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The DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting 2024 results

As the days grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere, our judges look at the spirits that will be on shelves during spring and summer, to discover which ones consumers should make a beeline for.

As the weather gets warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, these are the beverages to look out for in stores

On 21 March, many people north of the Equator celebrated the spring equinox. It’s one of two days in the year when the sun sits exactly above the Equator, meaning day and night are of equal length. It is the start of the change of seasons. The end of winter, and the start of spring. Shorter nights, and longer, (hopefully) sun-filled days. And potentially, like here in the UK, a smattering of spring showers.

It’s a key time to prepare plans for summer. While consumers will be planning their holidays, the spirits trade will be gearing up for launches, summer activations, and marketing campaigns.

But which products should we be turning our attention to during these warmer months?

The spirits portion of The DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting took place at The Cavendish in Marylebone, London. Two panels of judges assembled to tackle the broad spectrum of spirits entered into this year’s tasting. They included: Antony Moss, spirits judge and consultant; Ruchira Neotia, founder of Neo Margarita; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, who led the team.

A second panel was formed of: Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog; Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at Sexy Fish in London; Anne Jones, director of Limestone and Jones; and David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, who chaired the group.

The tasting started with a flight of Vodka, which delivered two Gold medals and a trio of Silvers. Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 collected one of the Gold awards, described as “very characterful” with “good texture, light spice and a long finish”. Absolut Pears also secured the Gold award, celebrated for its “fresh conference pear” on the nose, leading to “light, natural pear and good balance” on the palate.

“Sweet, softly spiced” Absolut Nights Nordic Spice secured a Silver medal in the following Vodka Spirit Drink heat.

From there, the judges turned to a flight of Gin, in which they awarded one Gold and three Silver medals. Islands8 was found to be the worthy Gold winner. Tasting notes included: “Bold juniper and lime zest on the nose. The zestiness continues on the palate.”

Mexican spirits were put under the spotlight next, starting with Tequila – Reposado. A Gold medal was handed to Casazar Tequila Reposado. “Lovely aromatics,” noted Moss. The judges agreed they liked the clean notes of “sweet, cooked agave, warm spice and a touch of lime zest”.

A Silver medal was awarded in the next age bracket: Tequila – Añejo. Maya Pistola Agavepura Añejo received the award for its “vanilla and oak notes”.

Furthermore, stablemate Maya Pistola Agavepura Extra Añejo collected a second Silver medal for the brand in the Tequila – Extra Añejo round.

In the Tequila – Joven flight, two Gold medallists were enjoyed. The first, Casazar Tequila Joven, was enjoyed for being “layered and complex”. Meanwhile, Maya Pistola Agavepura Joven impressed with its “gentle spice” and “very characterful” aroma.

The judges’ attention then turned to Gold Rum, where two Silver medallists were enjoyed: Takamaka Zepis Kreol and Daku Gold Rum.

Takamaka also collected a Gold medal in the Dark Rum round for Takamaka Extra Noir. The judges liked this rum’s notes of “baked orange and caramel, with woody notes, spice, and well-integrated alcohol”.

Distinct and fruity

The judges awarded Silver, Gold and Master medals as a sign of quality

The final rum round, Spiced Rum, saw Bullion Spiced Rum Cherry win a Gold medal, for “Cherry Drops on the nose, distinct and fruity, with some warming spice”.

Starting in Scotland for the whisky portion of the tasting, the judges awarded two medals to Nc’nean. A Silver was presented to the distiller’s Huntress Orchard Cobbler. However, it was the Nc’nean Organic Single Malt Cask Strength Batch CS/GD06 that really got the experts excited, resulting in the first Master award of the day.

Jones noted: “Concentrated and intense. High alcohol carries a surprising elegance of flavour. Quite light in style despite the precision and high ABV.”

Chambers was impressed. He said: “An excellent example of a cask strength Scotch single malt. Incredible depth and complexity, and great integration of high ABV. It came alive even more with a splash of water.”

