10 Highest-Scoring Whiskies in the Winter 2020 Buying Guide

There are over 150 whiskies reviewed in the Winter 2020 Buying Guide, covering the full spectrum of the whisky world, from Scotland and Ireland to Kentucky, Texas, and far beyond. Here, we highlight 10 of the highest-scoring whiskies (not featured as Collectibles or Editors’ Choice, and not counting the Top 20 winners or the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), each netting 94 points or above. There are plenty of other high-scoring whiskies beyond these as well, including Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake, Kentucky Owl Dry State, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Legendary Eight, Rabbit Hole Founder’s Collection Boxergrail, Canadian Club Chronicles 43 year old The Speakeasy, the latest Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch C920), and the 2020 Diageo Special Releases—and many more. For the full lineup of reviews, check out the Winter 2020 Buying Guide.

High Whisky Scores from Whisky Advocate’s Winter 2020 Issue

Ardbeg 19 year old Traigh Bhan (Batch 2) bottle.Ardbeg 19 year old Traigh Bhan (Batch 2)
95 points, 46.2% ABV, $300

The early nose offers hand-rolled tobacco, ginger, black pepper, and fragrant woodsmoke. Medicinal notes, brine, and lemon develop in time. Sweet peat smoke, tropical fruits, toffee, and aniseed on the palate, with smoked haddock and a suggestion of tar. Iodine, black pepper, and sea salt in the lengthy finish. —Gavin Smith

John Walker & Sons Bicentenary Blend bottle.John Walker & Sons Bicentenary Blend
95 points, 46% ABV, $1,000

Drawn from stocks aged at least 28 years, this magnificent blend begins with aromas of burning heather, toffee, nuts, cigar smoke, leather, raisins, broken orange pekoe tea leaves, fruit loaf, black licorice, allspice, and cinnamon. Truly classic Johnnie Walker with smooth, warming flavors of orange, brown sugar, barley sugar, and gentle harmonious spice, followed by dark toffee, vanilla pod, candied peel, sultana, prune juice, malt, and cocoa. —Jonny McCormick

King of Kentucky 14 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight 2020 Release (Barrel No. 3) bottle.King of Kentucky 14 year old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon 2020 Release (Barrel No. 3)
95 points, 65.3% ABV, $250

Intensely fruity to start, with dark cherries, blackberries, and raspberry coulis; there’s also dark chocolate, maple syrup, leather book bindings, and oolong tea, set over a background of baking spice. With water, brown sugar creeps in at the outer edges. Remarkable complexity on the palate: cooked dark fruit, dark chocolate ganache, tea leaf, roasted pecans, maple syrup, licorice, tobacco, and well-integrated spice. The flavor array is seemingly endless, and carries well into a lengthy, warming finish. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Port Barrel-Finished (2020 Release) bottle.Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Port Barrel-Finished Bourbon (2020 Release)
94 points, 60.2% ABV, $200

Why do I get the feeling I’m about to tuck into dessert? Just-cooked berries with brown sugar crumble, marzipan, toasted coconut flakes, vanilla, and orange wedges on the nose. More fruit cobbler, brown sugar, sweet toasted nuts, Nutella, and rich spice on the palate, which turns from chewy to silky with water. The finish goes on for days, laden with red fruit, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, and well-integrated spice. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Four Gate 10 year old Tennessee Foundation Straight bottle.Four Gate 10 year old Tennessee Foundation Straight Bourbon
94 points, 56.1% ABV, $149

Distilled in Tennessee from a mashbill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. Licorice, candied melon, breakfast cereal, cream soda, vanilla ice cream, and strawberry tart on the nose. A rich palate offers balanced spice, banana, cherry cola, strawberries and cream, chocolate, and baking spice. The finish is smooth, with light earthiness, tobacco leaf, and fragrant oak, followed by brown sugar, coconut, chocolate, and spice at the back. —David Fleming

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (2020 Release) bottle.Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2020 Release)
94 points, 55.7% ABV, $150

This year’s barrel-strength release, comprised of several aged bourbons, offers bakery shop notes on the nose, along with vanillin, fragrant orange, soft spice, new leather, and drying tannins. The mouthfeel is soft and viscous, with emerging flavors of candied orange slices, allspice, black pepper, and scents of aged oak. The finish is notably smooth, as sweeter notes of tiramisu and cola are deftly balanced with an overlay of spice and dusty oak. —David Fleming

Little Book Chapter 4: Lessons Honored (2020 Release) bottle.Little Book Chapter 4: Lessons Honored Blend of Straight Whiskeys (2020 Release)
94 points, 61.4% ABV, $125

A lively, expressive nose greets with sweet notes of corn muffin, grape jelly, cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, cherry candy, and balanced oak. The palate offers rich notes of sweet almond, vanilla ice cream, blackberry tart, dark chocolate, coconut flakes, loads of baking spice, and balanced, rich oak. Excellent length and balance on a finish of dark chocolate, tobacco leaf, espresso, and more spice and oak. Great sipping, with water or without. —David Fleming

Lucky Seven 12 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel Kentucky Straight (Barrel No. 7) bottle.Lucky Seven 12 year old The Proprietor Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Barrel No. 7)
94 points, 59.15% ABV, $129

Initially tight on the nose, the gentle vanilla and delicate spice are draped in leather and dusty oak floorboards. Maturity is present on the palate as well, not only in the full body, but also in the form of intense vanilla and citrus furniture polish, like orange oil. At the same time, it’s quite lively, as a burst of dark fruits, cassis, and licorice rises from the depths before the drying oak finish. —Jeffery Lindenmuth 

Mars Komagatake Limited Edition (2020 Release) bottle.Mars Komagatake Limited Edition (2020 Release)
94 points, 50% ABV, $220

Prunes, forest honey, vanilla seeds, dark chocolate cookies, and Brazil nut, with hints of chocolate orange and ground pepper: I’m hooked. Cocoa, Whoppers, baked orange, jellied peel, jumpy peppery spices, tamarind bark, and milk chocolate pralines on the palate, and chocolate, stewed fruits, and walnut once the strength dies down. This is the complete package, and a prime contender as one of the year’s tastiest new Japanese whiskies. —Jonny McCormick

Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof Kentucky Straight (Batch 03/03) bottle.Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Batch 03/03)
94 points, 63.4% ABV, $150

Sweet notes of grape jelly, cherry pie, orange peel, and brown sugar balance on the nose against mature whiskey aromas of earth, leather, and antique closet. A powerful palate is driven by rich dark-chocolate fudge, blackberry tart, almond, tangerine slices, raisin bread, and spiced oak. A lengthy finish offers leather and spice, cinnamon, chocolate-covered blueberries, strawberries, cocoa, and oak. Water makes the flavors of this powerhouse even more impressive. —David Fleming

Bonus: Check out the scores for Batch 01/03 and 02/03!

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