I feel as though I say this every year, but the competition is so incredibly tough, and as prices continue to rise, meeting the criteria to move to the upper echelon of this list seems to get tougher by the year. I found the rye category particularly challenging this year as there was a pretty massive gap in pricing between the limited editions products that I tasted and the standard expressions. As you see, price and availability was the deciding factor in the end.
Speaking of price and availability, I suppose now is as good a time as any to address what I feel like might be an elephant in the room: Pride of Anderson County. This collaboration between Rare Character and Rare Bird 101 represented so much more than the liquid in the bottle can explain, and I have to say it is truly the best Wild Turkey Bourbon I have ever tasted; however, the extremely limited quantity (due to the nature of single barrel bourbon at such an age) and high price just didn’t measure up in terms of my Whiskey of the Year consideration. Damn good whiskey though, and I strongly recommend anyone try it if they are ever given the chance. I’d almost go so far as to say Wild Turkey fans won’t regret the price of the pour, whatever it may be. Almost.
Photo courtesy: Bourbon Lore and Jake Langston
I found myself happy to [finally] place a bourbon at the very top of my list with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (C922) last year, as it was the first bourbon to actually take my whiskey of the year. Seems a little strange that on a website titled The Bourbon Finder that rye continues to lead the pack, but here we are. This year’s notable bourbon list was full of contenders. Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged was very nearly my winner but, as with Pride of Anderson County and WhistlePig’s Boss Hog X, the pricing and availability wound up being the only constraints.
Photo Courtesy: Maker’s Mark
Barrell Rye Batch 04 truly spoke to me. From my very first sip, right through the multiple tastings I have done throughout the year, this whiskey just kicks ass. The layers of flavor, the killer finish, the price, and the availability of such a well-distributed product left no doubt in my mind. Barrell Rye Batch 4 is whiskey of the year material through and through.
Photo Courtesy: Barrell Craft Spirits
Touching briefly on a category that truly impressed me this year, the Finished Whiskey section of my Whiskey of the Year was something of a monster to deal with. The innovation that producers were able to capture in the bottle this year really took me by surprise. Barrell Craft Spirits hits the list again here with Tale of Two Islands Bourbon. This is a true masterclass in whiskey finishing and blending. Just wow! WhistlePig also makes an appearance here with their Boss Hog X: The Commandments, as it’s just such an incredibly designed product that brings the drinker into totally foreign, yet delicious, territory.
Photo Courtesy: WhistlePig Whiskey
This was a year of transition for the content I release. Jay and I shifted from focusing on YouTube under the Weekly Whiskey banner to focusing more on the Whiskey Raiders Podcast in an effort to reach more folks. Truth be told, the amount of time and effort we put into creating YouTube content with high production value turned out to be far less sustainable for us than we imagined. Who knows, maybe we’ll be back on the screen in 2024, but for now we’re excited to keep releasing podcast episodes for the folks who are interested in listening to a couple of jokers chat about whiskey. Thank you again for another great year, and I hope you’ll continue to read along and share this with whiskey lovers in your life. Cheers!