The New York Wine & Spirits Competition convened last month in Brooklyn, bringing together some of the best palates in the beverage industry together for three days of blind tasting and judging. Organized by the prestigious Tasting Alliance—the same group responsible for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition—this year’s iteration saw a record number of entries flow in from prestigious producers on six separate continents of the globe. Winners were selected across every major category and will be revealed to the public on September 12th.
But when it comes to bourbon, we’ve scored an advance exclusive. And if you’re a fan of American whiskey, you’re guaranteed to be quite intrigued by the result…Out of hundreds of contenders, the top prize was collected by a sherry cask finished bourbon from 15 Stars, a non-distilling producer based out of Bardstown, Kentucky.
The limited release was bottled at 57.5% ABV and initially retailed for $179. It consists of a blend of straight bourbons, 10-13 years in age, sourced from both Kentucky and Indiana. The juice was then finished for an additional several months in casks seasoned with the famed fortified wine of southwestern Spain. In the glass it opens up to impart a cherry cola kind of aroma. On the palate is plum, raisin, and cinnamon all competing for attention. Ultimately a balance between nutty confection and dried holiday spice are left lingering long after each sip.
Although established just over a year ago, 15 Stars is already amassing a fierce following amongst whiskey enthusiasts. This despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that most of its expressions are priced above the $100 mark. Platinum, for example—a blend of straight bourbons between 10-18 years in age—currently retails for $280 a bottle.
It’s finding sizable success on the competition circuit, too, even before the New York results. The brand scored 95 out of 100 points at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, double gold in San Francisco, as well as double platinum at the ASCOT Awards. With this latest piece of hardware added to the collection, you can expect its tightly allocated releases to become even more scarce.
15 Stars was named to honor Kentucky’s status as the 15th American state, which occurred after it entered the union back in 1795. The company was founded by Bluegrass natives—and father and son entrepreneurs—Rick and Ricky Johnson. As of now, their bottles are distributed to retailers and restaurants in Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia and Louisiana, in addition to the their Kentucky home.
In winning the “Best Bourbon” prize, the Sherry Cask Finish Bourbon outscored distinguished bottlings from brands including Buffalo Trace (including several marks from its Antique Collection) as well as liquid from Blue Run Spirits and Rabbit Hole. Hopefully that means we’ll start seeing 15 Stars spread to more states in the months ahead.
In the meantime, check in next week for results on the best single malt scotch from New York Wine & Spirits Competition, along with the best whiskey overall—across all categories. Many more surprises are in store.