The Whisky Tasting Club

Interview with Heartwood owner Tim Duckett

Independent bottler of the Year: Heartwood, Tasmania, Australia

World Whisky Review has featured Heartwood and its irrepressible owner before and although it’s nearly impossible to get its whisky (due to the size of the company and the demand for the malt Down Under), I am a big fan. But Heartwood’s releases are the Mitchell Johnson of whisky and will take no prisoners – a love it or hate it whisky that doesn’t shirk from coming hard and heavy.
Heartwood started acquiring whisky barrels in 1999, and commenced bottling in 2012. At any one time it only holds between 7000 to 10,000 litres. It owns whisky from Tasmanian distillers only – Sullivan’s Cove (Convict Series) Lark (Release the Beast, and several peated Oloroso casks) and new additions for Redlands and Belgrove. Heartwood just pipped Berry Brothers & Rudd to the title. the London-based company was awarded a Highly Commended citation by the judges.

Interview with  Heartwood owner Tim Duckett

tim

Q. What is Heartwood trying to achieve?
More bam per dram
More throttle per bottle
More pleasure per measure.
Our aim is to produce whisky that is ‘tasty’. Simple really. Being a little self centred. we also produce whiskies I like.
Q. You go for big flavours. Why?
The big bold flavours are a characteristic of Tasmania conditions. We have massive fluctuation in temperature, humidity and pressure within 24 hours. The whisky and the wood interact in overdrive. Generally our barrels are exhausted after one use. We also lose water and our alcohol concentrate goes up from 63.4% to the low 70s in 10 to 12 years. We also lose between 4.5-seven per cent per year to the angels excluding constant sampling by the dark angel. Our spirit is really very good also.

Q. What’s special about Tasmania and how is the whisky shaping up overall?
Our industry, started by Bill and Lyn Lark, is in its infancy. We have 23 years experience, Scotland and Ireland have 400 years. There are more questions than answers, we are still learning about our conditions. However, isolation can lead to innovation.  As we (the Tasmanian Industry) learn more, our whiskies should get better or at least more consistent.

Q.Where to the unusual and often amusing names come from?
Heartwood has a large social media following and they help with the names of our whiskies. We made some big whiskies such as Velvet Hammer and Vat out of Hell, named through Facebook. Convict Release : named with Brian Ritchie from Violent Femmes fame. We had had a couple of drinks, seemed funny at the time. The Beagle : the evolution of whisky and a voyage of discovery. The Four Corners of Ross, an old township in Tasmania with the pub , the Town Hall, the old Gaol and the Catholic church on the corners of the main street: Temptation, Recreation, Damnation and Salvation. Everything that goes into whisky consumption.

Q. So what is coming next?
We are aiming to make high strength delicate whiskies based on Australian muscat casks, though we still have several barrels of Lark 100 per cent  peated whisky in oloroso barrels due in about three years. The delicate whiskies will be called Shot in the Dark (from a muscat barrel) and Smiling Assassin etc. We still will produce some big whiskies such as ‘Son of a Bitumen’ the first traditionally 100 per cent peat whisky from Redlands Estate and ‘The 72% Solution’ from Lark. We have also put down, through Belgrove distillery, a 100 per cent rye spirit into a muscat cask. All muscat , sherry and port barrels are sourced from Australia. Names may change if the whisky doesn’t work out the way we plan.

Q. Where are Australian whiskies headed next?
Australian whiskies are gaining a reputation throughout the world though recent awards to Sullivan’s Cove in the UK and Lark in the US. We will not compete with Scotland or Ireland and nor should we. We have had nothing but massive support from both countries. What we will do is produce something that is different and as the demographic for whisky continues to evolve, particularly younger professionals looking for variety, there will be a growing demand for Australian whisky. Unfortunately or fortunately we are unable to meet the demand for our whisky in Australia, let alone the rest of the world. Who knew 10 years ago?

Q. Given that you don’t need recognition up here, how much does this Wizard Award mean?
To be awarded Wizards of Whisky Independent Bottler of the Year 2015, is first of all, humbling, and secondly, helps identify Australia, particularly Tasmania, as a serious producer of high quality whisky. We will still make mistakes and produce some cr….,  rubbish, however we will continue in our endeavours to produce and improve our whisky and our consistency. This award will encourage us to continue, where quality is our priority. Onward and upward.  All good.  Thank you to to the Whisky Tasting Club and Dominic and to all those that take an interest in and support Heartwood Malt Whisky.

