It's hard to find a good, cheap drink.
A lesson learned at the 18th annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC), the largest spirits competition in the U.S. and considered the most influential spirits events in the world.
The recently announced winners from the SFWSC were culled from 2,450 entries across 65 different countries. A total of 47 judges (industry experts, bartenders, etc.) made the final call in a series of blind-taste tests.
To narrow down the best — it’s quite a long list — we picked out five particularly interesting winners. And we'll tell you how to get your hands (and mouths) on 'em.
Ben Milam Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey
For the second year in a row, this small Texas distillery took home a Double Gold, which designates a tipple that receives a Gold medal from all the judges on the panel.
How to get it: Price is no obstacle (it’s $38-$45). But you’ll have to go to Texas.
The Taiwan-based single malt whisky makers won Distillery of the Year, and the brand’s King Car Conductor Single Malt Whisky won “Best Other Malt Whisk(e)y.” It’s totally worth a trip to Taiwan to visit the distillery — like the one we took last year.
How to get it: Actually, you don’t have to fly. Drizly carries almost everything Kavalan produces, though prepare to break three digits for a bottle.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The SMWS is a members-only club specializing in single-cask, single-malt whisky, partnering with more than 100 Scottish distilleries to bottle spirits straight from the cask — sans dilution, filtration or blending. This year, the drinking club picked up seven awards, including Best Blended Malt Scotch Whisky and a Best in Show for We Arrived!, an Islay whisky aged 18 years and distilled in in an ex-bourbon hogshead barrel.
How to get it: You’ll want to join the SMWS, and/or hit up their members-only English tasting rooms.
An Austrian vodka, NEFT (Russian for oil) comes in oil-barrel packaging that reflects its company’s non-booze origins. Odd beginnings, yes, but the brand did win Best Vodka, even after only being available in the U.S. for a year.
How to get it: Drizly has you covered.
Old Duff Genever
This year, the competition added several new spirits categories — Single Grain Whisk[e]y, Other Single Malt Whisk[e]y, Irish Poitin, Old Tom Gin, Barrel-Aged Gin, Bitters and Non-Alcoholic Syrups. And genever, the juniper-flavored liquor that birthed gin. Old Duff is literally a one-man crew with a goat mascot. This is as indie as you get.
How to get it: Only if you’re in New York, my friends.