Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Whisky Advocate Award: American Whiskey of the Year

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch, 51.5%, $85

This is the second year in a row for Four Roses to receive this honor, and it’s well-deserved. To be honest, I didn’t think Four Roses could ever Four Roses 2013 Limited Edit Small Batch_125th_Frontimprove on last year’s limited edition small batch release—let alone the very next year—but they did.

With five different yeast strains and two different mashbills at their disposal, they certainly have the potential to make great bourbon with a variety of flavor profiles. And with the esteemed master distiller Jim Rutledge overseeing things, I’m never surprised when I taste a great Four Roses bourbon.

This particular release, however, is the finest bourbon I’ve ever tasted from Four Roses. It’s a marriage of 18 year old bourbon and two different 13 year old bourbons, each with a different combination of yeast strains and mashbills.

It’s mature, yet very elegant whiskey, with a silky texture that’s so easy to embrace with a splash of water. It exudes balanced notes of honeyed vanilla, soft caramel, a basket of complex orchard fruit, blackberry, papaya, and a dusting of cocoa and nutmeg. The finish is pleasing and very smooth. It’s sophisticated and stylish, with well-defined flavors. A true classic! Four Roses celebrates their 125th anniversary of distilling in style. —John Hansell

We will announce the Canadian Whisky of the Year tomorrow.

Whisky Advocate Award: Craft Whiskey of the Year

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Few Spirits Rye, 46.5%, $60

Reviewing craft-distilled American whiskeys is still a matter of degrees, especially when the craft distillers venture into the stylistic territory Few Ryestaked out so strongly by the established traditional distillers. The benchmarks of bourbon and rye are well-known, and to openly declare your competition with them is to invite direct comparison. I call it the “Evan Williams Test”: is this craft whiskey good enough that I’d buy a bottle of it instead of yet another $14 bottle of the reliably well-made Evan Williams Black? Only the very best craft whiskeys can stand up to that.

By that test, Few Spirits Rye is clearly in the top tier of current craft whiskeys.

Although it’s young, the whiskey is well-made and clean in character, not funky and flawed, which still counts for a lot these days. As I said in my review (an 89 score), “Straightforward rye crisps out of the glass in no-nonsense style; dry grain, sweet grass, and light but insistent anise almost wholly drown out the barrel character.” It’s backed up on the palate, where you’ll get more rye, some tarragon and dry mint spice, and then some oak in the warming finish.

That light barrel character is hardly surprising in a young rye, and we’re not going to see much but young whiskey out of craft distillers for a while yet. So high marks to Few Spirits for making a very good young rye, one I’ve been using as a benchmark ever since I tasted it. — Lew Bryson

Tomorrow, the American Whiskey of the Year will be announced.

2013 Whisky Advocate Awards To Be Announced Beginning December 11

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The Whisky Advocate Awards are less than two days away!

wa.awards2014.logThe 20th Annual Whisky Advocate Awards will be published, as usual, in the spring 2014 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine, due out in early March. But we’re going to announce the award winners here on the Whisky Advocate blog beginning this Wednesday, December 11th. As the awards are announced, they will also be published to the Whisky Advocate Facebook page and the Whisky Advocate Twitter feed (@whiskyadvocate).

These are the whiskies that we picked from the categories of our Buying Guide as the best, most interesting, most significant whiskies of the year. We’re also happy to note that this year’s winners may have the lowest average price in quite some time, and over half of them are readily available…just in time for last-minute holiday shopping.

Here’s how they’ll roll out, starting with the American whiskeys and progressing around the world to wind up in Scotland, followed by our Lifetime Achievement Award and the big one: Distiller of the Year! Stop by each day to get the winner and read our commentary on the whisky and why it was chosen.

December 11: Craft Whiskey of the Year

December 12: American Whiskey of the Year

December 13: Canadian Whisky of the Year

December 14: Irish Whiskey of the Year

December 15: Japanese Whisky of the Year

December 16: World Whisky of the Year

December 17: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year

December 18: Speyside Single Malt of the Year

December 19: Islay Single Malt of the Year

December 20: Highland Single Malt of the Year

December 21: Lowlands/ Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year

December 22: Lifetime Achievement Award

December 23: Distiller of the Year


Be sure to check in every day, and join the lively conversation that these announcements always set off!


WhiskyFest New York 2012: A whisky enthusiast’s dream weekend!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The agenda for the saturday seminar program has been finalized. It’s going to be a great day: rare whiskies, debut whiskies, award winning whiskies, master distillers and blenders, and leading whisky writers all in one place.

A summary of the day’s events is below. If you follow the link to the WhiskyFest website (click on the logo), you’ll find the details in outline form and also be able to purchase tickets to this exciting event.

