Judges in this year’s Wizards of Whisky Awards are hailing the competition as the best yet, with distilleries in Europe and the United States in particular offering fierce competition for the top awards. The judging team reported a significant step up in the overall quality of this year’s entries, particularly among American craft distillers. Three US ‘new faces’ to the Awards particularly impressed.
The most significant development without a doubt is the emergence of American Single Malt Whiskey, which is already making waves but will only grow stronger as new whiskeys are given more time to mature. It is a distinctly American tasting product, using home-produced barley, which is then matured in American oak barrels, often in the same way as the producers would make bourbon – by charring or toasting virgin white oak.
American whiskey is also offering diversity through innovative maturation methods and in the materials used to dry the barley. Sweden continues to be a major force in Europe but I am delighted this year to be able to add a new face to the regional winners. The country’s main competition this year came from The Netherlands (again) and England. Australia produced a strong new winner, too. But for all the new kids on the block, the clearest winners and strongest whiskies/whiskeys came from Ireland and Asia, where the winners are big hitters with previous form.
How we judged it
The Wizards of Whisky Awards do not include entries from Scotland, Japan, Canada or the established distillers of Kentucky, and are deliberately designed to highlight smaller world distillers and distillers from non traditional areas. Costs are kept low and distillers can enter just one whisky if they want to. However, to be considered for a ‘distiller of the year’ award, a minimum of three whiskies must be submitted for judging.
Judging took place over three sessions and the judges were made up with members of the VIP Whisky Tasting Club, and guests. The Whisky Tasting Club has been tasting world whiskies with me for more than 12 years and are as experienced in whiskies from across the world as anyone in the industry.
Each whisky was scored out of 100 by each judge, and the scores were added and averaged out. Where scores were particularly close to the total required for a particular medal colour, they were re-tasted.
The results will be published as follows:
Today, the medal winners for whiskies produced by grains other than malted barley.
Tomorrow: Medal winners for single malt whiskies
Wednesday: Continental winners and world distiller of the year.
OTHER GRAIN WHISKIES
Irish Distillers capped an excellent Wizards of Whisky performance by picking up four gold medals and taking the title for World’s Best Other Grain Whisky for Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength. The whiskey was a clear winner in what was otherwise a highly com-petitive category. The English Whisky Company’s new grain whisky The Norfolk was in second place, while American craft distiller Syntax led the charge for a wave of new small whiskey producers. Texas distillery Ironroot did particularly well, picking up two gold medals and a silver. The increasingly diverse nature of other grain whiskies was reflected in the fact that there were gold medals for corn, pot still, wheat and oak whiskies.
The full results are:
WORLD’S BEST OTHER GRAIN WHISKY
1. REDBREAST 12 YO CASK STRENGTH
2. ENGLISH WHISKY COMPANY THE NORFOLK
3. SYNTAX WINE BARREL BOURBON
Balcones Baby Blue
Balcones Texas Blue Corn
Balcones True Blue 100 Proof
English Whisky Company The Norfolk
Jameson Black Barrel
Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength
Syntax Wine Barrel Bourbon
Middle West Oyo Wheat Whiskey
Millstone 100 Rye
New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon
Stauning Young Rye
Woods Alpine Rye
Triple Eight Nor’Easter Bourbon
Syntax Dragon Slayer
Syntax Dragon Slayer Cask Strength