The San Francisco Spirits Competition is as close to the Super Bowl of spirits as it gets. So when a small whiskey distillery in tiny Blanco, Texas wins Double Gold for its flagship bourbon two years in a row, attention is due. Situated in the picturesque Texas Hill Country, Ben Milam Whiskey produces three spirits — a barrel proof bourbon, small batch rye and its signature single barrel bourbon. The Single Barrel that took Double Gold last year did the same this year, and its other two offerings took home individual Golds themselves this year (the rye won Silver last year as well).

Every entry in every category at SFSC is judged by more than 40 food scientists, drink reviewers, bartenders and industry experts and is in the running for a long list of medals and awards. Bronze to Double Gold — all spirits begin in the blind tasting round where the judges first designate if the spirit is deserving of the next round. After every spirit that entered is judged (and many culled), judges determine what medal level each spirit that survived should obtain. The final round is for Double Gold winning spirits only and determines which bottles win Best in Class and overall Best in Show.

Ben Milam Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Double Gold two years running, Ben Milam’s Single Barrel Bourbon is ablaze with hype. To win a Double the spirit has be given Gold medal status by every single judge that tastes it — as you might imagine, very few are given out. The juggernaut spirit sips with a cinnamon and caramel front followed by a buttery smooth vanilla finish. The bottle MSRPs for a mere $39, and was bred for neat or on the rocks drinking.

Ben Milam Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey

Sweeter than its two distillery kin spirits, the Barrel Proof sports long and slow-building nutty, toffee taste, with plenty of baking spice and fall flavor kicking in in the followthrough. Ben Milam’s Barrel Proof variety is a limited release spirit that’s bottled at 115 proof. It will be available again this fall.

Ben Milam Small Batch Rye Whiskey

By nature of its type and its spice, Milam’s rye is necessarily spicier and more aggressive on the tongue. Black pepper, mint, dill, cinnamon and cane sugar all chime in on taste, and the Texas rye is available in Texas where fine spirits are sold.

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