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This 12 months, our blind-tasting competitors for Scotch whisky really scaled the heights, exhibiting that the trade boasts gifted producers in all areas.
Scotch whisky is a spirit held in excessive regards worldwide – however the 12 months of the pandemic, coupled with crippling tariffs for single malts within the US, offered insurmountable challenges for the class.
The worth of Scotch whisky exports fell by £1.1 billion (US$1.5bn) in 2020 to its lowest stage in a decade, in line with commerce physique the Scotch Whisky Affiliation (SWA). Nonetheless, in March this 12 months, aid swept throughout the trade because the US agreed to quickly take away tariffs on UK items, together with single malt Scotch whisky, for 4 months.
What’s plainly apparent to see from The Scotch Whisky Masters 2021 is that producers remained devoted to high quality – pandemic or no pandemic, tariffs or no tariffs.
This 12 months’s tasting was as soon as once more held remotely in line with Covid‐19 measures in England. Forming this 12 months’s judging panels have been Billy Abbott, ambassador for The Whisky Change; and Matt Chambers and Karen Taylor, co‐founders of the Whisky for Everybody weblog. The tasting was chaired by me, Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Enterprise journal. To make sure that every entry was judged solely on the liquid contained in the bottle, the merchandise have been decanted and shipped anonymously by Wine Sorted.
To verify every entrant obtained ample time for evaluation, at varied factors all through the competitors, the judges break up into two groups – Chambers and Taylor, and Abbott and Kiely.
The day received beneath means with a flight of Blended – No Age Assertion whiskies. 4 Gold medals have been awarded on this flight, together with one to Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The whisky was described as being “solidly fruity and orangey”.
Fellow Gold medallist The Sassenach was praised for its “nutty nostril” and “a number of caramel, toffee and a few citrus sharpness” on the palate.
Inexperienced Isle was additionally deemed to be Gold‐ worthy, gathering the award for its “caramel and smoke” on the palate with “good depth and complexity”.
Additionally discovered to be deserving of a Gold medal on this flight was Highland Queen Blended Scotch Whisky Sherry Cask End. The mix impressed judges with its flavours of “cedar/sandalwood” and “candy and spicy” palate. 4 Silvers have been additionally awarded on this flight.
Chambers stated: “This flight confirmed what a blended bag you will get on this class, however three of 4 of them have been actually attention-grabbing. The excessive scorers confirmed the blenders had thought a bit extra in regards to the mix and created one thing with some extent of distinction. There have been some beautiful merchandise.”
Progressing to Blended – Aged as much as 12 Years and three extra Gold medallists have been found. Diageo picked up a Gold medal for its Johnnie Walker Black Label, with “underlying malt and inexperienced orchard fruits” on the palate, complemented by a “trace of apricot”. Distell additionally collected two Gold medals, one for Scottish Chief 12 Years Previous and one for Black Bottle 10 Years Previous. Scottish Chief 12 Years Previous was discovered to have notes of “honeycomb, a touch of peat smoke”, whereas Black Bottle 10 Years Previous delivered a mixture of “sugar syrup and cereals”. A Silver medal accomplished the flight.
“These have been all pretty strong,” famous Abbott. “As anticipated, we discovered fairly a wide range of flavours, and the standard was round what you’ll count on.”
BUTTERSCOTCH AND ALMONDS
A Gold medal adopted within the subsequent flight: Blended – Aged between 19‐30 Years. Islay Mist 21 Years Previous secured the award for its “butterscotch, almonds and apricots” on the nostril, resulting in “biscuit, malt” and a “trace of acrid smoke” on the palate.
“This was much more refined than among the different whiskies,” stated Abbott. “It was delicately constructed, in a great way; it pulled collectively a number of totally different components and balanced them properly.”
The competitors then regarded to evaluate blended whiskies by value level, starting with a flight of normal expressions, costing as much as £20. A powerful set of seven Gold medals was uncovered on this flight, presenting wonderful worth for cash.
La Martiniquaise‐Bardinet secured two Gold medals on this flight: Sir Edward’s 12 Years Previous and Sir Edward’s Smoky. The 12‐12 months‐outdated whisky was “wealthy and candy” on the palate, with “caramel, dried fruits, good construction and maltiness”. In the meantime, the model’s Smoky expression had a “creamy and grainy” palate, with a “trace of peach, plus sultanas and cinnamon”.
Grocery store Lidl additionally secured a Gold title for its Glen Orchy Blended Scotch Whisky, with its “creamy toffee” nostril, resulting in “fudge, candied citrus, vanilla and honey” on the palate. 9 Silver medals accomplished the flight.
