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Maxim Bourbon Awards


1. Best for Mixing Man Drinks
Maker’s 46
94 proof, $35
When master distiller Kevin Smith told us he made a new Maker’s recipe, we worried; that’s a tough act to follow, Kevvy. But he crushed it. Like its fore¬bear, 46 is still approachable and sweet. But thanks to seared French oak staves, it’s stiffer—ideal for Manhattans and old-fashioneds.

2. Best for the Desk Drawer
Pappy Van Winkles
90.4 Proof, $100
Peppery with a vanilla finish, Pappy V’s superb sip epitomizes the rule that the more hillbilly the name, the better the brown. Two decades of aging makes this corn mash the most unique on the market. Every taste is a journey to classy town.

3. Staff Favorite
Hudson Baby Bourbon
92 Proof, $40
This micro outfit may have gone mega (recently bought by William Grant & Sons), but it still churns out the most approachable lip-smacking sauce on the shelf. With its clean caramel-corn and biscuit-dough notes, BB swills easy, so go slow, gulp boy.

4. Best Newcomer
Angel’s Envy
86.6 Proof, $46
This fall Lincoln Henderson, an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame who used to distill Woodford Reserve, went rogue and created his own micro batch. It lives up to the man’s legend. Big and smooth, with an almost oatmeal cookie taste, plus hints of pipe tobacco.

5. Best Single Barrel
Blanton’s Original
93 Proof, $50
Blanton’s was the first single barrel. In 1984 Elmer T. Lee felt a few of his casks were too tasty to mix, so he just bottled ’em and, bang! a new niche was born. (Sadly, Elmer never trade- marked “single barrel.” We expected more from a man named Elmer.) Taste: bold with toffee undertones.

6. Best Barrel Proof
George T. Stagg
143 Proof, $70
The alcohol content is so high it’s illegal to take this combustible concoction on a plane. Even more amazing, it’s still super-sippable, and it’s the stuff distillers tip when they get together to swap stories. This white-hot heat stings the lips but has deep maple, citrus, and clove flavors.

7. Best Bottle for Dad
Willett Pot Still Reserve
94 Proof, $50
Willett is the closest thing to pre-Prohibition bourbon. It packs a wallop, but the butter, cedar, and lime notes soften the blow. This sauce, in the signature still-shaped bottle, is the gift for the old man.

8. Best Bargain
Jim Beam Black 86 Proof, $20
Just because the Beam folks figured out how to get you their tasty barrel-aged treats more cost-efficiently doesn’t mean they must be relegated to the world of well drinks. Black is top-shelf stuff. It sports Beam’s spiciness but swirls with heavy hints of brown sugar and leather. Perfect for the game-day flask.