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The World Whisky Masters 2021 results

Away from the traditional heartlands of whisky production, and often unburdened by strict regulations, distillers are creating marvellous expressions, as Melita Kiely discovers.

Mona Vale Beach, Australia: our tasting featured a number of whiskies from Down Under

Producers outside of the best‐known whisky‐making regions are on a mission to prove they have the quality credentials to compete on the world stage. In Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and beyond, distillers are putting their innovative stamps on whisky and generating serious buzz around the category.

Many of the world whisky regions have the luxury of looser regulations to experiment with their distillation and maturation programmes. But this poses the question: is the quality up to scratch?

As always, quality is a high priority in The Global Spirits Masters series – and was top of the agenda at this year’s World Whisky Masters. With a record number of entries, it was evident to see how much the category has expanded in recent years.

A panel of esteemed tasters assembled at the Ibis Hotel in London Bridge, UK, to blind‐taste whiskies from around the globe. Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business magazine, chaired the first of four panels, and was joined by Tommy Cummins, head of purchasing at The Umbrella Project, and James Goggin, head of sales at Empirical. Billy Abbott, ambassador for The Whisky Exchange, chaired a second panel, and was accompanied by Caroline Roddis, editor of The Whisky Exchange, and Karen Taylor, co‐founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog.

The third team comprised Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at The Leaf and Cane in London, and Matt Chambers, co‐founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog, who chaired his panel. Michel Fichtner, head bartender at the Coburg Bar at The Connaught hotel in London, joined me, Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of the tasting, on the final panel.

The World Whisky Masters got under way with a flight of Asia (excluding Japan and India): Single Malt whiskies. Taiwanese distillery Kavalan got off to an incredibly strong start with nine Master medals in this flight. Taylor said: “There are some really powerful flavours in these whiskies and definite skill in managing the maturation.”

One Master‐worthy expression was Kavalan Solist PX Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky, with notes of “rich biscuit and chocolate” on the palate and a “bitter, sweet, fruity” finish.

Kavalan’s Artist Series: Paul Chiang French Wine Cask Single Cask Strength bottling also received the top award, enjoyed for flavours of “rich chocolate and baking spices, dried apples and red berries”.

The judges also favoured Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky, with “caramel, toffee and dried fruits” on the nose, leading to a “hint of peach, butterscotch, wood spices and pepper” on the palate.

The competition began with a flight of Asian single malts

KAVALAN LEADS THE WAY

Kavalan Oloroso Sherry Oak Single Malt; Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Virgin Oak Single Cask Strength Single Malt; Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Peated Malt Single Cask Strength Single Malt; King Car 40th Anniversary Selected Wine Cask Matured Single Malt; Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt; Kavalan Sky Gold Wine Cask Matured Single Cask Single Malt; and Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish Single Malt, were also deemed worthy of the Master title.

The distillery also went home with a sizeable Gold medal haul – 17 to be exact. Among the Gold‐standard whiskies were: Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt, with “loads of tropical fruits and bitter walnuts”; and Kavalan Solist Manzanilla Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt, with “chocolate‐coated raisins on the palate with caramel and fruit syrup” leading to “gingerbread and pepper”.

Gold medallist Kavalan Solist Madeira Single Cask Strength Single Malt also impressed the panels, with its “woody and earthy” nose, “syrupy, juicy” palate with “oak, orange and warming spices”. The flight concluded with a pair of Silver medals – also awarded to Kavalan Distillery. Abbott said: “A high‐quality round, but despite generally excellent quality, balance stopped many of the whiskies from being awarded the highest scores.” The following flight, Australia: Blended, produced a respectable Silver medal for Bond 7 Australian Blended Whisky, which had notes of “cinnamon” and “some fruits”.

In the Australia: Single Malt heat, another two Master medals were awarded. The first was presented to Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Muscat Barrel 48% from Copper and Grain Distilling. The whisky was “delicious”, with a “velvety palate” full of “butterscotch, honey porridge” and a “lovely malty finish”.

