The Asian Spirits Masters 2018 results

10th May, 2018 by Amy Hopkins

The Asian Spirits Masters puts expressions available in Asian markets to the test. Our judges enjoyed some shining examples from categories including vodka, Tequila, gin, Scotch and world whisky.

There was once a time when an established footprint in Asia was little more than a distant dream for international spirits brands. Locally made products such as baijiu and soju continue to reign supreme when it comes to volume, but brands from nations including Scotland, Mexico, the Caribbean and France have started to whet their appetites for market share in Asia, and the prospects for further growth are enticing.

With such high hopes, there’s an essential quality requirement for producers of Scotch, gin, Tequila, rum and other categories keen to make their mark in Asia. The Asian Spirits Masters 2018 set out to judge the products that are targeting the continent with a blind tasting assessment, awarding an abundance of coveted medals.

Setting to the task at Thai Square in Islington were two panels of top tasters. The first was chaired by The Spirits Business deputy editor, Melita Kiely, and also consisted of: Nicola Thomson, director of Fifteen71; and Julie Campbell, wine and spirits consultant. The second panel was chaired by me, Amy Hopkins, editor of The Spirits Business, and consisted of: Nick Bell, retail general manager at Amathus Drinks; and Marlowe Harris, brand sales manager at Amathus Drinks.

The first flight of the day, judged by Kiely’s team, produced one Gold medal for OMP Vodka. The product, assessed in the Vodka – Standard category, was praised for its “clean” character and “lovely” texture, with judges calling it “very good value for money”.

EXTENSIVE SUCCESS

Moving into pricier terrain, and Purity Vodka 17 secured a Gold in the Vodka – Super Premium flight. Indeed, Purity’s success was extensive throughout the competition, and the brand secured a swathe of medals in numerous vodka sub­categories. It hit the jackpot in the Vodka – Organic round, securing two Master titles for its 34 and 51 expressions.

“I loved the mouthfeel of this vodka,” Thomson said of Purity Vodka 34. “I love the development of salinity juxtaposed with vanilla. It’s super luxurious.” Meanwhile, Kiely said Purity Vodka 51 was “very smooth and well­-balanced”.

Looking back on the Vodka – Organic offering, Thomson observed: “This category showed a beautiful synergy of distillers working with natural production techniques, keeping everything fresh and clean, and you still have a sense of that raw material in your mouth.” Purity Vodka 17, praised for its “balance of vegetal and sweet notes”, was awarded a Master medal in the Microdistillery and Smooth flights. Also representing the vodka contingent, Tovaritch! received Silver in the Vodka – Russia category, and Eiko was awarded Gold in Vodka – Japan. Thomson described the latter as “fresh, light and a little spicy”, while Kiely noted that it was “brilliantly made”.

Moving from vodka to Tequila, and my panel was pleased to discover two Gold and three Silver medallists. Gold winner Sierra Milenario Tequila Añejo was described as a “really well-­made Tequila”, while fellow Gold medallist Sierra Milenario Tequila Fumado was said to have the “wow factor”, with a character that is a mix between “unaged mezcal and Frazzles crisps”.

Back on Kiely’s panel, gin entered the spotlight in a round that resulted in three Silver medals. “Well integrated” and “perfumed” Japanese gin Roku, “warming and spicy” Brecon Botanicals Gin, and Bareksten Botanical Gin, with notes of “bergamot, ripe citrus and grapefruit peel”, all walked away with the accolade. Judges were impressed but noted that they would have liked a greater celebration of juniper. “Distillers shouldn’t shy away from making traditional juniper­forward gins for the Asian market,” said Kiely.

In the Rum flight, my panel awarded two medals. Neptune Rum Gold was true to its name and bagged Gold. “I like the rich sweet notes of burnt sugar on the palate,” said Harris, while Bell enjoyed the rum’s “edge of sharpness”. Bell was also intrigued by the “molasses and agricole” character of West Indies Rum & Cane Merchants – Asia Pacific, which walked away with a Silver.

The judges then entered the hefty Scotch whisky section of the competition, starting with age­-statement blends. A slew of Silvers was discovered in the round, judged by Kiely’s team. Thomson in particular enjoyed the “fresh pine and beech wood” aroma of Dewar’s 15 Year Old The Monarch. Campbell, meanwhile, highlighted the “delicate sweetness” of Dewar’s 18 Year Old The Vintage.

In the no­-age-­statement blended Scotch whisky contingent, my panel discovered a Master-­worthy recipient: Big Peat, from Douglas Laing & Co. “This was everything I’d want an Islay whisky to be,” enthused Harris. Bell added: “It’s remarkable that you get so much freshness and a pronounced citrus flavour. It’s really well integrated and balanced. I was surprised by how flavoured it was because it’s so pale.”

The Lost Distillery Company – Jericho Archivist was awarded a Gold medal, while Dewar’s White Label received Silver in the round. “This was very fruity and it had a lovely, rich Sherriness, but it wasn’t overpowering,” Bell said of the former.

We then moved on to assess the single malt Scotch whisky contingent, starting with those bottled with age statements.

Here, two Master medals were awarded to Laphroaig 10 Year Old and Glengoyne 30 Year Old. Judges praised the former’s “lovely bittersweet maltiness” and “maritime smoke” flavour.

Meanwhile, the Glengoyne whisky impressed with its “creamy palate” and notes of “Christmas cake spice”. Bell added: “This is a stand out whisky.” The round also yielded six Golds and four Silvers.

(L­R): Marlowe Harris, Nick Bell, Melita Kiely, Julie Campbell, Amy Hopkins and Nicola Thomson

(L­-R): Marlowe Harris, Nick Bell, Melita Kiely, Julie Campbell, Amy Hopkins and Nicola Thomson

QUALITY AND VERSATILITY

A swathe of medal-­worthy entrants was also discovered in the NAS single malt Scotch flight: seven Golds and no fewer than 10 Silvers. Two examples of the Gold medallists in the round were Laphroaig Select, said to have a “pollen-­honey drizzle-­cake effect”, and Tamdhu Batch Strength 003, praised for its “great balance” and “full flavour”. Overall, judges said the flight “demonstrated the quality and versatility of single malt Scotch whisky”.

The final flight of the day was World Whisky, producing two Gold medals and five Silvers. Star Walker was noted for its flavour of “redcurrants, dates and raisins”, while Penderyn Peated won plaudits for its “pleasing dry finish”. “It’s great to see so many whiskies exemplifying different flavour profiles,” said Bell.

Having tasted entries in a multitude of spirit categories, judges noted the variety of styles and flavour nuances exhibited throughout the day. “There’s certainly a diverse range of products available in Asia, and many reasonably priced,” observed Kiely. “It will be fascinating to see how producers try to capture market share in the future by innovating even more.”

Click through to the following page for the complete list of medal winners from The Asian Spirits Masters 2018.

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