Fifty Best Bourbon 2013

Best Bourbon - 2013


The Fifty Best Bourbon Tasting


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 19 premium bourbons from 9 states with 17 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 room temperature. Only ice water and unflavored rice crackers and bar snacks were available to cleanse the palate. The judges tasted through two flights of 7 bourbons and one flight of 5 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 are awarded based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges. The scoring in this tasting was so uncommonly close that 9 bourbons tied for third place with the same exact total scores. (The third place gold medal winners are listed alphabetically.)

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions. The states of origin are identified for each brand.




Angel's Envy


Angel's Envy - (Kentucky)

Nose: Vanilla, crème brûlée, coconut, cotton candy, herbal, floral, light. Palate: Honey, butterscotch, brown sugar, fruity, dried fruits, walnut, hints of sherry, spicy, peppermint, oak, velvety, well balanced. Finish: Sherry, clean, soft, spicy, smooth, velvety, lingering.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Neversweat - (Montana)

Nose: Light vanilla, nougat, subtle cola notes, maple, herbal, spice. Palate: Toffee, vanilla, hazelnut, walnut, prunes, raisins, apricot, rose, mint, sherry, pepper, spice, tobacco, soft, smooth, well balanced, very nice. Finish: Pepper, clean, soft, light, gentle, mellow, lingering.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Neversweat Bourbon

1792 Ridgemont Reserve


1792 Ridgemont Reserve - (Kentucky)

Nose: Fruity, strawberry, honey, spicy, nutty, very light. Palate: Chocolate chip cookie dough, dried dark fruit, marmalade, coffee, almond, clove, spicy, intense oak, robust, dry, well balanced, well rounded, delicious. Finish: Smooth, spicy, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Big Bottom
Zin Finish
- (Oregon)

Nose: Honey, fudge, toffee, subtle cola, light pistachio, coconut, oaky, spicy. Palate: Sweet milk chocolate up front, cocoa, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, molasses, honey, maple, cola, hazelnut, coffee followed by mint, clove, oak, balanced. Finish: Buttery, maple, woody, soft, sweet, slightly spicy, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Big Bottom Zin Finish


Blanton's - (Kentucky)

Nose: Cotton candy, taffy, salty caramel, vanilla cream, toffee, dried fruit, bubble gum, sweet cherry blossom. Palate: Caramel, molasses, buttery, rich, fruity, banana, sherry, nutty, eucalyptus, ginger, mint, creamy, chewy, spicy, intense, balanced. Finish: Rich, sherry cask, hint of ginger, smooth, gentle, easy, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Breckenridge - (Colorado)

Nose: Fruity, floral, golden blossom, very light. Palate: Malty character, burnt dark chocolate, coffee bean, pepper, spice, spearmint, sherry, leather, nutty, oak, balanced. Finish: Dried fruits, spicy, gentle, mild, very nice, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal


Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace - (Kentucky)

Nose: Sugar cane, caramelized sugar, toffee, light melon, cashew, grain, biscuits. Palate: Intense oak up front, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, toffee, chocolate, fudge, banana, tropical fruit, sherry, peppery. Finish: Toffee notes, nutmeg, nutty, spicy, crisp, gentle, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Bulleit - (Kentucky)

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, maple, apricot, apple, citrus, oak. Palate: Vanilla, caramel, toffee, molasses, maple, milk chocolate, Honeynut Cheerios, Graham crackers, coconut, dates, raisin, corn, walnut, oak. Finish: Toast, soft, smooth, rounded, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal


Cody Road

Cody Road - (Iowa)

Nose: Herbal, agave-esque, lemon-lime, floral, pine, grassy. Palate: Almonds, cashew, rum raisin, chocolate, green apple, pear, pineapple, citrus, eucalyptus, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, biscuit, very nice. Finish: Toasty, soft, gentle, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

McCormick -(Missouri)

Nose: Fruity, strawberry, honey, spicy, nutty, very light. Palate: Chocolate chip cookie dough, dried dark fruit, marmalade, coffee, almond, clove, spicy, intense oak, robust, dry, well balanced, well rounded, delicious. Finish: Smooth, spicy, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



McKenzie- (New York)

Nose: Loads of sweet passionfruit, tropical fruit, melon, mango, pineapple, pear, caramel, vanilla, cream, marzipan, biscuits, toast, hay. Palate: Mango, apricot, pineapple, banana, toffee, light butterscotch, caramel, anise, clove, tea leaves, nutmeg, sandalwood, oak. Finish: Oaky, citrus, creamy, spicy, sweet, nice, soft, delicate, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Most Righteous- (New York)

Nose: Caramel, honey, molasses, vanilla, cream, fudge, citrus fruit, dried fruits, coconut, toast, hay. Palate: Butterscotch, dark chocolate, toffee, honey, molasses, cola, vanilla, orange, dried fruit, cinnamon, ginger, roasted peanuts, almond, touch of spice. Finish: Fresh, clean, soft, light, smooth, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Most Righteous Bourbon