Starward’s Unexpeated single malt also secured the top medal in this flight, praised for its “very good maturation”, which delivered “creamy, rum and raisin” aromas, and “toffee, tobacco and lots of oaky goodness” on the palate.

Starward, and Copper and Grain Distilling clearly set out to prove Australia deserves to be recognised in the whisky world, bagging an additional 10 Gold medals in the single malt contingent. The latter producer picked up three Gold awards, including one for its Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature 44%, with notes of “sandalwood, myrrh, rose water”. The judges described the whisky as “very aromatic”.

Starward took home an additional seven Gold medals in this round, including one for Starward Two‐Fold, which had aromas of “honey, citrus, apricots” and flavours of “spices and Turkish delight”.

Fichtner said: “These were very consistent, very nice, drinkable whiskies. The standard was very high from Australia – it was great to see, and it’s exciting to think about what we could be tasting from this part of the world in a few years’ time.”

Our judges uncovered a number of whiskies with a pleasing oak influence

BITTERNESS BALANCE

From Australia, the tasting headed to Europe, where the judges assessed blended whiskies from the region, except for Ireland and Scotland. A pair of Gold medals were awarded in this flight, one of which went to Bellevoye Vert. The whisky had aromas of “vanilla, oakiness and caramel”, leading to flavours of “butterscotch, crème caramel, and bitterness” on the finish to “balance the chocolate sweetness”. Forest Whisky also secured a Gold, enjoyed for its “brine and green apples” on the nose, leading to “fresh apples and pears with a hint of baking spices” on the palate. Three Silvers were also awarded in this round to Augustin Lefort, Old Hunter’s Selection and Bellevoye Bleu.

Taylor said: “These were very different styles, but we are looking at a huge geographical area.” Abbott agreed, and added: “This was a surprisingly good round, with obvious style differences – hopefully this is the continuing development of trans‐European styles.”

After blends, European single malts, excluding Scotland and Ireland, were next in line to be judged. A Master‐worthy entrant was discovered in Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery’s Filey Bay Single Cask – Fino Sherry Cask #669. With “rich brandy grapes, sweet candied citrus peel” aromas, the judges greatly enjoyed flavours of “rich berries, baking spices, bitter almonds and bitter orange” on the palate, accentuated by the whisky’s “rich mouthfeel”.

The round’s impressiveness continued as 17 Gold medals were also awarded. Among the Gold‐standard recipients was Bimber Distillery’s Re‐Charred Single Cask #143. The expression offered “sweet tea with stewed fruits” on the nose, and “rich hay notes and creamy apples” upon tasting.

Slyrs Single Malt Whisky Fifty One also secured Gold, enjoyed for its “slightly savoury and sweet, soft palate” and “good balance”.

Welsh whisky producer Penderyn cleaned up with seven Gold medals, including Penderyn Madeira, which had notes of “almond, lemon, vanilla and Bourbon”. Goggin said: “This had good fruit initially, nice oil on the palate – like a malty milkshake.”

The flight closed with nine Silver medals, including Penderyn Royal Welsh and Filey Bay Flagship – Yorkshire Single Malt Whisky.

Cummins noted: “Distillers are using what they’ve got in the local area, fruit wines to finish whiskies instead of heavy Sherry. There’s real promise here.”

Goggin agreed, but believed the best is still to come. He added: “The issue with European whisky is they have great understanding of distillation, access to good casks from France and Spain, but they haven’t got the time yet. Time is their restriction, it’s still a very young category. In five to 10 years’ time, we will start drinking whisky that is incredible.”

HONEY AND VANILLA

In the Europe (excluding Ireland and Scotland) – Single Grain heat, a Gold medallist was celebrated in the form of Stará Myslivecká Single Barrel. On the palate, the whisky had a “syrupy texture with notes of honey and vanilla, and warm baked apples”, enhanced by “dried red berries”.

Taylor said: “I want to see more single grains coming from Europe. This is a really interesting whisky, and with the diversity we already have we’ll hopefully have a good range of styles emerging.”

