It’s that time of year again, the sun has started to shine and the World Whiskies Awards results are in, what more could you ask for?
The prestigious competition has now been running for over a decade and every year distilleries and independent bottlers from around the globe vie for the top awards. Japanese whiskies dominated for a number of years, but 2021 saw Scotch make a comeback and give an impressive showing.
With the Japanese whisky landscape rapidly growing and many exciting new distilleries beginning to release their first expressions, we were intrigued to see how they got on this year, and we’re happy to say, it’s good news for Japan’s up and comers and their superb blenders!
World Best Single Malt – The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4
World’s Best Single Malt is an award that has previously been won by stunning Japanese whiskies like the Hakushu 25 Year Old, which was twice granted the honour in 2018 and 2020. But last year it was Scotland’s turn once again, with the Glenallachie 10 Year Old Batch 4 picking up the award.
This time round, it wasn’t a Scottish or Japanese distillery that won. Somewhat surprisingly, it was The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4 from England’s The Lakes Distillery. This is the first time an English whisky has picked up the award and it bodes well for the future of the country’s relatively young whisky industry.
Best Japanese Single Malt – Kanosuke Distillery Exclusive
The Kanosuke Distillery Exclusive single cask release was named the Best Japanese Single Malt for this year, shining a light on this fabulous, up and coming distillery that has already been making waves with their early releases.
This particular bottling was only available to buy at the distillery and it was created from un-peated malt before being matured for 3 years, including a finishing period in an IPA cask.
The judges were impressed, stating “The nose is prune jam and whipping cream. It’s reminiscent of Muscat, with candle wax and ‘air freshener’ florals. Very fragrant. The palate is evocative of grappa and IPA, with fresh yellow-green hops and fruity Sauvignon Blanc notes. Unusual, but tasty.”
And that wasn’t the only positive for Kanosuke – their Single Malt 2021 Second Edition was the runner up in the category, receiving a Gold Medal for its excellence. A good day indeed for the young distillery that leaves us all excited to see what their promising future holds.
World’s Best Blended Malt – Yamazakura Blended Malt Asaka
The Yamazakura brand has been around for a number of years, initially releasing a range of Japanese and World Blended Whiskies that became popular in Japan and beyond. In recent years, they have opened the Asaka Distillery and thus far the expressions have been nothing short of fantastic.
In fact, the brand and distillery have done such a good job that they deservedly won World’s Best Blended Malt for their Yamazakura Blended Asaka Malt Sherry Wood Reserve, an outstanding expression that delivers an incredible tasting experience on the nose, palate and finish.
According to the WWA judges, “The nose is woody and sherried, with grapefruit, ripe fruit, and oak. The palate is well-balanced, with dusty woodiness, big-boned body, peat, complex ‘old whisky’ funk, and slight sulphur at the back. A bittersweet finish.”
A real delight that you should get your hands on if you get the chance!
World’s Best Blended Whisky – The Akkeshi Shosho
The World’s Best Blended category differs from the blended malt category in that producers can use other types of whisky in the blend, such as grain. This year, the award was picked by another rising star of Japanese whisky – The Akkeshi Distillery, based on the picturesque northern island of Hokkaido.
The Master Blenders at Akkeshi have managed to combine some of the finest malts and grains from distilleries around the world in one bottle and it delivers a superb tasting experience, with all of the notes delivered in the smoothest possible fashion.
The judges stated “The nose is smoky, woody and well-balanced. It’s oaky and thick on the palate, with peat, malt, orchard fruit and sherrycask character of dried fruits and almonds. Medium finish.”
A Good Day For Japan’s Blenders
So all in all, it was a fantastic day for Japan’s blenders, picking up the two most prestigious blended whisky awards for 2022, but can we really say it’s a surprise?
Japanese distilleries have been making incredible blended expressions for decades, working with both home-made liquid and imported spirit from distilleries around the world. They have become masters of their craft and can make incredibly smooth and compelling expressions from spirits of all different ages. Their skill is unrivaled worldwide and as such it’s nice to see them get the recognition that they are more than deserving of.
It was also great to see top awards go to expressions from some of Japan’s newer distilleries, proving that there are now many exciting Japanese producers out there worth keeping an eye on and they are more than capable of competing right at the very top. It leaves us all super excited for the coming years and the future whiskies that these excellent producers will no doubt create going forward.