The GSMC Taste Masters 2022By Melita Kiely
The Taste Master title is arguably the most coveted of all the awards in The Global Spirits Masters Competitions. The honourable mention is given to those products that stand out the most to our panels of expert judges.
At the end of each blind tasting, the Master medallists are re-poured and sampled to determine the top liquid from the day.
The exception to the rule is, of course, The Design & Packaging Masters, during which the judges determine their favourite aesthetic of the contest to award the Best in Class title.
The Spirits Business chairs each edition of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, when independent judges award Silver, Gold and Master medals to those products deemed to surpass expectations.
At the end of the year, all of the Taste Master winners – alongside the Grand Masters – are celebrated in the annual Global Spirits Masters Awards Lunch ceremony in London, photos of which are available on page 50.
On the following pages, we highlight those products that really shone in last year’s Global Spirits Masters Competitions.
Here are the Taste Masters of 2022.
Low & No Taste Master 2022
Lyre’s Italian Spritz
Alcohol‐free Lyre’s Italian Spritz knocked the other competitors out the park during the opening blind‐tasting of last year, The Low & No Masters.
The judges were taken by the product’s “balance of bitterness and sweetness” with “lots of red fruits, cranberries and a good hit of fresh orange peel”, which earned Lyre’s Italian Spritz a Master medal in the Non‐ Alcoholic Dark ‘Spirits’ (less than 0.5% ABV) heat. Designed to cater for apéritif moments, the 0% ABV product combines orange with astringent rhubarb. It is recommended served with soda or tonic water, topped with citrus slices to create the ‘perfect apéritif’.
Lyre’s was founded in 2019 with an aim of offering alcohol‐free replicas of the ‘world’s most popular spirits’ without the booze.
Tequila & Mezcal Taste Master 2022
Sierra milenario Tequila Extra-Añejo
During The Tequila & Mezcal Masters 2022, the oldest and most expensive portion of the tasting – ultra‐premium extra añejo Tequilas – delivered an impressive set of results. Three Master awards were handed out during this flight – including one to Sierra Milenario Extra‐Añejo, which also took home the Taste Master trophy.
Hailed for its “complex” profile, tasting notes included: “Resinous, rich and bold nose with some dates and dried fruits.
“Spiciness has mellowed wonderfully, leaving toffee and subtle wood influence. Well‐rounded, balanced and delicious.”
The Tequila is made entirely from agave and is matured in French limousin oak barrels for at least four years.
There are six expressions in the Sierra Milenario range of Tequilas.
Rum & Cachaça Taste Master 2022
Rum-Bar White Overproof Rum
The Rum & Cachaça Masters has become one of the biggest blind tastings in The Global Spirits Masters Competitions. Last year, it was Rum‐Bar White Overproof Rum that made a memorable impression on our judges. “The palate is lovely and long, with some nice hints of coconut,” noted Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business.
The Taste Master winner is made at the famous Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. The molasses‐based rum is a combination of three unaged pot still Jamaican rums, and is bottled at 63% ABV. Despite the high alcohol strength, the judges were impressed by how approachable the rum was.
Tonic & Mixer Taste Master 2022
Double Dutch ginger beer
As the premiumisation trend swept across the spirits sector, it also made an impact on the tonic and mixer market. Today’s discerning consumers are increasingly seeking sophisticated soft drinks to pair with their higher‐end, better‐quality spirits, and producers have been meeting this demand with a swathe of top‐end mixers.
In a flight of Ginger Beer, sampled during The Tonic & Mixer Masters, Double Dutch wowed the experts. A Master medal was awarded to the brand’s ginger beer for its “powerful ginger aroma”, complemented by “great carbonation and brilliant spice”.
So impressive was the mixer, that it also collected the coveted Tonic & Mixer Taste Master title. Three varieties of ginger, and a hint of lime go into making the drink.
Cognac Taste Master 2022
Cognac Frapin – Château Fontpinot XO
The Cognac Masters is one of the tastings in The Global Spirits Masters Competitions that has become renowned for high‐quality entries. For the past few years, the contest has delivered exceptional spirits from the French region – and 2022 was no exception.
Among the Master winners in the XO – Single Cru contingent was Cognac Frapin – Château Fontpinot XO. This took the top medal, plus the Taste Master accolade, for its “gorgeous nose” and “well‐integrated” palate. The Cognac is made exclusively from grapes harvested, distilled, aged, and bottled at the Château Fontpinot in the Grande Champagne cru of Cognac.
Asian Spirits Taste Master 2022
Ki No Tea Kyoto dry gin
The opening flight of The Asian Spirits Masters got off to a roaring start in 2022, with a Master medal discovered in the form of Ki No Tea. The Japanese gin impressed with aromas of “light tea” and an overall “fresh and fragrant” nose. The palate offered “woody dryness from the tea”, enhanced by “aromatic spices”.