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WIZARDS OF WHISKY IRISH DISTILLER OF THE YEAR: BUSHMILLS

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 our history’ and promised to nurture and develop the Bushmills portfolio in the future.

Reaction from Colum Egan, master distiller at Bushmills

Could you summarise the year 2014 with regard to Bushmills brands and how they fared?
2014 was another great year for us – net sales of Bushmills grew by seven per cent. This was really driven by our honey flavour innovation, Bushmills Honey, and strong performance in Russia and Eastern Europe, Germany and global travel, or duty free. Last summer we also hosted the third Bushmills Live, opening the doors of the distillery once again to stage the festival of whiskey and music, with a stellar line up – The 1975 and Tired Pony among many others.

What’s your reaction to receiving this Award and beating a significant number of other Irish whiskeys?
We’re thrilled and honoured. It’s a fantastic accolade for the team who work so hard here to ensure the consistent quality of Bushmills. We’ve been making whiskey at the Old Bushmills Distillery for centuries and the quality of our liquid is the foundation on which our success is built. So it’s fantastic to see these efforts recognised.

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Interview with Barry Bernstein, co-owner of Still Waters Distillery

CANADIAN DISTILLER OF THE YEAR:   STILL WATERS, ONTARIO

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!

Interview with Barry Bernstein, co-owner of Still Waters Distillery

still waters

Q. Please tell me the history and background of Still Waters
We commenced distilling in March, 2009 as the first micro-distillery in Ontario, a province notorious for strict (and restrictive) liquor laws. We (Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein) are two friends with a passion for whisky. We watched what was happening in the US with the rise of craft distilling and thought we could do that here. Our first whisky love is single malt whisky and as we broadened our horizons from Scotch to single malts from all over the world. We thought why not a great single malt from Canada? After all, Canada produces some of the best quality grains in the world.

Q. Why single malt, and why rye? Both are challenging to make aren’t they?
We started with single malt since that was where our personal interest was. After about 18 months we decided to experiment with some other grains, and created small batches of corn, wheat and rye spirits. We were both struck with the uniqueness of the rye spirit and thought that there might be an opportunity to introduce a unique whisky to Canadians most of whom typically think of rye whisky as something very different, i.e. Canadian Whisky made mostly from corn with a little rye flavouring. We find the rye much more difficult to work with than the malt given its tendency to foam (sometimes uncontrollably) during fermentation as well as distilling. We need to work with smaller batches and a little more slowly with the rye.
Q. Describe how 2014 was for you.
We actually didn’t have a great deal of whisky to sell in 2014 given our production back in  2010/2011. Our goal was to sell everything we had available for sale and we met that goal. It turned out to be a great year for us as we saw increased traction for our single malt whisky and fantastic recognition of our rye, released late 2014 (in fact, it won Best New Whisky at the Canadian Whisky Awards!). Coming of these successes, we have a lot more whisky to sell in 2015 and are very optimistic.

Q. What next for Still Waters?
We now need to concentrate on our marketing and sell our whisky! We are hoping to gradually expand our capacity so that we can double or triple our output over the next 18 to 24 months.

Q. For many, many years Canada was almost closed to the rest of the world and really only known for its big name commercial whiskies. Is that changing now?

We hope things will change for Canadian Whisky world wide. There is a growing craft distilling movement in Canada and some very interesting products being made. Unlike in the US, with hundreds of micro-distilleries but no legal minimum whisky aging requirement, there is a de facto quality mandated by law for Canadian made whiskies. It doesn’t mean all will be good, but it definitely raises the bar and we think we’ll see some extraordinary whiskies coming from Canada over the next few years, mostly from small producers like ourselves.
Q. What does this Award mean to you and how pleasing is it to get international recognition for what you are doing?
Being named Canadian Distiller of the Year is an incredible honour. First and foremost we consider ourselves craftsmen and this validation of our work is very meaningful and important to us. International recognition is wonderful and will hopefully bring more attention to what we are doing here at home, where consumers tend to look abroad when thinking about whisky and often not paying much attention to what is in their own backyards.

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Interview with Tom Holder, The NZ Whisky Co

WIZARDS OF WHISKY AUSTRALASIAN DISTILLER OF THE YEAR: THE NZ 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.

