The American Whiskey Masters 2016 results

8th August, 2016 by Kristiane Sherry

mastersA duo of Single Malt Aged Up To 7 Years came next, with the pair of Rogue Ales & Spirits both scoring Gold medals. Dead Guy Whiskey was deemed to have a “lovely texture” with “bread”, “corn” and “toffee” qualities, while the producer’s Single Malt Whiskey offered “a bit of a candied fruit note with a cereal effect”.

A tiny Single Malt – Premium flight saw a Silver awarded to Breckenridge Dark Arts for its “silky” expression with notes of “orchard fruits” and “air-dried wood”, before judges turned their attention to the small but perfectly formed Single Malt – Ultra Premium category.

“For me, the consistency of Balcones No.1 Texas Single Malt from start to finish was stunning,” declared Dillon. “Lots of toffee, a bit of burnt sugar, heavy oak but in a fun way; and then butterscotch and rounded vanilla. A very, very nice whiskey.”

An intriguing flight of Other Grain – No AgeStatement followed, with Balcones again coming up trumps, scooping a Master for Baby Blue and a Gold for Brimstone.

“It’s a boozy Crunchie bar, with toffee and juicy stewed fruits going on,” said Newton. “It’s Cognac-esque to a degree. Then once you add the water you get this white pepper spice.”

Next up was the rye contingent, a category where consumer interest has been buoyed by Jim Murray’s decision to award his Best Whisky in the World accolade to Diageo’s Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. It might be Canadian, but it has certainly increased awareness both sides of the border.

First for our panel was the Rye – Aged Up To 7 Years segment, where Rogue Ales & Spirits’ Oregon Rye Whiskey picked up a Silver for its “grassy” expression, offering notes of “apple, raw syrup and grapefruit”. Similarly, Luxco’s “unusual” and “interesting” Bower Hill – Reserve Rye Whiskey was awarded a Silver for its “cucumber, peppercorn, pepper husk” character in the Rye – Premium category.

The Rye Single Barrel flight hauled in even more medals, with Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye and Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye 92 Proof both winning Silvers. But it was sibling spirit Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Cask Proof which really caught the attention of the panel and was accordingly awarded a Gold.

“It’s very balanced and opened well with water,” said Balusu. “It’s a very good example of a rye whiskey. On the nose it’s sweet but it’s got those rye characteristics.”

Capturing imagination

The final round of the session saw the panel tackle Moonshine and Other Unaged Whiskeys, a sector which is capturing the consumer imagination at an impressive pace. The flight on offer did not disappoint, pulling in two Golds and a Silver.

Leading the Gold rush was White Dog Cut No. 4, which was “immediately malty, rich and meaty with a nutty note on the finish,” said Dunn. “It’s a really good quality base spirit to play around with.” Similarly Ole Smoky Moonshine, which offered “nice aniseed, liquorice” notes as well as a “nutty, fruity plate” was awarded a Gold. “It was really fresh and crisp”, noted Balusu.

“The flight showed how moonshine can actually be quite approachable, despite the higher abv,” mused Dillon, with Newton adding the category is “sort of a guilty pleasure”.

Summing up the day, judges were pleased by the level of experimentation and innovation displayed by American whiskey producers. “The market has been dominated by Bourbon but the emergence of great categories, especially on the single malt side, shows what can be done in that part of the world,” felt Dillon.

“I think everyone would agree the value for money on the bottles is outstanding as well,” added Dunn.

For Newton, it’s the freedom offered to American whiskey producers which is fuelling innovation. “Because Scotch is so heavily regulated it’s almost inherently less diverse. This is a blank canvas; producers can get away with more and they should try to.”

Dunn noted that in March 2015, the London-based Milroy’s store sold more Bourbon than Scotch for the first time in its 52-year history. Times are changing. “The market for American whiskey is still quite niche, but if you talk to people and explain to them, they are more open minded than you think.”

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