The gin is produced by The Kyoto Distillery in Japan, and is bottled at 45.1% ABV.
Botanicals used in the gin include juniper, orris, Akamatsu, yuzu, lemon, and gyokuro and tencha green teas.
“The higher ABV holds up well; very interesting and different,” the judges noted. “The tea is there, it’s also fruity and well balanced, and stands out on the palate,” they said.
Hard Seltzer Taste Master 2022
Young heart Seltzer Green Tea & Muscat Grape
There’s no denying the upward trend of hard seltzers. Unsurprisingly, the 2022 iteration of The Hard Seltzer Masters was the biggest in the competition’s history.
Despite being a youthful category still, a number of entries showed the judges exactly what all the fuss was about – most notably last year’s Taste Master, Young Heart Seltzer Green Tea & Muscat Grape.
The award was given during the Fermented flight, where the bottled expression was enjoyed for “tannins from the green tea and some meadow florals” on the nose, leading to “hints of sweetness from the grape” on the palate. The hard seltzer combines sencha and gunpowder green teas with Muscat grape and a hint of celery.
Scotch Whisky Taste Master 2022
Old Particular Dailuaine 18 Years Old
Part of the Old Particular Midnight Series, Old Particular Dailuaine 18 Years Old secured the Taste Master accolade in the Scotch whisky round of the contest.
The liquid was bottled by Douglas Laing & Co, and was judged in a flight of single cask, single malts from Speyside. Judge Evan Prousaefs, bar manager of Sexy Fish in London, praised the whisky for notes of “red fruits, honey and allspice on the nose and palate”.
He added: “The palate is very expressive and complex.”
Upon re-tasting, the judges agreed it was highly deserving of the Taste Master crown.
American Whiskey Taste Master 2022
WL Weller 12 Years Old
The WL Weller brand had a strong year in The American Whiskey Masters competition but it was the brand’s 12‐year‐old Bourbon that really excelled.
WL Weller 12 Years Old stood out in the Bourbon – Aged over 8 Years flight, picking up a Master medal, followed by the Taste Master award.
During the tasting, judge Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog, noted: “Lovely nose of vanilla, coconut, chocolate and peach.”
He went on to say: “Super silky on the palate with a lovely balance of sweetness, oak and spice, plenty of depth. Feels very classy – superb.”
The whiskey is made with a high‐wheat mash bill, and sits at 45% ABV.
Irish Whiskey Taste Master 2022
Redbreast 27 Years Old
Single pot still whiskeys are one of the many facets that make Irish whiskey such an intriguing spirit category. At the ultra-premium end of this subcategory of whiskey, Redbreast 27 Years Old offered much for the judges to be excited about. The Taste Master winner offered a “rich and spicy palate; juicy red berries, freshly risen bread, and enough dryness to be moreish”.
Judge Karen Taylor, co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog, noted: “A complex whiskey with loads of character, beautifully balanced with the ideal level of ageing and cask selection.”
Redbreast 27 Years Old is the oldest permanent whiskey in the brand’s portfolio.
World Whisky Taste Master 2022
Starward Tawny #2
Interest in whiskies from lesser‐known whisky regions has been rising in recent years. In The World Whisky Masters 2022, the judges especially liked what they saw coming from Australasia.
Among the notable products from this part of the world was Master‐winning Starward Tawny #2 from Australia. Tasting notes included: “Vanilla cupcake on the nose, smooth and well balanced, dark fruits and layers of spice.”
This was the second iteration from Melbourne‐based distiller Starward. It was matured entirely in fresh and charred Tawny fortified wine barrels, before being bottled at 50% ABV.
• See page 44 for an in‐depth look at the Australian whisky scene.
Vodka Taste Master 2022
Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger
From whisky to vodka, rye has become a favourite base material for distillers to play with when creating spirits.
This experimentation paid off for Belvedere Vodka during last year’s Vodka Masters.
Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger scooped a Master medal in the Vodka – Rye heat, and went on to claim the coveted Taste Master award.
The judges were impressed by the unusual flavour combination, which they noted was not the easiest to get right – but ultimately, they enjoyed the authenticity of the pear and ginger.
Sitting at 40% ABV, the LVMH‐owned vodka is infused with organic pears, fresh ginger, and linden honey.
Luxury Taste Master 2022
Ardbeg 25 Years Old
Super‐premium‐and‐above spirits are put to the test during The Luxury Masters to determine if the products are really worth their price tags.
In the Scotch Whisky: Single Malt – Ultra Premium round, whiskies that are priced at £100 or more were analysed by the team of expert judges.
The Glenmorangie Company netted two Masters in this round – including one for Ardbeg 25 Years Old, which went on to bag the Taste Master title, too.
The whisky had “mushroom notes on the nose; spicy, sweet and tangy on the palate”, with “excellent mouthfeel and aftertaste for the high ABV”.
Non‐chill‐filtered, the Islay‐made single malt whisky sits at 46% ABV.
