The 2018 San Francisco Spirits Competition has released its full list of winners and, unsurprisingly, nearly every spirit that made it to the winner’s circle ranges from available in only a small handful of states, to wildly limited release to overseas and behind-bar availability only. And given the SFSC is one of the most respected award-givers in the spirit industry — 48 expert judges tried almost 2,500 different entries, people — it’s an even bigger frustration to walk into your local liquor store looking for that expert-recommended bottle and come out empty handed.
Thankfully, from a list with more than 25 category winners, at least three exist in actual stores and, even more thankfully, all three are whiskies.
Best Bourbon & Best Single Barrel Bourbon: Henry McKenna Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Winner of two of the largest classes in the competition, Heaven Hill Distillery’s Henry McKenna Single Barrel retails for $35, is aged ten years and is certified 100 proof, a rarity among bourbons in its price bracket (also making it Bottled-in-Bond). If that’s not enough to get you in the car and headed to the nearest liquor store, bourbon is probably not for you.
Best Small Batch Bourbon: Elijah Craig Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Elijah Craig remains one of the most respected names in easy-to-find bottles of excellent bourbon. Bestowed as one of — if not the — absolute best in its class by Whiskey Advocate, Whiskey Magazine, The Whiskey Bible and the SFSC itself, its small-batch variety has won virtually every award a bourbon can. Accompanied by a delightful $30 SRP and near-ubiquitous distribution, almost anybody can get their hands on it.
Best Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch (Up to 12 Years): Talisker 10-Year Single Malt Scotch
It can be tough sledding for the discerning Scotch drinker. Tariffs and import restrictions hamper many great bottles from making their way stateside in any meaningful or accessible way. Luckily, Talisker’s 10-Year Single Malt has no such issue. The exceptionally smoky bottle retails in the US for $60 and can be found in most states.