This year’s Scotch Whiskey Masters saw our judges travel across Scotland one sip at a time, scattering medals as they went.
From blended liquids to super-premium single malts, the selection of drams up for judging this year was exceptional, and our panel of leading spirits specialists can attest to that, handing out 14 Master medals, 76 Gold medals and 34 Silver medals throughout the blind tasting.
Our panel of experts comprised: Jack Dalton, UK and international sales manager of Edinburgh Whiskey Academy; independent spirits consultant Ivan Dixon; Ivan Orsini, senior bartender at The Aubrey, in London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park; Malika Kirchel‐Sharper, bar manager at Boisdale, Canary Wharf; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Businesswho chaired the panel.
Karen Taylor, co-founder of the Whiskey for everyone blog, was the chair of the second panel. Her fellow judges included: Derek Millar, retired whiskey sales advisor; Alan Uresti, head of agave spirits at Annabel’s; and Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis, London.
Chaired by Matt Chambers, co-founder of the Whiskey for everyone blog, the third panel included: freelance writer Ian Wisniewski; Michael Fichtner, whiskey sommelier at The Connaught Hotel; and Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks.
Finally, the fourth panel was chaired by Billy Abbott, ambassador at The Whiskey Exchange. He was joined by ghost writer Mark Jennings; Nick Larsson-Bell, senior buyer at Harvey Nichols; and Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Businessess.
Keep reading to find out which 10 bottles left a lasting impression.
Marking the first Master medal winner of the tasting, this 15-year-old Scotch comprises a blend of Speyside and Highland whiskies, which have been rested in a combination of Bourbon and Sherry casks.
The judges described the whiskey as “malty, with caramel, vanilla and cherry, and a touch of sharpness and citrus” and was praised for its “rich, creamy” texture on the palate, and the “notes of crème brûlée and oaky tannic finish “.
An excellent bottle for anyone seeking a premium blended whiskey that won’t set you back more than £30 (US$36.64).
In the super-premium blended malts category, another worthy Master winner was found with Clydebuilt Shipwright, which marries Speyside and Highland whiskeys in first fill oloroso Sherry casks. Judge Larsson-Bell said the 48% ABV whiskey had a “nose of lilies, apricot jam and a touch of spice. On the palate, it is delicious, exceptionally balanced and super creamy.”
Meanwhile Abbott noted “leather and toffee” on the nose, alongside “chocolate and dried fruit on the palate, with some sharpness”.
If there was a prize for the best named whiskies, The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society (SWMS) would win every time. As it happens, the Scotch bottler didn’t need the extra category to clean up at this year’s tastings, taking away a total of six accolades for its submissions, including a Master medal for 112.55 – The Devil in Pink Silky Pajamas. Spirits writer Jennings enthused: “A tropical fruit explosion, deceptively drinkable at full strength, and with water it just sings from the rafters ‘drink me all day long’.” I adored this.”
The SMWS also took home Master medals for its Campeltown single malt Apocalypse Cow; the cask-strength The Gentle Sparkling Beast From the East; the “creamy and fruity” Funky Old Bodega; and Islay single malt Lighthouse to Smokehouse; plus a Gold medal for Sacher Torte and Simnel Cake.
The Glenturret 10 Years Old Peat Smoked 2021 Release received a Master medal in the super-premium single malt category.
Judge Prousaefs was impressed with the liquid’s smoothness considering its 50% ABV, noting that it was “peaty and herbaceous on the nose”, while also recognizing flavors of “red fruits, honey and spice and a long, sweet finish” on the palate.
The Glenturret also nabbed a Gold in the flight for the “bold and expressive” 12 Years Old 2021 Release, also noted for having “red fruits on the palate” along with a long Sherry finish.
Coming from Scotland’s Lowland region and landing in the single malt premium category, where bottles are priced between £36-£50, is this Master winner: the Triple Distilled edition of the Glasgow 1770 Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which boasts notes of “banana and tropical fruit”.
The Spirits Business editor, Melita Kiely, noted: “Fruitiness follows on the palate with caramel and toffee sweetness. A lot of flavor for the price – I’d be very happy to pay this for a bottle.”
The brand also received a Master for its Sauternes Cask Finish which landed on the savory side of the palate.
Taking home the biggest accolade from the day’s tastings was Old Particular Dailuaine 18 Year Old, which was given the title of Taste Master (the best of the day) for its “red fruits, honey and allspice on the nose and palate. The nose is a bit reserved, but the palate is very expressive and complex”.
Only 170 bottles of this 48.2% ABV Speyside single cask malt were produced for the Old Particular Midnight Series, having spent its days resting in a single Sherry butt finishing cask from June 2003 to June 2021.
Hailing from Speyside, this special edition whiskey won a Master medal after impressing the panellists.
Prousaefs said: “Brilliant on the nose, with red fruit, flowers and honey. The palate is very expressive and smooth, with similar notes, and a long Sherry finish.”
The flavor comes from virgin American oak casks, and the whiskey is UK Soil Association-accredited from start to finish. It is also the ‘world’s first’ certified organic single malt whisky, and has been in production since 2006.
There’s a lot of speculation around which undisclosed Islay distillery this whiskey comes from, with many thinking it resembles the liquid produced by Bunnahabhain, while others assume the liquid can’t come far from Laphroaig. Regardless of its origins, our judges were impressed by its “complex nose, subtle barbecue and smoke with fresh fruits still breaking through”, all of which saw it awarded a Gold medal.
The 10-year-old whiskey has been bottled at 40% after spending a quarter of its aging time in first-fill oloroso Sherry octaves. Its name gives a lot away when it comes to what drinkers should expect from a dram, and if famous distillery associations and excessive repetitions of ampersands don’t bother you, this is a solid bottle to add to your collection.
Notes of “pink grapefruit, juicy fruit bubblegum and Guadeloupe melon” won this 15-year-old Campbeltown whiskey a Gold medal at this year’s Scotch Whiskey Masters.
This 46% ABV whiskey is unpeated; it was matured in first-fill Bourbon and refill American oak casks, and doesn’t hold back on letting the liquids classic regional traits shine through.
Compass Box took home a plethora of Gold medals at this year’s tasting, including for this “spicy and gingery” The Story of the Spaniard. This no-age-statement blended malt is named for a chance encounter the brand’s founder had with a man in the south of Spain, where he was introduced to Sherry for the first time. Years later, he was reacquainted with the category through whiskeys aged in former Sherry casks, and this specific blend is a tribute to the broad spectrum of styles the Spanish spirit has.
Compass Box recommends sipping this neat, or in a ginger ale Highball, garnished with an orange peel alongside a plate of Spanish cured meats.