n a blind tasting, renowned whiskey critic Fred Minnick named Pappy Van Winkle 15-year-old his best American Whiskey of 2020.

A captain on the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and former lead American whiskey critic for Whisky Advocate, Minnick, a Wall Street Journal-bestselling author, tasted more than 600 whiskeys throughout the Pandemic. Throughout the year, Minnick tasted before live audiences amongst the various platforms. Minnick’s American Whiskey of the Year was taped live for YouTube and will later appear on Amazon Prime.

In a blind tasting, Minnick selected Pappy Van Winkle 15 year over categorical winners Sazerac 18-year-old rye whiskey (Best Rye), Barrell Bourbon Batch 26 (Best Blend of Straights), Journeyman’s Corsets, Buggy & Whips (Best Wheat Whiskey), Four Gate Batch 6 (Best Barrel Finish), MB Roland Corn Whiskey (Best Corn Whiskey), Slipknot’s No. 9 (Best Celebrity Whiskey), and St. George Spirits American Single Malt (Best American Single Malt).

However, Minnick notes a big winner was the sixth place finisher in the bourbon taste off: Spirits of French Lick’s Lee Sinclair Bottled in Bond.

“The truth is, 95% of the best American whiskey comes out of Kentucky and Tennessee,” Minnick says. “And if a small craft distiller in French Lick, Indiana, can out taste the likes of Knob Creek 15 year old, that shows the future of bourbon is bright.”

The winner Pappy Van Winkle 15 year certainly does not need another award, but Minnick notes it’s highly allocated for a reason. “When I tasted this blind, I was wowed,” he said. “The whiskey doesn’t lie, and that 15 year old bourbon is truly great and deserves this accolade.”

Best American Whiskey
Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Bourbon Rankings

  1. Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old, 2020
  2. William LaRue Weller, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, 2020 (Frankfort, Kentucky)
  3. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, 2020 (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)
  4. Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #2 (Bardstown, Kentucky)
  5. Booker’s 2020-2 (Clermont, Kentucky)
  6. Spirits of French Lick Lee Sinclair (French Lick, Indiana)

Best Barrel Finish
Four Gate Batch 6

Best Blend of Straights
Barrell Bourbon Batch 26 (Louisville, Kentucky)

Best Celebrity Whiskey
Slipknot No. 9 Reserve Iowa Whiskey (Swisher, Iowa)

Best Rye Whiskey
Sazerac 18 year old, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, 2020 (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Best Corn Whiskey
MB Roland (Pembroke, Kentucky)

Best Wheat Whiskey
Journeyman Corsets, Whips & Whiskey, Batch 10 (Three Oaks, Michigan)

Best American Single Malt
St. George Spirits American Single Malt Lot 20 (Alameda, California)

To learn more about Fred Minnick, visit FredMinnick.com.