The World Whisky Masters 2017 results

8th August, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

Venture beyond the traditional whisk(e)y homes of Scotland, Ireland and the US, and you’ll find an exciting array of expressions that are bursting with quality, as proved by our World Whisky Masters 2017.

Spirits connoisseurs are increasingly turning their attention to drams from lesser­-established whisky­-making regions

For proof that spirits connoisseurs are increasingly turning their attention to drams hailing from lesser­-established whisky­-making regions, one need only look at recent editions of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. In 2014, he named Japanese whisky Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 World Whisky of the Year – one year later, Canadian whisky Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye swiped the title. The news grabbed headlines around the world, and respective brand owners Beam Suntory and Diageo faced unprecedented demand for the award­-winning expressions.

While their liquid may be younger, and their distribution footprints smaller, distillers from nations including Japan, Canada, Germany, Australia, India and Wales are certainly giving Scotch, Irish and American producers a run from their money in the quality stakes.

This growing contingent of the whisky industry was assessed at The World Whisky Masters 2017. The competition took place at London’s Boisdale of Mayfair on the same day as The American and Irish Whiskey Masters 2017. Judges for the World Whisky event were: Greg Dillon, brand consultant/writer; Chris Tanner, bar manager of The Vaults at Milroy’s; Pierre­-Marie Bisson, general manager of Milk & Honey London; and Nick Bell, retail general manager of Amathus Drinks. Kristiane Sherry, then editor of The Spirits Business, chaired proceedings.

The first round of the competition, Europe – Blended Standard, produced two Silver medalists hailing from Georgia: “easy drinking” Jimsher From Georgian Brandy Casks and “waxy, fruity” Jimsher From Tsinandali Casks. Moving into the Europe – Blended Premium round and Jimsher’s success continued, with Jimsher From Saperavi Casks securing a further Silver for its “gorgeous nose”.

A larger array of expressions awaited judges in the Europe – Single Malt Premium flight, where they discovered the first Master. Belgium’s Gouden Carolus Single Malt impressed with its “fresh” and “well­ balanced” character. “I loved this,” enthused Bell. “It was big, rich and creamy, with notes of vanilla and apricot coming through.” The round produced a further six Golds and six Silvers for whiskies from Wales’s Penderyn, Germany’s Aureum, Italy’s Puni, and Sweden’s Mackmyra and Spirit of Hven.

Super tropical

Further up the price ladder in Europe – Single Malt Super Premium, another haul of Gold and Silver medalists were named, including “lovely and oaky” Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.5 Alioth, and “super tropical” Moment Ledin from Mackmyra. Reflecting on the round, which also produced two Silvers, Sherry noted “there was quality here in abundance”. In Europe – Single Malt Ultra Premium, Penderyn Rich Oak Single Cask was awarded a Silver medal.

In the small Canadian – Super Premium leg, Sazerac’s Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canada bagged a Gold. “This is great,” Bell said. “The first notes were particularly delicious – banana bread and soft brioche.”

Judges then turned to a diminutive South Africa – Single Grain Premium round, awarding a Gold medal to Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky. “This expression has a freshness that pulls it all together,” said Tanner. Two Silvers were then awarded to Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old and Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish in the South Africa – Blended Standard round. Stablemate Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Finish, deemed “soft and buttery with flavours of buttercream and dark fruits”, secured a Gold in South Africa – Blended Super Premium.

Reflecting on the offerings from South Africa, judges noted that while a number of entries impressed, others “had more oak than age”. “But it whetted my appetite, and I want to see more,” added Tanner.

Moving continents once again, and the panel was intrigued to sample entries from Australasia. Hellyers Road Distillery Original 10 Year Single Malt – with flavours of nutmeg, banana and peach – secured a Silver in the Australasia – Single Malt Premium tasting. Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Distillery was victorious in the Australasia – Single Malt Super Premium round, winning one Gold and three Silvers. “This has notes of fresh bread and yeast – almost like doughnuts on the nose,” Tanner said of the Gold. “I also got a lot of tropical fruit. It was really fresh – its youth was doing it favours.”

Quality across the board

To round off the day, the panel assessed entries hailing from India, home to the bulk of the global whisky market. Judges found quality across the board, bestowing one Gold and two Silvers on Paul John expressions in the India – Single Malt Premium round. Gold medalist Paul John Indian Single Malt, Brilliance, lived up to its name, with Bell saying: “I thought it was very drinkable, with soft, sweet and fruity notes.”

(L­R): Chris Tanner, Kristiane Sherry, Pierre­-Marie Bisson, Greg Dillon, Melita Kiely, Matthew Neal, Karen Taylor, Cherry Constable, Joe Boxall, Amy Hopkins, Tobias Gorn, Dennis Oetinger, Paul Everest, Nick Bell

The India – Single Malt Super Premium round revealed the second Master of the day in Paul John Indian Single Malt, Peated Select Cask. “It really reminded me of a good Islay whisky,” observed Bisson. “Everything that I like in a nice Ardbeg or an aged Laphroaig was in here. It was meaty.” Paul John Indian Single Malt, Classic Select Cask and Paul John 6 Year Old – Batch 2, bottled by That Boutique­y Whisky Company, also impressed and were awarded Golds.

The final flight consisted of Moonshine & Other Un­-Aged Whiskies, where Australian distillery Archie Rose’s White Rye variant was celebrated for its “bright and sweet green apple” character.

For Bell, the Indian whisky rounds were the strongest of the day, while Dillon said: “These rounds showed Scotch has got to keep up because these last three whiskies we tasted showed that India is doing amazingly well, creating brilliant, pure, flavoursome spirits.”

On the whole, judges were pleasantly surprised by the level of quality on display, and were excited at the prospect of more varieties coming to market and challenging consumer expectations. As Tanner concluded: “Forget what you think you know about world whisky. There’s a whole world out there.”

Click through the following pages to view the results tables in full.

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