The Whisky Tasting Club

Wizards of Whisky World’s Best Other Grain Whiskies 2015

 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Scotch Blend Batch One

A blended Scotch whisky has been chosen as the best ‘other grains’ whisky in The Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards.

The blend, called Scotch Blend Batch One and bottled at 50.3% by online drinks retailer Master of Malt as part of its Boutique-y Whisky range, beat ryes, bourbons pot still whiskeys and mixed grain whiskies from across the world to take the award.

The whisky was one of only handful of blends competing in the wizards, but its victory is a timely reminder – should open be needed – that Scotland can still make world beating whisky, even in a category often considered inferior to other whisky styles.

Other whiskies that scored well in The Wizards include Balcones Baby Blue, Powers John’s Lane, Balcones Brimstone, and Millstone 100. Rye.

In all 30 ‘other grain’ whiskies achieved a gold or silver medal in the Awards.

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It’s business as usual for Texan distillers Balcones, who have put a line under a difficult few months by reclaiming their title as Wizards of Whisky American Craft Distiller of the Year.
The distillers fought off fierce competition from a range of American craft distillers, but in particular Syntax Spirits of Colorado, who entered for the first time and who did particularly well with its bourbon and wine barrel bourbon.

Balcones single barrel bourbon and Brimstone repeated the success of pervious years but perhaps the big surprise was Baby Blue, which was the top scoring American whiskey this year and was only outscored by ‘other grain’ category winner The Boutique-y Company Blended Scotch whisky.

Balcones is no stranger to these awards. It won the World Distiller of the Year two years ago and the World’s Best Malt last year. But this year’s result will be particularly sweet for the distillery team after a difficult few months in which they acrimoniously parted company with distillery founder Chip Tate.

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Wizards of Whisky Best World Single Malts 2015

World’s best single malt: Mackmyra Mittnattssol, Sweden  84.5 GOLD

2nd best single malt:        Brenne 10 Year Old, France         82.3 GOLD

3rd best single malt:        Macmyra Reserve, Sweden         82.3 GOLD

4. Mackmyra Rōk,  Sweden        GOLD

5. Millstone PX 1999, Zuidam, The Netherlands    GOLD

6. Spirit of Hven Seven Stars , Sweden      GOLD

7. Mackmyra Vintage, Sweden       GOLD

8. Berry Bros & Rudd Blue Hanger 11th Release, Scotland  GOLD

9. Balcones French Oak, USA       GOLD

10. Kavalan Kingcar, Taiwan        GOLD

11. St George’s Chapter 13, England      GOLD

12. Millstone 5 Grain, Zuidam, The Netherlands    GOLD

13. Berry Bros & Rudd Linkwood 1987, Scotland    GOLD

14. Bushmills 21 Year Old, Ireland       GOLD

15. Bushmills 16 Year Old, Ireland       GOLD

16. Millstone 12 Year Old Sherry Cask, Zuidam, The Netherlands GOLD

17. Millstone French Oak, Zuidam, The Netherlands    GOLD

18. Berry Bros & Rudd Glencadam 1991, Scotland    GOLD

19. Paul John Peated, India        GOLD

20. St Georges Chapter 15, England      GOLD

21. Bushmills 10 Year Old, Ireland       GOLD

22. Paul John Edited, India        GOLD

23. Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask       GOLD

24. Teeling Single Malt, Ireland       GOLD

25. Armorik, France         GOLD

26. Heartwood Convict Redemption, Australia     GOLD

27. Heartwood The Beagle, Australia      GOLD

28. Paul John Classic, India        GOLD

29. Millstone American Oak, Zuidam, The Netherlands   SILVER

30. St George’s Chapter 14, England      SILVER

31.Balcones Single Malt, USA         SILVER

32. St George’s Chapter 12, England      SILVER

33. Kavalan Podium, Taiwan        SILVER

34. St George’s Chapter 11, England      SILVER

35. Millstone 5 Year Old, Zuidam, The Netherlands   SILVER

36. Paul John Cask 1446, India       SILVER

37. Paul John Brilliance, India        SILVER

38. Millstone Menage a Trois, Zuidam, The Netherlands  SILVER

39. Master of Malt Tobermory, Scotland      SILVER

40. Master of Malt Glenrothes, Scotland      SILVER

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Sweden has restocked its claim to the title of being the world’s leading non traditional whisky making country in emphatic style, with a stunning performance from long established distillery Mackmyra, ably supported by smaller distillers Spirit of Hven.
Mackmyra was awarded four high scoring gold medals for its four entries, and with Spirit of Hven also picking up a big gold medal, Sweden occupied five of the top seven places of the world’s top scoring malts this year.