On reflection, the judges famous the huge variations in flavours at this value level of the blended part. Taylor stated: “At this stage, you really want producers to explain what the whisky does on the bottle; it’s important. We had an excellent choice, with flavours masking every part from quiet and calm, to some correct nut‐job whiskies, so readability on style and descriptions is essential.”
Transferring as much as premium blends, priced between £21 and £30, and the Grasp bottlings the judges had been patiently ready for appeared. Distell scooped two Masters on this flight. The primary was awarded to Black Bottle Double Cask Blended Scotch Whisky, with “intense fruit and spiced sponge cake” on each the nostril and palate. Stablemate Black Bottle Island Smoke Blended Scotch Whisky additionally obtained the highest award for its “intense sea spray nostril” and “stacks of maritime character and iodine” on the palate.
4 Gold medals have been additionally awarded at this value level: “surprisingly complicated” Scottish Chief Sherry Cask End; “straightforward going, nutty” Scottish Chief Supreme; “buttery and candy” Pure Scot Signature; and “citrus and zingy” London Sq.. Taylor stated: “This flight confirmed continuation of the variety that got here from the Customary whiskies however took a step up. Every part had extra complexity, extra attention-grabbing flavours, higher steadiness, and all of the notes stepped up. And solely at a £10 distinction – that’s fabulous.”
Within the Blended – Tremendous Premium warmth (£31‐ £50), “delicate and candy” Frisky Panky and “comfortable and creamy” Pure Scot Midnight Peat each secured Silver medals.
Blended malts have been then put to the style take a look at, beginning with a flight of no‐age‐ assertion expressions. A pair of Golds went to Peat Chimney and Spice King. Peat Chimney had a “savoury nostril” resulting in “layers of chilli and cinnamon warmth on the palate, and a few stewed fruit”. Spice King, in the meantime, was loved for its “comfortable spicy palate” with “orchard fruit and polished oak” on the palate. 4 Silver medals have been additionally awarded on this spherical.
Two extra Gold medallists joined the rising variety of award winners within the Blended Malt – Aged as much as 12 Years warmth. GlenAllachie Distillers Firm took residence a Gold for its MacNair’s Lum Reek 12 Years Previous. The whisky had an “fragrant nostril” resulting in “a balanced candy and savoury palate of chocolate, meadow flowers and stewed orchard fruit”. Spice King Highland & Islay obtained a Gold medal for flavours of “stewed fruit and spice to begin”, growing into “polished oak and many wooden spice”.
The usual improved additional because the judges progressed to the Blended Malt – Aged between 19‐30 Years contingent. A Grasp medal was offered to MacNair’s Lum Reek 21 Years Previous, celebrated for notes of “spiced breads and cake batter with a swirl of apple sauce”. Abbott stated: “The marvel of a blended malt is the flexibility to look outdoors of single characters. That is whisky that does that very properly; it brings collectively totally different concepts in concord.” Clever Dodger Whisky Collective additionally took residence a Gold medal on this flight for its Speyside Blended Malt.
TANNIN AND SPICE
The Blended Malt – Aged over 31 Years introduced one other Grasp medallist to the fore: Clever Dodger Whisky Collective’s Blended Scotch Whisky. The whisky had a nostril stuffed with “berry jam, spice and pine”, with a “drizzle of cream” on the palate. “Very candy, with oaky vanilla including a contact of tannin and spice,” stated Abbott.
Funds supermarkets Aldi and Lidl proved they’ll bottle sensible blended malts at inexpensive costs within the following flight: Blended Malt – Customary (whiskies priced as much as £20). Lidl obtained a Gold medal for its “biscuity, malty” Abrachan Blended Peated Malt. Aldi obtained a Gold for its “mild and delicate” Highland Inexperienced Blended Malt, with “crisp inexperienced apple and vanilla” on the palate.
Within the Blended Malt – Premium flight, priced from £21 to £30, Malt Riot by the Glasgow Distillery Firm obtained a Silver medal for its “delicate and contemporary” nostril.
Transferring on to the Blended Malt – Tremendous Premium flight, a trio of Golds have been found, priced from £31‐£50. Berry Bros & Rudd collected a Gold for its Peated Cask Matured Blended Malt, with “elegant florals and fruitiness” on the nostril, and “comfortable summer season fruits and vanillas” on the palate.
Douglas Laing & Co additionally obtained a Gold medal for Scallywag, “wealthy and daring” in flavour with “a number of toffee, baked crimson apples and baking spices”. Ardgowan Distillery accomplished the Gold‐run with Clydebuilt Coppersmith, loved for its “baggage of oaky notes” and “underlying treacle sweetness”. A Silver medal was additionally awarded.
