The International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) has just announced the results of the 2022 Spirits Jury. categories of spirits.
In the Scotch whiskey category, traditionally one of the competition’s largest and most competitive segments, a total of 38 single malt Scotch whiskeys were awarded the coveted Outstanding Gold Medal.
The IWSC is an annual wine and spirits competition. Founded in 1969 by Anton Massel, it has become one of the biggest competitions of this type in the world. Spirits are rated on a 100 point scale and awards are given for Outstanding Gold (98-100 points), Gold (95-97 points), Silver (90-94 points) and Bronze ( 85-89 points).
The top three Scotch whiskies, each scoring 99 points out of a hundred, came, surprisingly, from two of Scotland’s lesser-known distilleries: Tomatin and Deanston.
Tomatin is a single malt distillery located in the village of Tomatin in the district of Speyside in the Scottish Highlands. The distillery, having passed through several Japanese owners, is now owned by Marubeni, an integrated Japanese trading and investment company. Tomatin was once the largest Scottish distillery in Scotland, with an annual capacity of around 10 million liters of pure spirit.
Current production is around 2 to 3 million liters of alcohol. Most of the distillery’s production is intended for its own blended whiskey brands: Antiquary and Talisman. The company reoriented its production towards single malts and widened its range of expressions available. Emphasizing a higher percentage of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry first fill casks has allowed him to produce very flavourful, structured and complex single malts.
Tomatin, 1976 Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and Tomatin, legacy single malt Scotch whiskey were two of the top three ranked Scotch whiskies.
Tomatin 1976 is a single cask, 36 YO+, whisky. Distilled on September 13, 1973 and bottled on August 10, 2010. It was aged in a first fill American oak barrel. The official 1976 Tomatin tasting note described it as follows:
Strong aromas of spices and wood. Evolves into powerful red fruits with a high alcohol content. Adding water creates smoother, sweeter notes of tropical fruit and vanilla spice. Sweet and long finish.
The Tomatin Legacy is a no age statement (NAS) expression that is aged in a combination of ex-Bourbon and virgin oak barrels. The tasting note on the Tomatin Legacy describes it as follows:
Nutty, but rich in pink with sweeter fudge. Popcorn with butter, mushrooms and chestnuts too. Delightfully long and round.
The third highest ranked whiskey is the Deanston, Virgin Oak, Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. This is a NAS, peated whiskey produced at the Deanston Distillery in Doune, a small town northwest of Edinburgh. The company has been owned by Distell since 2013 – a South African-based beverage conglomerate recently acquired by Dutch brewer Heineken.
Deanston Virgin Oak is a young whiskey aged in old Bourbon barrels and then refined in new American oak barrels from Kentucky. The official tasting note described the whiskey as follows:
Classic peat on the nose – some earth, smoke and bacon fat. Bright green fruits and canned peaches with the spicy flavor of licorice and smoke on the finish.
The other winners were a mix of perennial medalists as well as a number of lesser-known distilleries.
Ardbeg 25 years old and the Ardbeg Wee 5 YO Beastie both received outstanding gold medals. Glendronach, a distillery whose profile and medals rose rapidly under the skillful hand of master distiller Rachel Barrie, was a three-time winner.
the Glendronach 16 years Boynsmill, Allardice 18 years old and 21 years old Parliament the single malt Scotch whiskeys have all won exceptional gold medals. The 21-year-old, a personal favorite that is aged in both Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry casks, takes its name from a resident flock of crows at the distillery. A flock of crows is called a “parliament” – hence its name.
The official tasting note described the 21 year old whiskey as follows:
Nutty nose with hints of sawdust and incense. The palate is delicate with notes of chamomile.
Among the lesser-known outstanding gold medalists were Balblair, who was a triple winner for his 12 years, 18 years old and 25 years. This is another up-and-coming distillery with an exceptional and hugely underrated portfolio of single malt whiskeys. It is the sister distillery, Pulteneyalso won for his 18 years old expression. The Balblair 25 years old, an exceptional whiskey was described in the official tasting note as:
Full with lots of dark chocolate, a little nutmeg and prunes. A round and suave mouth.
