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The Full List Of ‘Best In Class’ Spirits From The 2022 Ascot Awards

The 2022 Ascot Award wrapped up earlier this week and we were lucky enough to get an advance look at the list of “Best in Class” spirits from the competition. And look at that, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. What doesn’t “best in class” mean though? These are the bottles that not only got unanimous top scores from judges but were also deemed the best of among the best in a second double-blind taste test.

Look at it this way, while winning a medal always carries a certain panache from these competitions, the “Best in Class” is what you’re going to want to reach for.

We’ve already dropped the lists of “double platinum” bourbons and the finalists for the bourbon and scotch categories from this year’s Ascots. Now, it’s time to look at the “Best in Class” from the whole event. That’s the best rum, tequila, vodka, liqueur, mezcal, American single malts, rye, and, yes, bourbon and scotch. These are the prime cuts, the crème de la crème.

For this list, I’ve added our own tasting notes where I can and dropped in tasting notes from the awards or distiller where needed. You can also click on the prices on each entry to order your own bottle for a little long-weekend sipping. Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

Best Tequila: Familia Camarena Reposado Tequila

Camarena Reposado
Familia Camarena

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $21

The Tequila:

This tequila from the Southern Highlands of Jalisco is fairly modern. The pinas are cooked in brick ovens but autoclave (high-pressure cooking) and diffuser are used as well. The twice-distilled juice then goes into oak for 60 days before it’s proofed down with deep well water and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweetness that attaches to the lightly roasted agave on the nose with a hint of vanilla and caramel lurking in the background. The palate leans into the roasted agave with freshly cracked black pepper and clove berries mingling with a touch of vanilla tobacco and a mildly sweet butterscotch mid-palate. The finish leans away from the agave toward the vanilla and butterscotch for a sweet and slightly peppery finish.

Bottom Line:

For me, this was always just fine. I’ve used it as a mixing tequila in the past. But maybe I’ll give it another shot as a sipper.

Best Liqueur: Foro Rosso Vermouth di Torino

Foro Vermouth

ABV: 16.5%

Average Price: $12

The Vermouth:

Foro is always a great alternative to the bigger names in vermouth — Martini, Noilly Prat, and Carpano. This vermouth is from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The winery takes Moscato and Inzolia wines and then infuses them with wormwood twice before building a botanical bouquet of balsam, saffron, bitter and sweet orange peels, myrrh, mace, rhubarb, sandalwood, and cinnamon.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a beautiful balance of sweet and botanical with this vermouth. The nose has a mix of cinchona barks and orange oils with lush vanilla, a touch of pine, and a whisper of dried flowers. The taste leans into the florals with a savory edge as sage and summer wildflowers dance with vanilla candy and soft, sweet mulled wine. The finish is short, sweet, and full of dark woody spice and bitter barks.

Bottom Line:

This is pretty nice on its own with a few cubes of ice, an orange slice, and a green olive. Add a little soda water on top and you’ve got a killer summer refresher.

Best Vodka:  Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka

Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka
Heaven Hill

ABV: 35%

Average Price: $14

The Vodka:

This crafty vodka from Austin, Texas, is a corn-based spirit. This expression takes that corn juice is distilled ten times. The team then layers in real lemon juice and pure cane sugar juice.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all about that lemon with a pretty sweet edge that’s more sweet corn than refined sugar. The taste is exactly what you’d expect — sweet lemon-y vodka with a hint of neutral alcohol that’s almost mineral-y. The finish is short, slightly acidic, and not too overly sweet.

Bottom Line:

This is perfect for mixing up easy summer highballs. Two ounces of this over ice and topped with soda water is all you need.

Best Gin: Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin

Wilder Gin

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $35

The Gin:

This crafty gin from California is about the wilds of that land. The distillate is infused with wild-foraged botanicals from hills near the distillery between Ventura and Ojai. Sagebrush, purple sage, bay, yerba santa, pixie mandarin peel, and chuchupate all make appearances and give the gin a very local vibe.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

This dynamic mix of the wild and the cultivated bursts with fresh, savory aromas, like taking a walk through the mountains of the central coast.

Bottom Line:

This feels like an easy buy the next time I’m in California and in need of a fresh gin. Until then, I’ll take the Ascot judges’ word for it.

Best Rum: Privateer Rum Distiller’s Drawer Intrepid New England Rum

Privateer Rum
Privateer Rum

ABV: 58.5%

Average Price: $94

The Rum:

This bespoke rum hails from the colder shores of New England. The rum is a 100 percent molasses spirit that spends an undisclosed amount of time mellowing in new American oak barrels before it’s vatted and bottled as-is to show off that cold New England weather in the bottle.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

Through seasonal temperature shifts, New England’s maritime climate softened and balanced these flavors, while extended aging created new and complex layers of flavor and depth. A deep color with a pronounced nose and concentration of flavor, Intrepid includes notes of nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, caramel, and toasted almond.

Bottom Line:

Winter spices, almonds, and caramel sound delightful in a rum. I’m definitely going to track one of these down and give it a shot.