Within the high value bracket of extremely‐premium expressions, priced at £51 and over, a Grasp medallist was present in Huge Peat. The judges loved flavours of “apple and malt” on the nostril and “punchy peat” on the palate, resulting in “honey, lemon zest, seaweed” and “oat biscuits”.
The Single Grain – Customary flight discovered a Gold medal in Label 5 Bourbon Barrel. Aromas included “fragrant oak with pot pourri hints and many spiced toffee” resulting in a “creamy palate with caramel and vanilla fudge”. Within the Single Grain – Aged over 31 Years flight, a Gold‐normal whisky was loved within the type of Cameronbridge 1984. The whisky had notes of “crème brûlée and a contact of pastel de nata” on the nostril, resulting in a palate of “wealthy toffee and comfortable spice”.
Cameronbridge 1984 obtained one other Gold medal within the following flight: Single Grain – Single Cask. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) G10.21 expression additionally picked up a Gold medal on this warmth for its “wealthy daring fruits and woody spices”.
Glen Scotia Double Cask continued the Gold streak within the Single Malt: Campbeltown – No Age Assertion spherical, with its “buttery, caramel end”.
Within the Single Malt: Campbeltown – Aged as much as 12 Years flight, Glen Scotia 10 Years Previous obtained a Gold medal. Tasting notes included “chocolate” growing into “candied notes – fruit pastilles and wine gums”.
The model additionally picked up a Gold medal for its 15‐12 months‐outdated bottling within the aged between 13‐18 years flight. The Glen Scotia whisky was discovered to be “piney” with “juicy fruit and many spice”.
Within the Single Malt: Campbeltown – Aged between 19‐30 Years, Glen Scotia 25 Years Previous received the highest award. The Grasp medallist had aromas of “honeycomb, malt and gingerbread”, with a “scrumptious palate” stuffed with “peach/apricot, golden syrup, nice oak spices so as to add steadiness and late tropical fruits”.
Glen Scotia scooped one other Grasp medal within the Single Malt: Campbeltown – Cask Energy flight. Glen Scotia Victoriana had a “large fruity palate with stewed orchard fruit, candied berries and gummy bears” with constructing “spice and polished oak”.
And to spherical off the Campbeltown flights, Glen Scotia obtained an extra Gold medal within the tremendous‐premium class. Glen Scotia 18 Years Previous had “spiced bread and brown sugar” on the nostril, with “a number of lardy cake spice” on the palate.
HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS
A big choice of single malts from the Highlands and Islands areas have been offered subsequent, starting with a set of no‐age‐ assertion expressions. Seven Gold medals have been awarded on this flight: “fruity and tropical” Tullibardine Artisan; Tomatin Legacy, “filled with fruit”; Arran Barrel Reserve, with its “citrusy nostril”; Deanston Virgin Oak, with “constructing spice”; Nc’nean Natural Single Malt, with “candy and savoury” aromas; Langskip, with its “taste bud”; and “intense, ashy, spicy” Highland Park Cask Energy Launch No.1. Three Silver medals rounded off the flight.
Within the Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – Aged as much as 12 Years spherical, six Gold medals have been awarded. “Inexperienced and contemporary” Loch Lomond 10 Years Previous was one Gold recipient, together with “straightforward‐going and contemporary” Highland Park 12 Years Previous Viking Honour.
“Biscuit, marmalade” Arran 10 Years Previous additionally secured a Gold medal, together with “spicy, peaty” Ledaig 10 Years Previous, “viscous and candy” Tobermory 12 Years Previous, and “maritime, bitter candy” Deanston 12 Years Previous.
Within the subsequent age bracket of Highland & Island single malts – aged between 13 and 18 years – a Grasp medal was found: Deanston 18 Years Previous. Abbott stated: “This was juicy and fruity on the nostril, with a comfortable and candy palate. Layers of tropical fruit and custard tart.” Three Gold medals and one Silver have been additionally awarded. The strongest flight of the competitors got here subsequent, Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – Aged Between 19‐30 Years. The whole flight was deemed to be deserving of the highest award, creating 4 Grasp medallists.
Grasp winner Highland Park 1992 from the Clever Dodger Whisky Collective had “honey”, with “waxy wooden” notes on the nostril. “You possibly can positively scent some age on this glass, which is mouthwatering,” stated Taylor.
Tobermory 23 Years Previous was “wealthy and sophisticated” on the palate, with “apricot, cedar wooden and baking spices”.