Benjamin Prichard’s Double Barrel

Benjamin Prichard’s Double Barrel - (Tennessee)

Nose: Subtle raisin, fruity, maple, floral. Palate: Mint chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate, rum cake, spicy caramel, butterscotch, sherry, coffee bean, lemony, floral, peppermint, peppery, oak, cherry wood, rich, well balanced, excellent. Finish: Fruity, soft, gentle, smooth, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Old Forester - (Kentucky)

Nose: Caramel custard, vanilla, orange, coconut, raisin, cashew, banana, fruity, floral. Palate: Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, honey, demerara, treacle, dark fudge, chocolate, banana, dried green apple, floral, hibiscus, spicy, clove, tea, nice balance. Finish: Vanilla, ginger, soft, gentle, smooth, mellow, long, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Old Forester

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight - (Texas)

Nose: Smoked cherry/apple wood, pineapple, honeysuckle, grain, buttery, butterscotch, caramel, malty, maple, oak, walnut. Palate: Cherry, rhubarb pie, vanilla, brown sugar, toffee, creamy, buttery, maple, grain, almond, hazelnut, spicy, mint, leather, rich, bold, velvety, nice. Finish: Nutmeg, chocolate, wood, light, spicy, smooth, clean, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Hudson Baby Bourbon - (New York)

Nose: Cherrywood, oak, floral, hay, biscuit, cereal, sweet cane sugar, pie. Palate: Walnut, honey, nutmeg, sugarcane, maple, floral, herbal, grassy, pepper, tobacco, clove, oak, leather, creamy, chewy, rich, well rounded. Finish: Soft, delicate, gentle, clean, sweet, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Hudson Baby Bourbon

C.W. Irwin Bourbon

C.W. Irwin- (Oregon)

Nose: Butterscotch, molasses, vanilla, chocolate, faint caramel, fruity, blossom, peppery, sherry, oak. Palate: Marmalade, molasses, fruity, hazelnut, herbal, peppermint, vegetal, spice, deep charred oak, sherry notes. Finish: Fresh, floral, spice, clean, gentle, soft, dry, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Woodford Reserve - (Kentucky)

Nose: Vanilla, honey, molasses, sugar cane, hint of mint, light pineapple, sherry cask, peppery, spicy. Palate: Mint up front, milk chocolate, fudge, toffee, vanilla notes, buttery, banana, dates, sherry, cashew, spices, cloves, subtle. Finish: Fruity, caramel, butterscotch, eucalyptus, light, dry, toasty, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Woodford Reserve

Dancing Pines Bourbon


Dancing Pines - (Colorado)

Nose: Pear, apple, dried apricot, honey, caramel, butter, tea, oatmeal. Palate: Milk chocolate, maple, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, almond, nutmeg, coconut, malt, floral, rose petals, spicy, subtle oak. Finish: Caramel, pine, smooth, light spice, lingering.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




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Comments and Suggestions:

