The Luxury Masters 2022 results
With financial belts being tightened the world over, when buying a top-end spirit consumers need to be certain they have made the right choice. Our Luxury Masters competition steers you in the right direction.
‘Drink less, but better’ is a message that is undeniably resonating with consumers. But as living costs spiral around the world, it is becoming increasingly important for brands to give imbibers sound reasons to spend their hard‐earned cash on their products. But how do you determine which spirits offer substance, and not just style? That’s where the annual Luxury Spirits Masters comes into play.
The aim of the day’s tasting was to determine whether each entry, in its respective super‐premium or ultra‐premium price bracket, was deserving of its price tag.
Two panels of expert tasters were called upon to assess this year’s eclectic entries. Forming the first panel were: Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols; Anthony Callegari, Edition Hotel London bars manager; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters.
The second team comprised: David T Smith, spirits consultant, writer and co‐founder of the Craft Distilling Expo; Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at Sexy Fish in London; Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks; and Matt Chambers, co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and the North London Whisky Club, who chaired the panel.
In the opening Vodka – Super Premium flight, which looked at expressions priced between £21 and £30, Monk Isidore Russian Vodka secured a Gold medal. The judges liked the “creamy nose of vanilla and some lemon”, leading to “some stone fruit” on the palate.
In the Vodka – Ultra Premium round that followed, vodkas priced at £31 and above were put to the taste test. The first Master of the day was awarded to Eight Lands Vodka, celebrated for its “lovely malty and chocolate nose”. The palate was described as being “creamy, sweet, with delicate spices and hints of white chocolate, and something slightly herbal in the background”.
Three Gold medals were awarded to: “elegant, creamy” Pur Sang Standard; “fresh and vibrant” Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020; and Titanic Distillers Premium Irish Vodka, which offered “a lovely creamy mouthfeel with delicate sweetness and cereals”. A Silver medal went to Pur Sang Select.
“What a start,” enthused Chambers. “A strong flight with some extremely impressive products.” Smith said how some entries were “exceptional”, but also noted: “You don’t always get what you pay for.”
Moving on to Gin – Super Premium, the judges looked at bottlings priced within the £21‐£35 price range. Tiger Gin grabbed a solid Silver medal for being “expressive and tasty” with “underlying earthy botanicals”.
In the ultra‐premium price bracket, three gins were found to be worth every penny of their £36‐and‐above price tags. Three Master medals were awarded to Silent Pool Gin, Tulchan Gin, and Eight Lands Gin.
Silent Pool Gin was enjoyed for “bold juniper” on the palate, “with some dark cocoa bitterness, and nice citrus notes to balance”. Tulchan Gin had a “lovely aroma, with citrus and lychees”. The texture was described as “mouth‐coating and luxurious, with slight floral and herbaceous notes on the palate”. Eight Lands Gin had a “lovely bright, classic juniper aroma” with “fruity red berries” on the palate and “some sweet lemon citrus”.
Three Gold medals were also awarded in this flight to: “oily, citrus, and juniper‐ forward” Seatrus Gin Acqua di Mare; “bold and punchy” Classic 65; and “earthy, luxurious” Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin.
Rodriguez said: “The quality at the moment in this top‐end price category is superb. The quality from producers is phenomenal, and what I’m seeing in my job is that people are happy to pay over £50, £80 and sometimes three figures for really good‐quality gins.”
The tasting then moved onto brown spirits, starting with a flight of Cognac VS – Super Premium (£31‐£50). Courvoisier VS took home a Master award for notes of “peach, strawberry and plum” alongside “woody balanced sweetness”. “A drizzle of crème brûlée – superb,” remarked Smith.
Courvoisier scooped another Master medal in the Cognac VSOP – Super Premium (£51‐ £70) flight. The brand’s VSOP expression was hailed for being full of “blackberry and raspberry, accessible, fun and a bit special”.
In the Cognac XO – Ultra Premium heat (£101‐plus), Gold‐medal‐winning Courvoisier XO was enjoyed for its “multi‐layered” flavours, and notes of “caramel, dried fruits, delicate spice and oak”. Prousaefs commented: “An excellent flight showcasing the high standards of the category.”
