a brown sugar sweetness as hints of toffee mingle with dark berries, anise, and oak. The spice peaks as the fruit, oak, and vanilla slowly fade away.

Four Roses Small Batch Select (96 points)

ABV: 52%
Distillery: Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY (Kirin Brewing)
Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

Part of the beauty of Four Roses is their program that utilizes ten individual bourbon recipes, using two mash bills and five different yeast strains. This expression combines six of those bourbons under the masterful eye of master distiller Brent Elliott. The expression is mostly comprised of six to seven-year-old barrels with this bottling adding up to 12-year-old bourbons to the mix.

Tasting Notes:

“Very pretty aromas combine flowers, fruit, and sweet pastry shop treats to create an overall enticing profile. Buttery soft in the mouth, the flavors are deeply spice laden with peach skin, dried apricots, and a subtle maple aroma that runs throughout each sip.”

1792 Aged 12 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon (96 points)

ABV: 48.3%
Distillery: Barton 1792 Distillery, Bardstown, KY (Sazerac)
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

1792 has been tearing up the awards scene in the last couple of years. The accolades come with good reason — their bourbons are well-crafted and hit on classic notes. In this case, this expression is a high-rye mashed bourbon that spends 12 long years aging before bottling. This bourbon was also rated as a “Great Value.”

Tasting Notes (Ours):

Oily vanilla pods marry light spice and a note of raw chocolate upfront. Maple syrup, sharp spice, and dried fruits mingle on the palate. The sip fades slowly away, as a distant billow of smoke adds a final flourish to the end of the dram.



from UPROXX https://uproxx.com/life/best-bourbons-according-to-expert-judges/
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