Murray gives Canadian rye top spot in Whisky BibleBy Nicola Carruthers
Writer Jim Murray has named a Canadian rye expression the ‘world’s best whisky’ in his new Whisky Bible 2021.
Murray releases his Whisky Bible every year, which reveals the bottlings that have secured top marks across categories such as blended Scotch, Japanese and European.
For the latest edition, Murray named Beam Suntory’s Canadian bottling Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye World Whisky of the Year.
Made from a mix of malted and unmalted rye, Alberta Premium Cask Strength is bottled at 65.1% ABV and was given a score of 97.5 out of 100. It is made at Calgary-based Alberta Distillers from 100% prairie rye mash bills and Rocky Mountain water.
Murray said of the whisky: “A succulence to the oils, balanced perfectly by ulmo and manuka honeys ensure for the most chewable Canadian mouthful possibly ever and yet this is constantly salivating, from the very first nanosecond. Truly world-class whisky from possibly the world’s most underrated distillery. How can something be so immense yet equally delicate?
“For any whisky lover on the planet looking for huge but nearly perfectly balanced experience, then here you go. And with rye at its most rampantly beautiful, this is something to truly worship.”
Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye was previously named Canadian Whisky of the Year by Murray in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
“It is such an honour to be named World Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray and we are thrilled for our Alberta Distillers team,” said Albert Baladi, president and CEO, Beam Suntory.
“To receive this prestigious accolade is a testament to the team’s dedication and passion for crafting a premium spirit of the highest quality, and comes at a time of Canadian whisky resurgence around the world.”
The last and only time a Canadian whisky scooped up the top award was in 2015 when Murray named Diageo’s Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye the ‘world’s best whisky’.
Murray said the last time he gave a Canadian whisky the accolade, police in Toronto were called as drinkers brawled over the remaining bottles on the shelf.
The crowning of Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye also knocked the US off the top spot of World Whisky of the Year for the first time in five years.
Last year, all three of the top accolades were given to American whiskeys, all hailing from one producer. Sazerac scooped all three of the top spots and its 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon from Kentucky-based Barton 1792 Distillery was named the ‘world’s best whisky’ by Murray.
Second and third place
Meanwhile, Sazerac nabbed the second place spot with one of its Bourbons, while an Indian whisky snagged the third place position.
New Orleans-based Sazerac scooped up the second place spot for its “mind-blowing” Stagg Jr Barrel Proof Bourbon. Murray praised the expression for its finish of “cocoa, dark liquorice and so much toastiness”.
Indian whisky Paul John Mithuna from the Paul John Distillery in Goa secured the third place spot in the Whisky Bible 2021, marking the first time a south Asian whisky has secured one of the coveted positions. Murray enjoyed the whisky’s “sensational chocolate and spices complexity” and gave it 97 marks out of 100.
Due to be released in November 2020, Mithuna is the second expression in Paul John’s Zodiac series of whiskies. It is named after the Indian counterpart of the zodiac sign Gemini.
Murray said of Mithuna: “If Mithuna means ‘ultimate’, then it is the perfect name. Or maybe Mithuna means ‘perfect’, then it is pretty close. It is that very rarest of things. And, if nothing else, announces Paul John Distillery on the world stage of truly great distilleries. This is a whisky to devour while it devours you.”
According to the brand, Mithuna has a nose of liquorice with gentle beeswax, ulmo honey on crisp toast and vanilla. The palate brings chewy flavours of coffee mocha, orange peel and delicate spice, along with a hint of dark cocoa.
The Paul John Distillery is owned by Bangalore-based John Distilleries, which produces the Paul John single malt and Original Choice whiskies. Buffalo Trace owner Sazerac owns an equity stake in John Distilleries.
“For our whisky to be declared the world’s third finest whisky in the world is perhaps the greatest achievement a whisky maker could possibly dream of and this speaks especially of the passion and dedication of our master distiller, Michael D’Souza,” said Paul P John, chairman and managing director of John Distilleries.
“For an Indian whisky to attain such an honour has proven that India is on par and even better in terms of quality with other international whiskies. It marks a turning point in the emergence of India as a serious player in the world of single malt.”
In the 2021 edition, Speyside producer Glen Grant took home Scotch Whisky of the Year for its 15 Year Old Batch Strength 1st Edition with Murray praising the Moray distillery’s “extraordinary and unique charm”.
Lowland distillery Annandale, which opened in 2014, walked away with the Best 10 Years and Under Single Cask Scotch award. Murray hailed the producer’s Vintage Man O’Words 2015 expression as a reason for whisky lovers to not “cling to the lifebuoy of age, tradition and history”.
Meanwhile, Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey was named the inaugural winner of American Blended Whiskey of the Year and picked up a further three awards for its Bourbon and rye whiskeys.
Other sectional winners include:
Scotch Blend of the Year – Ballantine’s 30 Year Old
Scotch 10 Years and Under Single Cask – Annandale Vintage Man O’Words 2015
Irish Whiskey of the Year – Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy
American Rye of the Year – Thomas H Handy Sazerac
Japanese Whisky of the Year – Nikka Whisky Single Malt Yoichi Apple Brandy Wood Finish
European Whisky of the Year (multiple cask) – Puni Aura Italian Single Malt
Murray tasted 1,252 new drams for the 2021 edition of the book, which is available to buy from whiskybible.com priced at £14.99 (US$19.40).