Bearface Whisky Elementally Aged Triple Oak secured a Silver medal in the Canada – Premium heat, which assessed whiskies within the £26‐£40 (US$36‐US$55) price bracket.

Two Gold medals were delivered in the South America flight, both to whiskies made by Lamas Destilaria. The producer’s Caburé received a Gold for its “creamy and soft” palate with flavours of “delicate vanilla and honey, a hint of coconut with white chocolate”.

The distiller’s Verus also received a Gold award for its “biscuit and caramel” nose, and “really woody and creamy” palate. Lamas Destilaria also secured a Silver medal for Amburana in this flight.

Moving onto Mexico, and Abasolo took home a Gold medal. The nose presented “orange blossom and oatcakes” leading to “fruity notes, with hints of marzipan and green wood” on the palate. Taylor said the whisky was an example of a “good spirit” and was “genuinely interesting”.

Roddis said of the flight: “This was a really pleasant surprise.” It was clear the judges were left feeling excited about Mexican whisky. “With this being just a first release, the future could be very bright for Mexican whisky,” added Abbott.

After Mexico, it was time to take a look at blended whiskies from India – but the category left much to be desired. A respectable Silver medal, however, was awarded to Allied Blenders and Distillers for its Sterling Reserve Blend 10. “It was an easy‐drinking whisky, you could have it with a lot of ice and with soda, or in a cocktail,” said Fichtner. “It has some fruits, liquorice and bready notes as well.”

Our tasting included a whisky from Mexico

DELICATE NOSE

The final region to be assessed was Japan, beginning with a flight of blended whiskies. Fraternity Spirits and Yoshino Spirits both picked up Gold medals.

Fraternity’s Nobushi Japanese Whisky received a Gold medal for its “lovely and delicate nose with a mix of sweet toffee, baking spices and sultanas”, and “elegant cereals, honey and coconut” flavours on the palate.

Yoshino’s Kamiki Sakura Wood Whisky was deemed worthy of a Gold award because of its “caramel and manuka honey” aromas, and “earthy malt and Fruit ’n’ Nut chocolate” taste. Hatozaki Pure Malt by Kaikyo Distillery completed the round with a Silver.

In the final flight of the day, Japan – Single Grain, a Gold medal was awarded to Nobushi Single Grain Japanese Whisky. With its “floral, grassy” nose, tasting notes also included “white chocolate and cereals” and “late hints of gingerbread”.

The judges were then asked to pick the ‘best in class’ from the day’s Master medallists – The World Whisky Taste Master 2021. Taking the coveted award was Taiwanese whisky Kavalan Solist PX Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky.

Fichtner reflected on the day’s tasting: “It was interesting to see each category creating something different; you could really tell producers were trying to make their own styles.

“If I had to pick, I’d say Asia was the standout for me; it had real intensity, lots of flavours going on, balance – everything was there. It was extremely impressive.”

Click through to the following page for the full list of winners from The World Whisky Masters. 

Asia (excluding Japan and India) – Single Malt

Company Product  Medal
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist PX Sherry Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Master & Taste Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang French
Wine Cask Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Oloroso Sherry Oak Single Malt Whisky Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Virgin
Oak Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Peated Malt
Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery King Car 40th Anniversary Selected Wine
Cask Matured Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Single Cask
Strength Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Sky Gold Wine Cask Matured
Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Master

 

Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish
Single Malt Whisky
Master
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength
Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Brandy Single Cask Strength\

Single Malt Whisky

Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Distillery Reserve Rum Cask
Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Puncheon
Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist (Oloroso) Sherry Single Cask
Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan ex‐Bourbon Oak Single Malt Whisky Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Distillery Reserve Peaty Cask Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Amontillado Sherry Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Madeira Single Cask Strength
Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Earth Silver Wine Cask Matured
Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Moscatel Sherry Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist Manzanilla Sherry Single
Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Distillery Select No.2 Single Malt Whisky Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Podium Single Malt Whisky Gold
Kavalan Distillery King Car Conductor Single Malt Whisky Gold
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Solist ex‐Bourbon Single Cask
Strength Single Malt Whisky
Silver
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Distillery Select No.1 Single Malt Whisky Silver
Kavalan Distillery Kavalan Concertmaster Sherry Cask Finish
Single Malt Whisky
Silver