After completing the French spirits, Scotland’s best bottlings were presented to the panels. In the first flight, Scotch Whisky: Blended – Super Premium (£31‐£50), two Golds were found. Old Parr 12 Years Old was found to have hints of “fresh tobacco, caramelised hazelnuts and woody spice”, while Coachbuilt Whisky was described as having a “rich nose” leading to “caramel and malted bread” on the palate.
In a flight of Scotch Whisky: Blended – Ultra Premium (£51‐plus), a Master medal was awarded to The Sassenach. Rodriguez liked the “playful nature” of this whisky, which had notes of “ripe green apple, honey blossom, and a silky‐smooth palate”. “What I found fascinating was this kept delivering more flavour as you continued tasting it,” he noted. “It showed how good blended whiskies can be; a good blended whisky is worth its money.” A Gold medal was also given to Old Parr 18 Years Old in this flight, which was found to be a “classic blend with some interesting rum‐like notes”.
The Scotch Whisky: Single Malt – Super Premium (£51‐£99) heat produced three more Master medallists. Talisker Surge was one of them, impressing with its “fruity nose – apricots and a whisper of unripe banana”, leading to “light smoke, balanced with fruitiness” on the palate.
The Glenturret 7 Years Old Peat Smoke also secured a Master medal for its “very silky texture” with flavours of “dried currants, caramel and smouldering smoke”.
Fellow Master winner The Glenturret 15 Years Old offered a “lovely resinous quality” on the palate, with “warming spice, medjool dates and gingerbread”. “Super complex and balanced – very delicious,” the judges agreed. Two Gold awards were handed to The Glenturret 12 Years Old and The Glenturret 10 Years Old Peat Smoked.
The high standard of entries continued into the Scotch Whisky: Single Malt – Ultra Premium (£100‐plus) round. Another trio of Master medallists were celebrated. The Glenmorangie Company netted two Masters, including one for Ardbeg 25 Years Old. The whisky had “mushroom notes on the nose; spicy, sweet and tangy on the palate”. Prousaefs added: “Excellent mouthfeel and aftertaste for the high ABV.”
Master winner Glenmorangie The Signet also impressed, with “cocoa and mocha coffee” on the nose. The palate brought “a hint of dried fruit and wood spice” to give a “rounded and silky” whisky.
Diageo’s The Singleton of Dufftown 21 Years Old was the third Master winner in this heat. It was liked for its “elegant and velvety” palate, which Chambers said was “vibrant with fruits, multi‐layered spices, a late hit of tropical fruit, earthy and woody backbone”.
Two Gold medals were awarded to The Dalmore 21 Years Old and The Dalmore 18 Years Old, while Ardbeg 19 Years Old Traigh Bhan – Batch 4 picked up a Silver medal.
Athavia said she particularly enjoyed the whiskies that were “subtle, yet complex” in the Scotch whisky flights.
Bushmills made a lasting impression in the Irish Whiskey: Single Malt – Ultra Premium (£91‐plus) heat, walking away with a Master and two Gold medals. The top accolade was presented to Bushmills Irish Whiskey Causeway Collection 2000 Port Cask. Chambers noted the whiskey’s “delicious, elegant and luxurious nose”. Tasting notes included “tropical fruit and cereals, background red fruit and chocolate”. Chambers added: “Quite exquisite and well balanced, even better with water, lovely caramelised tropical fruit.”
A Master medal was also awarded to Lambay Single Malt 20 Years Old – Castle Prestige Edition, which had a “rich nose with lots of fruit and honeyed sweetness”. The palate delivered “bold spice and cooling caramel on the finish, with some dark chocolate and dried currants”.
The American whiskey flights got off to a strong start. In the Bourbon – Super Premium (£31‐£50) heat, Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon secured a Master medal for being “a steal for under £50”. Tasting notes included “dates, dried fruits and vanilla sweetness – overall, wonderfully complex”. Truth Teller 1839 was awarded a Gold medal for being “approachable and greatly balanced”.
