Only five American whiskeys were won golds at this year’s International Spirit Challenge, most of which are surprisingly available. The 23rd year of the competition, which wrapped earlier this week, featured its usual rigorous blind tasting judging process as well as entrants from more than 70 countries around the world (they judge far more than just whiskey). These five award winners took home the highest honor for individual bottles and, for the most part, can be found at spirits stores nationwide.
Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This is not the 10-year variety of Eagle Rare’s first award. It’s not even its 10th or 20th. Going back to its gold in the very same competition in 2003, this Buffalo Trace umbrella brand’s bottle has been storming spirit competitions since it first landed on the scene. Eagle Rare 10-year took gold in the Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under category, one of three American whiskeys to do so.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
“This is Maker’s Mark Bourbon in all its glory.” That’s how the brand describes its award-winning high proof bourbon. Since its released a few years back, the cask strength bottle has raked in a consistent flow of excellent reviews and is fairly available nationwide. The Maker’s Mark bottle was another American whiskey winner in the Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under subcategory.
Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The only American whiskey to steal a gold in the Single Barrel Bourbon category is another distiller in Buffalo Trace’s portfolio, and is similarly used to taking home big time awards — best bourbon whiskey multiple times over at the International Whisky competition and best bourbon at the World Whiskies Awards. This bottle will run you $100 or more and has a long, tobacco-laden finish.
Kentucky Owl Rye #1
The gold for American Straight Rye Whiskey went to a semi-expected favorite. Kentucky Owl’s #1 Rye Whiskey release was the highest scoring whiskey in Whiskey Advocate’s summer 2018 archives, where it was described about as complex as can be: “Long, rounded notes of caramel, cinnamon roll, taffy, butterscotch, brisket burnt ends, nutmeg, Jamaican jerk, plum pudding, ginger, light sassafras, root beer, roasted marshmallow, cotton candy, orange peel, raw honey, and pie crust.”
1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The last of the gold Straight Bourbon 10 years old and under winners is a different bottle from the same distillery that claimed Best Bourbon Whiskey at the World Whiskies Awards earlier this year (for the second year in a row, mind you). Its Small Batch variation is more affordable, lower proof and has been pulling golds, double golds and “bests” since 2010.