The great and the good of the whisky industry were honoured last Friday at the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge Awards.
Held at Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu, representatives from the industry came along for an afternoon of celebration.
Janice Johnston, project manager for the Whisky Challenge, said: ‘Whisky remains an important part of our editorial programme and the Challenge too is going from strength to strength.
‘I am delighted that we continue to be associated with such an exciting and passionate industry and am hugely grateful for the support and dedication that our judges bring to the table, giving so freely of their time and experience throughout the year. This year’s panel has been no exception, and I would like to thank each and every one of them.
‘This year we processed and decanted over 150 whiskies across three separate events – our Summer Challenge, Readers’ Challenge and Grand Final – in order to decide our ultimate winners. This was no easy task, so may I also take a moment to say a heartfelt thanks to all our judges and readers who have been involved – without you, this Challenge wouldn’t exist.
‘Our judging panels spent an entire day getting to know your whiskies intimately in a blind-tasting event of epic proportions. From knockout to final deliberations, our judges worked steadily throughout the day. Their final scores decided this year’s winners.’
Darren Leitch, National Whisky Manager at The Whisky Shop, presented the first awards, for under £40 bottlings. The bronze winner was the Glengoyne 12 Year Old, which was described as: ‘being light and oily like fresh cut grass… with hints of orange and toffee on the nose.’ It was collected by Katy Macanna and Neil Mowat from Ian Macleod Distillers. The silver winner was the anCnoc 12 Year Old, which the panel felt was: ‘a fruity number’. Katie Partridge and Andy Hannah from International Beverages collected the prize. The gold winner was the Kilkerran 12 Year Old, which was called: ‘Youthful and fruity, this whisky has a touch of malt and a whisper of peat on the palate.’ Collecting the award were Ranald Watson and Findlay Ross from J&A Mitchell.
Matthew McFadyen of The Good Spirits Company presented the prizes to the £40-£80 bottlings. Bronze winner was the Loch Fyne Aultmore 10 Year Old, described as: ‘Well-balanced with a mouth-watering combination of sugary sweetness.’ Darren Leitch of Loch Fyne Whiskies collected the honour. Taking the silver awards was Tamdhu Batch Strength #2: ‘one of the three best drams in the Summer Challenge- therefore a new expression from the last year. Youthful and rich.’ The honour was collected by Ian Macleod Distillers’ Katy Macanna and Neil Mowat. The gold winner was GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 6, with the second top score of the competition. This bottle was also our Top Distillery Bottling. Unfortunately, a representative from BenRiach could not be present to collect the prize.
Ewan McIlwraith from Robertsons of Pitlochry had the honour of presenting the Over £80 bottlings prizes. The bronze winner was Glenmorangie Signet: ‘Rich with a unique chocolatey flavour.’ Ruth Thomson and Louise Henderson from The Glenmorangie Company received the trophy. The silver winner was Aberfeldy Cask #5, which the judges felt had: ‘hints of burnt sugar and salted caramel, this is a decadent dram.’ Gary Ross and Simon Robinson from John Dewar & Sons collected the prize. Taking the gold award was Woodwinters’ The Four ‘Isle Solera’ 16 Year Old. Judges said it was: ‘Floral with just the right balance of turfy peat, this whisky opens up into coffee and cocoa bean notes.’ Woodwinters’ Douglas Wood was delighted to pick up the honour.
Robin Russell, one of the senior judges in the competition, presented the prize for Top Independent Bottling. This was another win for Woodwinters’ The Four ‘Isle Solera’ 16 Year Old. Douglas Wood collected on behalf of Woodwinters.
With a grand total of 59 different whiskies put to the taste test by our panel of 10 readers back in July, Gavin Brownlie from this year’s Readers’ Panel presented this honour.
This was won by Borders, and was described as: ‘having a lovely scent of the riverside on the nose by reader John Mauchline and tasting like fruitcake.’
The honour was received by Zoe White and Alasdair Day of R&B Distillers
Blair Bowman, Scottish Field’s Whisky Writer and the founder of World Whisky Day, presented the next two awards.
Scottish Field Whisky Bar of the Year was won by the Quiach Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel. It has a long history and is a hub for the whisky industry. Founded in 1893, this bar stocks over 900 single malts from across the globe. Today experts share experiences in the bar, much like the distillers in the days of illegal distilling where after their shift they would gather and talk about what they may have stolen in their copper dogs that day. A visit to Speyside would not be complete without stopping-off here to enjoy a dram and soak up the ambiance. Lyndsey Gray and Angus Bryce-McVey collected the award.
Scottish Field Distillery Visitor Experience of the Year was won by the Glenfiddich Distillery. It lies at the centre of malt whisky country, in scenic Dufftown. Blending modern and traditional seamlessly, this is one of the country’s last independent distilleries. In Blair’s own words, ‘It has consistently offered a fantastic all-round visitor experience.’ Jennifer Proctor and and Jennifer Grant were on hand to pick up the prize.
Robin Russell presented the 2017 Top Summer Bottling, which was won by John Dewar & Sons for The Aberfeldy Cask #5.
This dram was described as: ‘sweet and spicy’ and a ‘superb whisky’.Gary Ross and Simon Robinson from John Dewar & Sons received the prize.
Douglas Wood presented the Top Blend, which went to North Star Vega 23 Year Old. The winners set up shop in Glasgow in 2016, and after gaining valuable experience at the A.D. Rattray group, before the company’s director decided to go it alone. The outcome is outstanding, with every judge raising a hand in agreement to the nominated bottle. Named after the Lyra constellation and a sweet and spicy mix of Speyside’s best. Iain and Zoe Croucher from North Star Spirits picked up the trophy.
Finally, after 150 whiskies, eight months, three competitions and many hours of tasting, the overall winner of the 2017 Scottish Field Whisky of the Year was revealed by Scottish Field’s Sales Director Brian Cameron.
The winner was Woodwinters The Four ‘Isle Solera’ 16 Year Old, with this independent bottling being called: ‘thick, sweet and packed with flavour. Oozing a peaty character and espresso on the nose, the complex flavours found in this dram are typically Bowmore.’ Douglas Wood received the honour.