Bourbon
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Best Bourbon -
The True American Spirit

It doesn’t get any more American than bourbon. Ever since Elijah Craig from Kentucky distilled his whiskey from corn mash and opened a distillery in 1789, bourbon has become the adopted spirit of the U.S. And it continues to be a passionately guarded tradition.

Although its origins are debated, Bourbon most likely got its name from Bourbon County, located in the central Bluegrass region of Kentucky, and named to honor the French Royal Family. The region once housed the major shipping ports for distilled spirits heading down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, so Bourbon and Whiskey soon became synonymous.

For a product to be called "Bourbon" the distilled spirit must conform to certain requirements. True bourbons must be made in the United States using "mash bill" of at least 51% corn (most distillers use 70 to 80 percent corn), and aged a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels. These barrels cannot be re-used for bourbon, and are sometimes sold to Scotch whiskey producers.

Charring transforms the wood and caramelizes the sugars, bringing out the vanilla and caramel flavors characteristic to the bourbon style. Terroir comes into play as well, since the quality of the water plays a significant part in the process. Nothing can be added at bottling to enhance flavor, add sweetness or alter color.

"Straight" Bourbons are aged under four years and must be labeled with the duration of its aging. Small batch bourbons are produced from a "batch" of barrels that have been mixed prior to bottling. As opposed to single barrel bourbons that are the bottlings of one "single" barrel of bourbon.

Until recently, commercial bourbon distilleries were only located along the Bourbon Trail® in Kentucky. While still associated with the American south, bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S., and bourbon-producing distilleries are now located in 23 states.

 

The Fifty Best Bourbon Tasting of 2014

 

The Tasting Results:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 27 American bourbon whiskies with 20 pre-qualified judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the bourbons were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and bar snacks were available to cleanse the palate. The judges tasted through three flights of 7 bourbons and one flight of 6 bourbons.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals were awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded in this tasting.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin are identified for each brand.

 

Here are the final results:



Rough Rider Bourbon



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

Rough Rider
(New York)

Nose: Vanilla extract, honey, sugar cane, brown sugar, molasses, treacle, maple syrup, orange, wheat, wood.
Palate: Caramel, honey, vanilla, creamy, buttery, maple, savory fruits, dates, sherry cask, spicy, rich, delicate.
Finish: Rich, creamy, robust, orange peel, nutty, perfect, lingering.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Breckenridge
(Colorado)

Nose: Tropical fruits, citrus, creamy, vanilla, marshmallow, wheat.
Palate: Caramel, demerara, creamy, marzipan, nougat, vanilla, apricot, cranberry, dates, raisins, sherry, citrus, wheat, silky.
Finish: White pepper, wood, pine, rich, smooth, complex.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Breckenridge Bourbon



Benjamin Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon



Benjamin Prichard's Double Barreled
(Tennessee)

Nose: Fresh orange, floral, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, corn, mint, oak.
Palate: Citrus, treacle, honey, nougat, marzipan, nutty, almond, spearmint, spice, oak, silky, smoky.
Finish: Molasses, raisins, pepper, tart, lovely, sophisticated.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



John B. Stetson
(Kentucky)

Nose: Toffee, candied fruit, maple, green banana, walnut, spice.
Palate: Apricot, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, dates, wheat, sandalwood, pepper.
Finish: Dried fruits, pepper, smooth, fresh, lively, short.


Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



John B. Stetson Bourbon



Ranger Creek .36 Bourbon





Ranger Creek .36
(Texas)

Nose: Brown sugar, demerara, molasses, maple syrup, cinnamon.
Palate: Ripe fruits, raisin, dark sugar, caramel, maple, pecan, wheat, cinnamon, spice, allspice, tobacco, beautiful wood, rich.
Finish: Citrus peel, cinnamon bun, maple syrup, rye, spice, toasted wood.


Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal





Widow Jane
(New York)

Nose: Honey, treacle, toffee, butterscotch, vanilla, banana leaf, spice.
Palate: Butterscotch, corn, buttery, sherry, nutty, herbs, pepper, spice, oak.
Finish: Corn, spicy, savory, lingering.


Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



Widow Jane Bourbon



Colorado Gold Bourbon



Colorado Gold
(Colorado)

Nose: Caramel, brown sugar, apple wood, teak, green grass.
Palate: Honey, cream, salted caramel, floral, citrus, cinnamon, almond, hazelnut, oak, balanced.
Finish: Spice, maritime, smooth, impressive.

Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



Devil's Share
(California)

Nose: Vanilla extract, honey, sugar cane, brown sugar, molasses, treacle, maple syrup, orange, wheat, wood.
Palate: Caramel, honey, vanilla, creamy, buttery, maple, savory fruits, dates, sherry cask, spicy, rich, delicate.
Finish: Rich, creamy, robust, orange peel, nutty, perfect, lingering.

Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



Devil's Share Bourbon



Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Bourbon



Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr.
(Kentucky)

Nose: Sugar cane, honey, vanilla, butterscotch, hard candy, citrus fruit, green apple, pineapple, mint, green leaves, tea leaves, hay, sherry, oak.
Palate: Honey, molasses, caramel, dried fruits, ripe banana, apricot, cola, Oloroso sherry, nutty, pepper, tobacco, oak.
Finish: Spice, peppery, leather, lingering.

Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



Knob Creek
(Kentucky)

Nose: Caramel, treacle, honey, cane sugar, vanilla, coffee, citrus, pine.
Palate: Dark fruits, treacle, honey, vanilla, caramel, creamy, coconut, toasted almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, pine, peppermint, earthy, woody, oak, rich.
Finish: Spicy, oak, short.

Double-Gold Medal
Double-Gold medal



Knob Creek Bourbon



Grand Traverse Bourbon



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

Grand Traverse
(Michigan)

Nose: Sweet spices, cinnamon, butterscotch, honey, vanilla, corn, cola.
Palate: Ripe fruits, orange, apricot, treacle, creamy, caramel, honey, sherry, macadamias, lemon, mint, peppery, smooth.
Finish: Dark raisin, spearmint, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lexington
(Kentucky)

Nose: Creamy, cream soda, banana, tropical fruits, candied fruits, sherry, tobacco.
Palate: Fruity, coconut, banana, raisin, butterscotch, honey, maple, chocolate, wheat, grain, oak, spicy.
Finish: Dried fruit, cola, nutty, spicy, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lexington Bourbon



Neversweat Bourbon



Neversweat
(Montana)

Nose: Apricot, stone fruit, honey blossom, floral, young oak.
Palate: Toffee, nougat, vanilla, apricot, licorice, spice, black pepper, leather.
Finish: Pepper, spice, anise, smooth, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kings County
(New York)

Nose: Taffy, nougat, coconut, tropical fruits, maple, nutmeg, mint, spicy, cognac.
Palate: Fresh fruit, orange, sweet banana, butterscotch, buttery, dark chocolate, maple, bacon, nutty, wheat, tobacco, oak.
Finish: Buttery, wheat, toasted oak.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kings County Bourbon



Tatoosh Bourbon



Tatoosh
(Washington)

Nose: Dark chocolate, maple, dates, raisins, orange, woody.
Palate: Dark chocolate, fudge, honey, maple, creamy, vanilla, dates, citrus, spicy, oak, savory, balanced.
Finish: Dark chocolate, spice, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Simeon Turley's Taos Lightning 6 Y.O.
(New Mexico)

Nose: Citrus fruit, stone fruit, green apple, vanilla, caramel, spicy, nutty, wood.
Palate: Sweet toffee, buttery, butterscotch, orange, coffee, nutty, tea leaves, oak, spicy, rich, well-balanced.
Finish: Soft, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Simeon Turley's Taos Lightning 6 Y.O. Bourbon



Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon



Dark Horse Reserve
(Kansas)

Nose: Wheat, maple, bacon, nutty, mahogany, leather, spicy notes, seductive.
Palate: Sweet maple, buttery, mango, herbal tea, savory, smoky, beautiful toasted oak.
Finish: Finish: Sweet spice, smooth, fresh, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal





Corner Creek
(Kentucky)

Nose: Caramel, honey, butterscotch, chocolate, clove, spicy, tobacco, oak.
Palate: Dates, raisins, prunes, toffee, eucalyptus, pepper, spicy, tobacco.
Finish: Citrus fruits, herbal, spicy, rich, round, clean.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Corner Creek Bourbon