WhiskyFest New York: imagine a weekend of the world’s best whiskies, two nights of grand tastings and a day of seminars presented by the world’s top whisky distillers and blenders, bringing their best, their oldest,and their newest. The seminars on Saturday, October 27th, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be an unprecedented whisky event for those fortunate enough to attend. This educational experience takes the hands-on approach to learning, engaging every sense as we nose and taste our way through a line-up that is not to be missed. Legendary master distillers, blenders, and whisky makers will be pouring their finest—and newest—whiskies!   

The Whisky Advocate writers—the best in the business—will moderate the five 45-minute seminar sessions, and a special whisky-themed lunch, along with several whiskies making their U.S. and world debuts. A brief summary of this very special day follows.

Debut Scotch Whisky

The first debuting whisky of the day will be presented by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky, featuring mixologist and Whisky Advocate contributor David Wondrich.  In addition to treating us with a world-debut Compass Box whisky, they’ll also be serving it up in a breakfast cocktail. A great way to start a day!

Whisky Collecting and Auctions
Jonny McCormick, Whisky Advocate contributor and Martin Green of Bonhams will enlighten us on the auction and collecting scene that has exploded lately. They will offer tips on collecting and participating in whisky auctions. Attendees will taste some of the very rare whiskies that have been seen on the auction block. The whiskies speak for themselves, as do the personalities presenting them:

Gold Bowmore – Iain McCallum,
Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old – Nicholas Pollacchi,
Glemorangie 1963 Vintage – Dr. Bill Lumsden,
Brora 30 year old – Dr. Nick Morgan,
The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage).

Debut Irish Whiskey
Then, legendary Barry Crockett from the Midleton distillery will present the U.S. debut of his very own Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy bottling.

Trending Scotch
Keeping the momentum going, Dave Broom, Whisky Advocate contributor, examines the trends in Scotch whisky. Join Dave to explore smoky blends, designer whiskies, single malt extremes, and brand premiumization. Dave will be joined by the A-list of master distillers and blenders from Scotland who are making some of these special whiskies. Here they are, with the whiskies they will be pouring:

Dr. Bill Lumsden – Glenmorangie Malaga Wood Finish 30 year
Jim McEwan – Bruichladdich Octomore 4.2
Matthew Crow – Johnnie Walker Double Black
Richard Paterson – Dalmore Castle Leod

Debut Bourbon
Here we will feature the world debut of a very special bourbon presented by Truman Cox,  master distiller from  the A. Smith Bowman distillery.  He knows what the whiskey will be, but for now he’s keeping it a surprise.

Understanding Irish
Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate contributor, follows by taking us on a tour of Ireland, explaining the difference between the single pot still, single malt, grain, and blended whiskeys of Ireland. And, of course, we will taste some very special examples of each, and we will be joined by the master distillers who make them:

Barry Crockett of Midleton distillery will pour Powers John’s Lane (Single Pot Still) and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (Blend)
Noel Sweeney from the Cooley distillery will be pouring a very special grain whiskey – Greenore 8 year old
Colum Egan of Bushmills distillery treats us to a very special Bushmills 21 year old single malt.

Lagavulin Lunch

The whisky fun continues at lunch. Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach, along with Whisky Advocate writer Gavin Smith, will lead us through a tasting and comparison of three special Lagavulin whiskies: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, and the very limited 2012 Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release.

Bourbon and Rye Innovations
Immediately after lunch, we focus on American whiskey. Whisky Advocate contributor and managing editor Lew Bryson will lead a session focused on innovations in bourbon and rye. Joining him will be three legendary master distillers and one whiskey pioneer, and they will be pouring some very special new releases:

Chris Morris – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection new 2012 release
Harlen Wheatley  – Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project, comparing two Single Oak bottlings
Parker Beam – Parker’s Heritage Collection new 2012 release
David Perkins – High West’s “Campfire” (a blend of bourbon, rye and scotch!)

Award Winning Whiskies
Finishing up our special day, attendees will taste a sampling of the 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Awards winners published in the spring issue of Whisky Advocate magazine. Here they are, along with the Whisky Advocate contributors who will be presenting them:

Gavin Smith: Lowland/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year: Springbank 18 year old (2nd edition)
Dave Broom: Islay Single Malt of the Year:Bruichladdich 10 year old
Lew Bryson: Canadian Whisky of the Year:Wiser’s 18 year old
John Hansell: American Whiskey of the Year:Elijah Craig 20 year old
Dominic Roskrow: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year: Compass Box Great King Street

Tickets for this special day of seminars can only be purchased through a combination package with one of the evening grand tastings.  Tickets are available at  or by clicking here. We hope to see you at this very special event.

