Expert Names the Best Whiskies in the World For 2020

We all have that friend that likes to tell us the new whisky he’s drinking is the ‘best you’ll find anywhere’, only to be greeted with a foul-tasting, gelatinous spirit that burns as much on the way down as it does on the way up. If you’re friends with Jim Murray, however, you can afford to be a little more reliant on his advice. The writer has become synonymous with the best whisky in the world, having put his name to an annual review of the year’s top releases and despite the uncertainly of 2020, he’s back at it again.

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Jim Murray Whisky Bible 2021

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021

Released earlier this month, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021 gives a rundown of the world’s best whisky, exploring different regions, territories and styles. Containing tasting notes for around 4,500 drams, the new book is a guide to discovering the true nature of whisky and learning the craft in the process. Arguably the world’s most famous whisky writer, Murray’s list of the best whisky in the world may not be to everyone’s tastes, but scoring high marks in his book is a recipe for success in the spirit arena.

“The one thing that tasting 1,250 whiskies a year for this book has reinforced in my mind, is that for people to really enjoy whisky of whatever type, then they have to let go of the past and learn to swim,” Murray said. With that in mind, Murray revealed the theme for this year’s edition is ‘new releases, new distilleries and letting the past be the past’.

For this 2021 edition, Murray has taken into account the best whiskies from across the globe ranging from Scottish Single malts to Australian; from Canadian to Austrian. Whiskies from over 30 different countries are included and evaluated in trademark Murray style. So, who made the list of the best whiskies for 2020?

Best Whiskies 2020

For the Whisky Bible 2021 edition, Murray’s choices take readers on a trip around the globe. Rather than seeing the standard names at the top of the list, some unknowns have scored well, including a couple of surprising winners. If you are keen to up your knowledge in the whisky game, this is the tool to do so.

Here is Jim Murray’s best whisky 2020 list.

Best Whiskies 2020 - Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

1. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Murray’s top pick for this year was Alberta Distiller’s Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye. The Canadian premium release offers a different approach to traditional whisky, coming from a decidedly less prestigious background. While most of the best whiskies in the world like to tout their historical credentials, Alberta Distillers has crafted a strange reputation.

For years, the brand has been selling its rye whiskey to producers south of the border, including award-winning Masterson’s and WhistlePig. These producers then bottled it under their own labels, leaving Alberta with little recognition. It’s a big reason why back home, the label was considered cheap, often used as a flavouring whisky or watered down to create a decent blend.

In late 2019, however, the company launched a Cask Strength and a Cask Strength Rye that would go on to redefine what Alberta Distillers was all about. “A succulence to the oils, balanced perfectly by ulmo and manuka honeys ensure for the most chewable Canadian mouthful possibly ever and yet this is constantly salivating, from the very first nanosecond. Truly world-class whisky from possibly the world’s most underrated distillery. How can something be so immense yet equally delicate?” Murray wrote in his Whisky Bible 2021 release before giving it a whopping score of 97.5 out of 100. As far as official awards go, being named as the best whisky 2020 by esteemed professional Jim Murray should go a long way in cementing that new reputation.

Bottle Size: 750 mL bottle
Alcohol/Vol: 65.1%
Made In: Alberta, Canada
By: Alberta Distillers Limited

Best Whiskies 2020 - Stagg Jr Barrel

2. Stagg Jr Barrel Proof (64.2%)

Obviously this year, Murray was into the strong stuff. Taking out second place in the writer’s best whisky 2020 list was the Barrel Proof from Stagg Jr. A subsidiary of Buffalo Trace’s George T. Stagg label, Stagg Jr offers a more affordable and accessible bourbon option that is more than worth the taste-test.

The Barrel Proof edition clocks in at 129.7 proof, making it an unfettered, unfiltered effort that offers American wood-aged spirit fans a taste of the golden era. This release has aromas of chocolate, brown sugar and cloves on the nose, while the palate offers notes of lively rye spice, cherries, wood smoke and vanilla. The strong showing wasn’t enough to be labelled world best whisky this year, but it came damn close.

Bottle Size: 750 mL bottle
Alcohol/Vol: 64.2%
Made In: Kentucky, USA
By: Stagg Jr

Best Whiskies 2020 - John Paul Mithuna

3. Paul John Mithuna

Third place on Jim Murray’s list of the best whiskies 2020 was an unexpected winner. Paul John Mithuna from Goa-based Paul John Distillery nabbed the bronze, marking the first time a south Asian whisky has secured one of the coveted positions. According to Murray, the Indian-born whisky’s “sensational chocolate and spices complexity” were a major success, awarding it a solid 97 marks out of 100.

“India is not generally known for its whiskies so we’re incredibly proud and frankly, over the moon with this accolade,” said Mark Brown, Sazerac company president and chief executive officer. “To have our whiskeys named the second and third finest whiskeys in the world is astonishing, especially following last year’s three top spots in the Whiskey Bible. It is truly a testament of the skill and dedication of not only our Master Distillers Harlen Wheatley at Buffalo Trace Distillery, and Michael D’souza at Paul John Distillery, but to all of our team members at Sazerac. We could not be happier and motivated to continue our quest to create the world’s best whiskey.”

For whisky fans who can’t quite place the name, don’t be deterred; the Mithuna is still a month away from be released. The second expression in Paul John’s Zodiac series of whiskies, this whisky hit the mark for Murray. “If Mithuna means ‘ultimate’, then it is the perfect name. Or maybe Mithuna means ‘perfect’, then it is pretty close,” he wrote. “It is that very rarest of things. And, if nothing else, announces Paul John Distillery on the world stage of truly great distilleries. This is a whisky to devour while it devours you.”

