What an incredible whiskey collection we have before us.

From this Fall’s Best Bourbon, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C923, to the latest addition to the prestigious Chivas Regal portfolio and a world of styles in between, here are the whiskey category winners in our Fall 2023 Barleycorn International Spirits Competition as chosen blind by the world’s most influential spirits journalists, authors, and educators.

Best Scotch Whisky

Chivas Regal XV Scotch Whisky

80 Proof (40% ABV); Aged 15 Years; $50
Speyside, Scotland

Presented by Master Blender Sandy Hyslop, Chivas Regal XV is the latest addition to the legendary Speyside whisky house’s portfolio, a port cask finished blend that is, as the name implies, aged at least fifteen years. With a “toasted oak, cooked apple and thyme” nose and a palate of “sweet cream, apples, and orange zest,” the judges conclude that “this has everything you want in a blend.” “It’s light, sweet, and balanced with malt and oak, pleasantly dry on the nose, and sports a short-and-sweet finish that’ll keep you coming back for more. If you walk into a bar and say, “’ Gimme a Scotch,’ this is what you should be served.”

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Best Irish Whisky

The Craft Irish Whiskey The Devil’s Keep 2023 Edition

92.26 Proof (46.13% ABV); NAS; $12,000
Dublin, Ireland

Coming off the heels of last year’s ‘Best Irish Single Malt’ at the World Whiskies Awards 2022, The Devil’s Keep 2023 Edition by The Craft Irish Whiskey broke the top ten highest-scoring spirits this Fall. Not one but two judges awarded this single malt an elusive 95-point rating. And as it turns out, this is no ordinary Irish sipper. The Devil’s Keep is a luxury collectible of which only 333 bottles of double-distilled single malt are available worldwide. To create this beauty, single malt whiskey is double distilled and aged in a five-cask ‘quadruple oak’ process.

This includes American Oak, Tawny Port, Pedro Ximenez Sherry barrels, and Hungarian Virgin Oak. The result is an “elegant and stately” whiskey featuring “sour dark fruit and woody spice next to cedar and leather on the nose. Sweet caramel presents on the palate with leather, rich spice cakes, and dark fruits with a hint of honey in black tea on the finish.”

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Best Bourbon

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C923

123 Proof; (66.5% ABV); NAS; $75
Bardstown, Kentucky

The bourbon geekdom is freaking out over this Elijah Craig Barrel Proof offering by Heaven Hill. And after becoming the highest-ranked spirit in our Fall Barleycorn Awards, it’s clearly for good reason. “Loaded with baking spice, citrus peel, and sweet honey, this is a stunningly complex whiskey for its proof,” raved one judge, whose accolades were shared by the entire panel. The high score here was 96, with surrounding scores in the mid-90s across the board. This is a herculean feat in the Barleycorn competition, where multiple 94+ scores are scarce.

Ready for some more fun? We will taste off our spring winner, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B523, with C923 to determine the best ECBP expression this year. Meanwhile, click below to hopefully score a bottle while they are still out there. The bourbon is sublime.

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Best Single Barrel Whiskey Bourbon/ Tennessee Whiskey

Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Whiskey – Batch 061

123.5 (61.75% ABV); NAS; $90
Shelbyville, Tennessee

Selected by Uncle Nearest Master Blender, Victoria Eady Butler and bottled cask strength at a robust 61.75% ABV, the judge’s consensus on this Uncle Nearest Single Barrel is a “big and badass whiskey that also manages to be delicate and floral.” Batch 061 not only scored a Double Gold Medal with a high score of 98 and Best Single Barrel Whiskey, but it also cracked the top five highest-rated spirits in the competition. Check out the website below to find a bottle.

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Best American Single Malt

Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential Special Release: Pete & Sherri Married, First Anniversary

118.1 Proof (59.05% ABV); Age Stated 6-Years; $100
Swisher, Iowa

Cedar Ridge Single Malts have consistently topped the ASM category in the Barleycorn Awards for several years, and this Fall is no exception. Judges bestowed Best American Single Malt to Cedar Ridge Quintessential Special Release, the first in a new series presented by Master Distiller Murphy Quint. This 1st Anniversary release is a combo of 6-year-old single malt finished in a first-fill amontillado sherry butt and 6-year-old peated malt aged in an ex-bourbon barrel. According to one judge, the result is a “fine example of how nuanced an American Single malt can be. The highlight is a finish of burnt marshmallow and barley malt syrup that lingers beautifully.”

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Best Rye Whiskey

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Small Batch Rye Whiskey

111.6 Proof (55.8% ABV); NAS; $90
Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Peerless is located in the heart of Downtown Louisville on North 10th Street, where Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn and the Peerless team produce this “lovely” sweet mash rye. Bottled non-chill-filtered and cask strength, Peerless earned a high mark of 94 as it edged out the also excellent A.M. Scott Distillery Barrel Proof Rye and Peerless Small Batch Double Oak Bourbon to top the category this Fall. From here, Peerless will compete in a head-to-head smackdown with our Barleycorn Spring 2023 rye whiskey champion, Sagamore Spirit 8-Year-Old, for the title of Best Rye Of 2023.