Highland Park 21 Years Previous 2020 Launch offered “marzipan” aromas, resulting in a “wealthy and voluptuous” palate with “walnut pores and skin bitterness, heather floral, toffee apples and dried apricot”.
And at last, Clever Dodger Whisky Collective’s Jura 1991 was awarded a Grasp medal for being “delicate and light-weight, with candy floral notes and contemporary orchard fruits – peaches”. “Wow, what a spherical,” Taylor enthused. “This was a dream flight of outstanding whiskies as proven by wall‐to‐wall Masters. This group of whiskies showcased some masterful distilling, cask maturation and mixing. Really a spotlight of the Masters judging. Can we please see extra whisky have this distinctive consideration to element and care of manufacturing?”
Within the Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – Single Cask flight, three Gold whiskies have been awarded to “expressive” Highland Park 1992, “aromatic” Jura 1991, and SMWS’ “vibrant and punchy” 26.138 – Aubergine Taco.
RICH AND PUNCHY
And it appears Gold medals are available three as a result of the subsequent flight additionally produced a trio of Golds: SMWS’ 12.53 – Refined Seductive Sazerac Cocktail had flavours of “caramel and hints of tropical”, Arran Quarter Cask The Bothy was “creamy and fruity”, and Arran Sherry Cask The Bodega was “wealthy and punchy”.
Single Malt: Highlands & Islands – Customary produced three extra Gold medals, and one Silver. The Gold‐normal Scotch whiskies have been “honeyed and vanilla” Glen Marnoch Sherry Cask Single Malt, Glen Marnoch Highland Single Malt with “clear peaty sweetness”, and Ben Bracken Highland Single Malt with “wealthy toffee and honey”.
Within the premium value bracket, a plethora of Gold medallists have been discovered, together with Canmore 12 Years Previous with its “mild, meadowy” aroma, and “actually fruity” Glencadam 10 Years Previous. The flight additionally produced one Silver medallist.
There was excessive reward for The Glenturret 12 Years Previous (2020 Maiden Launch) within the Single Malt: Highland & Islands – Tremendous Premium spherical, which was bestowed with a Grasp. The whisky was “wealthy and daring, with layers of treacle, tropical fruits, candy baking spices and oaky polish woodiness”. Two Golds and one Silver medal have been additionally awarded. Taylor famous: “This spherical confirmed a step up in high quality of casking, ageing and mixing. There have been some superb whiskies for the worth.”
The ultimate Grasp from the Highlands and Islands area went to Tomatin’s A long time II within the extremely‐premium warmth. The whisky offered an “intriguing nostril” and a “comfortable and sophisticated” palate “with floral notes on high and wealthy fruit compote working via the center”.
From the Highlands and Islands, the judges then visited the Lowland area, starting with a flight of no‐age‐assertion single malts. Two Gold medallists stood out on this spherical: “candy and creamy” Kingsbarn Distillery’s Dream to Dram, and “savoury” Glasgow 1770 Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Peated. A trio of Silvers have been additionally celebrated. Within the Single Malt: Lowland – Aged Between 13‐18 Years, Bladnoch 14 Years Previous took a Gold with its “piney nostril and contact of bark”. Transferring on to Speyside single malts, and “mild, nice” Creag Dhu Single Malt Whisky collected a Gold medal within the no‐age‐assertion warmth.
Among the many Speyside single malts aged as much as 12 years, Crabbie’s obtained the highest Grasp medal for flavours of “chocolate and Turkish delight” on the palate. It was accompanied by 4 Gold medallists. GlenAllachie 15 Years Previous impressed within the Single Malt: Speyside – Aged Between 13‐18 Years warmth. The Gold‐ normal whisky was “daring and wealthy, with dried fruits and spices”. A trio of Silvers boosted the flight.
Within the older age bracket of 19‐30 years, single malt Speyside whisky Benromach Aged 21 Years picked up a Gold medal for its “comfortable and Sherried” palate.
A pair of Silvers have been additionally awarded within the Single Malt: Speyside – Single Cask warmth. Clever Dodger Whisky Collective’s Speyside Single Malt 2006 had “a great deal of oak and baking spices” on the palate, whereas Auchroisk 2007 had “a touch of manuka honey and inexperienced apple”.
DARK FRUIT CAKE
Within the cask‐power contingent of the Speyside single malts, a pair of Golds have been present in “juicy, spicy oak” Benromach Cask Energy Classic 2009 Batch 4, and 6.39 – A Belter of a Dram by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, with “wealthy fruit pudding, darkish fruit cake” flavours.
