…and it has said “Ho ta lah!” – or at least that’s the closest phonetic spelling I can find for the Taiwanese equivalent to cheers!
Yes, the World Whisky Awards for 2015 were held recently to determine the best whiskies in the world across a multitude of categories and they have awarded their top honour of “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” to the Taiwanese distillers of Kavalan, for their Solist Vinho Barrique expression. And anything described as “bourbon-infused milk chocolate” would probably get my vote too. Its a single cask release, making it rare, and is bottled at cask strength, so its certainly not pulling any punches at 58.6% ABV, so keep an eye out in the auction rooms, because this stuff is nowhere to be seen on the shelves!
The full round-up of winners can be found here (http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/2015/all.html) but here’s a list of the overall winners from each category:
- World’s best single malt: Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique (Taiwan)
- World’s best grain whisky: Darkness! North British 18 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Scotland)
- World’s best pot still whiskey: Redbreast Pot Still 15 Year Old (Ireland)
- World’s best American whiskey: Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (USA)
- World’s best blend: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Whisky #1 (Scotland)
- World’s best blended malt: Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year Old (Japan)
- World’s best scotch blended malt: Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig (Scotland)
- World’s best flavoured whisky: Master of Malt 40 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur (Scotland)
- Best African blended whisky: Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (South Africa)
- Best African single malt: Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old (South Africa)
- Best American single malt: Balcones Texas Single Malt (Texas)
- Best Australian single malt: Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask Matured (Tasmania)
- Best European single malt: Mackmyra Iskristall (Sweden)
- Best Irish blended whiskey: Tullamore Dew Phoenix (Ireland)
- Best Irish single malt: Teeling Single Malt (Ireland)
- Best Japanese blended whisky: Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Old (Japan)
- Best Japanese single malt: Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old (Japan)
- Best Campbeltown single malt: Longrow 11 Year Old
- Best Highland single malt: Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year Old
- Best Lowland single malt: Highland Harvest Single Malt Sauternes Wood
- Best Islands single malt: Ledaig 10 Year Old
- Best Islay single malt: Ardbeg Kildalton
- Best Speyside single malt: Benriach 16 Year Old
This seems like another turning point in the story of world whiskies. Comparing this year’s result to last year’s 2014 winner – Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask, from Tasmania, Australia (which still won best Australian dram this year) – it seems that not only is the whisky world wide open, but it is thriving and excelling in its craft. That and French wine casks are going to be even more sought after in the coming years.
Some people may challenge the validity of these types of awards, but given that 2015 has seen whisky guru Jim Murray awarding his whisky of the year to Yamazaki’s 2013 Sherry Cask release and has previously awarded his ‘New Whisky of the Year’ to Kavalan, there seems to be a trend forming. For collectors this might be a call to start diversifying your purchases, whereas others may see this as a time to get behind the Scottish and Irish founders of the dram, but whichever your persuasion, you can’t deny that this is a good and vibrant time for whisky makers and appreciators worldwide.