But Sweden didn’t have it all its own way – Zuidam in the Netherlands also enjoyed a huge amount of success. It picked up four gold medals and three silvers.

A record number of entries were entered in to the European category this year, and it was the largest category in the 2015 Wizards. Half of the gold medals given to single malt whiskies in 2015 were from distilleries in Europe. Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2015 was the performance of a new 10 year old whisky from Brenne in France.

The whisky, from the Cognac region, is not officially released until the Autumn and will be released only in America. But it was the second highest single malt whisky in The Wizards of Whisky, with four judges scoring at more than 90.

The Wizards of Whisky Awards are chosen by a panel of judges after a blind tasting. I do not take part of the judging. To win a Distillery of the Year award the distillery must enter at least three whiskies.

Watch out for the full top 40 Wizards of Whisky World Single Malts, published later today.

Tomorrow: American Craft Distiller of The Year and world’s best other grain whiskey

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Northern Ireland’s Bushmills Distillery has held off fierce competition from Irish Distillers and Teeling to take the title of Wizards of Whisky Irish Distiller of the Year in what proved to be the closest contest of the Awards so far.

Seven gold medals and four silver medals were shared by the three main producers of Irish whiskey this year, with Bushmills picking up three golds for its single malt whiskeys aged 10, 16 and 21 years old.

An average of just three per cent separated the three distillers but all of Bushmills’ whiskey entries scored consistently highly. The Bushmills victory means that over the three years of The Wizards Awards Ireland has consistently produced the tightest results. Bushmills is the third different winner in three years.

The award comes at a significant time for the distillery after it was recently sold off by Diageo to Mexican tequila giant Jose Cuervo, who described the acquisition as the most important in its history and promised to nurture and develop the Bushmills portfolio in the future.

Read how Bushmills has reacted to the news of its victory in the next issue of World Whisky Review, published on line next week.

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Indian distiller Paul John has successfully defended its title as Asian Distiller of The Year. And it did so this year with considerably more ease than it did when it held off strong opposition from indian distiller Amrut and Taiwanese distiller Kavalan.
Paul John, which last year went on to win World distiller of the Year, the highest accolade given in The Wizards of Whisky world Whisky Awards, has now won its category in both the years that it entered.
The distillery became the second major distillery to emerge from India after Amrut when it launched a core range of products in to the United Kingdom market some three years ago.
It initially launched a non-peated and lightly peated whisky and then a peaty whisky. but it is its single cask and cask strength whiskies that have got people turning heads.
This year, tough, facing a different judging panel to 2014, it picked up medals for both its core range and its excellent single casks. Full details on the medal winners will be published  next week

To read what Paul John is planning for the year ahead, see the February issue of The World Whisky Review published online at the end of the month
Tomorrow: Irish Distiller of the Year

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New Zealand Whisky Company


This year sees New Zealand’s All Blacks defend their world rugby title -and 2015 will no doubt mark another significant step forward for the New Zealand Whisky Company.

When The All Blacks triumphed in 2011 Tasmanian Greg Ramsay, having bought up existing stocks of the old Willowbank Distillery,  was making his first tentative steps in his bid to put Kiwi whisky on the map. It’s hard to believe that it’s just over three years ago since that journey started. And it’s fitting that in 2015 The New Zealand Whisky Company should pick up the award for Australasian Distiller of the Year.In the past 12 months the company has made major strides in international markets, launched new products, repackaged existing ones, and improved the quality of its offering across the board.

I should at this point declare a vested interest – as an adopted New Zealand citizen I am proud of my association with this company and have worked with Greg and his team to promote this whisky to the world. And I am delighted to see its three entries do so well in The Wizards.

But I should once again point out that I was not part of the judging panel that scored the whiskies so highly.

