Tales of the Cocktail — the bar and spirits trade show in New Orleans — just wrapped up its 2023 event. The iconic spirits convention also hosts the New Orleans Spirits Competition, which focuses on whiskey products from all over the world. And since I’m tirelessly trying to find you the best whiskey to buy (and was part of the championship round of whiskey tasting as an observer/taster), I figured I’d list out every “best” in class in whiskey from this year’s competition.
Sort of amazingly, even the classic categories like peated and unpeated single malts were dominated by American and Irish single malts this year — leaving Scotland and Japan out in the cold. But that’s what makes competitions like this so exciting — you’re always going to find something new and unique that you might not otherwise stumble upon. To that end, I went through all of the New Orleans Spirits Competition 2023 results and pulled out the best whiskeys from every category. These are the whiskeys that achieved “double gold” status and won their individual blind tastings by category. I also added my own professional tasting notes for each winning bottle of whiskey.
There are a lot of whiskeys listed below and they all offer something a little (and/or a lot) different. The best part of a list like this is that there really is something for everyone from a whiskey novice to an old salty pro. My advice is to read my tasting notes, find the whiskey that speaks to you, and then click on those price links to see if you can snag a bottle in your neck of the woods. Let’s dive in!
Best American Single Malt, Best Single Malt, & Whisky of the Year 2023 — Balcones Distilling 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky
Average Price: $78
This whisky is made with a lot of care. The juice is 100% malted barley imported from Scotland, specifically Scottish Golden Promise Malted Barley. The spirit then ages in a combination of barrels ranging from new and used American, French, and Hungarian oak. After a few years under the hot Waco sun, the barrels are vatted and bottled with no fussing besides a touch of local water.
Nose: There’s a good dose of pecan waffles, maple, and sharp sarsaparilla on the nose with a deep earthiness that’s part grain silo and part high desert scrub brush. Palate: The palate is creamy and hits on some serious warmth as pear candy mixes with fresh ginger and a pile of pecan shells next to a hint of floral Earl Grey and more of that high desert dry florae vibe. Finish: The finish leans into the dryness of nutshells and black tea while hinting at the maple and sarsaparilla from the nose.
This is an excellent whisky. It’s really deep and rewarding as a neat sipper, but it really blooms with a little water or a single rock. Overall, this is a killer whisky that should be on your bar cart right now, especially if you’re looking for a quintessential American single malt.
Article Written By Zach Johnston