Sun. December 1, 2013 11:16 AM - by: Art
Maker's Mark is the original premium bourbon. I like it.
Thu. September 12, 2013 2:36 PM - by: Danny McCaffrey
I said it here first. Though it may be proven long after this link or site is gone... The best Bourbon may very well be the ones that have yet to be born. Kentucky is hotter than Hades in the summer, and that evaporates ones barreled whiskey quick. That's why you don't see any Bourbons over 25yo - there'd be none left after too many decades. Unlike the whiskeys of Scotland where the Highland winds blow cold and keep those barrels cool years round. That's how you get 10, 20, 20, 40 year Scotches everywhere. So. Should this Bourbon resurgance follow in the shadow of the Cigar trend in america. And adventurous enterpreneurs invest in upstate distilleries? We could be looking at a spirit ready to challenge even the most glorious of Scotlands offerings. And American spirit will have it's "Judgement Of Paris" moment announcing the beginning of a new era in Whiskey. Tl:DR I know craft, and whiskey. Do you know any billionaires with money to burn and ideas to fund? D.Caf
Sun. July 7, 2013 7:04 AM - by: Keith
The main ingredient is water. So unless they are importing the water, then location does make a difference. Of course that doesn't mean you can't make good bourbon in other places. Bourbon has to age for years. Where it is aged can also makes difference.
Mon. May 6, 2013 7:58 AM - by: Toicat
Being a KY native I have sampled many fine bourbons in my lifetime. The list has too many omissions of quality bourbons and some that I have sampled on the list that I would not even serve regardless of who says so. Bourbon is a recipe, and does not have to be from Kentucky. It is the hard calcium rich water in several KY counties that give Ky made bourbon a distinct flavor. Woodford Reserve, Heaven's Envy are fine quality examples. No Maker's Mark on the list? No Baker's, No Van Winkle, No Knob Creek??? Please....
Thu. May 2, 2013 4:03 PM - by: bob rose
Those designer small batch bourbons over do it and are pretensious....Basil Hayden is over priced but delicious, Wild Turkey 101 is good, as are both Beam white label and black label...and Maker's Mark...aren't these good enough?
Mon. April 22, 2013 4:56 PM - by: ARNOLD RAMPERSAD
Thu. April 4, 2013 8:45 PM - by: Tom
Buffalo Trace makes Pappy and lots of others. Different names does not change the fact that it all comes from the same still. Bourbon is a recipe, not a location. Texas Bourbon is as valid as Kentucky Bourbon.
Mon. March 18, 2013 1:12 PM - by: Brad
Okay, I can agree on this sites scotch review as most are some of the best on earth, but I am absolutely fed up with so called, "whiskey experts", throwing around bourbon ratings and rankings. I am an avid bourbon and scotch single malt enthusiast and personally Idc what the bourbon law says a liquid has to meet certain requirements to be called a bourbon. The main deal sealer on a bourbon is being distilled, aged, and bottled in the great state of Kentucky. You don't get single malt scotch on Ireland do you? Though their are some decent Irish single malts out there. I can agree on Blanton's being one of the best 50 bourbons, Buffalo Trace is a damn fine bourbon for the money, and a few of the others are somewhat worthy. But Pappy Van Winkle has a 12 year lot B, 15 year, 20 year, 23 year, and even a couple 10 year old, Old RIP Van Winkle's that ARE In the top 50 bourbons. Not bc I say so but bc they just are. What about Buffalo Trace Distillery Antique Collection? Eagle Rare 17 year, William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg? What about the Jim beam small batch collection? Those are top 50 worthy. Four Roses single barrels? What about the KBD stuff, their willets, rowans creek, etc. Elmer T. Lee? Jefferson's? The list goes on. One thing every Kentucky bourbon has is the true name bourbon. Colorado, Oregon, new York, Texas, and whoever else. You may have good whiskey, but it's not bourbon whiskey. I actually respect the folks at jack daniels as they meet all requirements but remain Tennessee whiskey. Bc that's what it really is.
Sat. January 26, 2013 9:34 PM - by: Bob Ezzard
I've had both McKenzie and Breckenridge and for what it's worth, my preference is McKenzie bourbon.
Mon. January 21, 2013 6:48 PM - by: Vernon
I want to echo Steve's comments on Cody Road. We were at the distillery over the past weekend.
Fri. January 18, 2013 2:27 PM - by: SteveOJ38
Is this list based primarily on cheap bourbon's or the best bourbons period. Most heavy bourbon fans would be offened that no Pappy Van Winkle or George T Stagg is mentioned here. Also, Parkers heritage reserve which comes out once per year with a different vintage. And for cheap Bourbons, Wellers for wheated bourbons? Elijah Craig? Elmer T Lee? I could go on and appears this is a list of bourbons one can find at the grocery store....I suggest the tasters dig a little deeper and try to find some bourbons dedicated to the original sour mash recipe's.
Tue. January 15, 2013 6:46 AM - by: Natalie
I'm so happy for Headframe Spirits...just Devine taste!
Fri. January 11, 2013 3:59 PM - by: WyoBourbonFanatic
I am excited to see this review and be introduced to so many labels distilled so close to my Wyoming home. I am a little disappointed that Eagle Rare 10yo,bottled by Buffalo Trace & my personal favorite, is not on the list. Regarding the use of the word "Bourbon" on those brands not produced in Kentucky: True, Kentucky will always be the birthplace of Bourbon, but Bourbon can be produced anywhere. There is one caveat to this, Kentucky is the only production allowed to include the name of the state in the labeling, Ex. "Kentucky Bourbon" rather than just "Bourbon" that all other stated are required to use. It is a small, but important distinction.
Thu. January 10, 2013 11:42 AM - by: Drew
"While still mainly associated with the American South, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States" Wrong, wrong and wrong again! if it isn't made in Kentucky, then no self respecting bourbon drinker is going to call it bourbon! Champagne only comes from Champagne, France. Tennessee whiskey only comes from Tennessee. Bourbon only comes from Kentucky! otherwise, its just whiskey.
Tue. January 8, 2013 4:54 PM - by: Steve
Earlier poster mentioning Cody Road bourbon out of Mississipi River Distillery is in for a treat. Also have an amazing rye that is an experience to taste.
Fri. January 4, 2013 5:48 PM - by: Mike Hobart
Love to see props given to Big Bottom. I am fortunate enough to be able to visit thier tasting room on a regular basis as they have special warehouse only releases that will blow you away.
Thu. January 3, 2013 12:27 PM - by: Dave Stanton
I love Woodford Reserve, been drinking it for years, great Bourbon and distilled at a beautiful. old facility but I am looking forward to trying Cody Road. I met the distillers in Iowa and they were very excited to be introducing a Bourbon to their line-up that features excellent Vodkas too.
Thu. January 3, 2013 9:42 AM - by: ICweiners
Where's Basil Haydens on this list?

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Fifty Best > Spirits Archive > Bourbon 2013
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