In the following flight, which looked at Bourbons priced at £51 and above, Sometimes Y secured a Master award. The judges liked the Bourbon’s “intriguingly fruity nose” and “delicious resinous quality, dried fruits and warming spice”.
Remus Repeal Reserve Series V also secured the top Master accolade for being “an exceptional Bourbon”, with “candied orange, cinnamon buns, dates, stewed apple and dryness for added complexity”. Rodriguez noted about the entry: “This is everything you want from a top‐end Bourbon, it is absolutely brilliant. It’s so powerful: the Mouton Rothschild of the Bourbon world.”
In the American Whiskey: Tennessee – Super Premium contingent, which looked at whiskeys priced from £31 to £50, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey collected two Gold medals. One was awarded to “spicy but sweet” Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey, and the second was given to “luxuriously textured, complex” Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey.
Uncle Nearest nabbed a Master award in the following ultra‐premium flight for Uncle Nearest Master Blender Edition Batch 012. The judges were full of praise for the whiskey’s “nuttiness, oiliness” and notes of “dark cocoa and fruity sweetness”.
Single malt is an up‐and‐coming category in American whiskey, and Bear Fight by Next Century Spirits secured a Gold medal in the super‐premium price range. The whiskey was liked for its “bright apple notes, brioche sweetness and fruitiness on the finish”.
Super‐premium‐priced world whiskies were put to the test next, with a Gold awarded to “golden syrup, spicy” Canadian whisky Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve, and a Silver given to stablemate Forty Creek Barrel Select.
In the ultra‐premium world whisky category those priced at £51 and above, a Master medal was awarded to Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Tokay Barrel. The entry was found to be “punchy on the palate” with “red juicy fruits and red wine‐like tannins”.
Four Gold medals were awarded in this heat, including one to 23rd Street Distillery Australian Single Malt Whisky, which had a “funky and sweet palate” that “starts savoury then moves to caramel sweetness”.
A Silver medal for Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature concluded the flight.
Diamond Rock’s Master result got the rum portion of the tasting off to a flying start. The medal winner, produced by Distillerie Rhum A1710, had “lovely sweet vegetal aromas, green mango” and a “sweet, spicy and slightly salty palate”.
“Unmistakably agricole” Renaissance rum, also from Distillerie Rhum A1710, collected a Gold medal in the Rum: White – Ultra Premium (£31‐plus) heat.
A Gold medal was given to Takamaka’s Pti Lakaz in the Rum: Gold – Ultra Premium (£41‐plus) round for its “good balance of fruitiness and spice”.
Santa Teresa 1796 was awarded a Gold medal in the Rum: Dark – Super Premium (£26‐£40) flight for being “great value for the price”, with some “tannin‐like qualities” on the finish.
Four Gold medals made for a solid Rum: Dark – Ultra Premium (£41‐plus) flight, two of which were awarded to “balanced and delicious” Zacapa XO and Zacapa 23.
In the final rum flight, an ultra‐premium spiced rum secured a Gold medal: Welsh Witch. The rum was described as “very consumer‐friendly with solid overall balance”.
From there, it was time to focus on agave‐based spirits, starting with an ultra‐premium flight of blanco Tequila. Tequila Exotico Blanco received a Gold medal, described as “superbly fresh and green on the nose”.
In the Tequila: Añejo – Ultra Premium heat, two Gold medals were awarded to “deliciously earthy and spicy” El Mayor Tequila Añejo and “elegant and vibrant” Tequila Aman El Profesor Añejo.
One ultra‐premium mezcal really impressed the experts, bagging a coveted Master award. Agáveme Tepextate was hailed for being “hugely expressive on the nose”. Chambers picked out notes of “green capsicum, a hint of peppermint with a hint of peppery spice”. Athavia noted “great complexity” in the agave‐based categories.
Moving onto sweeter spirits, and super‐ premium liqueur Tobago Gold grabbed the Master award. Athavia found this to be “super nostalgic, with so much milk malt – delicious”. In addition, Lemon Brothers’ Limoncello collected a Gold medal in the ultra‐premium liqueur heat, thanks to its “great concentration of flavour”.