Best Mezcal: Cutwater Spirits Mezcal Joven

Cutwater Mezcal Joven

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $60

The Mezcal:

This mezcal — from Durango, Mexico — uses wild Maguey Cenizo agave. Those agave pinas as roasted in volcanic rock pit ovens before going through open fermentation with the wild yeasts in the air inoculating the juice. Woodfired stills then distill the liquid into a spirit.

Tasting Notes:

This has a bold nose with hints of smoked cheese, red pepper spice, burnt lemon peels, and a line of smoke that’s kind of like burnt grilled cheese. The palate has a touch of barnyard funk under more smoked cheese as the sweetness of the roasted agave balances everything out. The finish is sharply peppery yet softly sweet with a hint more of that smoked cheese peaking in.

Bottom Line:

This is a funky mezcal. I’d say more funky than smoky even. Though it is clearly smoky, it’s deeper and more interesting in unique ways that help it stand out.

Best Whiskey Club Pick: 5280 Whiskey Society Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel “Thunder Chicken”

Russell's Reserve

ABV: 55%

Average Price: Coming Soon

The Whiskey:

Russell’s Reserve is Wild Turkey dialed up a notch or two. The juice is classic Turkey bourbon with a low-rye mash bill. That whiskey spends several years mellowing in heavily charred oak before a group comes in and selects a single barrel for their bar, retail shop, or club.

Tasting Notes (from the Ascot Awards):

A great balance of sweetness, oak, and citrus on the nose becomes a vanilla bomb on the palate supported by juicy fruit and spice all the way through.

Bottom Line:

The 5280 Whiskey Society is a private Denver whiskey club. They do a lot of barrel picks every year and sell them via their website. And since this one is forthcoming, you might be able to grab a bottle if you keep an eye on the club’s website.

Best Bourbon: Bulleit Barrel Strength

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

ABV: 59.5%

Average Price: $92

The Whiskey:

This is the standard Bulleit but with a little more dialed-in flavor profile that allows the juice to shine on its own. The sourced bourbon is small-batched from hand-selected barrels and bottled at Diageo’s new Bulleit facility without any filtration or cutting down to proof.

Tasting Notes:

Expect sweet woody notes next to oily vanilla and a big note of black pepper. The taste delivers ripe peaches next to more peppery spice and a hint of Christmas spices, with the vanilla taking a backseat and the oak really stepping in to shine. The end is spicy, hot, oaky, and peachy, with a hint of caramel corn.

Bottom Line:

This is hard-core (modern) classic bourbon. It’s bold enough to be the perfect base for a killer old fashioned or Manhattan. Or you can just enjoy it low and slow in a rocks glass on its own.

Best Rye: Smooth Ambler Contradiction Rye

Smooth Ambler Contradiction Rye
Smooth Ambler

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This new release from Smooth Ambler mixes some very interesting whiskeys together. The blend is two Tennessee ryes (one 70 percent rye, one 51 percent rye), MGP’s 95 percent rye, and Smooth Ambler’s own rye which has a mash bill of 88 percent rye. Those whiskeys are then blended, proofed, and bottled in the hills of West Virginia.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a stewed cherry that’s heavy on woody cinnamon sticks next to hints of vanilla pods and maybe some dried florals. The palate leans into the woodiness of the cinnamon stick to the point of feeling like a cedar box full of spicy cinnamon tobacco as creamy vanilla leads to a toasted coconut vibe. The finish lets the creaminess of the vanilla drive a sweet edge as the spicy cinnamon tobacco is just kissed with cherry syrup and dark chocolate on the very back end.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty big co-sign from me. Smooth Ambler is making some serious magic happen out in West Virginia and this expression is only the tip of the delicious whiskey iceberg.

Best Scotch Whiskey: Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Batch #3

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46.2%

Average Price: $360

The Whisky:

This is Ardbeg’s yearly release of special batches of 19-year-old peaty malt. The whisky is Ardbeg’s signature peated whisky that’s bottled during a “haar.” That’s a thick and briny foggy morning on Islay, which imparts that x-factor into the whisky as it goes into the bottle.

Tasting Notes:

You’re drawn in with a super subtle waft of soft smoke with hints of sour cream, fennel, and cold-smoked salmon on a pine cutting board that’s been washed in the sea. The palate holds onto that briny seaside vibe as it veers towards sea salt-laden dark bricks of fudge bespeckled with dried orange zest and lavender. The end circles back around to a sooty smoke that feels like a warm granite rock that’s been dipped in the sea and then rolled around in the dying embers of a fire.

Bottom Line:

This is a world-class whisky that’s so well (and deeply) layered, that you’re sure to find something that speaks to you in that pour. That said, this is unabashedly bold and funky too.

Best American Single Malt Whiskey: Old Line Spirits American Single Malt Sherry Cask Finish

Old Line American Single Malt Sherry Cask
Old Line Spirits

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $65

The Whisky:

This Baltimore distillery is catching a lot of attention lately. This release is and 100 percent malted barley whiskey that spends a spell in a new American white oak before it’s re-filled into old Oloroso sherry casks for a final maturation. That final whiskey is cut down to 100 proof before bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

There, our whiskey’s classic notes of caramel, brown sugar, and tobacco are made more complex with notes of stone fruit, nuts, and raisins.

