WhiskyFest San Francisco on October 6th is fast approaching, and if you’re a whisky lover in the Bay Area, it’s the perfect way to kick off the fall whisky-drinking season in earnest.
With over 400 whiskies being poured, WhiskyFest has something for everyone (and if you want to quench your thirst with scotch, we’ve got you covered). But if you’re a bourbon fanatic or just want to see what all the fuss is about, take a look below for the Whisky Advocate editorial team’s top bourbon (and rye) picks at WhiskyFest San Francisco. All of these pours are available with general admission tickets. (If you haven’t bought yours yet, it’s not too late!)
7 Must-Try Bourbons At WhiskyFest San Francisco
Eagle Rare 17 year old
There’s a reason it’s called Eagle Rare, not Eagle Common. Like all the members of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Eagle Rare 17 is genuinely hard to find—except at WhiskyFest. Don’t miss your chance to try this annual special release, which regularly scores a 93 or 94 in the Whisky Advocate Buying Guide.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
This one’s a no-brainer: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof scored a 94 in the Buying Guide this summer, and for good reason: it has incredible complexity, great spice, and a rich body. Try it next to the Elijah Craig 18 year old, also an excellent pour, and decide for yourself whether age matters.
Please don’t close this article just because Booker’s Rye isn’t a bourbon—we’re not trying to trick you. After all, Booker’s Rye was Whisky Advocate’s 2016 American Whiskey of the Year and one of the finest rye whiskey releases in a long time. It’s also extremely limited, and this may be your only chance to taste it. If you’re truly offended that we included a rye on the list, drown your sorrows with a glass of Booker’s Bourbon.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year old
When in San Francisco, you should play it cool. So when you get to WhiskyFest, don’t rush straight for the Van Winkle table. Try some other whiskies first, then saunter over before dinner and ask for the perfectly aged Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year old. It’s rich, spicy, and delicious. Everybody else will be asking for Pappy, and you can have that too, but opting for Old Rip Van Winkle shows that you know it’s not all about the big age statement.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel
Michter’s may be best known for its US*1 line, which is widely available, but the company first made a name for itself with a run of top-quality, highly aged bourbons, including its 10 year old Kentucky straight bourbon. As a single barrel release, there’s bound to be a little variance between batches, but trust us—this is a risk you want to take.
West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3
WhiskyFest San Francisco is a good 2,000 miles west of Kentucky—so why not celebrate with some local bourbon? Sonoma County Distilling Company makes whiskey from grain to glass right in the Bay Area, and they’ll be pouring three bourbons from their West of Kentucky series at WhiskyFest. Each is made in a markedly different style—No. 1 uses cherrywood-smoked malted barley, No. 2 is a wheated bourbon, and No. 3 has a high-rye mashbill.
Wild Turkey 101
The Wild Turkey table is a perennial favorite at WhiskyFest, not least because master distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell, or third-generation rising star Bruce Russell, might well be pouring your bourbon. You could try the newest release of Wild Turkey Rare Breed, which scored a 90 in the Buying Guide, or the excellent Russell’s Reserve 10 year old bourbon—but do yourself a favor and revisit that old standby Wild Turkey 101. You might even get an appreciative nod from Jimmy himself.