It’s no secret that we love discovering great spirits in our Barleycorn competition.

We consider ourselves damn fortunate to have a panel of seasoned spirits journalists who carefully evaluate products in a blind setting to determine who makes the most finely crafted alcohols in the world.

And while incredible whiskeys like Pursuit United Batch 002, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, and Old Fitzgerald took home top honors last Spring, other surprising whiskeys rose to the top. From Colorado to Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, here are some killer bourbons that blew our judges away.

Larceny Small Batch

Bardstown, KY
Vitals: 92 Proof; 46%; NAS; $25

Larceny was introduced in 2012 as Heaven Hill’s flagship wheated bourbon, and for $27, it’s tough to beat in value and, according to our judges, flavor.

“Tastes like bananas dipped in caramel sauce sprinkled with nuts and chocolate nibs,” writes one scribe during our blind taste competition last Spring. “A nose of fresh granny smith apples mixed with cloves and spicy oak,” raves another. Delicious whiskey, readily available, and affordable, I think Larceny may be our new “Tuesday bourbon.”

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Old Scout Bourbon Custom Bourbon

Maxwelton, West Virginia
Vitals; 114 Proof (57% ABV); Aged 5 Years; $50

Old Scout Custom Bourbon by Smooth Ambler allows customers to choose which single-cask bourbon they want to drink. The expression submitted to Barleycorn last Spring clocked in at a robust 57% ABV, and we concluded we would drink this anytime. “Well balanced overall, there’s clean, classic aromas of fruit, baking spice, and leather on the nose,” leading to a “rich palate of chocolate, caramel, and spice that lasts long into the finish.”

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15 STARS 14 Year Timeless Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bardstown, Kentucky
Vitals: 103 Proof (51.5%); Aged 14 Years; $279

15 STARS refers to Kentucky being the 15th State to enter the Union in 1795, thus becoming the 15th Star on the American Flag. And 1,650 bottles of this 14-year-old blend of Kentucky straight bourbon were produced in honor of the Kentucky artisans who craft America’s spirit. Clearly, the whiskey is spectacular after scoring double gold in the Barleycorn Awards, not to mention additional accolades from San Francisco and Fred Minnick’s ASCOT Awards. Expect complex aromas of “charcoal, brown sugar, tobacco, citrus, cinnamon, and pepper” on the “lively nose” and a “fruity palate that widens with a touch of water and concludes with a long finish. Yum!”

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291 Colorado Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Aspen Staves

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Vitals: 124.2 Proof (68.4% ABV); NAS; $100

This single-barrel, cask-strength “ass-kicker” is Colorado 291’s flagship bourbon, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Michal Myers and his distillery team in Colorado Springs cook their corn-dominant mash in copper pot stills before aging in heavily charred barrels. The whiskey is then finished with Colorado-native Aspen Wood staves. The result is “packed with flavors of rich caramel braced by sweet and herbal spice.” Despite the high proof, “a few drops of water tames this beast!”

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King’s Family Bourbon

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Vitals: 127 Proof (58.5% ABV); Aged 6 Years; $40

King’s Family products have been racking up Barleycorn medals for years now, and this single barrel offering not only scored top honors at Barleycorn but was also Best In Show in the ASCOT Awards. Made of a high-corn recipe and bottled full strength, one judge described this 6-year-old bourbon as a “warm maple bar on the nose with flavors of stewed apples and a wisp of pipe tobacco. Comforting and lovely indeed.”

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Discovery Bourbon Finished in Apple Cider Casks

Garner, North Carolina
Vitals: 100 Proof (50% ABV); Aged 2 Years; $55

“Anyone who doubts a barrel finish’s influence, must taste this.” That’s the word from one Barleycorn judge about Aristotle Spirits Cider Cask bourbon. The accolade speaks volumes to the flavor you expect with this young and snappy apple bomb. But that’s not all the whiskey offers, the flavors here are complex. “Black tea, maple syrup, and blackberry mingles with apple butter and a bit of cinnamon and sugar on the finish.”

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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.