Earlier this month, the results from San Francisco’s World Spirits Competition were released online. The event, allegedly the first comprehensive, international spirits judging ever held in the United States on an annual basis, received more than 1580 entrants this year. It claims to be the most reputable and recognized competition in the spirits industry.
The perennially masculine elixir we know as whiskey was allotted 20 separate award categories. Below are some of the best (check out the entire list of winners here.)
Craigellachie 23 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
Awards: Best in Show Whisky & Best Single Malt Scotch (20+ years)
Price: Around $500
Westland Distillery Sherry Wood American Single Malt
Award: Best Craft Distiller Whiskey
Blade & Bow Deluxe Bourbon
Award: Best Straight Bourbon
Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel Canadian Whisky
Award: Best Tennessee Whiskey
Glendalough 13 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Award: Best Single Malt Irish Whiskey & Best Irish Whiskey
As one might expect, a number of the selections chosen for honors are rare brews pricing in the several hundreds. The grand Best in Show as well as the ancient (20+ years) single malt scotch prizes were given to the 500-ish dollar bottle of Craigellachie 23 Year Old. Other assorted premium whiskeys like an offering from the widely known Whistle Big distillery and the classic Talisker 10 year round out the gift-level price range of $70 or so.
Surprising, however, is the fact that the humble George Dickel Superior No. 12 won Best Tenessee Whiskey with a rather generous $25 tag. At $31, the slightly pricier but still affordable Knob Creek placed Best Bourbon and Best Small Batch Bourbon (6-10 years), and the Best Flavored Whiskey distinction winner – Southern Apple Pie Moonshine – cost an easy $16. Apparently the everyman can enjoy a guilt-free taste of some of the best whiskey in the world.
Anthony Dias Blue, Executive Director and founder of the event, is an established food and wine critic and author of multiple spirit-related books. He began the competition in 2000 and has since fielded a host of judges from within the city and abroad to scrutinize entrants. Tastings are conducted blind, meaning the judges are not informed of potentially biasing information like brand, price, or regional origin and, in some cases, color is obscured with darkened glass. This means that new no-name startups can compete with venerated elders from the old world on equal footing.