This years Wizards of Whisky European category produced the fiercest battle the Awards have produced in their four year history.
Sweden can make claim to being the world’s best New World Whisky nation after winning the clash of the European titans.
Three Swedish distilleries struck gold in this year’s Wizards Awards – and that would almost certainly have been four had Box Distillery entered – indicating a consistently high standard among the country’s new wave of distillers.
Ironically, though, no Swedish distillery picked up an overall European award – and that’s because of a monumental solo performance by Zuidam in The Netherlands, which produced the three highest scoring whiskies in this year’s competition, giving it an average score that pipped Sweden’s Mackmyra by a whisker.
As a result Zuidam’s Millstone range won European Distiller of the Year, as well as European Single Malt Whisky of the Year for Millstone 10 Year Old American Oak and European Other Grain Whisky of the Year for Millstone 100 Rye.
Ironically this year’s results are an exact mirror of last year, when Mackmyra averaged a higher score and won European Distiller of the Year even though Zuidam picked up more gold medals. This year Mackmyra is highly commended for its five gold medals to Millstone’s four.
Sweden’s dominance was completed by further golds for Spirit of Hven, the fourth year in a row that the small distillery has picked up gold, and new distillery Smögen.
The Dutch-Swedish dominance in European single malts was only interrupted by Telsington of Liechtenstein, whose rapidly improving whiskies resulted in a gold this year. among the silver medal winners were new distilleries in France and Germany.
The first thing to state is that Europe is now producing whisky to match the finest offerings from Australia, India and Taiwan, and in Zuidam and Mackmyra, we’re talking two heavy hitting distilleries with quality and variety in abundance. Neither Penderyn or St George’s were involved this year as they had nothing new to compete, but both those distilleries fall in to an elite category of European world beaters. Add in the emerging and exciting distilleries of Sweden, the Alpine region, France and Italy and the next 10 years are going to be very exciting indeed.
As for the results, it might seem perverse that Sweden can dominate the medal winners and Mackmyra can win a hefty five gold medals, and yet Sweden was not among the overall award winners. However, I have always operated this system because it is fair and it helps the smaller distilleries compete. You need only enter three whiskies to be considered for the overall distiller of the Year Award, so if your whiskies all score an average judges’ score of 95 and a distillery who enters 10 because it can afford to, only averages 94 and achieves seven golds as opposed to the small distillery’s three, then the smaller distillery takes it. It’s a system that allowed Teeling to pick up distiller of the Year two years ago with three entries – because that’s all it had – against the might of eight whiskeys from the mighty and wealthy Irish Distillers. Hard but fair, and trust me it does me no favours because I’m hardly chasing there money, am I?
And while we’re on the subject of Irish whiskey, watch out for tomorrow night’s Wizards of Whisky Irish Whiskey results…
Single malt whiskies
Millstone 10 Year Old American Oak 46%, Netherlands
Millstone Sherry 12 Year Old, 46%, Netherlands
Mackmyra Reserve Black Cask 42.3% Sweden
Millstone Heavily Peated, 46%, Netherlands
Mackmyra Moment Fenix 45.5% Sweden
Mackmyra Vintrök 46.1%, Sweden
Mackmyra Reserve Special Oak 51.2%, Sweden
Mackmyra Blomsterlid 46.1% Sweden
Spirit of Hven Tychio, 41.8%, Sweden Smögen Sherry Project No 1 57.2% Sweden Telsington VI, 43.5%, Liechtenstein
Mackmyra Sommartid 46.1% Sweden
Mackmyra Svensk Esk 46%, Sweden
Les Hautes Glaces Flavis 46%, France
Other grain whiskies
Millstone Rye 100, 50%, Netherlands
Vulson White Rhino Rye, 41%, France
Kahl Grund Blend, 46%, Germany
Simon’s Bavarian single Pot Still Rye, Germany
EUROPEAN DISTILLER OF THE YEAR: ZUIDAM, NETHERLANDS
Highly commended: Mackmyra, Sweden
MALT WHISKY OF THE YEAR: MILLSTONE 10 YO AMERICAN OAK
OTHER GRAIN WHISKY OF THE YEAR: MILLSTONE RYE 100