Liqueur Taste Master 2022
Once overlooked compared with more ‘mainstream’ spirits categories, liqueurs proved their right of place during The Liqueur Masters 2022 – particularly when it came to the Fruit fight.
Nine Master medals were dished out in this heat, including one for Golden Eight – The Williams Pear Liqueur by Massenez, which also collected the Taste Master trophy.
The judges raved about the liqueur’s “wonderfully complex flavours” of “caramelised pear on the nose, rich syrupy butterscotch and gentle spice”.
Sitting at 25% ABV, the liqueur is made with Massenez pear eaux‐de‐vie, which is aged for more than eight years (explaining the ‘eight’ in the name).
Pre‐Mixed & RTD Taste Master 2022
Starward (New) Old Fashioned
Convenient quality serves are sparking excitement among consumers, there’s no doubt about it.
And demonstrating how to create a Taste‐ Master‐worthy ready‐to‐drink (RTD) serve was Australian producer Starward, which secured the top award for Starward (New) Old Fashioned.
The judges described the RTD cocktail as “an excellent Old Fashioned – delicious and sweet” with “great body and length”.
The whisky‐based cocktail has an ABV of 32%. It combines Starward’s whisky with house‐made bitters, wattleseed and Demerara sugar.
Speciality Spirits Taste Master 2022
Villa Massa Vermouth di Giardino Tradizionale
A 50/50 split between the judges, and two distinctively different Master winners resulted in two awards for last year’s Speciality Spirits Taste Master. Discovered in the closing Vermouth flight, Villa Massa Vermouth di Giardino Tradizionale, created by Zamora Company, took the top title.
Bottled at 16% ABV, the vermouth was created with bartenders in mind. It is made with botanicals such as wormwood from Piemonte, bay leaves, coriander, and gentian.
Judge Matt Chambers said about the vermouth: “This was a delicious marriage of flavours on the palate – absolutely superb.”
Fellow judge Anne Jones, drinks experience and events at Waitrose, added: “Personality persists on the finish. Really excellent.”
Speciality Spirits Taste Master 2022
Nordic Etho Caraway Organic Aquavit
Also claiming the Taste Master accolade was Nordic EtOH Caraway Organic Aquavit.
Demonstrating the best of this up‐andcoming category, the judges were hugely impressed by the winning entry.
Judge Prousaefs noted: “Toasted caraway on the nose. Warm on the palate, with that toastiness coming through. Long, complex and a pleasant finish.”
Bottled at 40% ABV, parent company Nordic Ethanol describes the aquavit as a “classic Nordic aquavit with a minor modern twist”.
Nordic EtOH Caraway Organic Aquavit retails for RRP 299kr (around £35/US$43).
Parent company Nordic Ethanol also creates an organic aquavit made with dill, and a trio of organic dry gins.
Cocktail & Signature Serve Taste Master 2022
When it came to The Cocktail & Signature Serve Masters, the recipes that kept it simple usually performed the best. That was certainly the case with the Taste Master winner: Carajillo 43.
The simple combination of coffee and Licor 43 pleased the judges with its effectiveness.
Judge Matt Chambers said: “Great nose of creamy coffee and lovely appearance with a good foamy head. Very nice on the palate, with great combination of coffee and sweetness, a hint of confected orange and something herbal in the background.”
The serve comes from Spain’s Licor 43 stable, owned by Zamora Company, which features Licor 43 original, as well as Horchata, Baristo, and Chocolate variants.
Gin Taste Master 2022
Hernö Navy Strength Gin
The Gin Masters is the biggest blind tasting in The Global Spirits Masters Competitions. 2022 was a record‐breaking year for the series with more than 625 entries received.
Due to the sheer volume, the tasting takes place in two parts – but soaring to the top to nab the Gin Taste Master 2022 award was Swedish entry Hernö Navy Strength Gin.
The gin was sampled during the first instalment of The Gin Masters, and was described as having notes of “minerality and lovely spice”.
With an alcohol strength of 57% ABV, the gin is made with eight botanicals: Hungarian juniper, Bulgarian coriander, lemon peel, Swedish lingonberries, English meadowsweet, Indian black pepper, Indonesian cassia bark, and Madagascan vanilla.
Design & Packaging Best in Class 2022
Battery Point Whisky
The carefully thought‐through, simple but striking design of Battery Point Whisky is what kept the judges returning to this greatly lauded packaging design.
The “contemporary” design found a particular soft spot with judge Elise Craft, Whisky Squad co‐host, who said: “Perfection.
It’s got such a confident voice, such minimalist restraint.”
The whisky bottle’s design ticked all the boxes on what makes great packaging, from it’s aesthetically‐pleasing shape and pops of colour, to its sustainable considerations.
Battery Point Distillery is located in Hobart, Tasmania, in Australia. Its whisky is double distilled from 100% Tasmanian malt mash.