The doors opened to a large, well-lit hall and the whisky industry heavyweights poured in. Wine was offered at the entrance but seeing World Japanese whisky awards available, I moved towards that instead.
It was a wonderful sight to see so many legends of the industry gathered in one place. Jota Tanaka from Fuji-Gotemba, Ichiro Akuto from Chichibu, Shinji Fukuyo from Suntory, Ian Chang from Kavalan, all the greats had come to attend the Whisky Magazine awards dinner at the Waldorf in London.
After a pleasant reception, guests were ushered into the presentation room and seated, to enjoy the first course of the meal. The awards began with the Icons of Whisky, presented by Rob Allanson, the Whisky Magazine editor, and whisky writer, Charles McLean. Seated at the front with these whisky legends, I had a front-row view of the night’s exciting events.
After the Icons were announced, the second course was served during which I briefly chatted to Allanson. I remember him saying that this year’s awards were going to be “interesting.” Truer words couldn’t have been spoken.
The awards reached across the world. The World’s Best Single Cask award went to Australian Sullivan’s Cove distillery, while the World’s Best Grain was given to South African Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky. America came in strong, winning in the best corn, rye, wheat, and of course, bourbon awards. However, just like it did in last year’s awards, Japanese whisky rose above and beyond, winning in some of the most prestigious world whisky categories. Here’s what you missed.
World’s Best Blended Limited – Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Limited Edition Japanese Blended Whisky
Chichibu topped the category with their amazing Malt & Grain Limited Edition, which was only released a few months prior. Different to the widely available white label Malt & Grain, this blend comprises of older vintages, offering more depth and balance between the malt and grain expressions within.
Congratulations to Chichibu for once again taking home an award at such a prestigious competition.
World’s Best Blended Malt – Taketsuru 17 Year Old
Okay, we were saddened to see that the Hibiki 21 Year Old didn’t win the award for the world’s best blended whisky, as it usually does. The judges decided that the award for the very best blended whisky in the world should go to the Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve.
Anyway. We were happy to see that Japanese whisky topped the other blended whisky categories. The Taketsuru range is stellar, and the 17 year-old offers immense balance and depth, perfectly capturing what Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky, set out to achieve when he founded Nikka decades ago.
World’s Best Single Malt – Hakushu 25 Year Old
What can we say that hasn’t been said? Hakushu single malts are phenomenal. Fans across the globe swear by the signature green, fresh character of Hakushu whisky, and many have wondered for years why it always comes second to its older sibling, Yamazaki.
As Suntory’s master blender, Shinji Fukuyo, took the stage to accept what is, perhaps, the most prestigious award of the World Whiskies Awards, it was clear that change was on the horizon.
The Hakushu character is unique, balanced, and complex. Produced at the gorgeous “forest distillery”, Hakushu expressions have steadily risen in the world whisky industry. This award marks a huge step forward for the distillery, and we’re excited to see what comes of this.
The night came to a close with two new inductions in the Hall of Fame, namely, Dr Nicholas Morgan from Diageo and TT Lee, founder of Kavalan.
A huge congratulations to all the winners, from all over the world. It truly is a magical sight to see so many great minds gathered in one place to celebrate whisky. A big thank you to the Whisky Magazine team also, for creating such a wonderful event.
See you next year!