For the second time in four years, Japanese whiskies scooped both the major categories at this year's World Whiskies Awards. And for the first time in the competition's history a single distiller won both of those top prizes: Suntory.
Best single malt in the world: Yamazaki 1984Dave Broom, chairman of the judges, said:
Best blended whisky in the world: Hibiki 21-year-old
“Undoubtedly this was the highest quality final round we have seen yet in the WWA. All the whiskies there were superb examples of their region and style and to take the top prize was a major achievement. For one distiller to take both prizes is a phenomenal achievement and shows the world the quality which exists within Japanese whisky. This achievement will send a clear message around the world.”The competition is organised by Whisky Magazine and is one of the major events in the international whisky calendar. It has been one of the key driving forces in establishing Japan as a respected whisky region. In 2001, a precursor of the competition shocked the world by announcing a 10-year-old Yoichi whisky as the best single malt in the world. In 2008, the victory of a Yoichi 1987, from Nikka Whisky, and a Hibiki 30-year-old blend from Suntory, in the same two categories scooped by Suntory this year prompted portentous headlines in the UK press. Now, they have done it again. The competition is judged by a team of international judges of writers, retailers, distillers and blenders from the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. They taste whiskies ‘blind’ over two rounds to first discern sub-category, then category winners.
Yamazaki 1984, a really unique whisky that blew my mind when I tasted it, topped its age category within Japanese single malts, beat all the other Japanese single malt sub-category winners to become the best Japanese single malt winner. In the final round, it was pitched against all the other single malt sub-category winners: Springbank 12-year-old, Auchentoshan 1998, Glenmorangie Signet, Glenfarclas 40-year-old, Bowmore Tempest, Highland Park 25-year-old, Redbreast 15-year-old, Bushmills 16-year-old and Kavalan Solist (from Taiwan!).
In the blended malt category, Glenmorangie’s James Martin’s 30yo beat last year's champion, Nikka Whisky's Taketsuru 21-year-old.
Another interesting story from the awards was the good performance of Ichiro Akuto's Ichiro's Malt range in the "Best Non Scotch Blended Malt Whisky" category. Taketsuru 21 came out on top but the other sub category winners in that division were Ichiro's Malt MWR (Mizunara Wood Reserve), Ichiro's Malt Double Distilleries, and Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve.
In the Japanese section, the best blend and single malt categories were won by the overall competition winners. The sub-category winners in the Best Japanese Blended Whisky section were Hibiki 12, Hibiki 17, Hibiki 21 and Nikka From the Barrel. Best Japanese single malt subcategory winners: Hakushu Bourbon Barrel, Yoichi 10 Years Old, Yoichi 1990.