As we ramp up our most exciting Barleycorn Awards in our 6-year history this Spring, it's time to highlight some favorites we discovered last year.

From tiny batches by independent producers like K. Luke and Tabby Road to incredible national entities like Sagamore Spirits and Uncle Nearest, here are Double Gold Award winners and where you can buy them. So sit back, pour a dram, and discover a new favorite.

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Small Batch Double Oak Rye

Vitals: 110 Proof (55% ABV); NAS; $149

While Louisville’s Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. scored Best Rye Of 2023 in our Barleycorn Awards competition with its flagship Straight Rye, this Double Oak expression earned top honors with a double gold medal. As the name implies, this sweet mash rye was aged in a traditional barrel and re-casked for a secondary oak finish. This “tasty and intriguing” whiskey was bottled cask strength, and non-chill filtered at 110 proof. The result is an “oak spiced and burnt sugar nose” leading to “dark caramel and dry leather flavors with baking spices,” wrapped in a “textured and round mouthfeel.”

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Sagamore Spirit Port Finish Rye

Vitals: 103 Proof (51.5% ABV); Age Stated 8-Years; $100

Sure, Sagamore Spirit 8-Year-Old Rye took top honors in last year’s Spring 2023 Competition. But the Baltimore-based whiskey company also scored Double Gold with four additional Sagamore rye expressions, an impressive feat in this exclusive circle of elite spirits. The Director’s Choice goes to this Port Finish Rye, where “sweet Port ties the elements of this whiskey together from the nose to the finish.” But at its core, it’s the “spicy heart of rye that makes this whiskey what it is: excellent.”

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Hemingway Rye Whiskey Signature Edition

Vitals: 102 Proof (51% ABV); NAS; $80

Hemingway Whiskey Company is the brainchild of entrepreneur Steve Groth and veteran Beam distiller Ron Call, who combines 10% house-made 4-year-old straight rye from their Western Kentucky Distilling Co. with 90% 6-year-old Indiana-made juice. This whiskey is finished in rum-seasoned sherry casks, resulting in “a nicely balanced rye where the sherry contributes but does not overpower the classic fruit, caramel, and spice rye flavors.”

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K.LUKE Whiskey Company Small Batch Toasted Barrel, Barrel Strength Rye

Vitals: 116.8 Proof (58.4% ABV); NAS; $115

K Luke was founded by Jonathan Maisano, who launched his whiskey company by purchasing single barrels for his retail store, Maisano’s Fine Wine and Spirits, in 2014. The entrepreneur went on to build a brand whose business model is releasing whiskey blends from Kentucky and Indiana under the K. Luke banner. This toasted Barrel, full-strength expression is a testament to Maisano’s craft, featuring “fresh caramel aromas turning to fresh apple pie on the palate.” Judges agree it’s a “big whiskey that’s perfect for that after-dinner dram.”

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Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Rye Whiskey – Batch 002

Vitals: (118 Proof) 59% ABV; Aged Four Years; $89

Shelbyville, Tennessee-based Uncle Nearest has been killing it on the competition circuit for years, and 2023 was no exception. Our favorite this year from master blender Victoria Eady Butler was actually a single barrel rye, Batch 002. Aged four years and bottled at a high octane 118 proof, judges loved this whiskey’s “sweet caramel and lemon peel nose and butterscotch candy palate.” But also pointed out “luscious apple notes and a warm, buttery, spicy finish.” While this Batch 002 expression is likely sold out, check the link below for current offerings. They will no doubt be delicious.

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Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Single Barrel Cask Strength

Vitals: 107.2 (53.6% ABV); NAS; $140

Produced at the fabulous Rabbit Hole Distillery in the NULU neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, is Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye. This single-barrel whiskey Is born of a two-grain rye and barley mash, aged in toasted and charred white oak barrels, then bottled at non-chill-filtered at full strength at 53.6%. Our judges enjoyed the “aromas of organic straw and earth meeting ripe berries, honey, and fresh oak.” “But it’s the caramelized banana note on the palate that really makes this whiskey shine. Yum!”

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Tabby Road Small Batch Rye

Vitals: 115.6 Proof (57.8%); Aged 5 Years; $65

This independent whiskey company is a family affair based in Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, that sources fine American bourbons and ryes. This Double Gold winning Small Batch Straight Rye was made in Indiana, aged just under six years, and bottled at 57.8% ABV. Our judges gave the whiskey a 90+ rating thanks to its “almond extract nose giving way to traditional rye spice, vanilla, brown sugar, and pecan pie flavors. The taste concludes with an “earthy and lasting 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.