The Whisky Tasting Club

The Whisky World Cup Final

Those of us who have followed football over the past 20 or so years will remember the 1994 World Cup when it was predicted that Africa would soon produce a world champion from among its ranks. Even if the likes of Nigeria, South Africa and Ivory Coast didn’t get as far as they had hoped this year, they have shown that in football nothing can now be taken for granted. Countries that 20 years ago would have been completely overwhelmed in the company of their more illustrious neighbours are now seriously challenging the established football world order. The same was true yesterday in the Whisky World Cup where the established likes of Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the US were given one hell of a run for their money by Northern European upstarts from Netherlands and Sweden. To say it was close was an understatement.

Eight new whiskies were chosen to represent the categories that had made it through the earlier rounds. Dom sought out top class whiskies to represent each category. They were:

  1. Millstone Rye (Netherlands Rye)
  2. Van Winkle 13 year old (US Rye)
  3. William Larue Weller Small Batch, Cask Strength (US bourbon)
  4. Nikka Tsuru 17 year old (Japanese Blended Malt)
  5. Miyagikyo 15 year old (Japanese Single Malt)
  6. BenRiach Authenticus 21 year old (Scottish Single Malt)
  7. Mackmyra Special No. 4 (Swedish Single Malt)
  8. Jameson Crested Ten (Irish Blend)

hmmm, what is that?

In order not to show any favouritism, we drank them blind and in no particular order. Normally, the bourbons, rye and peated whiskies would be drunk last in order to give the lighter whiskies a chance to shine, but it was felt that this was tantamount to seeding, so they were done randomly (i.e. “pick a number between 1 and 8”). However, before the serious business of choosing a World Champion could commence, Dom gave us all a little treat in the form of an Ardmore 25 which slipped down beautifully and, as ‘pre-match entertainment’, was infinitely preferable to the nude rugby match he was ‘treated’ to before an All-Blacks game a few years ago.

Pre-Match Entertainment – Ardmore 25 y.o. (46%) abv

Nose: Salt, fruit, sweet vanilla, tobacco, orange skins, with peat lurking in the background.

Taste: Crystallised pineapple, more vanilla and fruit, strong oak.

Finish: Medium with the oak kept in check and smooth vanilla.

Actually, this would have performed admirably in the contest itself. Heigh Ho! Available for £116 at Loch Fyne Whiskies

What follows in an amalgamation of the tasting notes of the 9 of us for each of the eight contenders in order of tasting:

 

Whisky Number 1: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 year old (47.8%)

Nose: Rum and raisin ice cream, fondant banana with a hint of oak and spice in the background. Quite restrained.

Taste: Gathering oak and rye held in check, sweet candy, molasses,

Finish: Woody, fisherman’s friends, ending in peppermint.

 

Whisky Number 2: BenRiach Authenticus 21 y.o. (46%)

Nose: Over-ripe grape, tropical fruit, iodine, slight sweaty.

Taste: Smoky bacon, fabulously integrated peat and fruit, raw peppermint leaves.

Finish: Blackcurrant, constant but faint peat, dry and extraordinarily long.

£59.95 from masters of malt

 

 

Whisky Number 3: Miyagikyo 15 y.o. (43%)

Nose: Pork scratchings, frazzles, coffee and toffee, late dryness.

Taste: Golden syrup and sponge pudding, soft and smooth Del Monte fruit, cookie dough, great balance.

Finish: Vanilla ice cream, mild spiciness, fabulous integration.

 
 £76.95 from the whisky exchange

 

 

Whisky Number 4: Mackmyra Special Number 4 (53%)

Nose: Sherbet, bubble gum, herbal, almonds, sweet William pear, acetone.

Taste: Quite faint to begin with but then explodes with fruit, salt and pepper, sweet and savoury, fisherman’s friends, miso soup, late spice and peat. An absolutely mind-blowing whisky.

Finish: Vanilla sherbet, an oaky surge and then fading woodiness.

this is not yet for sale, if you see a bottle let us know

Whisky Number 5: Millstone Rye (40%)

 Nose: Green apples, treacle, Seville oranges, candy peel, cloves and marzipan, old pantries.

Taste: Sherbet, apples, dried fruit, mocha, late coffee ice cream.

Finish: More Seville oranges, late bitterness.