Red River Bourbon



Red River
(Texas)

Nose: Ripe banana, caramel, floral, rose, spearmint, sherry, oak.
Palate: Banana, orange, tropical fruit, caramel, buttery, biscuit, cereal, tea leaves, eucalyptus, sour mash, pepper, dry.
Finish: Light butterscotch, dried fruits, leather, spice, exceptionally smooth, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Bowman Brothers
(Virginia)

Nose: Sour apple candy, apple, gorgeous honey, floral.
Palate: Treacle, honey, creamy, buttery, corn, dates, ginger, eucalyptus, spice, mint, tobacco, tart.
Finish: Citrus, pepper, spicy, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Bowman Brothers Bourbon



Temperance Trader Straight Bourbon



Temperance Trader Straight
(Oregon)

Nose: Caramelized sugar, stroop, honey, maple, toffee, vanilla, tropical fruits, orange, cherry, dried fruit, almond, nutty, Frangelico, peppermint, spices.
Palate: Corn, hint of vanilla, grain, soft spice, citrus, grassy, mint, oak.
Finish: Peppery, bold, vanilla, maple, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal





OYO
(Ohio)

Nose: Corn, tangerine, green apple, tropical fruit.
Palate: Creamy, buttery, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, corn, leather, white pepper, spicy, woody.
Finish: Spicy, peppery, balanced, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



OYO Bourbon



Town Branch Bourbon



Town Branch
(Kentucky)

Nose: Honey, blossom, tropical fruit, banana, herbal. nutty, cinnamon, spice, oak.
Palate: Dried fruit, raisins, fruit, nectar, buttery, cream, nougat, toffee, honey, cola, spices, light, silky.
Finish: Lemon, citrusy, sweet oak, fresh, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal





Temperance Trader Barrel Strength
(Oregon)

Nose: Sweet spice, pineapple, toast, hay, sour mash.
Palate: Coffee, chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, maple, Juicy Fruit, kumquat, tangy, spicy, peppery, woody.
Finish: Citrus, biscuit, spicy, peppery, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Temperance Trader Barrel Strength Bourbon



PennyPacker Bourbon



PennyPacker
(Kentucky)

Nose: Green apple, green banana, creamy, cereal, nutmeg, spice, pine.
Palate: Pineapple, banana, honey, vanilla, fudge, tea leaves, biscuit, walnut, nutty, blossom, floral, pine, licorice, spicy, mint.
Finish: Honey, candied fruits, clove, soft pepper, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS:

Better Days
(Colorado)

Nose: Caramel, treacle, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, honeycomb, banana, orange peel, tropical fruit, almond, wheat.
Palate: Maple, treacle, dark sugar, corn, coconut, orange, pear, lemongrass, chocolate, coffee, wheat, clove, spice, pepper, oak.
Finish: Candied fruit, wood, dry, short.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Better Days Bourbon



Feisty Spirits Bourbon



Feisty Spirits
(Colorado)

Nose: Apples, dried fruits, dates, maple syrup, chocolate, wheat, almond, nutmeg, pot still whiskey, malty, dark wood, cedar.
Palate: Dried pineapple, dried fruit, dark sugar, fudge, toffee, floral, clove, pine, hay, hazelnut, rye, hint of sherry, oak, dry.
Finish: Walnuts, soft, mellow, savory, short.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

 

 

 

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Comments or questions welcome, please e-mail to: editor@thefiftybest.com

 

 

Comments and Suggestions:

 
Fri. April 18, 2014 8:48 AM - by: Jim
As with every list of the best I ever seen there are always great bourbons left out.
 
 
Sat. March 29, 2014 10:52 PM - by: R P
I'm sure these are excellent and a few I have had. However as Jim Murray states, " Blanton's is Liquid Gold"
 
 
Sun. February 16, 2014 4:30 PM - by: gord king
I just had a shoot of 1789 I am bringing it back across the border
 
 
Sat. December 21, 2013 6:44 AM - by: Larry Hopson
I believe Bowman Brothers is a Virginia bourbon, not Kentucky. Excellent nevertheless.
 
 


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