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Best Single Barrel Rye

A.M. Scott Distillery Barrel Proof Rye

130 Proof (65% ABV); Age Stated 7 Years; $60
Troy, Ohio

Made from a “low rye” recipe of 51% Rye, this “dangerously drinkable” single barrel from A.M Scott Distillery in Troy, Ohio, beat out serious contenders, including New Riff and Uncle Nearest, to score top honors this Fall. Our judges loved this whiskey’s “light, dry, and bready” nose that becomes “sweet on the palate, with toffee and a bit of caramel.” But it’s perhaps the alcohol integration judges were most in love with as one begged the question: “Seriously, where did they hide the alcohol?! Whatever the proof is, it’s delicious.”

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Best Tennessee Whiskey

Leiper’s Fork Distillery Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey

100 Proof (50% ABV); NAS; $80
Franklin, Tennessee

“This Tennessee whiskey comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” There is a lot to like about this distillery-made 5-year-old Bottled-In-Bond TN Whiskey. Created from a mash of GMO-free 70% Corn (grown on the master distiller, Lee Kennedy’s farm), 15% Rye and 15% toasted Malted Barley, this 100% pot still whiskey is aged five years in a char #4 barrel, filtered through sugar maple charcoal, and bottled non-chill-filtered at 100 proof. The result is a “dark fruit and honey” nose with “flecks of meaty leather,” leading to a palate “loaded with caramel, more sweet honey, cherry, and baking spice.”

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Best Wheat Whiskey

Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey Barrel Proof B923

120.6 Proof (60.3% ABV); Aged 7 Years; $65
Bardstown, Kentucky

Presented by Heaven Hill Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll, this second 2023 release of Bernheim Barrel Proof was bottled in September. This “SPECTACULAR” whiskey represents the best in class amongst the small, proud, and probably under-appreciated collection of American wheat whiskeys out there. Like Bernheim’s flagship wheat whiskey, B923 has a mashbill of 51% Wheat, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley before aging the distillate in new charred oak between 7-9 years. The result is a “hefty wheat whiskey that’s pretty nuanced despite being a high-octane ass-kicker.”

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Best Corn Whiskey

Abasolo Mexican Corn Whiskey

86 Proof (43% ABV); NAS; $45
Jilotepec de Abasolo, Mexico

“Really like nothing else I’ve ever tried.” After scoring Best World Whiskey in our Barleycorn Awards Spring Competition, Abasalo is back this Fall to be named Best Corn Whiskey as the Mexican corn whiskey sweeps the category in 2023. And it’s easy to see why judges praised this whiskey’s “sugar, honey, and maize aromas” backed up with “corn flakes, banana taffy, and a pungent earthiness on the palate.” “Mexico – come for the tequila, stay for the whiskey!”

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Best American Craft Spirit

M&O Spirits Black Bourbon Whiskey

100 Proof (50% ABV); Age Stated 39 Months; $50
Ashville, Ohio

This “tasty” bourbon by M&O Owner and Master Distiller Doug McLaughlin ranked among the top ten entries in our fall competition, unanimously earning double gold scores from our judging panel. This triple pot distilled bourbon is made from a four-grain recipe of corn, rye, red wheat, and malted barley, aged over 3 years in a char #4 barrels. The result is a “unique” whiskey with a “rich and buttery nose with oak, leather, tobacco, and dark fruit.” On the palate, our judges love this whiskey’s chocolate malt and dark fruit flavors with a hint of old oak and warming spice.” “Not your typical bourbon,” as one judge points out, “and I am absolutely here for every delectable sip.”

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Best American Whiskey

15 STARS Sherry Cask Finish

115 Proof 57.5% ABV; Age Stated Four Years; $179
Bardstown, Kentucky

15 Stars continues to kill it in the Barleycorn Awards with this “classic American whiskey.” Attaining a high score of 96 points, this double gold winner crushed the American Blended category with this blend of bourbons from Kentucky and Indiana finished in Sherry casks. As for why, here is what one judge had to say about it. “An awesome blend of raisin, dried figs, fresh ground coffee, toasted marshmallow, and a hint of leather. The palate comes alive with flavors reminiscent of plum jam, bananas foster, and a beautiful sherry influence. Charred oak and cacao beans add complexity, and the finish is long, with notes of dried cherry and charred oak. This is a delightful finished whiskey.”

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Spirits writers, marketers and designers are among the most influential forces in the spirits industry. Their opinions, ideas and creative talents inform and influence consumer perceptions and buying decisions. The John Barleycorn Society was started by a group of spirits journalists seeking to honor excellence in all facets of the industry. The journalists spent several years creating a comprehensive competition that became the John Barleycorn Awards. An elite team of authoritative and influential spirits journalists was selected to administer the flagship component of the Awards, a blind tasting competition destined to become the preeminent arbitrator of spirits taste, quality and character.