A couple weeks back, a strange thing happened at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) — a $30 bourbon whiskey won the award for best overall whiskey over hundreds of bottles of Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey and Japanese whisky. Now, from small batch to barrel finished, the full list of bourbon whiskey category winners is available. These are the best bourbon whiskeys of 2019, according to SFWSC.

Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish

Best Special Barrel-Finished Bourbon: Belle Meade’s award-getter is a bourbon pun. It could be the location in the rickhouse, the humiditiy, the perfect char or a combination of 100 other factors, but, in distillery patois, the “honey barrel” is a mythic barrel that holds the platonic ideal of bourbon whiskey. This bottle is finished in barrels that have aged honey from a local producer.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Best in Show, Whiskey (Best Single Barrel): Only the second bourbon to ever earn the title of “best whiskey” at SFWSC, Heaven Hill Distillery’s 10-year, Bottled-in-Bond bourbon checks every box a whiskey drinker could ask for. It’s affordable, available, delicious and now among the most awarded bottles of bourbon out there.

Redemption Wheated Straight Bourbon

Best Small Batch Bourbon — Up to 5 Years: Redemption’s wheated bourbon is a bit of an outlier. Its mashbill is far more wheat-heavy than most (reportedly 45 percent wheat) and its 4-year age statement is much lower than what we’ve come to expect from a good wheated bourbon. But it isn’t completely unique in the wheat category — like most wheated bourbons, Redemption’s expression can be hard to track down.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 018

Best Small Batch Bourbon — 11 Years and Older: Barrel’s cask strength Batch 018 is not meant to be subtle. The high proof expression is a blend of 11-, 14- and 15-year-old bourbons and exhibits aggressive rye pungency. If you want a bottle that’s nothing like what you’ve got in your cabinet, this could be it.

Ezra Brooks 7 Year Barrel Proof Bourbon

Best Straight Bourbon: Age statement? Check. Barrel strength? Check. Fair price? Check. The $40 SRP “Old Ezra” is one of a dwindling number of do-it-all bottles to stock up on.

Traverse City Whiskey Co. Barrel Proof Bourbon

Best Small Batch Bourbon (Overall): This year’s overall winner for best small batch bourbon comes from Michigan. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Traverse City Whiskey Company’s barrel proof offering is aged five years in new American white oak barrels.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Knob Creek Single Barrel
1792 Full Proof
Eagle Rare