Other notable winners are Highland Park’s 15 YO Viking Heart Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and Aberfeldy 16 years old and 21 years old phrases. the Glenmorangie Society won an outstanding gold medal for his Finest Reserve 19 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey.
Among the distillers of Islay, Laphroiag was the big winner, winning two outstanding gold medals for his 10 YO Sherry Oak Finish Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and his Select Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Islay whiskeys pair particularly well with sweet wine barrels, producing smoky expressions with distinct fruity and sweet notes.
Kilchoman was the only other distillery in Islay to win an outstanding gold medal. He won for his Machir Bay Scotch Whiskey. The whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Great Drams, a specialist bottler, won an outstanding gold medal for its Islay Distillery Single Cask Whiskey Single Malt.
Among the more unusual winners was Atom Brands, 10 YO Algae & Aeons & Digging & Fire Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. The tasting note described it as follows:
Assertive and complex; aromas of basil and mint are lifted by lilac. Pine and cedar flow through the rich roasted vegetable palate and a hint of caramel lingers on the finish.
Another unusual winner was a single malt Scotch whiskey expression from The Lindores Company, one of Scotland’s newest whiskey distilleries. The distillery is named after one of Scotland’s original 17th century distilleries at Lindores Abbey. The Lindores Distilling Company, Single Malt Scotch Whiskey was described by the jury as:
Meaty roasted barley emerges on the nose with rich Scottish flavors on the palate. Nuts, caramel and creamy pastries are well balanced to leave a lasting finish.
Loch Lomondanother scotch whiskey distillery with a rising profile, won an outstanding gold medal for the
Inchmoan 12 years old and Glengarry 12 years. The latter is aged in a combination of old first-fill and top-fill Bourbon barrels as well as old charred Bourbon barrels. The 12-Year-Old Inchmoan’s tasting note described it as follows:
Lively notes of tropical fruit, raspberry and milk chocolate on the nose with herbal undertones and lingering mineral notes. A creamy mouthfeel of butter, malt and marzipan.
To complement the exceptional gold medalists, several expressions of Whyte & Mackey: Co-Op Irresistible 12 Year Old, Tamnavulin French Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Editionand a private label offer – Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. The latter is not available in the US, but widely available in the UK.
Other standout winners included Ballantine’s Glenburgie 12 YO Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Most of Glenburgie’s whiskey production goes to Ballantine’s Blended Scotch Whisky, one of the top 5 blended whiskeys in the world by volume. The distinctly underrated distillery also released single malt whiskey expressions.
The jury described it as follows:
Fresh and vibrant nose with notes of candied orange, gingerbread, sweetness and spices.
Glencadam, another little-known distillery, which is among Scotland’s oldest working distilleries, won three outstanding gold medals for its The rather dignified 15-year-old, Reserva Andalusia Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish and American Oak Reserve Small Batch Malt Scotch Whiskey. The latter is not yet available in the US market but is coming soon. Glencadam quickly expanded its whiskey range with a range of unique cask expressions as well as innovative cask finishes.
The Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish, a personal favourite, was described by the judges as showing:
Not a shy personality! Scent of flowers, tropical fruits, peach, apricot, grapefruit and chamomile, nuanced by notes of butterscotch and cereals. Finely textured with a lovely lingering finish.
Other double gold medalists included: William Grant & Sons, Bay of Ailsa; Glen Moray, Elgin Heritage 21 year old Portwood finish; Ian Macleod Distillers, Glengoyne 12 years; Glen Turner Company, Double Cask Legacy; John Dewar & Sons, Royal Brackla 18 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish Paulo Cortado and William Grant & Sons Distillers, The Balvenie 12 YO Sweet Toast of American Oak.
This year’s jury produced an outstanding selection of Scotch whiskies. Some well-known and perennial medalists, others less so. Lots to explore and discover here.