The big surprise for everyone this year was another fruity delight, the Oamaruvian. It was one of three gold medals the distiller picked up recently.

Watch out for the February World Whisky Review where I’ll speak to the team behind New Zealand whisky about the current range, what is in store, and what plans it has for world cup year

TOMORROW: Asian Distiller of the Year


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These are early days for Ontario’s first micro-distillery –  but all the signs are we’re seeing  the birth of another world class whisky maker.

Still Waters is the creation of two Barrys – Stein and Bernstein – and the distillery only bottled its first single malt whisky in 2013.

That’s right – single malt from Canada. And the distillery isn’t stopping there  – it’s also distilling a rye that has more in common with the bolder American versions than the Canadian take on the grain.

Canada observes the three year maturation rule so to fill in the time between distilling and bottling, Still Waters released its own blend, called 1+11 Canadian whisky. It’s very good indeed, an intriguing mix of citrus, spice honey and vanilla.

The single malt is released under the name Stalk & Barrel and is, unsurprisingly, very young and under-cooked. But it is extremely well made, has enough about it to capture the attention, and hints at greatness to come. It’s the whisky equivalent of young and untutored new singer – with bags of charisma, great pitch and tone,  lots of power and style, but in need of harnessing and pointing in the right direction.

That will come with time, though. Still Waters has won a gold medal for its Canadian whisky and a silver for its Stalk & Barrel single malt.

A work in progress – but what a work!

Don’t miss the February edition of World Whisky Review online when the team behind Still Waters will be talking about how they came to be making single malt whisky in Canada, and where they are hoping to go next.

TOMORROW: Australasian Distiller of the Year


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This is the first time that the independent award has gone outside the United Kingdom, but it goes to a company that has been ritually kicking butt for a couple of years now, and which demands your attention.
Heartwood is the company owned by maverick Tim Duckett, who epitomises everything good about New World whisky in general and Australian whisky in particular.


Heartwood bottles casks bought from Lark, and each one is marked out by three specific factors: the irreverent names that Tim gives them, their hyper cask strengths – high 60s and into the 70s – and most of all, masses and masses of flavour.


Drinking Heartwood is the whisky equivalent to a net session with Aussie paceman Mitchell Johnson when he’s got a toothache. These whiskies – with names such as Convict Redemption, Convict Resurrection and Vat Out Of Hell – are big, bold, unsubtle, complex, confusing and unforgettable. If the likes of Lark and Sullivan’s Cove are AC/DC, Heartwood is Rose Tattoo and The Angels jamming with the volume on 11: snarling, in your face, and dripping in passion, intensity and intent.
You either love them or hate them – whisky’s equivalent of vegemite sandwiches – but they are leading an Australian journey in to new and unchartered waters – and they sum up perfectly what The Wizards of Whisky are all about.
Heartwood picked up two gold medals for The Beagle and Convict Redemption. Tim tells me his next release is ‘an absolute cracker’ bottled at 72% ABV. The Wizards can’t wait….

Hear Tim Duckett’s response to the Wizards Award in the net issue of World Whisky review, out in two weeks.


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A record number of  whiskies were entered in to the third Wizards Whisky Awards and several new distillers entered for the first time. The competition in most of the categories was intense.

The judging was carried out by a panel of 10 members of my VIP Whisky Club, most of whom have been tasting world whiskies with me for nearly 10 years. The whiskies are tasted blind and because I know what the whiskies are, I am not part of the judging panel.

Whiskies are scored out of 100, and a proportion of them are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals.

Trophies are given in the following categories:

American Craft Distiller of the Year

Asian Distiller of the Year

Australasian Distiller of the Year

Canadian Distiller of the Year

European Distiller of the Year

Irish Distiller of The Year

World Distiller of the Year (chosen from the winners of the above

Independent Bottler of the Year

New World Single Malt Whisky of the Year

New World Other Grain Whisky of the Year

World Whisky of the Year (chosen from the two world winners above)

The results will be announced on Facebook and Twitter each day from today, and published on my blog site at the Whisky Tasting Club,

A full list of winners with comment and interviews with the winners will be published in the February issue of World Whisky Review, published at the end of January at

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