Strong spirits are not only meant to be mixed in cocktails or to be shot to get drunk. As much as for other alcoholic beverages, spirits are best enjoyed in moderation and with a strong knowledge to back you up. The more you learn about them, the more you are going to appreciate the different nuances and the flavors you can find in them.
Let’s take the Single Malt whisky, for example. It is one of the most favored spirits in the world and it’s produced only using a malted grain, usually barley, water and yeast. What makes the difference is the process, which includes malting, drying the kiln, mashing, fermentation, distillation, dilution, maturation, vatting, second dilution and bottling. It’s a long and complex process with many variations.
Of course, learning about whisky takes time, as much as for wine, beer or food. Luckily, you can always look up at some expertise to start with some good quality products before becoming an expert yourself.
The International Whisky Competition is a good starting point to find some quality products, you can generally find around pretty easily.
Its goal is to bring as many whiskies from around the world to be tasted and rated by a professional tasting panel. Unlike other competitions, since 2015, the tasting panel are presented with one whisky at a time, to ensure each whisky gets the proper attention. In-depth notes are taken at every step for review ultimately to be compiled by the tasting panel.
Only 3 medals (Gold, Silver & Bronze) are awarded per category.
This 6th edition of the International Whisky Competition took place in Chicago on the 23rd and 24th of April. A world class tasting panel of ten whisky, spirit, beer and wine experts blind tasted each whisky on an individual basis (by opposition to flights of 6 or more whiskies, which tends to rush the judging process and contaminate the palate.). Each whisky was scored using a comprehensive 100-point scale system developed by Sebastien Gavillet, IWC Head of Judges and author of Discovering and Mastering Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This process undoubtedly makes the International Whisky Competition one of the most professional competitions of its kind in the world. No whisky scored below 76 points and each judge sampled every whisky entered.
Best Single Malt Whisky 2015
- Gold Medal: Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1
The recipe of dark beauty is a secret. On the nose, it has flavors of leather, tobacco, rich barley sugar. Very rich and oily on the palate, very intense and spicy, explosion of rich dark fruits. Very long finish.
- Silver Medal: Lagavulin 16 Years Old
It’s big, smokey, very concentrated, and full of sweet spices, good, mature sherry and creamy vanilla. On the palate, it is very thick and rich. A massive mouthful of malt and sherry with good fruity sweetness, but also a wonderful sweetness. Big, powerful peat and oak. The finish is long, spicy, with aromas of figs, dates, peat smoke, vanilla.
- Bronze Medal: The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso
On the nose, it has notes of dried fruit, soon joined by rich chocolate and a subtle nuttiness. Hints of struck match, anise, cinnamon and vanilla. The palate has dark chocolate, orange and crunchy fruits fresh from the orchard. Give it a minute and the anise on the nose comes running back too. The finish goes more on the dark chocolate and drying spice.
These are three amazing single malt whiskeys and you should definitely try them! Cheers!