San Francisco World Spirits Competition Names 2023 American Single Malt Whiskey Finalists
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San Francisco World Spirits Competition Names the 7 Best American Single Malt Whiskeys

American Single Malt

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition has named the finalists for its Best American Single Malt Whiskey Awards.

On Monday, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition unveiled the seven finalists for the 2023 Best American Single Malt award.

The American single malt whiskey category is exploding in popularity and legitimacy, as more and more producers across the U.S. have taken to releasing single malt whiskeys. From, single-malt-specific distilleries like Westward, Stranahan’s and Virginia Distillery, to larger producers like Jack Daniel’s, producers galore have taken to making American single malts, which means this award is becoming more and more competitive.

What Is American Single Malt Whiskey?

Like other single malt whiskies you may have heard of (scotch being the most prominent example), American single malts are distilled from a mashbill of 100% barley. While American single malt whiskeys have been around since the 1990s, they’ve only started really picking up steam in the past decade and the past few years in particular.

The American single malt category’s relative youth is made apparent by the fact that it doesn’t have an official government-regulated definition — something the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission is trying to change.

While there isn’t yet an official definition of the category, the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission has proposed one to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau that would require every American single malt whiskey to meet the following requirements:

  • Distilled from 100% malted barley
  • Distilled entirely at one distillery
  • Mashed, distilled and matured in the U.S.
  • Matured in oak casks no larger than 700 liters
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof
  • Bottled at least 80 proof

One of the most exciting things about American Single Malt Whiskey is the category’s even geographic playing ground. Great bourbons are made across the U.S., but there’s no denying Kentucky has something of a monopoly on the stuff. The finalists for Best American Single Malt, however, hail from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington, Iowa, Texas and Georgia.

2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition Best American Single Malt Finalists

Pacific Coast Spirits American Single Malt

American Single Malt

A craft distillery in Southern California, Pacific Coast Spirits was founded in 2015. Pacific Coast produces spirits aplenty, from single malt to bourbon to rye to corn whiskey to gin to agave spirits to vodka.

Pacific Coast Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey is aged for six years in new American oak barrels and bottled at a barrel-strength 114 proof. Priced at $150 a bottle, Pacific Coast Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey can be ordered online from the producer’s website.

Stranahan’s Blue Peak Single Malt Whiskey

American Single Malt

(Photo: Stranahan’s)

One of the core expressions from Denver, Colorado single malt distillery Stranahan’s, Blue Peak is aged at high altitude in new American oak barrels and, interestingly, features a Solera finish.

Solera is a fractional aging and blending process used most frequently in wine maturation. Stranahan’s removes only some of the Blue Peak in its finishing oak barrel at a time, so the barrel is never empty. Each time some of the barrel is emptied, new whiskey is poured in to replace it, ensuring “continuous marriage, maturation, and flavor development,” according to Stanahan’s.

Perhaps the best thing about Blue Peak is its accessibility. Bottled at 86 proof, this bottling can be had for less than $50 (and sometimes even less than $40 depending on your location). Buy it for $47 from the Stranahan’s website.

Triple Eight Distillery The Notch Nantucket Island Single Malt Whisky 8 Years Old

American Single Malt

(Photo: San Francisco World Spirits Competition)

A rare single malt from Nantucket, Massachusetts distillery Triple Eight, this is the 8-year-old version of The Notch Nantucky Island American single malt, which also comes in 12- and 15-year variants.

Westland Solum Edition 1 Single Malt Whiskey

American Single Malt

A member of the new Outpost Range from Seattle distillery Westland, Solum is an American single malt featuring Pacific Northwest peat. The incorporation of peat makes makes this one of the most scotchlike single malts to come from the U.S. to date.

To read our review of Westland Solum, click here.

Cedar Ridge Distillery The QuintEssential Batch 010

American Single Malt

Iowa-based Cedar Ridge Distillery’s The QuintEssential single malt whiskey is a 92-proof blended whiskey finished in a variety of casks, including rum, brandy, sherry, wine Port and rye.

Like Stranahan’s Blue Peak, this whiskey features a Solera finish. Aged for a minimum of two years in American oak barrels, The QuintEssential’s component whiskeys are blended together in a Solera vat before being bottled.

The QuintEssential American Single Malt is available to ship to 42 states from the Cedar Ridge Distillery website for $59.99.

Lost Lantern Gentle Giant Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt

American Single Malt

(Photo: Lost Lantern)

Distilled by Waco, Texas distillery Balcones and bottled by independent American whiskey bottler Lost Lantern, Gentle Giant is a 3-year-old single malt bottled at 115.2 proof.

Gentle Giant is a blend of whiskeys aged in the following casks:

  • Casks 1 and 2: Aged 3 years and 9 months in 53-gallon apple brandy casks, then proofed slightly, rebarreled and finished for 1 month in another apple brandy cask
  • Cask 3: Aged for 3 years and 2 days in a 60-gallon ISC European oak cask made from 36-month yard-aged staves
  • Cask 4: Aged for 3 years and 30 days in a 60-gallon ISC European oak cask made from 36-month yard-aged staves
  • Cask 5: Aged 4 years and 4 months in a 53-gallon ex-bourbon cask
  • Cask 6 (partial cask): Aged for 3 years and 56 days in a 60-gallon ISC European oak cask made from 36-month yard-aged staves

Only 1,100 bottles of this whiskey were produced. It’s available from the Lost Lantern website and Seelbachs for $100 a bottle.

ASW Distillery Red X Single Malt Whiskey

Red X

Red X Single Malt is the smallest batch to date to come from Atlanta, Georgia-based ASW Distillery.

This whiskey is distilled from the German Red X barley, which is often used to make beers that have a noticeable deep red color. Bottled at around 100 proof, this limited-edition whiskey is finished on staves of Georgia Heartwood.

About the San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Founded in 2000, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition is the oldest and largest competition of its kind.

When it comes to awards competitions in the drinks industry, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition is the peak. Receiving a high-tier medal at SFWSC is something almost every brand strives for.

SFWSC judges are experienced, knowledgeable spirits critics. Each spirit is tasted blind, ensuring a lack of bias.

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David Morrow is the managing editor of Whiskey Raiders and has been with the company since September 2021. David has worked in journalism since 2015 and has had bylines at Sports Illustrated, Def Pen, the Des Moines Register and the Quad City Times. David holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Saint Louis University and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. When he’s not tasting the newest exciting whiskey releases, David enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, watching sports and traveling.