The World’s Best American Whiskey—According To The 2024 International Wine And Spirits Competition

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If it seems like every week there’s a new competition out there revealing its list of the best boozes on the planet…Well, there is. The lucrative enterprise has blossomed into a full-fledged cottage industry. And consumers, thirsty for more knowledge on how to direct their spending, are forever eager for the guidance that this industry promises to provide.

But for the folks at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, this isn’t any sort of novel utility. IWSC has been judging its namesake liquids since 1969. That makes them among the oldest such organizations on earth. Every year its prestigious panel of judges convene in London, and the trade eagerly awaits its anointments.

Now the 2024 results are in. The trusted pros of IWSC have tasted through thousands of spirits—hailing from over 90 countries across the globe—to reveal the top rated tipples currently on shelves. Today we take a look at the highest-rated American whiskey from these evaluations: out of a possible 100 points, Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old recorded an astounding 98.

What makes this supremely allocated spirit so darn special? Well it comes from Buffalo Trace, of course, which very well might be the most awarded distillery on earth at this point. But those accolades are typically amassed by its bourbon labels; EH Taylor, George T. Stagg, WL Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, to name a few recent examples.

Sometimes overlooked is this 18-year-old rye, which has been a pillar of the venerated Buffalo Trace Antique Collection since its inception in 2000. It enjoyed a brief moment of glory all the way back in 2005, when a prominent spirits publication dubbed it the “Whiskey of the Year.” Shortly thereafter, the distillery emptied this prized stock into steel tanks in order to preserve it and—between the years of 2006 through 2015—this was the juice that entered glass each year.

Fresh-from-the-barrel Sazerac 18 returned to the collection in 2016, and has taken some time to win over connoisseurs. By many standards, the first standout release from the 2.0 era didn’t emerge until 2022; a spry juice driven by clove and anise aromatics and finishing poignantly with menthol and eucalyptus.

The tasting panel at IWSC, which included legendary malt maker, Dr Bill Lumsden, had this to say about the prize winning liquid: “Juicy fruits, beautiful balance, and outstanding clarity of flavours. Oranges, leather, and toasted bread with a touch of cloves. The finish is classic and easy drinking, bottled at a good ABV.”

It’s true, the 90-proof bottling is an ideal delivery vehicle for this specific flavor profile. It amplifies the earthier elements of rye grain without drowning out its subtleties in a wash of heat. The only real drawback of this dram is how complicated it is to actually procure it. Despite the fact that it’s rarely accused of being the star of any annual BTAC release, it remains an ultra-aged whiskey from Buffalo Trace.

Translation: you’re never going to get it for anywhere near its listed retail price, which here ought to be around $125. The 2023 release is currently fetching upwards of $1800 per bottle on the secondary.

We wish we could offer you some cost-cutting workaround. The best we can suggest, however, is to keep a careful lookout for this year’s edition of Sazerac 18 when it goes to market in November—aka “BTAC Season.” Perhaps by that time the majority of whiskey fans will be dreaming instead of Sazerac’s bourbon brethren. But you’ll know better than to sleep on a rye like this.

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