 

 

 

 

Whisky Number 6: Jameson Crested Ten (40%)

 Nose: Metalwork shop, pears, hot apple pie.

Taste: Salt and fruit, toffee, more metal.

Finish: Thin and short.

 

Whisky Number 7: Nikka Tsuru 17 y.o. (45%)

Nose: Sherry, soy sauce, damp saki, a Madeira-style stewedness, aniseed, baking bread.

Taste: Spice and oaky sherry, licorice.

Finish: Long, spicy and oaky.

Whisky Number 8: William Larue Weller Small Batch (67.4%)

Nose: Acetone, rum and raisin, body musk, demerara sugar.

Taste: coconut, very spicy, woody, sweet cigarettes.

Finish: Smooth oak.

It has to be said that some whiskies did suffer from their tasting position. The Miyagikyo didn’t really benefit from being tasted directly after the Authenticus and the Van Winkle. Who’s to say what would have happened had it been tasted first, but hey, that’s the world cup.

Under normal circumstances (whatever those are) no-one would have given the Millstone or Mackmyra a snowball in hell’s chance against their illustrious and established opponents. Evidently however, hell is a rather colder place these days, and we have been lucky enough to trace Mackmyra’s progress from the junipery and very moreish Preludiums to the present day offerings. We knew exactly how good it could be.

I have a mixed relationship with the Swedes. In July 1994, I spent 90 minutes of utter tedium in the Pasadena Rose Bowl watching Brazil edge to a 1-0 win over Sweden in the World Cup semi-final. This was the footballing equivalent of watching a plank warp in the sun, and such was the boredom served up by the teams, grown men were asking LA’s finest to put them out of their misery permanently. I had never really forgiven Sweden or Brazil; until, that is, I tasted Swedish whisky (I might feel the same way about Brazil had I tasted their whisky, but alas…..). I simply love Mackmyra and particularly this Special Number 4. Even those of us who weren’t madly keen on the Preludiums were blown away by this. When we were tasting it, we were looking at each other wondering if we might have a new world champion on our hands. Maybe, just maybe.

The Millstone too, was talked about as a potential surprise winner. We had tasted a few examples recently and without exception we are all converts (where can we buy it????). It had surprised many people by the ease with which it made it through the qualifying rounds. No hint of that European-style schnapps kick; just lovely spice and fruit.

Anyway, we had 8 top class whiskies to judge….

The Results

8th place – Jamesons Created Ten – 71.44 points

7th place – Millstone Rye – 80.45 points

6th place – William Larue Weller – 83.25 points

5th place – Van Winkle – 84.3 points

4th place – Nikka Tsuru – 84.75 points

3rd place – Miyagikyo – 85.5 points

2nd place – Mackmyra – 88.2 points

THE WINNER – BenRiach Authenticus 21 year old – 88.8 points.

Well, there you have it, the BenRiach won, by only a whisker, pushed all the way by the Mackmyra. Although it won’t always appeal to Speyside purists, the Authenticus is a truly astonishing whisky that deserves every accolade it gets and it was clear right from the start that this was the one to beat. Perhaps only the Jamesons was outclassed by the opposition right from the start; too metallic and thin. Like the Miyagikyo, the Millstone suffered from its position in the tasting, coming as it did after the Mackmyra.

This man wrote this blog entry....

By the time the next world cup comes around things should get really interesting.  The European whiskies will have had a further four years to mature. Given their performance in this world cup, what are the chances of silverware next time around? Pretty good, I’d say.

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Comments

  • Fantastic. Being a huge fan of whisk(e)y and especially of the American and Japanese varieties, this review was surely a treat. Such a review really encourages me to organize a Seattle Cup with our bartender’s guild. What do we have available? I’d surely keep the Van Winkle 13yr rye in the mix, but I’d like to see the Thomas Handy go up on the block instead of the Weller. And, the Hakishu instead of those other Japanese marvels which we do not have access. Would putting the 2.2 Octomore be unfair? Probably, but I believe that it tastes outside of it’s class. Anyway. A fun theoretical exercise. Now…to make it more than a theory.

    Anywa

  • you would have to drink the Octomore last, it will blast your tastebuds! For super peat I prefer supernova, but I’ve not tried the 2.2 octomore. Let us know how you get on, send us a link!

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