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Behind The Single Barrel Pick Finalists At The 2024 ASCOT Awards

Last week, renowned bourbon expert, Fred Minnick, along with a panel of spirit experts from across the industry, unveiled the results of the 2024 American Spirit Council of Tasters (ASCOT) Awards on the Spirits Network

The airing of the results allows bourbon and whiskey fans across the globe to see the tasting sessions for themselves, and understand how the expert panel selects their favorite expressions. So, I thought we would do something a little different in my Whiskey Awards series this week. Let’s take a look at the bourbons and ryes that were finalists in the Single Barrel Pick category. What did the experts have to say? And, which one was crowned the category winner? 

The Single Barrel Pick Category 

Fred Minnick sat down with a panel of whiskey experts to taste and evaluate four different drams for the Single Barrel Pick Category at the 2024 ASCOT Awards. As the competition is a blind tasting, the judges were presented with four glasses, each containing a dram. However, they did not know which was which. The whiskeys were numbered 1A to 1D, and were as follows: 

  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Private Barrel Select Bourbon Club of Arkansas And Ace Liquor Center ECBP Deatsville’s Liquorem Veritas, 8 Years Old, 67.5% ABV – 1A 
  • Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Bourbon Watch Hill Proper, 9 Years Old, 120 Proof Pick #13 – 1B 
  • Dad’s Hat PA Rye Whiskey PM Spirits Collab Single Barrel, 7 Years Old, 67% ABV – 1C 
  • Dallas Bourbon Club – Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel Selection, 8 Years Old, 55% ABV – 1D 

 

The ASCOT Awards are hosted by Fred Minnick, a highly-respected figure in the bourbon industry. Image courtesy of Minnick Media Inc.

Now that we know which whiskey is which, let’s take a look at each individual spirit and what the expert judges had to say at the ASCOT Awards 2024. 

You can watch all of the final category taste-offs on the Spirits Network now. The videos also feature ‘Buy Bars’, allowing you to purchase the award-winning whiskeys to sample for yourselves.* 

*Please note that some of the bourbons and whiskeys are not currently available at retail. Sometimes the ‘Buy Bar’ will recommend something very similar from the same brand/distillery. 

1A – Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Private Barrel Select Bourbon Club of Arkansas And Ace Liquor Center ECBP Deatsville’s Liquorem Veritas

Kicking things off with this barrel-proof expression from Elijah Craig. Produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries, the Elijah Craig brand is named for Reverend Elijah Craig, a Baptist preacher and educator who was, perhaps, best known for his distilling prowess. 

The current core range consists of a straight rye, a toasted barrel bourbon, a small batch bourbon, an 18 year old bourbon, and a barrel-proof bourbon. One particular barrel-proof expression from Elijah Craig stood out at the 2024 ASCOT Awards. 

This expression was selected by the Bourbon Club of Arkansas and Ace Liquor Center. It was bottled at 8 years old and comes in at a hefty cask strength of 67.05% ABV. Whilst exact bottle numbers are not known, less than 5,000 were produced. 

On the ASCOT Awards website, the tasting notes read: “A bakers delight! Cookie dough, cinnamon sticks, chocolate cake, golden honey…I could go on and on. Layered and amazing texture. I need more asap!” 

Amongst the panel of 10 experts, 1A was eliminated rather quickly as the category winner. This is not to take away from the fact that this bourbon made it all the way to the final, and won a Double Platinum Medal. 

Brad Williams, Spirits Purchasing Liquor Barn & BevMo!, notes that the Elijah Craig expression was “the highest proof of the flight”, whilst writer Susie O picked up notes of “raspberry and dark fruits”. 

1B – Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Bourbon Watch Hill Proper Pick #13

The famed Knob Creek brand is owned by Beam Suntory and produced at Beam Distillery in Kentucky. First marketed in 1992, Knob Creek takes pride in small-batch productions of pre-Prohibition-style bourbon and rye. 

The first single-barrel bourbon from Knob Creek hit the market in 2010. Since then, Knob Creek’s Single Barrel Select Experience has become extremely popular amongst bourbon enthusiasts. 

This particular bourbon was selected by the exclusive whiskey bar, Watch Hill Proper. It was bottled at 9 years old and 60% ABV. Again, less than 5,000 were produced. 

Fred Minnick’s tasting notes on the ASCOT website say: “Loved this pick! Raisin, fig and caramel nose. A unique peppery palate taste is well balanced with classic caramel, vanilla and oak bourbon flavors.” 