Within the value segments, Glen Marnoch Bourbon Cask Single Malt proved it was wonderful worth for cash, securing a Grasp medal in the usual vary for its “comfortable and fruity palate, with a grassy end”. Two Golds and a Silver have been additionally awarded on this warmth.
Three Golds have been awarded to “creamy and comfortable” Tomintoul Tiàth, “oak spice” Tomintoul 16 Years Previous, and “malty and spicy” Tomintoul Seiridh within the premium flight. A Silver medal was additionally given.
Abbott stated: “This spherical pushed complexity and variation in fashion.” Taylor agreed, and added: “It looks like more money has purchased you just a few further dimensions. These whiskies have positively taken flavour in a special route.”
Tomintoul additionally obtained a Gold for its Tomintoul Cigar Malt Speyside Single Malt within the tremendous‐premium warmth. “Earthy peat on the palate provides depth and complexity,” famous Chambers.
From Speyside, the tasting progressed to a big flight of Islay whiskies. Within the Single Malt: Islay – No Age Assertion flight, six Gold medals have been awarded. Among the many Gold medallists was Kilchoman Distillery, which obtained one Gold for Kilchoman Loch Gorm, with its “gravelly palate with sweetness, and fruity beginnings”, and one other for Kilchoman Machir Bay, with “mild earthiness and barley sugar”. Three Silvers rounded off the flight.
Taylor stated: “There have been an excellent variety of types in there, nobody‐dimension matches all. Some attention-grabbing takes on Islay whisky – barely much less peaty.”
Chambers added: “Lots of people appear to be enjoying on this space, experimenting with cask sorts and ages. There have been some superb merchandise, which was mirrored within the marking.”
Within the Single Malt: Islay – Aged as much as 12 Years, two Golds have been awarded to Aerolite Lyndsay, with “dry, ashy smoke”, and Bunnahabhain 12 Years Previous, with “musty smoke, peach tart and inexperienced apple”. A Silver accomplished the flight.
“Wealthy and Sherried” Bunnahabhain 18 Years Previous picked up a Gold within the Single Malt: Islay – Aged Between 13‐18 Years spherical. In the meantime, stablemate Bunnahabhain 25 Years Previous obtained a Grasp within the 19‐30 age bracket. The whisky was loved for having “a number of forest ground rancio and delicate spice”.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society secured a Grasp within the single cask flight of Islay single malts. The society’s 53.322 – Carpe Diem whisky had “intense fruitiness, with mint, menthol and medicinal peat”. A Gold went to the society’s 10.191 – Oh So Luxurious.
Atom Manufacturers additionally obtained a Gold for Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fireplace Cask Energy within the Single Malt: Islay – Cask Energy flight, praised for its “approachable” palate and “maritime” qualities.
SWEET AND PEATY
The closing flight – Single Malt: Islay – Customary – offered two Gold medallists: “Candy and peaty” Ben Bracken Islay Single Malt, and “smoky, however balanced” Glen Marnoch Islay Single Malt.
As soon as the preliminary judging had been accomplished, the judges reset their palates to retaste the Grasp medallists.
With 18 Masters to select from, choosing The Scotch Whisky Style Grasp 2021 was no straightforward feat.
However standing out among the many myriad high awards was Bunnahabhain 25 Years Previous, which received the coveted accolade.
The judges then took a while to replicate on this 12 months’s competitors and what it says in regards to the Scotch whisky class.
“A few issues positively shine out, one being that on the cheaper finish – beneath £25 and as much as 12 years – producers really confirmed attention-grabbing variety and nice experimentation. There’s tons to maintain you amused with out spending some huge cash.”
Chambers concurred and added that there have been “some very excessive‐high quality merchandise on the decrease finish”. He stated: “It was virtually like manufacturers are being modern on the decrease finish, and perhaps age statements are taking without any consideration that individuals will purchase these whiskies. They have been nonetheless superb, however virtually like they have been enjoying it a little bit secure.”
Nonetheless, all of the judges agreed that sticking to custom had additionally paid off for a lot of of this 12 months’s entrants.
Abbott concluded: “The oldsters who’ve caught to their weapons and gone very conventional, Speyside particularly, being a method everybody is aware of – these whiskies nonetheless stay very top quality. The bottom line is to additionally make it attention-grabbing, to not play it too secure and danger turning into boring. There’s a lot selection and delight to be present in Scotch; it’s what all of us love about it.”
Click on via to the next web page for the entire listing of medal winners from The Scotch Whisky Masters 2021.