Bottom Line:

This is something I’m looking forward to trying very soon. Single malt and sherry casks are a great, classic match.

Best American Whiskey: Old Carter Straight American Whiskey

Old Carter 13 Year Old
Old Carter

ABV: 66.8%

Average Price: $640

The Whiskey:

Old Carter might be the ultimate whiskey nerd label. The blends are hand-selected by the husband and wife team, Mark and Sherri Carter, from the best barrels they can find. Beyond that, they keep their blends and details pretty close to their chest to add a little mystery to the endeavor.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a nose full of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream scoop over a pecan waffle with hints of dark cherries, Honey Nut Cheerios, and a touch of old cedar all sneaking in. The palate leans into that waffle with a good pour over maple syrup over cinnamon brown butter, a fresh batch of glazed doughnuts, and a few braids of spicy orange-infused tobacco. The end leans back into the vanilla with a sheet cake vibe as the dark berries attach to the tobacco and wintry spice with a final note of creamy toffee and nougat.

Bottom Line:

These always wow. That said, they’re hard to find outside of Kentucky, and even then you kind of need to be “in the know” to get one. All of that aside, it’s worth the effort to track down something this delicious and decadent.

Best Light Whiskey: Penelope American Light Whiskey

Penelope American Light

ABV: 67.3%

Average Price: $99

The Whiskey:

This unique release from Penelope is a “light” in the sense of a light beer. This is all about the barrel having no char. So the “light” in this sense is the aging process. Anyway, this expression is a blend of MGP whiskeys (pretty much the only distillery making light whiskey) that’s left at a very high proof before bottling as-is.

Tasting Notes:

This is a wild card with familiar notes of pancake batter with plenty of vanilla, caramel corn balls, sweet apple tarts, and a mild dose of very soft yet resinous pine. The palate moves from creamy vanilla pie toward apple crumble with plenty of butter and brown sugar, cinnamon, and tartness before a layer of soft floral citrus arrives. The finish feels like vanilla cupcakes frosted with an eggnog frosting with plenty of powdered sugar everywhere next to a woody yet subtle spice mix.

Bottom Line:

This is a great way to start your “light” whiskey journey. This is subtle, sweet, and long-lasting. Moreover, those killer ABVs are almost non-existent thanks to the team at Penelope’s masterful blending.

Best Tennessee Whiskey: Jack Daniel’s 10

Jack Daniel's 10

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $400

The Whiskey:

This new age statement released from Jack Daniel’s feels like a throwback to a bygone era in Tennessee Whiskey. The whiskey is aged for at least ten years. During that time, the barrels spend time in the “Buzzard’s Roost” at the top of the rickhouse. Once they hit the right flavor profile, those barrels are moved to the bottom floors of other warehouses to slow the aging down. Finally, the whiskey is vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a rich matrix of cherry syrup, apple cores, sticky toffee, vanilla ice cream, and a thin line of wet and sweet wood. The palate opens up towards the dark fruit but dries it out and married it to a sticky and spicy tobacco leaf while toasted cedar soaked in salted caramel vibes with dry corn husks that are just singed. The finish really takes its time as the cherry attaches to an old cinnamon stick and the tobacco takes on a sticky chewiness with a mild savory fruit edge.

Bottom Line:

This was one of the best overall whiskeys of all of 2021, so it’s no surprise to see it picking up awards this year. If you can find one, grab it. It’ll change how you see Jack Daniel’s.

Best World Whiskey: Archie Rose Distilling Co. Single Malt Whiskey

Archie Rose Single Malt
Archie Rose

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $140

The Whisky:

This Australian single malt is a unique expression thanks to its blend of barrels. The whisky is aged in 100, 200, and 300-litre Australian Apera sherry casks. Those whiskies are blended with malts aged in ex-bourbon casks and, finally, Archie Rose’s own 36-month air-dried ex-rye casks. That final whisky is then touched with local water before going into the bottle.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

The natural sweetness of these casks complements the savory charisma of the spirit, revealing fresh herbs, shortbread biscuits, raisins, toffee, and dark chocolate on the nose. Meanwhile, the palate is luscious with well-integrated flavors of sticky date pudding and amaretto with a final note of espresso.

Bottom Line:

This sounds both unique and delicious. Hopefully, we’ll see more of it stateside before too long.

Best Wheat Whiskey: Journeyman Distillery Corsets, Whips, and Whiskey

Journeyman Whiskey
Journeyman Whiskey

ABV: 66.25%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This Michigan whiskey is 100 percent wheat whiskey. The grains are 100 percent organic and grown locally around Michigan. The whiskey then ages for an undisclosed about of time before it’s blended into a final product that looks to Irish whiskey for inspiration.

Tasting Notes (from the Ascot Awards):

The heat is perfect. Loving the initial sweetness, then the proof takes over in a great way. Smoldering char and rich vanilla bean. Great balance of spices and the finish is silky for such a high proof.

Bottom Line:

“Smoldering char and rich vanilla bean”?! You have my attention, little Michigan whiskey. This is another one that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on. You can’t beat a great wheat whiskey and this sounds like one.