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The 10 Best Bourbons & Whiskeys According To The North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition

Founded in 2014 by the Wine Country Network, the American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition is an annual double-blind tasting competition for bourbons and whiskeys from across North America. 

With thousands of entries across numerous categories, the judges at the American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition judge each whiskey on a 100-point scale. 

Entrants also have the chance of winning the coveted ‘Best of Show’ award. 

To talk about every winner in the competition in 2023 would make for a very long article. So, today, let’s work our way through the top ten scorers in the American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2023. 

To see a full list of winners click here

Savor Spear Straight Bourbon Whiskey 

Savor Spear Staright Bourbon Whiskey

Score: 96 points
Medal: Best of Show 1st Place
Tasting Notes: Sweet vanilla bean, caramelized sugars, butterscotch, raw honey, custard, butter
BUY NOW: $52.99 

Savor Spear Straight Bourbon Whiskey is produced by Northwest Spirits, located in Washington State. 

A mash bill of 23% rye, 5% malt, and 72% corn is distilled into new spirit and aged for at least five years in American white oak. It is then finished in toasted oak staves and bottled at 103 proof. 

The Savor Spear Straight Bourbon Whiskey has won several accolades since its release in 2022, including a Gold medal at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. 

The judges at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition were clearly impressed with the “perfect balance of character, nuanced sweetness, and downright geniality” of the bourbon. Subsequently, the whiskey was awarded 96 points and the coveted title of ‘Best of Show’, 1st place. 

Merrisa Firnstahl-Claridge, a 5th generation distiller, founded Northwest Spirits. Firnstahl-Claridge’s father was the owner of Jake O’Shaughnessy’s, a famous saloon in Seattle. Having grown up around spirits, she carries on her family’s legacy with the distillation of high-quality bourbons, gins, and vodka. 

BHAKTA 2013 Bourbon 

BHAKTA 2013 Bourbon

Score: 97 points
Medal: Best of Show 2nd Place
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, biscuits, toasted oak, nutmeg, hazelnut, spice, stewed pears, apples
BUY NOW: $124.99 

BHAKTA 2013 Bourbon has already had a mention on The Whiskey Wash, in an article I published last week on The Best Ultra-Premium Bourbons According To The American Whiskey Masters 2023. The bourbon whiskey continues to rake in awards, having won ‘Best of Show’ 2nd place at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2023. 

The BHAKTA 2013 Bourbon is distilled from a mash bill of 99% corn and aged in American oak. The real star of the show, however, is the finishing period in Armagnac Brandy barrels. These barrels were selected from Château BHAKTA, owned by founder Raj Peter Bhakta. 

Mr Bhakta has long been working in the whiskey industry, having founded WhistlePig Whiskey prior to his Armagnac adventure. 

This particular expression was bottled at 100.6 proof after being aged for 9.5 years. Just 2,000 bottles were released. 

Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Cask Strength 

Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Cask Strength

Score: 96 points
Medal: Best of Show 3rd Place
Tasting Notes: Butterscotch, vanilla, nutmeg, sweet oak
BUY NOW: $71.95 

Single Barrel Bourbon has been the subject of growing fascination and praise in recent decades, since the marketing of Blanton’s (the first single-barrel bourbon to be marketed in the US). According to the Garrison Brothers website, the Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Cask Strength is “proof that each barrel is special”. 

The Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon is matured for at least three years in the intensely hot and humid Texas climate. This environment encourages interaction between the whiskey and the wood, resulting in a “dark copper color” and “sweet oak flavor”. 

Scoring 96 points, the Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Cask Strength was awarded ‘Best in Show’ 3rd place at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2023. 

Garrison Brothers was founded in Hye, Texas, in 2006 by Dan Garrison. The distillery was the first outside of Kentucky and Tennessee to be granted a stiller’s permit for bourbon. Annual releases of the brand’s Cowboy Bourbon have been forthcoming since 2013, along with small batches and limited editions. 

King’s Family Distillery Wheated Bourbon 

King's Wheated Burbon

Score: 95 points
Medal: Double Gold
Tasting Notes: Roasted caramel, chocolate, toffee, fruit blossom, orange, spice
BUY NOW: $69.99 

King’s Family Distillery, fairly new on the whiskey scene, is located near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

It was here that the King’s Wheated Bourbon is distilled from a mash bill comprising 51% corn, 45% wheat, and 4% malted barley. The whiskey is then aged for a minimum of four years in American white oak barrels before being bottled at 100 proof. 

Since its release King’s Wheated Bourbon has won a number of accolades, including Gold at the 2024 Fifty Best Bourbon Awards. In the North American Bourbon and Whisky Competition 2023, it was awarded a Double Gold medal and 95 points. 

King’s Family Distillery was founded by spouses Justin and Cara King. Both boast previous experience in the spirits industry. Experience developed into passion, and King’s Family Distillery was founded in 2018. 

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Score: 97 points
Medal: Double Gold
Tasting Notes: Cooked berries, caramel, spice, toasty vanilla, dried oak, pepper
BUY NOW: $399.99 

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable names in bourbon history. The legendary distiller was the owner of the O.F.C Distillery and the Old Taylor Distillery (now Castle & Key) in Frankfort, Kentucky. Known as the “Father of the Modern Bourbon Industry”, Taylor is to thank for many technological advancements and protective legislation that make bourbon what it is today. 

The Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof pays tribute to its namesake, maturing in the very warehouses that Taylor built over 100 years ago at the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

This classic bourbon whiskey has won many awards over the years – too many to list here – and has become a true staple of Kentucky bourbon. 

At the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition, the expression achieved 97 points and a Double Gold medal. 

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Bourbon

Score: 96 points
Medal: Double Gold
Tasting Notes: Dried figs, butterscotch, tobacco, dark spices
BUY NOW: $198.98

Another E.H. Taylor Jr. expression was honored at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition in 2023. The Single Barrel expression was awarded 96 points and a Double Gold medal. 

Most of these single-barrel expressions are aged in Warehouse C at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This warehouse was built by Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. in 1881, as part of his venture into climate-controlled warehousing. 

Each barrel is hand-picked for quality and bottled at 100 proof. 

Again, this is a staple expression from Buffalo Trace, honoring the legacy of the bourbon’s namesake. 

W.L. Weller Full Proof 

W.L. Weller Full Proof

Score: 96 points
Medal: Double Gold
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, dark cherries, caramel, toasted oak, crème brûlée, chocolate
BUY NOW: $199.89 

Yet again we venture to the Buffalo Trace Distillery for another bourbon named after another famous name: William Larue Weller. 

W.L. Weller was born into a long line of distillers, with his grandfather taking part in early whiskey-making in Kentucky during the 1790s. 

In the 1840s, W.L. Weller had begun a wholesale liquor business. However, his real innovation was developing a bourbon recipe that substituted rye for wheat in the mash bill. These expressions became extremely popular throughout the bourbon-drinking community. 

Today, Weller’s legacy is honored through several bottlings, including the W.L. Weller Full Proof. 

This bourbon is raw and robust, bottled at 57% to enhance the flavors of wheat and the smooth mouthfeel. 

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea 

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea

Score: 95 points
Medal: Double Gold
Tasting Notes: Bourbon candy, frozen fudgesicle bars, amaretto coffee, sticky buns, pecan brittle, white chocolate syrup.
BUY NOW: $125 

Another Garrison Brothers expression fared well at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2023. 

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea pays tribute to Balmorhea State Park in Reeves County, Texas. The distillery is passionate about the preservation of Balmorhea State Park, particularly the swimming hole, which is under environmental threat from fracking. 

The Garrison Brothers Balmorhea was initially released in 2019 to raise funds and awareness about the importance of conserving the State Park. The twice-barreled expression is, according to Master Distiller Donnis Todd “bourbon candy in a bottle”. 

The judges at the competition in 2023 clearly agreed, awarding the whiskey 95 points and a Double Gold medal. 

W.L. Weller Antique 107 

W.L. Weller Antique 107

Score: 94 points
Medal: Gold
Tasting Notes: Sweet fruit, vanilla, sharp spice, cinnamon
BUY NOW: $119.99 

We return once more to the Buffalo Trace Distillery and another expression named for William Larue Weller. 

The W.L. Weller Antique 107 is, arguably, the most famous expression to bear Weller’s name. The expression was initially produced at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery before its closure in 1992. Today, it is produced at Buffalo Trace along with all other Weller expressions. 

As the name would suggest, it is bottled at 107 proof and uses Weller’s signature mash bill, substituting rye for wheat. The slightly lower ABV than the aforementioned Full Proof offers a complex palate and a bold finish. 

There is a reason that this multi-award-winning bourbon is a staple of the W.L. Weller brand. 

Steeple Ridge Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey

Steeple Ridge Sweet Mash Rye Whiskey

Score: 94 points
Medal: Gold
Tasting Notes: No official tasting notes found
BUY NOW: $45

Steeple Ridge Whiskey is produced at the Lonely Oak Distillery in the heart of Iowa. A micro-distillery with a low capacity, Lonely Oak has nonetheless produced some fantastic whiskeys, including this Sweet Mash Rye. 

The rye whiskey was distilled from a mash bill comprising 60% AC Hazlett Rye and 40% Wapsie Valley Corn. It has been awarded multiple accolades since its release including a Gold Medal at the Denver International Spirits Competition in 2023. 

Lonely Oak Distillery prides itself on its grain-to-glass approach. Owners Pat and Amy Hoffman use grains grown on the farm or by locals to create the mash bills for their whiskeys. As such, the Lonely Oak Distillery is Iowa’s first legal farmer-distiller. 

Whilst I cannot find any official tasting notes for the Steeple Ridge Sweet Mash Rye, it is safe to say that the judges at the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2023 recognized the nuance and craftsmanship of the whiskey. It was awarded 94 points and a Gold medal. 

The North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition 2024 

In July 2024, the North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition will be held in Broomfield, Colorado. 

The deadline for online entries is July 1st, 2024, whilst samples must be received by July 8th 2024. Entries are limited to bourbon and whiskey produced in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 

Of course, The Whiskey Wash will be keeping you updated on bourbon and whiskey accolades as we approach awards season. Will we see some familiar names return? Or will some new kids on the whiskey block make their mark in 2024? 

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