The World’s Best Bourbon—According To The 2023 International Wine And Spirits

Food & Drink

What a banner year it’s been for Bardstown Bourbon Company. Back in March, the celebrated Kentucky spirits maker received top score at the International Wine and Spirits Competition for its 6-year-old Origin Series release: 98 out of 100 points. And now that very same prestigious organization has just awarded BBC the title of “Worldwide Whiskey Producer of the Year” at its annual awards ceremony in London.

Not a bad collection of hardware for a distillery that’s only been on the scene since 2014. Indeed, in winning top honors this week BBC bested Barton distillery, its Bardstown neighbor which has been producing whiskey there since 1879. But despite the dogged traditionalism of bourbon, newness managed to actually be a feature rather than a flaw.

When doling out the distinction, the IWSC was clearly wowed by the 21st century capabilities of the Bardstown Bourbon production line. In a press release after the event, the competition pointed out that the state-of-the-art facility can produce “over 50 different mash bills across the entire whiskey spectrum.”

It’s a unique power in the industry that allows the distillery the ability to bring all sorts of varied flavors to bottle. Not just for its own array of labels, but for a whole laundry list of non-distilling producers across the United States. In fact, in winning the award, Bardstown Bourbon also happened to beat out 15 Stars, a renowned upstart for whom it actually produces liquid on contract. It is, as IWSC judges note, “a destination where others can go to create their own aspirations.”

“This is a tremendous honor for our team,” says Dan Callaway, vice president of Product Development at Bardstown Bourbon Company. “We continue to push boundaries through innovation, creating incredible bourbons. The recognition affirms our place in the industry and inspires us to grow.”

They’re not the only ones growing. At its annual gala, the International Wine and Spirits Competition took the opportunity to officially announce that it’s coming to the United States next year. In September of 2024, the IWSC will host an awards show focused exclusively on American spirits. And—wouldn’t you know it—the event will take place at Bardstown. It’s hard to argue with the positioning. Although the town is home to less than 14,000 residents, there are a total of 11 distillery experiences within a 16 mile radius. There must be something in the water.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to explore the laudable flavors that won over IWSC judges, you might as well start with the one they scored highest: Origin Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The 96-proof offering leverages a high-rye mashbill (36%) to nurture nutmeg and menthol notes in the nose and palate. It also boasts an exceptionally sturdy finish, brimming with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It punches well beyond its weight class, in that you can easily find this one sitting on shelves at $49 a bottle.

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