Australia: Blended

Company Product  Medal
Edgemill Group Bond 7 Australian Blended Whisky Silver

Australia: Single Malt

Company Product  Medal
Copper and Grain Distilling Co Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky
Muscat Barrel 48%
Master
Starward Unexpeated Master
Copper and Grain Distilling Co Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky
Muscat Barrel 46%
Gold
Copper and Grain Distilling Co Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature 40% Gold
Copper and Grain Distilling Co Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature 44% Gold
Starward Ginger Beer Cask #6 Gold
Starward Starward Dolce Gold
Starward Starward Fortis Gold
Starward Starward Two‐Fold Gold
Starward Starward Nova Gold
Starward Starward Solera Gold
Starward Starward Left‐Field Gold

Europe (excluding Ireland and Scotland): Blended

Company Product  Medal
Bellevoye Bellevoye Vert Gold
Forest Distillery Forest Whisky Gold
Bellevoye Bellevoye Bleu Silver
Lefort Augustin Lefort Silver
Palirna U Zeleneho stromu(Green Tree Distillery) Old Hunter’s Selection Silver

Europe (excluding Ireland and Scotland): Single Malt

Company Product  Medal
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery Filey Bay Single Cask – Fino Sherry Cask #669 Master
Bimber Distillery Re‐charred Single Cask #143 Gold
Mosgaard Whisky Oloroso Cask Gold
Mosgaard Whisky Pedro Ximenez Cask Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Rhiannon Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Peated Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Rich Oak Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Sherrywood Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Portwood Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Madeira Gold
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Myth Gold
Slyrs Destillerie Slyrs Single Malt Whisky Fifty One Gold
Slyrs Destillerie Slyrs Single Malt Whisky Classic Gold
Slyrs Destillerie Slyrs Single Malt Whisky Aged 12 Years Gold
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery Filey Bay Sherry Cask Reserve #1 – Gold

Yorkshire Single Malt Whisky

Gold
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery Filey Bay STR Finish ‐ Yorkshire Single Malt Whisky Gold
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery Filey Bay Moscatel Finish ‐ Yorkshire Single Malt Whisky Gold
The Cotswolds Distillery Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky Gold
Bimber Distillery Oloroso Cask Small Batch 004 Silver
Mosgaard Whisky Port Wine Cask Silver
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Celt Silver
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Legend Silver
Penderyn Distillery Penderyn Royal Welsh Silver
Slyrs Destillerie Slyrs Single Malt Whisky Rum Cask Finish Silver
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery Filey Bay Flagship – Yorkshire Single Malt Whisky Silver
The Cotswolds Distillery Hearts & Crafts Pineau Des Charentes Cask Single Malt Whisky Silver
Wire Works Whisky Single Malt English Whisky Silver

Europe (excluding Ireland and Scotland): Single Grain

Company Product  Medal
Palirna U Zeleneho Stromu (Green Tree Distillery) Stará Myslivecká Single Barrel Gold

Canada – Premium

Company Product  Medal
Bearface Spirits Bearface Whisky Elementally Aged Triple Oak Silver

South America

Company Product  Medal
Lamas Destilaria Caburé Gold
Lamas Destilaria Verus Gold
Lamas Destilaria Amburana Silver

Mexico

Company Product  Medal
Casa Lumbre Abasolo Gold

India: Blended

Company Product  Medal
Allied Blenders and Distillers Sterling Reserve Blend 10 Silver

Japan: Blended

Company Product  Medal
Fraternity Spirits Nobushi Japanese Whisky Gold
Yoshino Spirits Co Kamiki Sakura Wood Whisky Gold
Kaikyo Distillery Hatozaki Pure Malt Silver

Japan: Single Grain

Company Product  Medal
Fraternity Spirits Nobushi Single Grain Japanese Whisky Gold

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