Whisky Advocate Award: Lifetime Achievement

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are Douglas Campbell of Tomatin Distillery and Dave Scheurich of Woodford Reserve. —Lew Bryson

Douglas Campbell, Tomatin Distillery

Our Lifetime Achievement awards go to people who have distinguished themselves in the industry over long years of service. In the case of Douglas Campbell of the Tomatin distillery, though…it goes a bit beyond that, in a generational sense. Campbell’s family has lived near Tomatin since 1894; his grandfather moved there to work on the Tomatin viaduct (completed in 1897, the same year as the distillery). His grandmother worked as a housekeeper at Tomatin house, and his father worked at the distillery as a cooper.

It’s no surprise then, that Douglas started work at Tomatin in April of 1961 at the age of fifteen. His first job was as a clerk, and he moved through almost every area in the distillery — the maltings, filling store, mash house, still house, cooperage — before being appointed head brewer in 1988, then distillery manager in 1990. He was appointed master distiller in 2009, and now, after 50 years with the company, man and boy, works as a brand ambassador.

Those who know Douglas Campbell describe him as a quiet, unassuming man who does not like being in the limelight. Our apologies for making such a fuss, Douglas, but dedication such as yours should not go unnoticed.  

Dave Scheurich, Woodford Reserve

Dave Scheurich started in the whiskey industry in 1969, with Seagram. After a solid beginning there, he moved in and out of the industry, always in production and packaging (including a stint as director of bottling for Wild Turkey), before joining Brown-Forman in 1989 as facilities manager for their corporate headquarters.

But what we really know Dave for is the project he got in 1994: the restoration of the Labrot & Graham distillery, which would become Woodford Reserve. He managed the $10 million renovation of the historic distillery, including the installation of the three copper pot stills. The enthusiasm and attention to detail he displayed in the renovation project led to his position as plant manager once the distillery started operations.

Dave took over Woodford in true old-school style: he moved into a house on the distillery property with his wife Della (who also worked for Brown-Forman as a Woodford Reserve bottler, tour guide, and brand ambassador). Until his retirement in 2011, he managed day-to-day operations: distilling, warehousing, bottling, and shipping.

He has since started a consulting business — clearly a man who can’t sit still — which is good news for those of us who enjoy his good company and habitual grin. Congratulations, Dave, and best of luck.

Whisky Advocate Award: Distillery of the Year

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Midleton/Irish Distillers

It may well be that whiskey lovers were not surprised to see the continued resurgence of Irish whiskey in 2011. But the major shock was that it was Irish Distillers who picked up the baton and ran with it most convincingly.

Cooley had another great year, of course, and three world class contenders from Ireland in one year is normally headline-making form. But somewhat strangely, the company’s many excellent releases in recent years have never centered around Ireland’s most emblematic whiskey style — pot still. That’s where Midleton seized the initiative.

Although Irish Distillers seemed content to build its fortress around Jameson, it kept the Irish pot still whiskey flame a-flicker, with two wonderful expressions of Redbreast of its own, and the fresh and fruity Green Spot, produced for Dublin wine and spirits merchants Mitchell & Sons. The perceived lack of genuine support for the pot still whiskeys antagonized and frustrated diehard supporters more than delighted them.

So its decision to release not just one new pot still whiskey in 2011 but three provided the year’s biggest ‘wow’ moment. What’s more, all three were excellent, were significantly different from each other, and were to Irish whiskey what a cluster firework is to a night sky — bursting out in exciting new directions and bringing new colors to the canvas.

Powers John’s Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy — the former a rough and ready oloroso sherry cask heavyweight; the latter a pricier, more refined whiskey matured in ex-bourbon and virgin American oak casks — were bottled at 46%, two sides of the pot still coin. If the buzzer had sounded at that point, the fans would have gone home happy…but Midleton put the game into overtime with a cask strength version of Redbreast 12 year old, keeping the best for last. It wasn’t just the best release of the three, either; it was the best Irish release of the year, and, quite possibly, of any other year, too.

The coup de grâce came with a new pot still-heavy premium Jameson under the name Black Barrel; a creamy, oily, but recognizably Jameson whiskey. Astounding stuff — and game, set, and match to Midleton. —Dominic Roskrow

Join us tomorrow for the final 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Award announcement: the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Whisky Advocate Award: Lowland – Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Springbank 18 year old (2nd Edition), 46%, $150

Some distillers consciously set out to create trends and develop profiles, while others follow. A few more, however, really don’t give a damn about such things, and no one gives less of a damn than Springbank. Working on the ‘build it and they will come’ principle (as in God to Noah and the movie Field of Dreams), Springbank has developed a reputation for studiously avoiding trends and simply making excellent single malt whisky just the way it wants to.

The adjective ‘iconic’ is all too often lazily used as shorthand for something the writer cannot be bothered to pin down more specifically, but Springbank really does deserve the sobriquet, having almost single-handedly carried the torch for Campbeltown single malts and the whisky-producing region’s rich heritage through good times and lean; mostly lean.

