The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 results

7th June, 2013 by Becky Paskin

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.

One Response to “The Scotch Whisky Masters 2013 results”

  1. Sanjay Patil says:

    Best braloveshave never try
    …… .sanjay

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