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Top 10 award-winning Scotch whiskies

So many Scotch whiskies, so little time. To make it easier to work out which drams you should focus your attention on, we’ve rounded up 10 bottles that stood out in The Scotch Whisky Masters 2023.

Award-winning Scotch
The Scotch Whisky Masters 2023 saw entries from all corners of Scotland

The annual blind-tasting competition returned to Boisdale in Canary Wharf, London, in May, where four panels of judges took on the challenge of awarding Silver, Gold and Master medals to deserving whiskies.

Matt Chambers, whisky writer and co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog, chaired one of the teams. His fellow judges included: Tobias Gorn, co-founder and senior partner of the International Drinks Specialists; and Dr Winnie Bowman, Cape wine master, wine and spirits judge and writer.

Karen Taylor, co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog, chaired the second team. She was accompanied by: Alan Uresti, head of mixology at Annabel’s in London; Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at London’s Sexy Fish; and Ruchira Neotia, of Neo Margarita. A third group was led by Billy Abbott, ambassador at The Whisky Exchange, who was joined by: Anne Jones, Waitrose, drinks expert; and Nick Larsson-Bell, senior buyer – spirits and beer at Harvey Nichols.

Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, chaired the final group, which consisted of: Caroline Roddis, freelance writer; Malika Kirchel-Sharper, Boisdale bar manager; and Vicky Ilankovan, editor-in-chief at Sated Online, and project marketing manager at Equal Measures UK.

Keep reading to find out which 10 whiskies stood out to our judges and took home the biggest accolades of the day.

Elements of Islay Bourbon Cask

Elements of Islay

We’re kicking off our list in the Blended – Ultra Premium segment of our 2023 blind tasting, and a Master medal went straight to the producers at Elements of Islay for its Bourbon Cask expression, which was praised for its “light honey peat, pear and melon” on the nose, and a palate that brought “a touch of anise and more orchard fruit”.

This expression is matured in first-fill and refill Bourbon barrels, and is bottled at 54.5% ABV, which is said to fully demonstrate the whisky’s Islay-based personality.

Compass Box Whisky Orchard House

Compass Box released this fruit-forward malt whisky, described as a first for the company, in 2021, and our judges enjoyed its elegant aromas of white flower blossom and sweet baking spices so much at this year’s tasting they gave it a Master medal.

The expression is made from stocks of spirit purchased from distilleries known for their fruit-forward flavour. The liquid from each distillery was then aged in a variety of Compass Box casks including water-rinsed, first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, oloroso Sherry-seasoned butts, and French oak custom barrels.

Arran Sherry Cask The Bodega

award-winning whiskies

The Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – No Age Statement round proved to be seriously impressive, delivering three Master medals, one of which went to Arran Sherry Cask The Bodega, which was hailed for “rich butterscotch, viscous full mouthfeel with wood spice on the finish”.

Arran’s master distiller worked with producers in in some of ‘the most prestigious’ Sherry bodegas in Jerez, Spain to select the best quality casks to be filled with the spirit.

Craigellachie 13 Years Old

Craigellachie 13YO

Craigellachie 13 Years Old was described by the judges as “a stunner”, so it’s no surprise that as well as a Master medal, they also chose this whisky as the ‘best in class’ winner of the day, subsequently awarding it the coveted title of Scotch Whisky Taste Master 2023.

Resting at 46% ABV, this single malt Scotch was initially matured in a mixture of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, after which 50% of the ‘blend’ was then finished in first-fill Sherry casks, and the rest in first-fill Bourbon.

Berry Bros & Rudd Single Malt Islay

award-winning whiskies

This Gold medal-winning whisky is part of ‘The Classic Range’ from Berry Bro & Rudd, and was lauded by our judges for its flavours of “beach bonfires and rock pools, and earthy notes developing alongside citrus and spice”.

The Classic Islay Malt is the merchant’s interpretation of the traditional whiskies of the Hebridean island of Islay, and is made from a carefully selected blend of casks sourced from some of the island’s iconic distilleries.

Butterscotch & Vanilla & Toast & A Generation 30 Years Old

award-winning whiskies

Fans of ampersands and well-matured grain whisky will enjoy this Gold medal-winning bottle from Atom Brands.

Described by the judging panel as “balanced and delicious”, there are no prizes for guessing the tasting notes you may be able to pick up from this bottle of Butterscotch & Vanilla & Toast & A Generation 30 Years Old.

Talisker 30 Years Old

award-winning whiskies

In the Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – Aged Between 19-30 Years segment, a Master medal was deservedly given to Talisker 30 Years Old.

Three decades spent ageing on the Isle of Skye clearly benefitted this satisfying expression. Chambers noted how the whisky boasted “lovely cedar and sandalwood with vanilla, toffee and caramel on the nose,” with “dried fruit and old cigar box on the palate,” along with hints of peach and tropical fruit in the background.

Glen Scotia 15 Years Old

Glen Scotia

As the judges began tasting drams from the smallest of the Scotch whisky regions, a Gold medal was awarded to the “rich, nutty” Glen Scotia 15 Years Old in the single malt 13-18 years category.

This Campbeltown whisky is bottled at 46% ABV and aged in American oak casks, which makes for a rich and smooth Scotch with plenty of complexity.

It has also spent some finishing time in Sherry casks, giving the whisky body and spice, while the distillery’s proximity to the coast is also said to have given it a salty quality.

Yellow Edition Glen Moray

Brave New Spirits’ Yellow Edition range is a selection of whiskies that have been specially chosen to reflect the character and diversity of their country of origin.

The Yellow Edition, Glen Moray 14 years old has been bottled at 57.2% ABV, after maturing in a single first-fill Bourbon barrel, generating enough liquid to fill only 141 bottles in total.

The limited edition whisky was described by Gorn as “big and rich throughout,” as well as “very creamy, with vanilla and stewed fruits.”

Glen Marnoch Speyside Single Malt Whisky

award-winning whiskies

Finally, we end our round-up on a Gold medal-winner that is not only delicious, but also cost-of-living-crisis-friendly.

This Glen Marnoch Speyside Single Malt is one of the whiskies available from ‘budget’ supermarket chain, Aldi, and will give you plenty of change from a £20 note.

Aged in hand-crafted white oak casks, it has been matured for a minimum of three years and rests at 40% ABV. It is described by our judges as having “wine elements on the palate and distinct sweetness”.

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