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The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 results

The variety of medals awarded in The Spirits Business Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 proves that old age and single malts do not necessarily equate to a perfect dram, discovers Becky Paskin.

Scotch-Whisky Masters 2013 results
The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 delivered an interesting set of results

That old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ was undoubtedly the adage of the day as a record number of entries to The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 were put through their paces in a blind tasting.

It’s not often a whisky gets judged solely on its liquid alone. No matter what whisky critics and writers believe, existing conceptions of a brand will always play a part in their summation.

Doffed of a definitive age, packaging and brand name, the whiskies in this year’s series – as with all Spirits Business Masters competitions – had no place to hide, as an expert panel of judges settled in for a tasting of the largest number of Scotch Masters entries to date.

With so many exciting drams to trawl through, our esteemed judging panel was split into three teams, each adopting a different selection of whiskies from a variety of categories. Heading those teams were Caskstrength’s dynamic duo Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, and myself, an old hat at these Spirit Masters events and something of a Scotch aficionado.

Joining Ridley’s team were The Spirits Business editor Tom Bruce-Gardyne and The Whisky Shop’s Tobias Gorn. Harrison was joined by Moti Mahal managing director Shane Lee Safi; spirits buyer for Waitrose Herschelle Perez Terrado; and Sean Connolly, bar manager of London’s Botanist. In my camp were Billy Abbott of The Whisky Exchange and Matt Chambers of The Whisky Shop.

Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 glasses
The blind tasting of the Scotch Whisky Masters entries are taken very seriously

The anticipation of sampling such a broad variety of Scotch in just one day had the private dining room of London’s exquisite Indian restaurant Moti Mahal buzzing as we settled down and buried our noses into the six categories that comprised the blends.

A noticeably larger selection than in previous years, the blends drew a remarkable number of medals, particularly in relation to those gained later on by the single malts. But it was the premium end of the spectrum that drew most praise, gaining more medals than the whiskies listed in the super-premium or over-12- years-old categories.

“There was an excellent array of whiskies on the day, but I was particularly impressed with the quality, quantity and variety of blends entered,” explained Chambers.

Across the three teams, judges awarded seven Masters, 15 Gold and 17 Silver medals to the blends, with most going to the Standard and Under-12s categories.

Succeeding in this arena were Edrington’s Naked Grouse, Burn Stewart’s Black Bottle, Diageo’s Buchanan’s Special Reserve and John Walker & Sons Odyssey, Dewar’s Signature, online retailer Master of Malt’s eight-year-old blend, and Grant’s 18-year-old, all of which won Masters.

“This category highlights how premium blends are punching above their weight,” commented Ridley. “A couple of entries you could easily give to an ardent single malt fan and see their face light up. It demonstrates the art of blending. I wouldn’t be unhappy drinking any of those in the bar.”

Joel Harrison Herchelle Perez Terrado
Joel Harrison and Herchelle Perez Terrado get stuck into their first drams

Moving onto what some perceive as the ‘good stuff’, our 10 judges got stuck into the single malts, with a selection from Speyside up first. Wading our way through the younger malts and working up to the extra aged and special editions, our judges felt somewhat disappointed as they proceeded.

The under 12-year-olds delivered a solid performance with most walking away with a Gold or Master medal. However, as all three teams approached the Speyside 12-18-year-old and 18-25-year-old categories, disillusionment set in alongside a realisation that quality does not necessarily come with age.

“These entries didn’t live up to the expectation of what you’d expect from a whisky of their age,” explained Abbott. “They were all lovely whiskies, but nothing really wowed us.”

Ridley concurred, adding: “This flight was a bit more underwhelming than the under 12-year-olds; there was very little stand out and not enough personality.”

As such the judges’ opinions were reflected in the medals awarded, with just one Master given across the two flights.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Speyside and I was lucky enough to judge the entries in the region’s special editions flight, all of which we awarded either a Master or Gold medal. By far the pinnacle of the competition for my team thus far, the flight was an impressive round with every entry delivering depth, character and an abundance of flavour.