Scotch whisky went from strength to strength as blends were put through their paces, adding another two Masters to the tally. The two accolades were awarded to Johnnie Walker 18 Years Old and Johnnie Walker Double Black Label. The 18-year-old was praised for delivering “plenty of rich dried fruit, soft orchard fruit and gentle spice, overlaid with spun sugar”. Meanwhile, Double Black Label was liked for its “lovely cereal” aromas, leading to “sweet, jammy fruitiness, married beautifully with some peat smoke”. “A lovely entry to the peated category,” noted Smith.

Diageo also collected four Gold medals in this flight, all for various Johnnie Walker bottlings. The fifth and final Gold medal in the round was awarded to The Sassenach Whisky, with its “light spice, raisins and light cigar box” flavours.

Prousaefs was full of praise for the blended heat: “A solid flight, delivering exactly what’s expected from the category. Great to see the category doing what it’s designed for.”

Gentle smoke

The Irish Whiskey contingent also came out strong, delivering a Master and a Gold medal, both awarded to bottlings from The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. The top accolade was bestowed upon The Taoscán. Jones said: “Layers of gentle smoke, iodine, baked red apples, orange and wood spices. Warm but not poky; a lovely example.” Gold-winning The Donn was also popular, and was liked for its “deep mahogany and woody” flavours.

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey flew the flag for American whiskeys in the Tennessee heat, securing a Silver medal, two Golds, and a coveted Master. The top accolade was presented to Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Black Label – Batch 101. The judges noted “lovely intense grain and wood” on the nose. Kiely added: “This was a very layered whiskey with brilliant complexity.”

The distiller went on to procure three Gold awards in the American Whiskey – Rye contingent. But taking the top award in this heat was Never Say Die Rye Whiskey. The bottling collected the Master medal for its “rich spicy fruit” aromas, which followed with “some wine elements; the evolution of the rye is brilliant, woody with some sweetness”.

Smith said: “It’s lovely to see distillers embrace a range of interpretations of rye whiskey; very exciting.”

The judges (L-R): Anne Jones, Evan Prousaefs, David T Smith, Melita Kiely, Antony Moss and Matt Chambers

Martell had a strong flight in the Cognac – VSOP heat, collecting two Golds and a Master medal. Martell Noblige was the top-scoring product in this round, enjoyed for its “dried red cherry and berry” flavours, combined with “dates, red apple, toffee and lots of wood balanced into a rounded palate and a long finish”. “Some delicious examples with one absolute standout,” Chambers reflected on the round, singling out Noblige. “This had such depth and complexity, with wonderful fruit, sweet and spicy notes.”

Martell’s medal-streak continued into the Cognac – XO flight, where it took a Silver medal for Martell VS, and a Gold for Martell Cordon Bleu. The Gold-winning Cognac was described as “elegant” by the judges, with lots of fruit coming through: “Fresh peach, camomile, light oak, gentle spice. A lovely sipping Cognac.”

The judges embraced the sweetness of liqueurs next, awarding a Silver medal to Frenzel Grapefruit, and a Gold medal to Lacascara Premium Aperitivo. Lacascara was found to have an “intriguing and pleasant cocoa powder, cherry” aroma, leading to “pleasant sweetness, acidity and balance”.

Among the Speciality – Apéritif entries were two Gold medals: Allora, and Denbies Wine Estate Orange Vermouth. Allora was described as “very, very tart”, which the judges believed could work “really well with sparkling water or sparkling wine – bitter and sour, delightful”. Meanwhile, Gold-winning Orange Vermouth was said to be a “prime example of a sipping vermouth”.

Bright, distinct

The penultimate flight of the day presented a selection of ready-to-drink (RTD) and pre-mixed options, with two Silver medals awarded. However, the standout was the Gold-winning Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Mojito. The judges celebrated the RTD’s “bright, distinct” mint and lime aromas on the nose.

