Every August the Beverage Trade Network releases its list of the top-rated beer, wine, and spirits on shelves in a respective calendar year. The liquids are assessed by expert palates from all corners of the industry and awarded a score from 1-100. Anything from 70-79 claims a bronze medal; from 80-89 a silver, and from 90-100 a gold. There are plenty of surprises among the highest scores of 2023, but perhaps none of them are so singularly shocking as Bonneville Bourbon from Salt Flats Spirits. At 95-points, this American whiskey out of Utah bested all other bourbons in the race!
The success of this particular label of whiskey will come as a surprise to many enthusiasts simply because they’ve never heard of it before. For good reason: beyond its home state, it’s currently only available on shelves in Nevada. However, the more you learn about its production and associated tasting notes, the less astonished you ought to be by its impressive performance on the competition circuit (in addition to the recent 95-point rating, the same bottle won gold at the 2021 Denver International Spirits Competition).
Let’s start with the the beauty of the liquid, itself. The non-age statement bourbon is distilled in Salt Lake City using an otherwise unspecified high-rye mashbill. It pours a burnt honey hue into the glass, emanating caramel and candied corn in its generous bouquet. While it’s assertive with vanilla and wood spice in the front palate, it fades softly into the finish with a curious florality. As noted by the tasters at USA Spirits Ratings, those floral components express themselves in the form of honeysuckle.
It sits on shelves next to a growing cadre of Utah-based booze producers, including High West, Sugar House and Waterpocket. Together they serve as a stern reminder: although the Beehive State has long been seen as an unfriendly environment for all things alcohol, the proliferation of these craft denizens in the modern era, proves the outdatedness of that notion.
Back to Bonneville, the whiskey takes its name from the famed flats outside of Salt Lake City, which have been home to record-setting motoring over the past century. The distillery is owned by Steve Pruitt, a former professional race car driver. He even houses the stills in his old racing facility. According to the whiskey entrepreneur, his liquors avoid all use of artificial additives and are proudly made on-site. He can now also proudly proclaim his bourbon to be world class.
If you find yourself in this part of the country anytime soon, you can snag a bottle of the 92-proof bourbon for around $30. Though after its latest accrual of accolades, expect sales to speed up. Its presence on shelves could become more precious as a result.
At any rate, if you’re not planning on racing over to Utah or Nevada anytime soon consider exploring some of the other top scoring entries from USA Spirits Ratings. Most of them enjoy wider distribution than the Bonneville Bourbon. Examples include Batch 061 Single Barrel Whiskey from Uncle Nearest; Don Michael Black Whiskey from the Peruvian Andes—which we highlighted around this time last year—and just about any release from Bhakta Spirits.
The Vermont producer received a whopping nine separate scores of 95 or above. Many of those medals were for the brand’s revered line of Armagnacs, but the highest performance was actually a 98-point score for its 1990 vintage Jamaican rum. And that’s a story for a different day…