The Best Bourbon of the Year Goes Against Everything Whiskey Drinkers Once Held Dear

More than 40 judges agree: the best bourbon of the year is a blended whiskey sourced from three different states.


The following may read like science fiction to longtime whiskey drinkers: the winner of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition’s “Best Bourbon” category is Barrell Bourbon Batch 021, a three-part blend of bourbons sourced from Tennesse, Indiana and Kentucky, none of which were distilled or matured by Barrell Craft Spirits, the independent bottler behind the whiskey.

In the whiskey world, blends were once an afterthought; an attitude born from a time when “blended” was code for watering down good whiskey with grain spirit to make more money. More recently, non-distiller producers (or NDPs) have come under fire — these are companies that purchase barrels from larger distillers, and thus don’t make the whiskey they sell. Barrell’s blend of straight bourbons that make up the 021 batch is both of these things, and yet more than 40 judges at the world’s largest spirits competition have named it the best bourbon of the year.

Batch 021, like all of Barrell’s expressions, was released at cask strength (106). The company has made its name sourcing and blending quality, cask strength spirit. Barrell released 12,500 bottles of the product in the winter of 2019. It retails for $90 and is available in 45 states. If you’re interested, we recommend scouring delivery services for stock and ordering soon — you can expect it to sell out soon.

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