When you think of the best spirits in the American South, your mind likely immediately goes to bourbon whiskey. This form of whiskey is commonly associated with Kentucky (although it can be produced anywhere in the US) where around 95% of the sweet, corn-based whiskey is made.
Also, if you’re a fan of America’s “native spirit”, you probably assume the best of the best comes from big names like Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, or one of the other juggernauts of the American whiskey landscape. You wouldn’t think about an $80 expression from a little-known, smaller distillery.
But that’s exactly what happened recently at The South’s Best Spirits Awards. Old Dominick Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey just won an award as the best in the South. If you’ve never heard of Old Dominick, don’t feel bad. The whiskey is made by the Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee of all places that has only been crafting whiskeys for a few years.
Named for Domenico Canale, an Italian-born wholesaler and grocery store owner who eventually branched out to sell his own whiskey in ceramic bottles in the late 1800s. He called the brand Old Dominick. Like many distilleries, Prohibition put an end to the Old Dominick brand and the family moved on to food entirely.
Old Dominick remained a historic brand until, in 2013, great-great grandsons Chris and Alex Canale found an unopened bottle of Old Dominick from the 1800s. They decided to restart the brand and open a distillery in downtown Memphis. In the years since its whiskeys have won numerous awards and gained a loyal following. But being named the “Best in Show” with a perfect score of 100, its straight bourbon has officially put the rest of the American whiskey world on notice.
For those who don’t know, The South’s Best Spirit Awards, is a first-year competition created to celebrate the best, most noteworthy spirits in the American South. The event which took place in November in Charleston, South Carolina, consisted of a panel of fourteen spirits expert judges. Spirits from ten states competed in more than thirty categories, including minority, female, and veteran-owned brands. The spirits were awarded Double Gold, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Category, Affinity, Packaging, and Best in Show.
Old Dominick didn’t just win a Gold or Double Gold. That would be all well and good. It won Best in Show. For those who haven’t been paying attention, this means that out of all the different spirits in the various categories, this bourbon whiskey is the best of the best. On top of that, it got a perfect score.
This cask-strength, 117.47-proof straight bourbon was matured in charred oak barrels for at least five years. The result is a complex, sippable whiskey known for its bold flavor profile featuring notes of cinnamon sugar, vanilla beans, toffee, chocolate, fresh leather, and rye spice on the finish.
If you don’t think Old Dominick winning this award is a big deal, take a minute to search for Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique and Henry McKenna Single Barrel and see how quickly the price blew up for those two expressions when they won lofty awards. Think $80 is too much? Wait until it’s triple that price on the secondary market.
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