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Thursday, April 9, 2015


2005 ranking of the top twenty scotches was 100% dominated by Scotland:
  • There were four humble surprises:  The Glenlivet 12 years, Royal Lochnagar, Tomatin and Something Special (by Chivas), all relatively "cheap." 
  • Something Special sells today for $20.
  • Interesting to note that the best scotch I've ever had was a Royal Lochnager Special Reserve, which came in this dressy wooden box.  I bought it a duty free shop in Japan, and the price was a bit more than Johnny Walker Blue Label.
What I'm getting to is that, then, the best scotch must come from Scotland, right?  Wrong!!!  Last year the shocking victor:  Tasmania Distellery's Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask became #1 against more than 300 other whiskies. sells it for $176, but good luck trying to get it to your home, especially since only 516 bottles were even made available.  Glowingly, what the judges said about Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask:
  • Ed Bates: “Tunnock’s Caramel wafers. With a touch of smoke. Excellent balance.”
  • Se├íneen Sullivan: “Toasted almonds, grated nutmeg and some fruit toast on the nose. Burnt almonds, autumn fruits stewed with golden raisins. Light, peppery and intriguing
  • Jason Thomson: “Keeping it simple in a very good way. Honey, vanilla and haystacks. All combine with apples and caramel.”
  • Joseph Cassidy: “Campfire smoke that enriches the malt and wood. A match made in heaven with a smooth buttery feel.”
  • Jamie Milne: “Great balance, lovely spices come through with time.”
All this has been especially difficult to take in Scotland because Australia has long been sued by Scottish scotch makers for selling fake scotch.  Also recognized as culprits are China, Thailand India and Italy..

Thus, under these circumstances, Australia coming in at #1 was jarring.  Yet, the scotch world had long been discombobulated, for here are the recent annual rankings:

  • 2013: Ardbeg Galileo (Scotland)
  • 2012: Yamazaki 25 year old (Japan)
  • 2011: Yamazaki 1984 (Japan)
  • 2010: Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • 2009: Highland Park 21 year old (Scotland)
  • 2008: Yoichi 20 year old (Japan)
  • 2007: Talisker 18 year old (Scotland)
In Glasgow in 2007 Suntory's 30 year old Hibiki was rated #1 for blended scotch.  That surprise was not fully appreciated by even the congnoscenti.  The following year, Yoichi from Nikka in Japan became the bottle shock for single malt scotches.  The price in 2007 was around $150/bottle, but since that #1 ranking, this elixir now goes for $300.  I have a bottle of 20 year old Yoichi, which I hide, and three other Nikka single malts.  No question that both Nikka and Suntory from Japan have become renowned for scotch.  You must might remember  Bill Murray in the 2003 Lost in Translation:

How did Japan become so dominant in scotch?  Simply one man:

The founder, Masataka Taketsuru, travelled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the process of distilling Scotch whisky first hand. He studied organic chemistryunder Prof. T. S. Patterson at the University of Glasgow and malt whisky production at the Hazelburn distillery, in Campbeltown near the Mull of Kintyre. He married Jessie Roberta ("Rita") Cowan, the daughter of a Glasgow doctor, and returned with her to Japan in 1920. In 1923 he joined Kotobukiya (currently Suntory) and helped to establish a distillery before starting Nikka in 1934.[1]

The story is a lot more Hollywood than merely the above, for Rita was was also instrumental and why Yoichi?  Click on that link for details.

Earlier this year Whiskey Advocate reviewed 114 bottles of whiskies and reported on its ten best:
  • #10  Tomintoul Reserve 37 year old, 43% (ethanol), 92 rating, $600
  • #  9  Lost Prophet 22 year old, 45%, 92, $120
  • #  8  Glenfiddich Rare Oak 25 year old, 43%, 92, $368
  • you can click on that article to read #s 7 to 4 (you never heard of them)
  • #  3  Redemption Barrel Proof 7 year old Rye, 61%,93, $80 (distilled in Indiana and bottled in Kentucky)
  • #  2  Corby Lot No. 40, 43%, 94, $40 (FROM CANADA!!...AND NOTE THE PRICE)
  • #  1  Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 year old, 45%, 94, $54 (FROM KENTUCKY:  THEY HAVE 2,000 BARRELS OF EXPERIMENTAL WHISKIES!!!)
You say, hey, those are not scotches, they're mostly bourbons.  And, yes, a whiskey can come from any grain, and is normally brown colored, except there is something called white lightning.  In the USA, Congress ruled that any American bourbon must use at least 51% corn.  Ryes have a lot of rye grain and Maker's Mark features wheat, plus, of course, that 51% corn minimum.

On the clear side, sake comes from rice, a grain.  However, gins and vodkas, themselves from grains to sugar cane to potato and more, are not considered to be a whiskey.  So in these whisky reviews, there are three basic kinds:  single malt scotch, blended scotch (most Johnny Walkers are blended, plus Suntory's award winning Hibikis) and the wide variety of bourbons.  Suntory won the Distillery of the Year Award last year in London (and they make many more than just Hibiki--I might have ten different bottles each from Johnny Walker and Suntory):


1 comment:

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