Ten award-winning spirits for springBy Georgie Collins
There was no shortage of outstanding spirits in the second annual Spring Blind Tasting event hosted by us at The Spirits Business in partnership with our sister title the drinks business in February.
This year’s tasting glasses were lined up at London’s extraordinary DC-comics-themed bar, Park Row, ready for a team of experts to assess the quality of these new and innovative entrants.
This year’s judges included Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business; Dimitrios Gryparis, the host venue’s head of bars; independent drinks consultant Ivan Dixon; Alan Uresti, head of agave spirits at Annabel’s in London; and freelance spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog, Bernadette Pamplin.
Read on to discover spirit brands that came away with top awards from February’s tasting.
Royal Mash Vintage Vodka
Price: £37 (US $48.21) for 700ml
The only vodka to scoop an award in this year’s tasting, and what a vodka it is. With a “lemon drop sweetness” and some enjoyable citrus notes, the judges awarded this ultra-premium vodka, made from some of the world’s finest potatoes from Jersey, a Gold medal during the tasting.
Royal Mash Vintage vodka is bottled at 40% ABV.
Highclere Castle Gin
Price: £34.99 (US $45.59) for 700ml
Lauded by one of our judges for its “fruity nose with berries, a little bit of sweetness, and good texture”, this gin was the first spirit to be awarded a Master medal in the day of tasting.
Made using botanicals sourced from the English gardens of the famous Berkshire-based Highclere estate, it would seem like the iconic castle is now rightly becoming known for more than just the setting for BBC dramas.
Highclere Castle Gin is bottled at 43.3% ABV, and the owners recently launched a multi-million-dollar crowdfunding campaign to boost their namesake gin globally.
Takamaka Blanc Rum
Price £23.45 (US $30.67) for 700ml
Transporting you to the white sand beaches of the Seychelles, Takamaka’s creamy white expression, Rum Blanc, was awarded a Gold medal for its “light tropical aromas”.
Those looking to shake up some classically tropical cocktails should look no further than this no-nonsense rum; the perfect base for a Piña Colada or classic Daiquiri.
The brand also walked away with a Gold medal for their Takamaka Dark Spiced rum. Both are bottled at 38% ABV.
Last month, Takamaka announced they are working with sustainable packaging creator Ecospirits to bring a closed-loop spirits distribution system to the Seychelles.
Lost Years Navy Strength Gold Rum
Price £35.95 (US $46.84) for 700ml
Despite its hefty ABV, this sea-turtle-saving distillery’s Navy Strength expression was praised for its “bright and tropical palate, with pineapple, papaya”, and was subsequently presented with a Gold medal.
This Jamaican rum presented the natural sweetness of molasses, and the higher alcohol level offers a pleasantly smooth tingle rather an aggressive punch; like stepping off a plane in the Caribbean to a warm, inviting breeze.
Lost Year’s Navy Strength Rum is bottled at 54.5% ABV.
Nc’nean Organic Single Malt
Price £47.95 (US $62.48) for 700ml
It was a Gold medal presented to this non-chill-filtered single malt whisky from the west coast of Scotland.
This young distillery has already made quite an impact on the whisky industry as a pioneer of sustainability. However, it is, of course, the liquid bottled in the 100% recycled clear glass that was judged in our blind tasting. The judges were impressed by the “floral and bright” notes they picked up from this organic Scotch, which the Nc’nean team recommend serving with soda water for a refreshing Highball.
Nc’Nean Organic Single Malt is bottled at 46% ABV. We recently interviewed Nc’nean’s founder, Annabel Thomas to talk about her trailblazing whisky and the future of sustainability in whisky production.
McConnell’s Irish Whisky
Price £28.86 (US $37.61) for 700ml
As the contest travelled from Scotland across the Irish Sea, we found another well-deserved Master medal winner, this time a blend from McConnell’s Irish Whisky, a Belfast distillery that has controversially decided to drop the ‘e’ from its spirit title.
However, it was not the spelling of this whisky that made it stand out to our judges. The compliments came in thick and fast for the liquid’s approachability and ease of drinking. A perfect bottle for those looking to expand their horizons in the blended category, with “a nose of butterscotch and malty notes” and “some lovely caramel character”.
McConnell’s Irish Whisky is bottled at 42% ABV. The Belfast Distillery company was awarded its long awaited planning approval to build a £25 million (US$34.7m) whiskey distillery last year.
Uncle Nearest 1820 Premium Single Barrel Whiskey – US-53
Price £92.10 (US $120) for 750ml
With only 1% of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey barrels selected as single barrels, it is perhaps not a surprise that this particular bottle walked away with a Master medal at this year’s tasting. This is a special whiskey.
This exclusive and rare bottling contained a liquid with “beautiful honey and cream around the palate” with red fruit notes and cigar smoke on the finish. Bottled at cask strength, the Single Barrel whiskies from Uncle Nearest have all been aged for a minimum for 11 years.
The brand was also awarded a Master medal for its Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition, and Gold medals for the Uncle Nearest 1884 Premium Small Batch Whiskey and Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey. The brand named Mangrove UK as its distribution partner in January this year.
Aber Falls 2021 Single Malt Welsh Whisky
Price £28 (US $36.48) for 700ml
From the first whisky distillery in North Wales in more than 100 years comes another Master medal winner. The Aber Falls single malt wowed our judges with its softness and “luscious tropical notes of bananas”.
We’re excited to see what else is to come from this young distillery, which sits at the foot of the famous Aber Falls waterfall that acts as the gateway of the beautiful Snowdonia national park. What we do know is they will continue to do Wales very proud.
Aber Falls Single Malt is bottled at 40% ABV. The brand began rolling out its single malt whiskies internationally last month.
Everleaf Mountain and Everleaf Forest
Price £19 (US $24.76) for 500ml
The low-and-no category was the dark horse category of February’s blind tasting, racking up an impressive 21 Gold medals, and six Master medals – two of which found themselves in the hands of Everleaf, for its Forest and Mountain expressions, pictured above.
The latter was lauded for its “incredible smell and flavour” which was described as “complex and interesting with a lovely floral element that is quite balanced with its sweetness. Rich with lots of delicious jammy notes to get into.” The perfect base for a Spritz now that Spring is in full swing.
Everleaf’s third expression, Everleaf Marine, was awarded a Silver medal. The brand also took away multiple awards at The Low and No Masters in January.