Springbank remains one of the last family-owned distilleries in Scotland, and the distillery itself is superbly idiosyncratic, continuing to malt its own barley on traditional malting floors and to bottle on site. Three distinct types of spirit are produced, namely Springbank (distilled two and a half times), Longrow (heavily-peated and distilled twice), and Hazelburn (unpeated and triple distilled). The wash still is unique in being heated both by internal steam coils and direct-fired by oil.

It is an open secret that Springbank does not possess significant amounts of old stock, but 2012 is expected to see a very limited release of 21 year old, feted as a classic when previously bottled. For now, however, we have the second edition of the 18 year old version to savor. First released in 2009, with an additional bottling the following year, this expression has a high percentage of sherry wood-matured spirit in the mix, and it epitomizes the quirky, individualistic, robust, traditional Campbeltown single malt at its very finest. —Gavin Smith  (Photo by Jeff Harris)

Join us tomorrow when we reveal Whisky Advocate’s Distillery of the Year award recipient.

Whisky Advocate Award: Highland Single Malt of the Year

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Aberfeldy 14 year old Single Cask, 58.1%, £115

Today, Aberfeldy is a Highland distillery that actually boasts a higher profile than the single malt it produces, thanks in part to the popular ‘Dewar’s World of Whisky’ visitor center based there. Aberfeldy distillery was built by the burgeoning Perth-based family business of John Dewar & Sons in the late 1890s, and like so many Victorian distilleries, it was constructed beside a railway line to facilitate transport.

By the time of Aberfeldy’s establishment, blended Scotch whisky was taking the world by storm, and the new distillery was intended solely to provide malt whisky for the company’s increasingly popular blends. After passing through other hands, including Diageo’s, it was one of four distilleries acquired with the John Dewar & Sons name by Bacardi in 1999.

Inevitably, the vast bulk of all Aberfeldy single malt produced at the Perthshire distillery remains destined for the blending vats to help Dewar’s maintain its number one blended Scotch whisky position in the U.S. Nonetheless, Bacardi is keen to make more of this neglected gem of a single malt, and sales of the Aberfeldy brand have increased by 400 percent in seven years to some 25,000 cases per year, with the principal offerings being 12 and 21 years of age.

Single cask Aberfeldy bottlings are very few and far between, and this 2011 release is right up there with the best. After initial hogshead maturation, the whisky ultimately underwent a period of finishing in an ex-sherry cask prior to bottling. Here’s hoping 2012 brings more Aberfeldy bottlings of equal excellence. —Gavin Smith

Whisky Advocate’s Lowland – Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year Award will be announced tomorrow.

Whisky Advocate Award: Islay Single Malt of the Year

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Bruichladdich 10 year old, 46%, $57

There were any number of contenders for this: Kilchoman’s 100% Islay, the latest Special Release Port Ellen, Lagavulin’s stellar single cask Jazz Festival release, but the winner shaded it because it has something extra: symbolism.

In the decade that has passed since Bruichladdich’s reopening, the distilling team has had to contend with a hole in stocks — the result of the distillery’s closure — and the quality of the wood filled by its previous owner. They also had to make noise in order to ensure that the warm and fuzzy feeling generated by Bruichladdich’s re-emergence was maintained.

The way they answered these issues was by releasing a multiplicity of bottlings, often finished in different casks. While Bruichladdich was never far from the headlines, fans of the distillery and its people (and I count myself as one) began to wonder where Bruichladdich was underneath this plethora of different flavors and marketing bullshit. I wanted a marker. I wanted a bottling that said, “This is what we are, everything else is a variation on this theme.”

The 10 year old does just that. It is uncluttered by finishing and marketing; it is Bruichladdich, pure, clean, simple, identifiable. It says, “One chapter has finished, now the work starts;” it says, like Alice’s transforming liquid, “DRINK ME!” and that, let us not forget, is what whisky is all about. —Dave Broom

Tomorrow’s Whisky Advocate Award announcement will be the Highland Single Malt of the Year.

Whisky Advocate Award: Speyside Single Malt of the Year

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Macallan Royal Wedding Limited Edition, 46.8%, £150

Okay, this is long gone, and is now either an investment or another whisky fueling the speculative bubble, but rarity isn’t the reason I’ve chosen it as my top Speyside release. Neither is it because of fealty to the Royal Family. Rather this, for me, was a whisky that countered the sniping which has been targeted at Macallan for a number of years: that it was too expensive, that it was pursuing the luxury market to the detriment of quality, that it wasn’t as good as it used to be.

This bottling showed that Macallan continues to do what it has always done best: use high-quality sherry wood to produce a single malt with resonant depth of flavor — and intent. Great Macallan is one of those drams whose presence forces you to pay attention to the slow unfolding of flavors in its depths. This bottling had that quality, and in doing so it eloquently answered its critics. —Dave Broom

Join us tomorrow for the announcement of Whisky Advocate’s Islay Single Malt of the Year Award.