Here is also a good excuse to post Murray's annual awards press release (which was actually released at the start of October.
Straight Rye Whiskey, the spirit of choice in pre-prohibition America and immortalized in Humphrey Bogart films, has been given top billing in the coveted Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible World Whisky Awards for 2010.
International whisky authority Jim Murray has named Sazerac Rye 18 year old as the finest whisky in the world after tasting almost 1000 new whiskies since April. It scooped the World Whisky of the Year title by gaining 97.5 points, only the second time such a score has been achieved.
Announced to coincide with the publication of the 2010 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, which contains tasting notes on over 3,850 of the world’s whiskies, Sazerac’s success marks the return of a whiskey style that all but disappeared from the marketplace. Following the repeal of Prohibition, American drinkers had developed a taste for lighter spirits, resulting in a boom for bourbon and Canadian whiskies, while straight rye fell by the wayside.
Jim Murray comments, “A decade ago I wrote that it was likely that there would be a renaissance in rye whiskey. I recognised that the combination of big, bold flavours and subtle, delicate fruity notes would be appreciated by connoisseurs, especially those who prefer smoky Islay single malts. Now American distillers can’t make enough of it. And in this particular bottling of Sazerac 18, we have a rye that is not just at the top of its game, but reaching previously unknown heights. In beating all other world whisky types, Sazerac 18, has set the bar for rye whiskey and it will be fascinating in forthcoming years to see what is bottled to try to at least match it.”
Distilled at Buffalo Trace distillery Kentucky, Sazerac 18 pipped into second place one of the smokiest whiskies ever produced, from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay.
Another Award winner likely to cause a surprise was an Indian Single Malt, which was awarded the title of World’s Third Best Whisky. Distilled in Bangalore, Amrut Fusion scored an outstanding 97 points. “It makes no matter where in the world a whisky is made. If it is magnificent, then it stands a chance of being recognized in the Whisky Bible Awards. Amrut have been bottling astonishing whisky for a few years now. But this particular bottling just made my hairs stand on end. It is hard to find a whisky with better balance. India has unquestionably arrived as a whisky nation” added Murray.
Scotch Whisky of the Year – Ardbeg Supernova
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple cask) – Ardbeg Supernova
Single Malt of the Year (Single cask) – Glenfarclas 1962 (3rd release)
Best Scotch New Brand – Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
Scotch Blend of the Year – Ballentine’s 17 Years Old
Scotch Grain of the Year – Duncan Taylor North British 1978
Single Malt Scotch
No Age Statement (Multiple cask) – Ardbeg Supernova*
No Age Statement (runner up) – Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
10 Years and Under (Multiple cask) – Octomore 5 Years Old*
10 Years and Under (Single cask) – SMWS 77.17 (Glen Ord)
11-15 Years Old (Multiple cask) – Tomintoul 14 Years Old
11-15 Years Old (Single cask) – Isle of Arran Sherry 353*
16-21 Years Old (Multiple cask) – Glen Grant 1992*
16-21 Years Old (Single cask) – Glendronach 1992 Cask 401
22-27 Years Old (Multiple cask) – Brora 25 Years Old 7th Release*
22-27 Years Old (Single cask) – Cadenhead’s Benriach 23YO
28-34 Years Old (Multiple cask) – Highland Park 30 Years Old*
28-34 Years Old (Single cask) – Douglas Laing Glencadem 32YO
35-40 Years Old (Multiple cask) – Glenglassaugh 40 Years Old*
35-40 Years Old (Single cask) – Whisky Fair Glen Grant 36 YO
41 Years and Over (Multiple cask) – Glenfiddich 50 Years Old*
41 Years and Over (Single cask) – Glenfarclas 1962 Release III
No Age Statement (Standard) – Ballentine’s Finest*
No Age Statement (Premium) – The Last Drop*
5-12 Years – Johnnie Walker Black Label*
13-18 Years – Ballentine’s 17 Year Old*
18 & Over – Chivas Regal 25 Years Old*
Irish Whiskey of the Year – Redbreast Aged 12 Years*
Bourbon of the Year – George T Stagg (144.8)*
Rye of the Year – Sazerac 18 Years Old (Fall 2008)*
No Age Statement (Multiple barrel) – Parker’s Golden Anniversary*
No Age Statement (Single barrel) – Blanton’s Single Barrel 316
9 Years & Under – Jim Beam Black Aged 8 Years*
10-12 Years – Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve*
13-17 Years Old (multiple Barrels) – George T Stagg (144.8)*
13-17 Years Old (Single Barrel) – Buffalo Trace Experimental Course Grain
18 Years & Over – Evan Williams 23 Years Old*
10 Years & Younger – Jim Beam Rye*
11 Years & Older – Sazerac 18 Years Old (Fall 2008)*
Canadian Whisky of the Year – Wiser’s Red Letter*
Japanese Whisky of the Year – SMWS 116.4 (Yoichi)*
European Whisky of the Year – Santis Malt Highlander Dreifaltaigkeit*
European Single Cask Whisky of the Year – Penderyn Port Wood Single Cask*
Indian Whisky of the Year – Amrut Fusion*
(* denotes category winner)
To mark the sheer quality and standard of whisky making around the world Jim Murray has created a new Liquid Gold Award for all whiskies scoring 94 points and above. Representing 10% of all the whiskies featured in the ‘2010 Whisky Bible’ they are, says Murray “the elite; the very finest you can find on whisky shelves around the world. Rare and precious they are liquid gold”.
A full account of the 2010 World Whisky Awards can be found in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2010 published today (5th October 2009). And with nearly 4000 tasting notes, including 946 of the very latest releases, the ‘Whisky Bible’ remains the definitive and most up to date guide available.
Published by Dram Good Books priced at £10.99, the ‘2010 Whisky Bible’ is available through online retailer Amazon and other good book stores. Signed copies by the author can be obtained from from www.whiskybible.com.
[End Press Release]
Well, like I said, sometimes it is hard to know what Murray is going on about.
For example, just last night at the SMWSA 16th Annual Extravaganza, I re-tasted the Highland Park 30 year old -- I'm in total agreement with Murray here, definitely one of the greats for this year.
The Sazerac Rye 18 year old, however, is nowhere near as good as Murray seems to think it. It isn't terrible, mind you; not at all. The Sazerac 18 is however fairly one-dimensional. Likewise I don't get his take on the Evan Williams 23 year old, which to me is simply smothered in oak -- totally kaput in complexity as a consequence.
He does work damned hard though, and he maintains his individuality throughout -- so first marks in that. NOBODY ELSE, in English anyway, reviews and publishes that many whiskies in a very handy pocket-sized volume. For that alone, it is worth getting.