The Scottish Field Team working hard at the recent Scottish Field Whisky Challenge held in the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. How the challenge works
our 10th birthday, I can look back with fondness and pride at the evolution of what our judges, the industry and Scottish Field have combined to create and more so in how we have managed to stand fi AS WE APPROACH rm in our beliefs on what was always going to be a difficult path.
We could have followed an easier route, which would have certainly been a more financially rewarding, by sampling whiskies with the bottles in front of us, by awarding prizes to all and sundry and by inviting distilling heavyweights onto the panel, rather than fiercely independent retailers, but no, not our style.
We like to make things diffi cult, difficult for the whiskies that is, to prove they are very best in their fields. There is only one true method to achieve this and that means navigating a rock-strewn path: every whisky is sampled ‘blind’; there is no industry inf luence, and the judges are the most demanding, outspoken and perfectly equipped group we could assemble.
Welcome to the real whisky taste test, the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge. Savour our ‘Class of 2009’: the nominated drams or defending champions, who have battled on the levellest of playing fi elds. Discover what our judges have declared as the years’ best; a surprise awaits…
Firstly, however, let me guide you through the workings of our annual whisky extravaganza.
NOMINATIONS The four off-trade judges (Richard, Keir, Darren and Elaine) are required to nominate 10 whiskies each. Three must be priced under £30, three between £30-£75, and three over £75. One extra ‘wild card’ is allowed which can fall in any price band and one must be their favourite Blended Scotch. Last year’s defending champions automatically gain entry.
HIDING IDENTITIES All whiskies are shipped to Scottish Field, subsequently stripped of their liveries and decanted into 10cl sample bottles. Each judge is provided with a batch, marked only by a number to hide its identity.
KNOCKOUT And they’re off! A few Challenges ago, Richard Joynson suggested a ‘knockout’ round to counter fatigue and it works. 50-odd whiskies are too many to assess in one sitting, therefore we dedicate the first stage at the Scotch Whisky Experience to a merciless cull. Judges mark each as ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’. Votes are recorded and the top 8 from each price band proceed.
NOTES AND SCORES You’ll find up to 1000 expressions of Scotch on the shelves of top merchants. We are now down to the best 24. Our judges spend the afternoon scrutinizing, detailing their comments and awarding a score out of 5.
WINNERS We strip out the highest and lowest score for each whisky, resulting in a ‘team score’ which has not been unfairly weighted due to one rogue score. Winners in each price band are declared and we award our top trophies: ‘Distillery Bottling of the Year’, ‘Independent Bottling of the Year’ and ‘Blended Scotch of the Year.’
Slainte! Will Gardner
“Welcome to the real whisky taste test, the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge. Savour our ‘Class of 2009’”.
HOW WE SCORE WHISKIES