Unpack your tuxedo and elevated glassware, because it’s Award Season for the whiskey world. The San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) puts spirits through a rigorous set of tastings, keeping the identities of the liquids from the judges throughout the process. Because of that, it’s one of the most well-respected and longest running competitions in the game. And its picks carry a lot of weight. The best whiskeys of 2021 were just released, and this year’s winners include some newcomers and unexpected victors.
For instance, Blue Run Spirits, which was founded last year, took top honors for two of its bourbons. Blue Run 13.5 Single Barrel took best single barrel bourbon 11 years or older, best single barrel bourbon, and best bourbon. Its 14-year small batch bourbon took best small batch 11 years and older.
It’s not entirely a surprise win, however, because the company (which was founded in October 2020) employed former Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge as its advisor to create the sourced bourbon behind the Blue Run label (the source remains undisclosed).
Some established names like Heaven Hill took accolades for Henry McKenna 10 Year—a previous whiskey of the year. This year it peaked at best single barrel up to 10 years of age. And the distillery’s 2020 release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection—10 Year Old Heavy Char Bourbon—won best small batch bourbon.
Other notable winners include Vermont’s WhistlePig Distillery, which won best rye for its Boss Hog VII—Magellan’s Atlantic release. Uncle Nearest 1820 Premium Single Barrel took best Tennessee whiskey, and a grandfatherly 43-year-old Canadian Club release in the “Chronicles” collection took best Canadian whisky.
And then there was the one standing above them all: The Best In Show Whiskey of 2021.
The world of scotch also gave a few welcome surprises: underdog Glen Scotia won both best Scotch and Best in Show for the entire whiskey category with their 25-year-old Single Malt. It’s a fantastic malt made in one of scotch whisky’s least known regions: Campbeltown.
This Glen Scotia release was added to the portfolio a few years ago, and as you can imagine, the supply is quite limited. The SFWSC keeps its record of picking fantastic scotches—we also loved last year’s crowning of Glendronach 15 Revival as best whiskey.
A complete list of winners, medalists, and honorable mentions in whiskey and other categories will be released this Wednesday. Here are a few more worth mentioning in the meantime:
- Best Blended Irish Whiskey: Silkie The Legendary Dark Irish Whiskey
- Best Corn Whiskey: Stillhouse Original Whiskey
- Best Flavored Whiskey: Ugly Dog S’mores Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
- Best Japanese Whisky: Matsui Pure Malt Whisky The Kurayoshi 18 Years
- Best Irish Whiskey: WATERFORD Hook Head Edition 1.1 Single Malt Irish Whisky
- Best Small Batch Bourbon – Up to 5 Years: Barrell Private Release BA1C
- Best Special Barrel-Finished Bourbon: Bardstown Bourbon Company Chateau de la Baude
- Best Straight Bourbon: 1792 Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon
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