In recent weeks we saw the winners of the International Wine & Spirits Competition announced. Founded in 1969, the IWSC has now become the largest international spirits competition in the entire world, and every year distilleries from around the globe vie for coveted medals in a number of categories. Around 250 judges nose, taste and score the expressions, using a points system to award Gold Outstanding, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
At this year’s competition, Scotland, Ireland and the USA had their own categories, while whisky from all other nations was grouped into the World Whisky category. Historically, Japanese whiskies have dominated this field, with the likes of the Hibiki 17, 21 and Yamazaki 12 and 18 winning a plethora of awards over the years.
This year however, things were slightly different. While Japanese whisky did give a good showing of itself, winning five Gold Medals, it was Kavalan, Taiwan’s most famous distillery, that really shone. The increasingly popular and already legendary distillery won an incredible 15 of the 28 Gold Outstanding and Gold medals on offer within its category. A feat that most certainly commands respect, particularly given the distillery only began producing spirit in 2006, with it’s first bottling coming in 2008.
Kavalan Outstanding Gold Winners
Kavalan picked up 7 Gold Outstanding medals, meaning these whiskies gained a score of between 98 and 100 points. The winners were as follows:
Kavalan Reserve Peaty Cask Single Cask
Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Puncheon Single
Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang Virgin Oak Single Cask
Kavalan Reserve Rum Cask Single Cask Strength
Each of these brilliant expressions wowed judges with their incredible flavour profiles, delivered with an unrivalled balance and smoothness that only the very best Master Distillers are capable of achieving. What’s even more impressive is that all of these whiskies bring something a little different to the table, from the cask they were matured in, to the unique label designs, showcasing the outstanding breadth of capabilities within the distillery and a deep understanding of what is required to create a brilliant single malt.
Kavalan Gold Medal Winners
Even with 7 Gold Outstanding medals under their belt, the distillery wasn’t finished yet, and proceeded to take eight of the 20 Gold Medals awarded in the World Whisky category. The Kavalan Gold Medal Winners were as follows:
Kavalan Oloroso Sherry Oak Single Malt
Kavalan Earth Silver Wine Cask
Kavalan Artist Series: Paul Chiang French Wine Cask
Judges scored each of these fine whiskies between 95 and 97 points for their quality and excellence, once again highlighting the mastery of Kavalan distillery workers and their majestic whiskies.
Taking home this many awards, for so many different expressions, is unparalleled for a single distillery and surely cements Kavalan’s place as one of the world’s best single malt whisky distilleries. It’s worth remembering that these bottlings were up against some of the finest from around Japan, including the likes of Yamazaki and Hibiki, so picking up this many awards really was no mean feat.
If you did not already hold Kavalan in the highest regard, now is probably a good time to start doing so.
The fact that these lesser known distilleries are now picking up awards at international competitions shows the growing whisky landscape inside of Japan and this bodes well for the future of the industry.
With more and more of these small distilleries now making a name for themselves through outstanding, unique single malt and blended whiskies, it might not be long before Japan has a whisky landscape more akin to that of Scotland, where big producers dominate the bulk of sales, but with enough room left over for small independent producers to gain the notoriety they deserve for their hard work.
The Japanese winners at the IWSC were as follows:
The Kurayoshi Pure Malt Whisky
Shibui Single Grain 10 Year Old White Oak Cask