This particular expression was Fred Minnick’s favorite of the flight in the tasting room: “1B, for me, is that hands down winner of this flight. […] It’s 1B all day long.” Brad Williams agreed with Minnick in saying that 1B was “more balanced than 1A.” 

However, Minnick was outvoted on this particular occasion. The Knob Creek Single Barrel Select Bourbon Watch Hill Proper Pick #13 won a Double Platinum Medal at the 2024 ASCOT Awards, but missed out on being the category winner. 

WINNER ASCOT Awards 2024 Single Barrel Pick – 1C – Dad’s Hat PA Rye Whiskey PM Spirits Collab Single Barrel 

Let’s move on to the only rye whiskey in the blind flight, and, the ultimate winner of the Single Barrel Pick category at the ASCOT Awards 2024. 

Dad’s Hat is a Pennsylvania rye whiskey that pays tribute to the old-style, East Coast rye that became popular after the American Revolutionary War. The brand is on a mission to “distill and deliver classic Pennsylvania Rye spirits following over 200 years of American distilling tradition.” 

This particular bottling was created in collaboration with PM Spirits. Drawn from a single barrel, the rye whiskey was bottled at 67% ABV at age 7 years. 

ASCOT Awards 2024 tasting notes are: “A rich caramel, oak, and deep rye and pepper spice flavor profile concludes with a long finish with plenty of oak and rye spice. Drinks beautifully for its elevated ABV.”

1C was hugely praised by the judging panel at the ASCOT Awards 2024 Single Barrel Pick final taste-off; many of the judges chose this as their favorite. Hence, it was crowned the winner. 

Jack Beguedou, Spirits Influencer, said at the tasting: “It had the most balance from the fruitiness to the spiciness, to the finish hanging onto your tongue for dear life.” 

Spirit and cocktail educator, Tiffanie Barriere said: “The nose – I would wear it as perfume. It smells so good. The color is there. The attitude is there.” 

“I get the fruit bowl, I get the green, the celery, the smells on the nose. To me it was the most robust,” said Karen Harling, Senior Merchant Spirits at Walmart

Upon a vote, 1C was the clear winner. So, Dad’s Hat Rye takes home the awards for the Best Single Barrel Pick at the 2024 ASCOT Awards. 

1D – Dallas Bourbon Club – Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel Selection

Father-son team, Jimmy and Eddie Russell are the custodians of Russell’s Reserve. Eddie created the brand in tribute to his father, who has spent over four decades in the whiskey industry. The father and son are now the Master Distiller team at Wild Turkey. Each Russell’s Reserve whiskey is painstakingly selected for bottling, and adorned with both Russells’ signatures – the ultimate seal of approval. 

This expression was selected by the Dallas Bourbon Club as a private bottling. Bottled at 8 years old, the whisky has the lowest strength in the flight at 55% ABV. 

The tasting notes for this bourbon on the ASCOT Awards website are: “Mellow caramel corn aromas flecked with leather, sandalwood, and acacia turns to oak and smoke on the palate balanced with lovely cocoa notes.” 

1D was also a serious contender for the title. Tiffanie Barriere said: “I wrote the most notes on it because I could taste every single layer out the gate. It was exciting. It just exploded as soon as I took a sip.” 

Dee Jones, GM of Seelbach’s and Mixologist, added: “1C is my favorite. 1D was a strong second for me, though.” 

The American Spirit Council of Tasters Awards 2024 

So there you have it: a detailed breakdown of the Single Barrel Pick category finalists at the ASCOT Awards 2024. The broadcast of the final taste-offs on the Spirits Network allows drinkers across the globe access to the thoughts and feelings of the judges, lifting the veil on what it is like to judge a spirit competition. 

Each of the whiskeys above was, without doubt, a worthy contender and all now have a Double Platinum Medal to their name. In the end, thought, it was the Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye that took home the trophy. 

Make sure to keep an eye on my Whiskey Awards series for more breakdowns, tasting notes, histories, and recommendations. 

Watch all of the clips from the ASCOT Awards 2024 here. 

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Beth Squires

Beth joined Mark Littler Ltd full-time in October 2020 following the completion of her university degree. Since then she has gained wide-ranging knowledge of all things whisk(e)y, and has written extensively for both company and external publications. Beth is passionate about industry innovation, marketing, and sustainability. With a particular affinity for independently bottled rare scotch, Beth is also a whisky bottle investment specialist.

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