Over 1,400 entries at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition... that's a stunning result! We've been following the competition closely for over 5 years now and every year it's exciting to see how traditional labels fared and what upstarts are making waves. More importantly, we spend hours digesting those results so that you don't have to. This Part 1 examines the bottom half of the alphabet with San Francisco's results. (Why the bottom half? Because it's an even year.) Here are those results that we found most interesting...
Stay tuned for the top half of the alphabet!
by Neal MacDonald, editor
- Yellow Rose Double Barrel Bourbon-a Texas craft distillery is able to bust out with a double-gold medal, which is a huge feat for upstart whiskey makers. In this case, the double barrel bourbon is rested in cabarnet wine barrels to finish, creating a highly unusual flavor.
- Westland Distillery American Single Malt is another triumph for the craft distilling movement, claiming a double gold medal for only a 2yr old single malt whiskey made exclusively in Seattle, Washington.
- Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon was named the Best Special Barrel Finish Bourbon in the competition… an unusual style of award but a prestigious one nonetheless for a bourbon that is listed at $50 and among the best rated in the world.
- For those of you who pursue delivery trucks to claim a prized and rare bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20yr and resent accusations of “overrated,” it re-emerged at this year’s San Francisco competition with a double-gold medal.
- Finally! WL Weller 12yr Bourbon was at last entered in competition. It’s one of our personal favorites as an exceptional value ($25 or so) and we love it. It scored a double gold medal!
- Wild Turkey 101 Rye scored a double gold medal after a bit of a hiatus from competition. Austin Nichols proves again that their 101 brands are exceptional values and well-regarded by the critics.
- WhistlePig Rye received a silver medal from San Francisco, which is fine as far as it goes. But it bums us out here at Proof66 because this is one of the very favorite rye whiskeys we’ve tried in recent months. (The higher-proof Boss Hog expression received a double-gold but is twice the price.)
- Pinckney Bend Rested American Whiskey received a double gold medal, which is remarkable given it is a craft distillery producing a corn whiskey that is aged only briefly… all of these are often strikes with the critics. In this case, the whiskey was recognized as one of the best.
- Wemyss 12yr The Hive Blended Scotch was named “Best Blended Whisky” in the 2014 competition… it appears to us to be a highly approachable scotch bottled at 80 proof and promising a “honeyed” flavor profile.
- Armorik Double Maturation Breton Whisky was named “Best Other Whisky” in the 2014 San Francisco Competition in an impressive win for the French. It has a sherry cask finish and should delight those who like the sherry flavors in their whisky.
- Who says the pros hate moonshine! Two James Rye Dog whiskey is an un-aged rye bottled at a bracing 101 proof. It pulled down a double gold medal for the brand new Detroit distillery.
- Sometimes consistently strong results get overlooked… don’t overlook the Tobermory 15yr Single Malt scotch, which now has a gold or double gold medal for six years in a row! That is very, very impressive in the volatile world of scoring competition. Scotch lovers should take notice.
- Something happened with the Tyrconnel Irish Whiskey... after a solid several years of silver medal results (solid) out of nowhere it pulled down a double gold medal. Great news for Tyrconnel fans and perhaps signaling a formula change or otherwise good buy.
- Glenlivet had a stunning year. The 16yr Nadurra, the 25yr, and the 21yr all received double-bold medals. The 21yr in particular took its 3rd straight double-gold medal, which is fantastic consistency. The Glenlivet 15yr took its 6th straight gold medal, which is another mark of consistency for the Speyside scotch distillery and signals an exceptional value buy.
- Hibiki 12yr Japanese whisky is one of our personal favorites-it has a distinctive flavor for being finished in umushu plum wine barrels and in a beautiful bottle-and it was rewarded with a double gold medal.
- Royal Salute 38yr scotch is way out of the range of most people-we’ve seen prices anywhere from $600 to $1,500 (which maybe isn’t that bad for a 38 year old scotch). But it’s nice to see such a prestigious scotch backing it up with two straight double gold medals in 2013 and 2014.
- Yamazaki 18yr had its unbelievable streak of 6 straight double-gold medal awards snapped this year when it was awarded a silver medal. It remains one of the world’s best whiskies according to our rankings.
- Redbreast 15yr Irish Whiskey was named “Best Irish Whiskey” in the 2014 competition and earned its third double gold medal in four years. Sure to please the Irish whiskey fan.
- Mozart Dry Chocolate spirit just claimed its third double gold medal in 4 years. It also claimed its third “Best Other White Spirit” award at the same time… this is huge and, we believe, unprecedented. It’s not a liqueur but actually a spirit made from chocolate and the critics, apparently, adore it. Hopefully it becomes more widely available in the near future!
- Louis Royer Force 53 Cognac not only received its second consecutive double gold medal but also its second consecutive “best cognac” rating. Very impressive. We wish it were more widely available!
- Waqar Pisco recorded its second award for both “Best Pisco” and, more importantly, “Beset Unaged White Spirit” in the San Francisco competition. This is making it one of the most highly decorated brandy-styled spirits in our entire database.
- Rogue Pink Gin finally found favor with the critics! After a string of bronze and silver medals, the 2014 judging panel awarded the gin rested in Pinot Noir barrels a double gold medal.
- Chase Mulberry and Sloe gin is a rare flavored gin and one of the only mulberry flavored spirits in the world. In fact, the distillery made the limited edition gin specifically to celebrate the mulberry. It was well-regarded at San Francisco earning a double gold medal. This makes it the highest rated flavored gin in our database by a longshot.
- Wray & Nephew Overpoof rum scored a double gold medal, which is almost unheard of in the overpoof rum world. This rum clocks in at 126 proof so easily a match for many of the single barrel whiskeys on the market.
- The Philippines are home to the Best White Rum this year with Tanduay taking down the double-gold medal plus the award for best white rum.
- Noted producer Weber Haus produced Yaguara Cachaca, which pulled down a double-gold medal. It comes in a designer bottle and designed specifically for bartenders.
- A shoutout to our friends at the Vinn Distillery for their Vinn Baijiu, produced in Oregon and based upon the traditional Chinese rice-grain spirit, we tasted it personally and found it to be a great alternative to vodka with deeper, richer flavors. Our opinion was vindicated by the gold medal awarded at San Francisco this year.
- Soft Tail Vodka, after a long silence in the competitions (their last score was in 2010) scored a double gold medal in San Francisco… good news for anyone who likes the style of vodka distilled from fruit (this being Washington State apples).
- Veil Peach vodka is a value buy that we’ve seen available in the Seattle area usually on a discount rack. But in a win for value buys, the peach-flavored expression scored a gold medal at the San Francisco Competition-an event where critics often scorn flavored vodkas and high results are hard to come by.
- Don’t look now, but UV Salty Caramel Apple vodka pulled down a double gold medal… by far the best score we’ve seen from a “shock vodka” in, well… ever. As of the moment, it’s not acknowledged on the UV website. It’s also 1 of 18 flavors in our database so hopefully a quality flavor that won’t get lost in the color wheel of options. (Sorry Rooster Sauce fans… the Sriracha Vodka only got a bronze medal in comparison.)
- The Bay Seasoned Vodka is an homage to the pepper spice rub so popular in fish recipes now available in your vodka. Another offering for those Bloody Mary recipes out there.
- Banana loves rejoice! Peel Banancello was awarded a double-gold medal, which is its second consecutive double gold medal. This makes it – by far! – the highest rated banana anything in our database.
Stay tuned for the top half of the alphabet!
by Neal MacDonald, editor