Interview with Tom Holder, export and brand manager, The NZ Whisky Co

tom holder

 

Q. Please summarise 2014. what were your main achievements during the year?
Launching our 25 Year Old was the highlight of 2014. To be only the third nation outside Britain to have matured a single malt to that age, and enjoy the feedback and sales to date, is what we all go to work for. Obviously gaining LiquidGold for our South Island Single Malt in the Whisky Bible, a growing foray into Asian markets and becoming established among Australian whisky drinkers, gives us great hope going forward.
Q. How is your whisky doing?
We have enjoyed really strong sales growth, far more than we expected.
Q. Where is it selling?
Europe, Australia and New Zealand are our key markets. We opted out of a lucrative US distribution because we want to have our new-make maturing away quietly, before we tackle the expanse of the USA!
Q. What are the core brands you are focusing on?
With only 60 or so barrels of single malt remaining, we really have to ‘stretch’ out our single malt stocks. So we’re focusing on 50cl bottlings, and increasing the sales of hip flasks. We are launching more derivatives of our DoubleWood whisky this year; the ANZAC DoubleMalt (blended with Australia’s best malts) and Oamaruvian Cask Strength have already enjoyed pre-sales/orders through our sales networks, and we think they’re a lovely variation from the DoubleWood itself.
Q. Please tell me about your plans to distil and where you are with that?
We have now put down around a dozen trial batches of whisky with our production partners in Christchurch. Anthony and Douglas are emerging as two of the most talented distillers in New World Whisky, and we’re thrilled to keep developing distinctive New Zealand style and flavours through our new-make and the ensuing maturation.
Q. What are your plans for the coming months?
Celebrating BACK-TO-BACK distiller of year award with Wizards of Whisky and bowing-down to our framed wall-mounted picture of Dom Roskrow of course!!!  Launching the ANZAC DoubleMalt and the Oamaruvian are going to be SO exciting because i get great satisfaction from people saying “i’ve never tasted a whisky like that before…..AND I LOVE IT….where can i buy it?”

Q. How important will the rugby World Cup and the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli be to your plans?
With our partners at Gordon & MacPhail, and our tireless brand ambassador Erik Burgess, we plan to make the RWC our big platform for promoting into the UK market. The ANZAC has been in our portfolio for three years now, and the market has a heightened awareness of their sacrifice this year, but we just have it there to pay homage to what those young men and women gave-up, to let Kiwis, Aussies and Tasmanians, to enjoy the world’s ultimate lifestyle. I hope they’d enjoy the coming together of flavours and fun that the whisky embodies.

Q. How do you feel about picking up this award?
This is a serious honour for us. We work closely with the Larks, Keith Batt and the Lawrys in Christchurch, the men and women that make southern hemisphere whisky what it is today; so to be mentioned alongside is a privilege. We’re all flying the flag for New World Whisky and hope your readers all get to find some soon!

 

 

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Interview with Krish Kumar, Paul John Distillery

WIZARDS OF WHISKY ASIAN DISTILLER 2015: PAUL JOHN DISTILLERY, INDIA 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 last year, 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, though, facing a different judging panel to 2014, it picked up medals for both its core range and its excellent single casks.

Interview with Krish Kumar, general manager, international sales & marketing, Paul John Distillery kumar   Q. You won World Distiller of the Year in 2014 but the year seemed to be quiet from an Indian whisky point of view. So what sort of year did Paul John have?

We were very delighted to have won the World Distiller of the Year 2014. I agree that the start of the year was rather quiet. Most distilleries will say the same as January  and February are known to be the holiday blues months. But we did gain momentum mid-year, for sure. Diwali festival is known to bring light according to Indian belief. It certainly did in regards with Paul John activities as the sales received a boost with the Diwali promotions that we carried out at the Whisky Exchange website and the retailer promotion across all retailers in the UK..

Q. How important have the single cask whiskies been for you?

Single casks have been very important for us from day one. Single casks have formed an Aura for our brand and will remain the most prestigious variant. Every variant is special in its on way and has a story behind it, but single cask has something very special about it. (suppose once they are gone they are gone). We have received some fantastic reviews for each of our single casks and we have some more casks on its way for the UK and Europe.

Q. Do you have any new releases planned ?

There are some plans in the pipeline which have not been finalised yet. We might have an answer to this question in couple of months’ time. Request the industry to keep their eyes peeled though, as something very exciting is on its way.