The tasting then moved to Pre‐Mixed/RTD – Ultra Premium expressions, where a Gold medal was bestowed upon Mirror Margarita Tequila. “Slightly on the sweet side, but the agave flavours come out exceptionally, with the lime not overpowering,” said Prousaefs. Stablemate Mirror Margarita Mezcal won a Silver medal.
In the super‐premium tonic and mixer heat, two Gold medals were awarded, to “dry but expressive” Wildleaf Lumière Tonic, and Wildleaf North African Tonic, which used “citrus to complement the dryness of the quinine”.
In the final flight of the day’s tasting, Low/No, three Gold medals and four Silver awards were discovered. The Gold medals were awarded to “aromatic, herbaceous” JNPR No.2, “perfumed” Clovendoe Stem 24, and Clovendoe Sprout 24, which had some “citrus peel” on the palate.
One more tasting task faced the judges: deciding The Luxury Taste Master 2022. After retasting fresh samples of the Master medallists, the judges’ votes were counted and verified, and the result was that Ardbeg 25 Years Old came away as the deserving Taste Master.
Talking about the overall standard of entries in the competition, Rodriguez said: “There was a lot to unpack here, and some exceptionally well‐made liquids.
“Some of these spirits were really deserving of their price tags, with really comforting flavours and great complexity. “There were some brilliant liquids here that I’d be happy to recommend to people.”
Vodka – Super Premium (£21‐£30)
|Monk Isidore Spirits||Monk Isidore Russian Vodka||Gold|
Vodka – Ultra Premium (£31+)
|Eight Lands Organic Spirits||Eight Lands Vodka||Master|
|Pur Sang Vodka||Pur Sang Standard||Gold|
|Royal Mash||Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020||Gold|
|Titanic Distillers||Titanic Distillers Premium Irish Vodka||Gold|
|Pur Sang Vodka||Pur Sang Select||Silver|
Gin – Super Premium (£21‐£35)
|Tiger Gin||Tiger Gin||Silver|
Gin – Ultra Premium (£36+)
|Silent Pool Distillers||Silent Pool Gin||Master|
|Stoli Group||Tulchan Gin||Master|
|Eight Lands Gin||Eight Lands Gin||Master|
|Sea Spirits Trade||Seatrus Gin Acqua di Mare||Gold|
|Silent Pool Distillers||Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin||Gold|
Cognac – VS – Super Premium (£31‐£50)
Cognac – VSOP – Super Premium (£51‐£70)
Cognac – XO – Ultra Premium (£101+)
Scotch Whisky – Blended – Super Premium (£31‐£50)
|Diageo||Old Parr 12 Year Old||Gold|
|Coachbuilt Whisky||Coachbuilt Whisky||Gold|
Scotch Whisky – Blended – Ultra Premium (£51+)
|Sassenach Spirits||The Sassenach||Master|
|Diageo||Old Parr 18 Year Old||Gold|
Scotch Whisky – Single Malt – Super Premium (£51-£99)
|The Glenturret||7 Year Old Peat Smoked||Master|
|The Glenturret||15 Year Old||Master|
|The Glenturret||12 Year Old||Gold|
|The Glenturret||10 Year Old Peat Smoked||Gold|
Scotch Whisky – Single Malt – Ultra Premium (£100+)
|The Glenmorangie Company||Ardbeg 25 Year Old||Master & Taste Master|
|The Glenmorangie Company||Glenmorangie The Signet||Master|
|Diageo||The Singleton of Dufftown 21 Year Old||Master|
|Whyte and Mackay||The Dalmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky – 21 Year Old||Gold|
|Whyte and Mackay||The Dalmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky – 18 Year Old||Gold|
|The Glenmorangie Company||Ardbeg 19 Years Old Traigh Bhan – Batch 4||Silver|
Irish Whiskey – Single Malt – Ultra Premium (£91+)
|Bushmills Irish Whiskey||Bushmills Irish Whiskey Causeway Collection 2000 Port Cask||Master|
|Lambay Irish Whiskey||Lambay Single Malt 20 Year Old – Castle Prestige Edition||Master|
|Bushmills Irish Whiskey||Bushmills Irish Whiskey Causeway Collection Rum Cask 1997||Gold|
