Top 10 award-winning world whiskies
From the Northern Hemisphere to the South, and from continent to continent, these 10 award-winning world whiskies found in our annual blind tasting of the category are the next best thing to an around-the-world plane ticket.
Whiskies from around the world are making waves, with producers from the old world to the new gaining acclaim for their high-quality and innovative products. To assess the quality of this increasingly popular category of whisky, we staged the latest edition of our World Whisky Masters to bestow medals upon whiskies made outside of Ireland, Scotland and the US.
Judges gathered at the Ibis Styles hotel in London’s Southwark to decide the medallists. The competition was held alongside The American Whiskey Masters and The Irish Whiskey Masters. Entries were shipped and packed by Sensible Wines.
The first panel was chaired by Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business. She was joined by: Michael Fichtner, whisky sommelier at The Coburg Bar at The Connaught; Herchelle Perez Terrado, director of Drinks Partnership; and Chris Tanner, general manager of Silverleaf bar in London.
Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog chaired the next panel. It included: Derek Millar, retired whisky sales advisor; Angelo Sparvoli, head bartender at St James Bar at the Sofitel St James in London; and Marie Cheong-Thong, wine and spirits judge, and a Wine and Spirit Education Trust educator.
The third panel, chaired by Billy Abbott, ambassador at The Whisky Exchange, included: Caroline Roddis, editor of The Whisky Exchange; and drinks consultant Stephen Kennard, of SMJK Consulting.
The fourth group comprised: Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of the panel; Nicola Thomson, director of Practical Matters; Toshio Ueno, vice-president and executive instructor at Sake School of America; and Sara Jane Eichler, founder of Negroni Club UK.
Keep reading to learn about 10 world whiskies that scooped the top awards and left a lasting impression on our judges.
Starward Tawny #2
This is the second iteration of the Melbourne distillers’ Tawny Cask release, fully matured in fresh and charred Tawny fortified wine barrels. Its bold, its daring and it’s a great example of Starward’s new-age approach to whisky.
Starward has been no stranger to winning awards this year. Not only did this Australian whisky gain itself a Master medal for its notes of “vanilla cupcake on the nose, smooth and well balanced, dark fruits and layers of spice,” but the judges decided that this standout expression was also worthy of the top title of Taste Master.
Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky
This Gold medal winner has had quite the journey since its distillation, spending two-thirds of its life in American oak Bourbon barrels before spending the last third in European oak Sherry casks. The result is “crisp and refreshing” notes with hints of “pear, green apple and mandarin orange”, as picked up by our judges.
Lark Chinotto Cask II Cask Strength
Another Master-winning whisky from down under, Lark’s Chinotto Cask II impressed Chambers with its “herbal and bitter orange aroma”, noting its “golden syrup underneath, milk chocolate and bitter orange/grapefruit on the palate, hint of coffee and syrupy mouthfeel.”
This experimental single malt has been created using Highland peat, and aged in casks liberally seasoned with the distillery’s own handcrafted Coal Valley Chinotto. Despite clocking in at a weighty 49% ABV, our judges were also very impressed with how well the alcohol was integrated. Fans of jaffa cakes will enjoy this dram.
Lark Distillery also took home multiple awards from the 2022 edition of The Spirits Business Awards.
Filey Bay Peated Finish Batch #2
One of the brands flying the flag for English whisky in our blind tasting was the Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery, who scooped several medals, including a Master for the second batch of its peated finish single malt.
This whisky offers a touch more smoke that the initial batch, but still keeps a softness. Ultimately the medal was awarded for its notes of “toasty smoke and toasted oak” alongside “root vegetable and dark chocolate”. The judges also noted that it is “zesty at the same time with a balanced finish”.
Wire Works Small Batch
Sticking to England but this time landing in the Peak District, Wire Works Small Batch also took home a Master medal. Aged in a combination of ex-Bourbon and STR casks, this 47.7% ABV release is lightly peated and non-chill filtered.
Produced at the White Peak Distillery in Derbyshire, it gained the top award for “crème brûlée on the nose, marshmallows, but not overly sweet” with “maltiness coming through on the palate, and a slightly herbal quality”.
Stauning Rye whisky
Denmark’s Stauning Rye Whisky came out with a Gold medal at our blind tasting, after being praised by Abbott for its “solidly spicy nose – gingerbread, spiced biscuits and a load of green leaves” and “rye-forward palate with layers of chocolate, mint and grass”.
This whisky is produced from malted Danish rye and barley, and is entirely floor-malted at the distillery. Open-fire stills are used before new American oak barrels do the long-term hosting of the spirit. It gives ‘rye bread fresh out of the oven’ vibes.
Whistlepig 15 Years Estate Oak Rye
It is sometimes said that the team at Whistlepig in Vermont are the leaders in the rye whiskey category, and the two Gold medals the brand took home seem to attest to that.
Made with predominantly Canadian rye, Whistlepig 15 Years Estate Oak Rye made quite the impression on our judges, thanks to its offering of a “nice creaminess on the palate, a little white pepper heat and caramelised hazelnuts.” It was also praised for having a “nice balance”.
This whiskey was finished in toasted virgin oak barrels, and rests at 46% ABV.
Three Ships Whisky 21 Year Old Millennium
This 21-year-old single malt whisky from South Africa was a limited release, but it only took one of the 1,202 bottles released to make an impression on our blind tasters. Bottled at 51.8%, it has been aged in ex-Bourbon American oak casks for 10 years, before spending another five resting in 300-litre hogsheads. The final six years were spent in seasoned oloroso Sherry casks and older ex-Bourbon American oak.
Abbott said of the Master medallist: “The palate is very approachable, especially for the ABV, with an appropriately intense cinder toffee, toffee and brown sugar sweetness running through with mint, liquorice, and anise.”
If you’re going to offer a ‘house style’ of whisky, you’ve got to make it a good one, and that’s exactly what Welsh producer Penderyn has done with this bottle.
The ‘original’ Penderyn offering, this golden liquid matches the colour of the medal it was awarded, having been aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks. It boasts plenty of fresh notes, making it a dangerously easy drinker, with a roundness on the palate and tropical wave on the finish. A staple for any whisky shelf.
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish Single Malt
Taiwanese distiller Kavalan went home with its arms full from the competition, with 10 Gold medals under its belt, and one Master medal for this “gorgeously fruity” whisky.
As any good concertmaster would, it offered a symphony of rich flavours, including floral aromas that gave way to a “woodier palate” before opening up to reveal “polished oak, roasted orchard fruit, toffee and soft spice”.