The concluding flight was a selection of Low/No-Alcohol entrants, which rounded off the blind tasting with three Silver awards. The medals went to various expressions of alcohol-free Ceder’s, including Ceder’s Rose.

Having explored the spirits on the market this spring, the medals showed particular promise in the whisky category. Whether to be sipped neat, mixed in a cocktail or in a refreshing Highball, there is much to explore in the global whisky sector as we head into a new season.

Company Product Medal
Royal Mash Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 Gold
The Absolut Group Absolut Pears Gold
The Absolut Group Absolut Watermelon Silver
The Absolut Group Absolut Raspberri Silver
The Absolut Group Absolut Original Silver


Vodka Spirit Drink
Company Product Medal
The Absolut Group Absolut Nights Nordic Spice Silver


Company Product Medal
Islands8 Islands8 Gold
Puerto de Indias Puerto de Indias Strawberry Silver
Tiger Gin Tiger Gin Silver
Highclere Castle Spirits Highclere Castle Gin Silver


Tequila – Reposado
Company Product Medal
Tequila Stack Casazar Tequila Reposado Gold


Tequila – Añejo
Company Product Medal
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Anejo Silver


Tequila – Extra Añejo
Company Product Medal
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Extra Anejo Silver


Tequila – Joven
Company Product Medal
Tequila Stack Casazar Tequila Joven Gold
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Joven Gold


Gold Rum
Company Product Medal
Takamaka Takamaka Zepis Kreol Silver
Bapuna Alcobrew Daku Gold Rum Silver


Dark Rum
Company Product Medal
Takamaka Takamaka Extra Noir Gold


Spiced Rum
Company Product Medal
Bullion Rum Bullion Spiced Rum Cherry Gold


Scotch Whisky – Single Malt
Company Product Medal
Nc’nean Organic Single Malt Cask Strength Batch CS/GD06 Master
Nc’nean Huntress Orchard Cobbler Silver



Scotch Whisky – Blended
Company Product Medal
Diageo Johnnie Walker 18 Years Old Master
Diageo Johnnie Walker Double Black Label Master
Diageo Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Gold
Diageo Johnnie Walker Blonde Label Gold
Diageo Johnnie Walker Blue Label Gold
Diageo Johhnie Walker Black Label Gold
The Sassenach Distillery The Sassenach Whisky Gold


Irish Whiskey – Single Malt
Company Product Medal
The Craft Irish Whiskey Co The Taoscán Master
The Craft Irish Whiskey Co The Donn Gold


American Whiskey – Tennessee
Company Product Medal
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Black Label – Batch 101 Master
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition – Batch 32 Gold
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey Gold
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey Silver


American Whiskey – Rye
Company Product Medal
Never Say Die Never Say Die Rye Whiskey Master
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest Straight Rye Gold
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest Uncut & Unfiltered Straight Rye Whiskey – Batch 005 Gold
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Rye – Batch 009 Gold


Cognac – VSOP
Company Product Medal
Martell & Co Martell Noblige Master
Martell & Co Martell Blue Swift Gold
Martell & Co Martell VSOP Gold


Cognac – XO
Company Product Medal
Martell & Co Martell Cordon Bleu Gold
Martell & Co Martell VS Silver


Company Product Medal
Lacascara Lacascara Premium Aperitivo Gold
Johannes Frenzel Frenzel Grapefruit Silver


Speciality – Apéritif
Company Product Medal
Allora Allora Gold
Denbies Wine Estate Orange Vermouth Gold


Pre-Mixed & RTD
Company Product Medal
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Mojito Gold
Bacardí Rum Bacardí Ready-To-Drink Spiced & Cola Silver
The Still Co Red Night Silver


Low/No Alcohol
Company Product Medal
Ceder’s Drinks Ceder’s Classic Silver
Ceder’s Drinks Ceder’s Rose Silver
Ceder’s Drinks Ceder’s Wild Silver

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