In fact, one entry was just short of being awarded 100 points, its alcohol content deemed slightly too high to score full marks. Abbott described the flight as showing “innovation and exciting variation”, while my fellow teammate Chambers deemed it his favourite flight of the day.

Scotch Whisky Masters Judges
The Scotch Whisky Masters Judges (back row): Shane Lee Safi, Sean Connolly, Neil Ridley, Tobias Gorn, Matt Chambers, Billy Abbott. (Front row): Herchelle Perez Terrado, Joel Harrison, Becky Paskin.

Heading north into the Highlands and Islands categories, and again the younger entries swept the board with the most medals awarded. The region’s single cask releases also impressed with six out of seven entries gaining awards.

As for the peated styles of Islay, a style that can divide opinion amongst whisky fans, very nearly all entries were given a Master or Gold medal, with an even smattering across all categories.

In the end, the record number of entries this year gleaned more medals overall than any previous competition, and across a wide spectrum of regions, styles and ages.

But it was the blind nature of the competition that ensured it was the liquid, and only the liquid that took the credit as Connolly pointed out: “Judging of this nature is great for stripping away the marketing and prestige and revealing the true nature and quality of the whiskies.”

While the entries this year demonstrate more variation than ever for the Scotch whisky category, the enduring quality of Scotland’s national spirit is more significant than ever, as Waitrose’s Terrado concludes: “It’s important for me as a buyer for a retailer to be able to have reassurance when selecting whiskies to give the seal of approval to our customers for brilliant bottles. We know medals are a good benchmarking tool for customers.”

The full list of The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 results are on the following pages.

Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Blends – Standard
Company Product Name Medal
Burn Stewart Distillers Black Bottle Master
The Edrington Distillers Ltd The Naked Grouse Master
John Dewar & Sons Ltd Dewar’s White Label Gold
John Dewar & Sons Ltd William Lawson’s Finest Blend Gold
The Edrington Distillers Ltd The Black Grouse Alpha Edition Gold
Burn Stewart Distillers Scottish Leader Silver
William Grant & Sons Grant’s Ale Cask Finish Silver
William Grant & Sons Grant’s Sherry Cask Finish Silver
William Grant & Sons Grant’s Distillery Edition Silver
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Blends – Premium
Company Product Name Medal
Diageo Brands BV Buchanan’s Special Reserve Master
Diageo Brands BV Buchanan’s Master Gold
Diageo Brands BV Old Parr DeLuxe Silver
Diageo Brands BV White Horse Silver
     
Blends – Super premium
Company Product Name Medal
Diageo Brands BV John Walker & Sons Odyssey Master
John Dewar & Sons Ltd Dewar’s Signature Master
Diageo Brands BV Windsor XR Gold
Diageo Brands BV Johnnie Walker Explorers Club Collection Royal Route Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s Limited Gold
Master of Malt St Isidore Silver
Diageo Brands BV Johnnie Walker Blue Label Silver
Diageo Brands BV Johnnie Walker Explorers Club Collection Spice Road Silver
Diageo Brands BV Johnnie Walker Explorers Club Collection Gold Route Silver
Master of Malt Boxes Blend Silver
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Aged blends < 12 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
Master of Malt Master of Malt 8yr Blended Whisky Master
Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney 12yr Gold
Diageo Brands BV Windsor 12yr Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 12yr Gold
William Grant & Sons Grant’s 12yr Silver
La Martiniquaise Label 5 Extra Premium 12yr Silver
Diageo Brands BV Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12yr Silver
Aldi UK Highland Earl Black 8yr Gold
Chivas Brothers Chivas Regal 12yr Silver
     
     
Aged blends < 30 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
William Grant & Sons Grant’s 25yr Gold
Diageo Brands BV Windsor 21yr Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 30yr Gold
Chivas Brothers Ballantine’s 21yr Silver
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Single Malts
Speyside < 12 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
Chivas Brothers Strathisla 12yr Master
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Single Barrel 12yr Gold
Diageo Brands BV Cardhu 12yr Gold
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet 12yr Gold
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet Excellence 12yr Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 12yr Gold
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Double Wood 12yr Silver
Diageo Brands BV Singleton Dufftown 12yr Silver
     