Q. How important is the UK market to your future?

The UK is where the whisky was first launched and will remain very very important. Whisky is on the up in UK and will remain vital for us. Having said that, giants such as  France and Germany will also receive equal attention from us. We believe that each of the European countries will need equal attention and will need to perform equally well for a brand to be successful.

Q. What are your plans going forward in to 2015?

We have some amazing plans both for marketing and sales in the pipeline which will help us perform better compared to 2014. We will be working very closely and paying a lot of attention to each of our partners across Europe offering full support to maximise their potential. We are launching Paul John in Italy and will be a part of Spirit of Scotland festival in Rome. Also, we are looking at new partners to come on board in various other countries.

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WORLD WHISKY REVIEW FEBRUARY 2015

MY VIEW – FEBRUARY 2015
So here they are – the results of the third annual Wizards of Whisky Awards and boy, was it hard work this year. More entries, fiercer competition, some organisational issues and an exhausting judging process – it has taken about eight months to reach this point. Which it means it’s nearly time to start all over again…
But I’m delighted by the results, proud of all my judges, 100 per cent happy with the way we reached the outcome and with the winners. You can’t please everyone all of the time – especially when it comes to passing judgement on winners and losers from a group who all think they are winners – which, by definition they do, otherwise they wouldn’t be entering a competition.
But once more I honestly feel that The Wizards are the best reflection of what’s happening in ‘New World Whisky’ and that’s because I have such a strong specialist whisky-tasting panel that has been tasting whiskies from as far afield as New Zealand and Iceland for some 10 years now. As always,the whiskies were tasted totally blind, and no favours were conferred on any single distillery or nation. I pride myself on having no favourites and in treating all distilleries equally and with total fairness. It’s in my DNA – and anyway, I wasn’t a judge.

Our winners are an intriguing mix of old and new, straddled by the winner of the overall World Distiller of the Year, Mackmyra. On the one hand the distillery was in the original vanguard of ‘New World’ whiskies, one of a few that led the charge a decade or so ago. My VIP group has been tasting its malts since the very earliest bottlings of Privus and Preludium years ago.
But on the other, it didn’t enter the Awards until this year, making its triumph particularly impressive. While the whiskies were tasted blind, I do wonder whether my judges, who have always enjoyed Mackmyra’s whiskies, recognised distinctive characteristics while judging.

Not everyone was happy with the judging process, but I stand vigorously by it.  It is deliberately designed to make awards success accessible to all distillers across the world, no matter how modest their budgets, and to recognise quality at every level. I have always approached my profession with honesty and integrity and the Wizards reflect that. And that’s why, I think, they are thriving.
That said, there will have to be changes next year because the awards are becoming too big to organise the way I have done over the last three years. This year, for example, it became impractical to have a London judging panel because there were too many whiskies to transport.
But change is a good thing, and I am looking forward to unveiling exciting plans for the coverage of New World Whisky in the coming weeks. Watch this space.

WIZARDS FLY HIGH OVER EUROPE
Europe has dominated the 2015 Wizards of Whisky awards, with two of its distilleries battling it out for initially the European Distiller of The Year and then The World Distiller of The Year.
Mackmyra of Sweden proved that it is still a major force to be reckoned with when it comes to distinctive and unusual whiskies, winning both titles with four excellent malt whiskies.  Three of the best four malt whiskies came from the Swedish whisky, with the fourth finishing seventh.
But Zuidam in The Netherlands can consider itself unlucky not to lift both titles itself. It actually achieved more gold medals than Mackmyra but with lower scores, and therefore a lower average score across its range.

It was highly commended by judges for its Millstone range of whiskies. The English Whisky Company also produced very strong results. Sweden produced another high scorer with Spirit of Hven, which achieved gold. This meant that the Scandinavians produced five of the seven top malts.

The other notable success in Europe was France, which well and truly put itself on the New World Whisky map with two golds for Distillerie Warenghem and Brenne respectively.

Elsewhere Paul John of India managed to hold off a strong challenge form Kavalan of Taiwan to hold on to its Asian award, Balcones shrugged off its recent troubles to regain its US Craft Distillery title, and newcomers Still Waters lifted the Canadian trophy.

The most disappointing category this year was Australasia, mainly because the distillers Down Under are too busy targeting their limited supplies of whisky to an insatiable consumer demand to risk creating even more demand by winning further accolades in the Northern Hemisphere. Nevertheless, two awards did head southwards, with Heartwood lifting the Independent Bottler of the Year crown after a fierce battle with very Bros & Rudd in the United Kingdom.