|Bushmills Irish Whiskey||Bushmills Irish Whiskey Causeway Collection 1991 Madeira||Gold|
American Whiskey – Bourbon – Super Premium (£31‐£50)
|Luxco||Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon||Master|
|Next Century Spirits||Truth Teller 1839||Gold|
American Whiskey – Bourbon – Ultra Premium (£51+)
|Next Century Spirits||Sometimes Y||Master|
|Luxco||Remus Repeal Reserve Series V Straight Bourbon Whiskey||Master|
American Whiskey – Tennessee – Super Premium (£31-£50)
|Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey||Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey||Gold|
|Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey||Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey||Gold|
American Whiskey – Tennessee – Ultra Premium (£51+)
|Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey||Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition Batch 012||Master|
American Whiskey – Single Malt – Super Premium (£31‐£50)
|Next Century Spirits||Bear Fight||Gold|
World Whisky – Super Premium (£36‐£50)
|Campari Group||Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve Whisky||Gold|
|Campari Group||Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky||Silver|
World Whisky – Ultra Premium (£51+)
|Copper and Grain Distilling Co||Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Tokay Barrel 48% ABV||Master|
|Copper and Grain Distilling Co||Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature 44% ABV||Gold|
|23rd Street Distillery||23rd Street Distillery Australian Single Malt Whisky||Gold|
|Copper and Grain Distilling Co||Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Muscat Barrel 48% ABV||Gold|
|Copper and Grain Distilling Co||Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Muscat Barrel 46% ABV||Gold|
|Copper and Grain Distilling Co||Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature 40% ABV||Silver|
Rum – White – Super Premium (£25‐£30)
|Distillerie Rhum A1710||Diamond Rock||Master|
Rum – White – Ultra Premium (£31+)
|Distillerie Rhum A1710||Renaissance||Gold|
Rum – Gold – Ultra Premium (£41+)
Rum – Dark – Super Premium (£26‐£40)
|Ron Santa Teresa||Santa Teresa 1796||Gold|
Rum – Dark – Ultra Premium (£41+)
|Central de Licores Unidos De Venezuela||Ron Ultra Añejo Caballo Viejo||Gold|
|Central de Licores Unidos De Venezuela||Ron Reserva Especial Barrica 120 Don Sulbaran||Gold|
Rum – Spiced – Ultra Premium (£31+)
|Wild Moon||Welsh Witch Rum||Gold|
Tequila – Blanco – Ultra Premium (£31+)
|Luxco||Tequila Exotico Blanco||Gold|
Tequila – Añejo – Ultra Premium (£41+)
|Luxco||El Mayor Tequila Añejo||Gold|
|Aman Spirits||Tequila Aman El Profesor Añejo||Gold|
Mezcal – Mezcal – Ultra Premium (£31+)
|Producción, Destilación, y Comercialización De Agave Segah||Agáveme Tepextate||Master|
Liqueurs – Super Premium (£21‐£30)
|Tobago Gold||Tobago Gold||Master|
Liqueurs – Ultra Premium (£31+)
Pre‐mixed/RTD – Ultra Premium (£15+)
|Mirror Margarita||Mirror Margarita Tequila||Gold|
|Mirror Margarita||Mirror Margarita Mezcal||Silver|
Tonic/Mixer – Super Premium (£26 per case of 24)
|Wildleaf Drinks||Wildleaf Lumière Tonic||Gold|
|Wildleaf Drinks||Wildleaf North African Tonic||Gold|
Low/No – Ultra Premium (£26+)
|JNPR Spirits||JNPR No.2||Gold|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Stem 24||Gold|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Sprout 24||Gold|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Seed Zero||Silver|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Stem Zero||Silver|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Sprout Zero||Silver|
|Clovendoe Distilling Company||Clovendoe Seed 24||Silver|