Speyside < 18 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet 15yo French Oak Reserve Master
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 15yr Master
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Rich Oak Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 15yr Old Distillery Edition Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 18yr Gold
Diageo Brands BV Singleton Dufftown 18yr Gold
Chivas Brothers Aberlour 16yr Double Cask Matured Gold
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Double Wood 17yr Silver
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14yr Silver
J & G Grant Glenfarclas 18yr Silver
Chivas Brothers Longmorn 16yr Silver
     
Speyside < 25 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask Reserve Gold
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet 21yr Archive Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 21yr Silver
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Portwood 21yr Silver
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Red Wine Cask Finish Silver
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Speyside 25+ y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Ultimate 38yr Master
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 40yr Gold
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet XXV Gold
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie 30yr Silver
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 30yr Silver
     
Speyside Blended Malts
Company Product Name Medal
Master of Malt Blended Malt No. One (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Silver
William Grant & Sons Monkey Shoulder Silver
     
Speyside Special Editions
Company Product Name Medal
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich 125 Anniversary Edition Master
William Grant & Sons The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5 Master
Chivas Brothers Aberlour A’Bunadh Master
Master of Malt Aberlour (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Gold
William Grant & Sons Glenfiddich Malt Master Gold
Chivas Brothers The Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve Gold
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Highlands & Islands < 12 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie Original Master
Ben Nevis Distillery MacDonald’s Celebrated Traditional Ben Nevis Malt Whisky Master
John Dewar & Sons Ltd Aberfeldy Single Malt 12yr Master
Burn Stewart Distillers Ledaig 10yr Gold
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Gold
Diageo Brands BV Talisker 10yr Gold
Burn Stewart Distillers Deanston 12yr Silver
Burn Stewart Distillers Tobermory 10yr Silver
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie Lasanta Silver
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Silver
The Edrington Distillers Ltd Highland Park 12yr Silver
     
Highlands & Islands < 18 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
The Edrington Distillers Ltd Highland Park 18yr Master
Diageo Brands BV Dalwhinnie 15yr Gold
Burn Stewart Distillers Tobermory 15yr Silver
     
Highlands & Islands < 25y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
Angus Dundee Distillers Glencadam Highland Single Malt Aged 21yr ‘The Exceptional’ Gold
John Dewar & Sons Ltd Aberfeldy 21yr Gold
     
Highlands & Islands 25+ y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie The Quarter Century 25yr Gold
     
Highlands & Islands Special Editions
Company Product Name Medal
The Edrington Distillers Ltd Highland Park Svein Gold
The Edrington Distillers Ltd Highland Park Einar Gold
The Edrington Distillers Ltd Highland Park Harald Gold
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Highlands & Islands Single Cask Releases
Company Product Name Medal
Master of Malt Invergordon (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Master
Ben Nevis Distillery 15yr Single Cask Ben Nevis Malt Master
The Glenmorangie Co Glenmorangie Signet Gold
Diageo Brands BV Talisker Distillers Edition Gold
Master of Malt Clynelish (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Silver
     
Islay < 12 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
The Glenmorangie Co Ardbeg Corryvreckan Master
The Glenmorangie Co Ardbeg Uigeadail Gold
Kilchoman Distillery Kilchoman 100% Islay Gold
The Glenmorangie Co Ardbeg 10yr Gold
Kilchoman Distillery Kilchoman, Machir Bay Silver
     
Islay < 18 y.o.
Company Product Name Medal
Diageo Brands BV Lagavullin 16yr Master
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain 18yr Gold
Scotch Whisky Masters 2013
Islay Special Editions
Company Product Name Medal
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain Toiteach Gold
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona Gold
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain Darach UR Gold
Diageo Brands BV Lagavullin Distillers Edition Gold
     
Lowland <12yo
Company Product Name Medal
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain 25yr Silver
     
Islay Single Cask Releases
Company Product Name Medal
Burn Stewart Distillers Bunnahabhain Sgeul Na Mara Master
     
Lowland <12yo
Company Product Name Medal
Diageo Brands BV Glenkinchie 12yr Gold

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