The World Whisky Masters 2013 ResultsBy Becky Paskin
The world outside Scotland has begun to challenge the supremacy of Scotch with quality whisky of its own. A rich and diverse set of contenders vied for medals at The World Whisky Masters, writes Becky Paskin.
The boom in Scotch and American whisky in recent years has sparked a flurry of investment from distilleries across the world, eager to carve themselves a slice of the pie.
The Scottish have been producing whisky – both legally and, under cover of the undulating Highlands, as bootleggers – for centuries, and while they’ve become undeniably good at it, their craft doesn’t define them as the only nation able to create decent whisky.
The Irish aside (we cover them here), the world’s lesser-known whisky producing nations – and the US – flocked to our World Whisky Masters in July to show their Celtic counterparts and whisky loving consumers that they too are creating liquid worthy of global acclaim.
Joining myself as chair at Drake & Morgan’s new London venue The Happenstance were the Irish Whiskey Masters judges: Miss Whisky blogger Alwynne Gwilt, whisky educator Mark Thomson and freelance whisky writer Richard Woodard, who found rather quickly that there is life out there beyond Scotch.
“The World Whisky Masters is clear evidence of the huge diversity to be found in the world of whisky today,” exclaimed Woodard. “It’s apparent in the geographical spread of entries across three continents and the innovation to be found in established whisky nations such as the US.”
The day’s judging kicked off with Bourbon and rye from the States, which raised eyebrows in pleasant surprise and drew wide acclaim from the panel. The first and only Master of the day went to the first bottle sampled, Balcones Straight Texas Bourbon, a rare whiskey created to celebrate the distillery’s fifth anniversary. Just 10 bottles are being released in the next few weeks in the UK alone.
“Bourbon tends to be too woody but this had more complex notes to it,” explained Gwilt, a Scotch devotee. “The nose was a bit strong but that comes with a high abv. With a little water it was more accessible and really opened up.”
With the rye entries came a Gold, for Woodford Reserve’s Rare Rye (New Cask), part of its Master’s Collection. “This surprised me for a rye because it has a good balance, great finish and nice, oily mouthfeel,” continued Gwilt. “I really enjoyed the ryes more than anticipated as I’m not normally a fan, but this one in particular stood out for me. One of the great things about this spirit is its endless ability to surprise.”
Moving onto the more ambiguous American whiskeys, the category offered an interesting representation of what is currently happening in the industry although only three entered. Craft distillers are breaking the boundaries of what can be achieved within whiskey’s parameters as shown by Balcones Brimstone, and proving that it’s not just the big guys who can hit the right spot when it comes to Bourbon.
Similarly, the established players are proving that premiumisation within their brands’ portfolio can draw attention from whiskey aficionados, as proved by Jack Daniels’ Single Barrel, whose “intriguing tropical fruit nose” and “nicely balanced flavour” both surprised and impressed the judges, and gained it a Gold medal.
Next up was the Asian category which provoked a sigh from the judges. The region is not typically known for the success of its whiskies on the world stage.
However both whiskies entered in this category gained a medal – a Silver for India’s Paul John single malt, Edited, and a Gold for its sister single malt, Brilliance, both of which have recently been released to challenge the global perception of Indian single malt quality.
From Asia we took a step back across the continents to Europe, where we were whisked off on a tour of some untraditional whisky-producing countries, namely Sweden, Germany, France, Wales, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
“There was little that disappointed and it’s certainly apparent that there is abundant skill and passion within this category outside of the usual producing countries,” said Thomson, who along with the rest of the team awarded one Gold and seven Silver medals across the region’s premium and super-premium single malts, and standard and super-premium blended categories.
With more entries across a wider range of countries than ever before, this year’s World Whisky Masters is testament to the fact that distilleries everywhere, and not just in the typical whisky-producing regions, are noticeably improving to earn a spot on the world stage.
Summing up, Woodard said: “This world of new flavours is challenging traditional perceptions of what whisky can and should be. Something tells me that this category will only become stronger and even more intriguing in the years to come.”
The full list of The World Whisky Masters 2013 results is on the following page.
|American Bourbon up to 6yo|
|Balcones Distilling||Balcones Straight Texas Bourbon||Master|
|Brown Forman||Woodford Reserve Rare Rye (New Cask)||Gold|
|Brown Forman||Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel||Gold|
|Balcones Distilling||Balcones Brimstone Whisky||Gold|
|Balcones Distilling||Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky||Silver|
|Asian Single Malt – Premium|
|John Distilleries||Paul John Single Malt Brilliance||Gold|
|John Distilleries||Paul John Single Malt Edited||Silver|
|European Single Malt – Standard|
|The Welsh Whisky Co||Penderyn Portwood||Silver|
|European Single Malt – Premium|
|Gebr. J & M Ziegler||Aureum 1865 Fassstärke||Silver|
|The Welsh Whisky Co||Penderyn Madeira||Silver|
|European Single Malt – Super Premium|
|Mackmyra Svensk Whisky||Mackmyra The First Edition||Gold|
|Mackmyra Svensk Whisky||Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke)||Silver|
|Mackmyra Svensk Whisky||Moment Mareld||Silver|
|European Blended – Standard|
|Vinprom Peshtera||Whisky Black Ram||Silver|
|European Blended – Super Premium|
|Distillerie des Menhirs||EDDU Gold||Silver|