SpiritsHandpicked by IWSC

Award-winning bourbon

Whiskey made in the Bluegrass State and beyond: these 12 top bourbons impressed judges across the board at the IWSC 2023

Words by IWSC judges

bourbon barrel and glass of whiskey
Handpicked by IWSC

The sweet, rich notes you’ll find in the best bourbons, from toffee to cinnamon and vanilla, are the ideal introduction to the world of whiskey. You can also expect to find these signature flavours in the prominent style of the spirit produced in the US.

Bourbon originated from farmers on the east coast, when they realised they could turn their excess grains into something special; and when tax increases forced them further south into Tennessee and Kentucky, an industry was born.

Around the 19th Century bourbon found its focus in Kentucky and became a more refined product from which today’s rules around the drink were set: it must be made with at least 51% corn (barley, wheat and rye can also be found in the drink’s mash bill), aged in charred, new oak and bottled at over 40% ABV.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, winner of the IWSC Bourbon Trophy 2019
Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, producer of one of this year's star bourbon whiskies

But contrary to popular belief, the whiskey can be made all over the USA, and not just in Kentucky. Some of the best bourbon at this year’s IWSC proves just that. There’s Georgia’s Spirits of the USA Legends Single Barrel Bourbon, which judges praised for its fragrant nose and fruity palate. And two spirits made in Texas – at Garrison Brothers and Ironroot Republic Distilling – scooped Silver medals in the category.

But top of the tree were a host of Kentucky Straight Bourbons from renowned producers the likes of Heaven Hill and Barton 1972, proving the Bluegrass State’s continued prowess for the spirit. Read on to discover the top-scoring bottles from the IWSC 2023.

stacked barrels for bourbon whiskey


We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.


Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.


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