EIGHT OF SPEYSIDE’S finest whiskies will be judged for the top crown at the Spirt of Speyside Whisky Awards this year.
Single malts from the stable of whisky giants Chivas Brothers have taken the lion’s share of nominations after a panel of industry experts shortlisted the firm’s drams in three out of four categories following a blind taste test.
The distiller’s Aberlour a’bunadh, Aberlour 12-year-old and Glenlivet 18-year-old have all been shortlisted this year – with the number of categories expanded from three to four to better reflect the huge range of Speyside whiskies in circulation.
Now the eight finalists will be put through the taste test by members of the public at a series of roving judging sessions taking place during the festival, which runs from April 27 to May 1.
In the non-age statement category Aberlour a’bunadh is up against Tamdhu Batch Strength 002 – a malt produced by Ian MacLeod Distillers. In the category for malt 12-year-old and under, the Aberlour dram will battle it out with Cragganmore 2004 Distiller’s Edition, produced by Diageo which also has another finalist in the 20 and over category.
In the 13 to 20-year-old section it is a head to head between two of the world’s biggest brands – The Glenlivet 18-year-old will go up against Glenfiddich 15-year-old from William Grant and Sons.
The two shortlisted whiskies in the 20 years and over category are Mannochmore 25-year-old Special Release and The Macallan 30-year-old Sherry Cask, produced by The Edrington Group.
The judging panel was made up of expert noses from the spirits industry, including retailers, writers and hoteliers. Among them were renowned French food and drink writer Martine Nouet, Mike Lord from drinks emporium The Whisky Shop Dufftown and Dave Broom, editor-in-chief of industry bible scotchwhisky.com.
Festival director Julie Fraser said the panel of nine judges had a very difficult time whittling down the 48 entries across the four categories: “I don’t envy them their task – although it sounds like the perfect way to spend a wintry afternoon on Speyside, it is actually a really difficult role to perform and it is not one that I, even as a whisky fan, would relish.
“As with any other awards scheme, the judging is always performed in a blind taste test to ensure that the results are completely neutral. Although the panel may sometimes have an idea about what is in the glass they have no way of knowing for sure and I think it is quite fair to say that a few of them were rather surprised when the identities of the whiskies were finally revealed.
“The judges felt that all of the entries were of a very high standard this year and it made their job of selecting just two finalists in each category particularly difficult.“
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards made its international debut last year when one of the judging sessions was held overseas. The event was hosted in Scotia Spirit – a luxury Scottish food and drink store based in Cologne, Germany.
The success of that event has led the organising committee to consider holding judging sessions in other international locations this year – plans are still being finalised, but it is anticipated that five overseas panels will be held before the start of the Festival.
The awards prize-giving will take place at the Festival closing ceilidh on Sunday, April 30 at Knockando Distillery.