Sunday, 20 May 2007

Is there a "Best whisky in the world"

Of course most people have their favorite whisky. Lots of people prefer drinking Johnnie Walker Red Label (according to the market figures...), but I guess nobody dares to say it is the best whisky in the world...
Coming to professional specialists, the things seem to be different. There are some people who actually shameless dare to say there is a best whisky in the world... Of course, it is not the Red Label.
I'm not a professional, but I have (blind) tasted hundreds of single malts, and I regularly discover my new favorite. And probably tomorrow it will be another one...
I was really impressed by the very high quality of some independent bottlings from rather obscure distilleries. There are some articles on this blog about this amazing phenemenon (see for instance, the magic of single malt).
So, when a prestigious magazine like Whisky Magazine declares that they have found the best whisky in the world (sic!), we as whisky lovers are dreaming about legendary versions of Bowmore from the sixties, old sherryish Glen Grants from the fifties or some other treasures from the warehouses of Gordon & MacPhail or selected by Duncan Taylor (or from any of the other great or small independent bottlers, Douglas Laing, Signatory, Berry Bros, Adelphy, Jack Wieber, Dewar Rattray, and many others)...
No, professionals like those of Whisky Magazine estimate the best whisky in the world is Talisker 18 years old...
Of course, Talisker is a marvelous distillery. Of course the 18 years old version is quite a nice version (even if I prefer personally the 10 yo or the 25 yo). If I did not really appreciate the 18 yo version, this does not mean it is not a good or even a very good whisky. In my own ranking, it appears in the 283th position on 485. But this is not the question.
The question is how serious are those awards?
For my part, the answer is: not at all!!!
However, the "best whisky of the world" has been nominated by a panel of great specialists. Some Malt Maniacs were members of the jury.
And the Malt Maniacs awards are very serious. They really make a point to choose the very best whiskies out of hundreds of samples they collect. Their results seem much more reliable...

If I understood correctly the challenge, a panel of worldwide recognized specialists had to make a choice (blind tasting) amongst about 150 whiskies. All of them were official bottlings (bottled directly by the distillery). And this happens in a period where life seems to be more and more difficult for passionate independent bottlers.
Buying casks from distilleries gets more and more difficult. The market is growing very fast, with new markets for single malt like Russia, China, Brazil or India. So prices are growing accordingly for the whisky lovers we are.
It seems war is declared between distilleries and bottlers. Some distillers refuse the right to independent to sell their production, like the Grants in Dufftown, who seem to add a spoonful of Balvenie in their Glenfiddich and vice-versa. No influence on the taste (even if one could expect this would produce a better Glenfiddich...), but those casks cannot be sold as single malt anymore.
In a period where the best whiskies are to be found at independent bottlers, Whisky Magazine publishes its awards... The best whisky in the world! None of the bottlers was invited to participate. Is this honest?
I could perfectly agree on the title "Best whisky amongst 150 official bottlings". This would be correct, but would of course not be an advertising claim.
I can understand Whisky Magazine has to make some clear advertisements in order to increase their own sales.
I even will not comment on the other whiskies selected for the awards.Aberlour 10 ans 16 years... The 10 y.o. is indeed quite a nice price/quality ratio, but the 16 yo, double matured was one of my greatest deceptions in the last years. The 12 yo was really nice, but the 16... Well, I do not want to express my own tastes here. I have my own website for this purpose...
I just would like awards being given to things really deserving them. Far from all marketing considerations.
... I had a dream ...
(all reactions are welcome, of course)

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