The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C.’s Joseph A. Magnus bourbon just won big at a major spirits competition

More than 1,800 spirits from around the globe were entered in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last weekend, and Washington's Joseph A. Magnus distillery is celebrating after its bourbon was awarded a prestigious Double Gold medal and named Best Special Barrel-Finished Bourbon. The nine-year-old bourbon, sourced from the MGP distillery in Indiana, is aged in a mix of sherry and cognac barrels, which is the way the company says namesake Joseph Magnus finished his bourbon in Cincinnati more than a century ago.

“After tasting the 100-plus-year-old Magnus bourbon, we all agreed – Joseph Magnus made truly remarkable bourbon," Nancy Fraley, the distillery's master blender, said in a statement. "By finishing our product the same way Magnus did in the 1890s, we were able to make our Joseph Magnus Bourbon a near match to the original. The fact that when put up against today's top bourbons, it finished Double Gold is a special tribute to him and his amazing spirits.”

Joseph A. Magnus bourbon is available at the Ivy City distillery for $92 per bottle, as well as some liquor stores, such as Schneider's and Cordial. If you want a taste before you buy, it's available at the Dabney and Beuchert's Saloon, and the distillery's Murray Hill Club bar, which is open on Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday.

The distillery also picked up a silver medal for its Vigilant gin, which was developed by local gin expert Nicole Hassoun, and a bronze for its Royal Seal vodka.

[Like gin? ‘Gin Goddess’ Nicole Hassoun is someone to keep an eye on with the launch of a new distillery]

The awards at the World Spirits Competition are not handed out in the tradition first/second/third format: A spirit is blind-tasted by a panel of judges, who each determine whether each sample is worthy of a Gold medal ("An excellent product, meeting very high standards"), Silver ("A finely crafted spirit, well above average"), or Bronze ("A well-crafted spirit that deserves recognition"), or no medal at all. If every judge in the tasting group decides that a spirit is worthy of a gold medal, it's awarded a Double Gold and sent to a "Best in Show" category.

Judges include Columbia Room owner Derek Brown, cocktail author David Wondrich, bourbon writer Fred Minnick, and a long list of esteemed bartenders and bar owners.

Joseph A. Magnus Distillery, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE. Open Friday from 4:30 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from noon to midnight, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.