The most fiercely contested category of all, though, was Ireland, reflecting the growing number of world class whiskeys coming from the country.

The title just went to Bushmills after a tight three-way fight involving Irish Distillers and Teeling.
The Wizards of Whisky World’s Best malt went to Mackmyra’s Midnattssol.

Although Scottish whiskies can only be entered through the independent bottler category, the country still reminded us where the whisky power base still remains. A Scotch blend produced by independent company That Boutique-y Whisky Co lifted the title of the Wizards World’s Best Other Grains Whisky.

Full results and interviews to follow.

 

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Wizards of Whisky World’s Best Other Grain Whiskies 2015

Best other grain whisky:

Boutique-y Company Blended Whisky Batch 1, Scotland                83.3

Second best other grain whisky: Balcones Baby Blue, USA    82.5

Third best other grain whisky: Powers John’s Lane, Ireland    81.3
4. Millstone 100 Rye, Zuidam, The Netherlands   GOLD
5. Balcones Brimstone, USA      GOLD
6. Syntax Spirits Wine Barrel Bourbon, USA   GOLD
7. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Cask Strength, USA GOLD
8. Whistlepig 100-100 Straight Rye, USA    GOLD
9. Millstone Five Grain, Zuidam, The Netherlands   GOLD
10. Syntax Spirits Bourbon, USA      GOLD
11. Balcones Bourbon, USA      GOLD
12. Green spot, Ireland       GOLD
13. Teeling single Grain, Ireland       GOLD
14. The Oamaruvian, New Zealand     GOLD
15. Lord Elcho blended whisky, Scotland    GOLD
16. Redbreast 12 Year Old, Ireland     SILVER
17. Stalk & Barrel Canadian Whisky     SILVER
18. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye 46%, USA   SILVER
19. Bushmills, Ireland        SIL-VER
20. Black Bush, Ireland       SILVER
21. Telsington Rye, Liechtenstein     SILVER
22. NZ Doublewood, New Zealand      SILVER
23. Syntax Big Cat Whiskey      SiLVER
24. Millstone Menage A Trois, Zuidam, The Netherlands SILVER
25. NZ Digger And Ditch, New Zealand     SILVER
26. One, England        BRONZE
27. Kings County Bourbon, USA      BRONZE
28. Kings County Moonshine, USA     BRONZE

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Wizards of Whisky World Distiller of The Year 2015

mackmyraSwedish distiller Mackmyra has been crowned Wizards of Whisky World Distiller of the Year 2015 after dominating the malt whisky category of the awards.

All four entries from the distillery achieved gold medals and finished in the top seven malt whiskies tasted blind by a panel of 12 judges. Mackmyra Midnattssol also won the title of Wizards World’s Best Malt 2015. Mackmyra is one of the longest established ‘New World’ distillers but this is the first time the distillery has entered the Wizards Awards. Judges were particularly impressed with the diversity of malts, which included peaty, savoury, sweet and fruity malt selections.

Mackmyra moved in to a new and larger distillery three years ago and matures its casks  at a number of different sites , including a former armoury on an island off Stockholm, and an underground mine. It also uses a range of cask types, including quarter casks.  It has a range of whiskies made up if core brands and special releases. The four submitted this year include two new releases: Reserve and Vintage. As organiser and non-participating chairman of the judging panel, I am delighted for master whisky blender Angela D’Orazio and her team, but not surprised. I have been writing about the distillery since its earliest days and have seen it progress from early Privus and Preludium bottlings to the excellent bootlegs entered this year. Mackmyra’s whiskies are more ‘regionalised’ than any other New World Whisky, their taste influenced by local ingredients including a salty peat which is very distinctive to that used in Scotland, and from the juniper twigs occasionally used to dry the barley. Mackmyra also won European Distiller of the Year, where Swedish distiller Spirit of Hven also secured a gold. In all Sweden provided five of the top seven places in the malts category, and judging from the samples I recently received from Box in Sweden, there will be more success to follow from the country. Other outstanding performances in this year’s awards came from Zuidam in The Netherlands, Bushmills in Ireland, Balcones in America and Paul John in India.

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Wizards of Whisky World’s Best Other Grain Whiskies 2015

 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Scotch Blend Batch One

blend
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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WIZARDS AMERICAN CRAFT DISTILLER OF THE YEAR 2015

BALCONES, TEXAS

balcones
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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