Bottle Size: 750 mL bottle
Made In: Goa, India
By: Paul John

Best Whiskies 2020 - Glen Grant

Single Cask of the Year: Glen Grant 1956 Mr George Centenary Edition Gordon & MacPhail

At over AUD$7,000 a bottle, you’d expect the 62 Year Old Glen Grant to be something special. The work of indie bottler Gordon & McPhail, this single malt has been dubbed Mr George Centenary Edition in honour of George Urquhart, creator of Gordon & MacPhail’s renowned Connoisseurs Choice range. Amazingly, this release was filled into a first fill sherry butt back on 13 December 1956 and bottled in June 2019, more than six decades later.

As far a luxury goes, it’s hard not to be taken with handsome glass decanter and wooden presentation case, but be warned, there were only 235 bottles ever released. Murray noted that the single cask was one of the world’s best whiskies thanks to its rich fruitcake aromas on the nose. Combined with liquorice and toffee flavours on the palate, the 62 Year Old Glen Grant is one of the most impressive releases Murray had seen.

Bottle Size: 700 mL bottle
Alcohol/Vol: 51.7%
Made In: Speyside, Scotland
By: Glen Grant

Specialised Categories

In addition to naming the best whisky in the world, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021 also went on to list some more specialised victors. Taking into account region, Murray revealed his top picks for Scotch, Scotch Blends, Single Malt Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, European, Japanese and World Whiskies. Here is a full list of the world’s best whiskies per category, according to esteemed writer Jim Murray.

Best Whiskies 2020 - Ballantine’s 30 Year Old

Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky of the Year:
Glen Grant 15 Year Old Batch Strength 1st Edition

Scotch Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks):
Glen Grant 15 Year Old Batch Strength 1st Edition

Scotch Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask):
Glen Grant 1956 Mr George Centenary Edition Gordon & MacPhail

Scotch Blend of the Year:
Ballantine’s 30 Year Old

Scotch Grain of the Year:
Cambus 1979 The Perfect Fifth

Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year:
Compass Box The Spice Tree

Best Whiskies 2020 - Glen Grant Rothes Chronicles Cask Haven

Single Malt Scotch

Scotch No Age Statement:
Glen Grant Rothes Chronicles Cask Haven

Scotch 10 Years & Under Multiple Cask:
Octomore Edition 10.3 6 Year Old Islay Barley (Category Winner)

Scotch 10 Years & Under Single Cask:
Annandale Vintage Man O’Words 2015

Scotch 11-15 Years Multiple Cask:
Glen Grant 15 Year Old Batch Strength 1st Edition (Category Winner)

Scotch 11-15 Years Single Cask:
Caol Ila 15 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

Scotch 16-21 Years Multiple Cask:
Knockando 21 Year Old Master Reserve

Scotch 16-21 Years Single Cask:
Longmorn 1998 21 Year Old The First Editions (Category Winner)

Scotch 22-27 Years Multiple Cask:
Old Pulteney 25 Year Old

Scotch 22-27 Years Single Cask:
Glenlossie 22 Year Old Golden Glen  (Category Winner)

Scotch 28-34 Years Multiple Cask:
Glenfiddich 30 Year Old (Category Winner)

Scotch 28-34 Years Single Cask:
Aberlour 1989 The Perfect Fifth

Scotch 35-40 Years Multiple Cask:
Port Ellen 40 Year Old 9 Rogue Casks

Scotch 35-40 Years Single Cask:
Lochside 1981 The Whisky Agency (Category Winner)

Scotch 41 Years & Over Multiple Cask:
Tomatin 1977 Warehouse 6 Collection

Scotch 41 Years & Over Single Cask:
Glen Grant 1956 Mr George Centenary Edition Gordon & MacPhail (Category Winner)

Best Whiskies 2020 - White Horse

Blended Scotch

Blended Scotch No Age Statement (Standard):
White Horse

Blended Scotch No Age Statement (Premium):
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare Glenury Royal

Blended Scotch 5-12 Years:
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

Blended Scotch 13-18 Years:
Ballantine’s 17 Year Old

Blended Scotch 19-25 Years:
Dewar’s Signature 25 Year Old

Blended Scotch 26-39 Years:
Ballantine’s 30 Year Old (Overall Winner)

Blended Scotch 40 Years & Over:
Whyte & Mackay 50 Year Old

Best Whiskies 2020 - Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy

Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey of the Year:
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy

Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year:
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy

Irish Single Malt of the Year:
Bushmills Port Cask Reserve

Irish Blend of the Year:
Bushmills Black Bush

Irish Single Cask of the Year:
Redbreast Dream Cask 28 Year Old

Best Whiskies 2020 - William Larue Weller 2019 Release

American Whiskey

Bourbon of the Year:
Stagg Jr Barrel Proof (64.2%)

Second Finest Bourbon of the Year:
William Larue Weller 2019 Release

Bourbon No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels):
Stagg Jr Barrel Proof (64.2%)

Bourbon No Age Statement (Single Barrel):
Elmer T. Lee 100 Year Tribute Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon 9 Years & Under:
Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon 6 Year Old

Bourbon 10-12 Years:
Michter’s Single Barrel 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bourbon 13-15 Years:
Knob Creek 15 Year Old

Bourbon 16 Years & Over:
Michter’s 20 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Rye of the Year:
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 2019 Release

Second Finest Rye of the Year:
Wild Turkey Cornerstone

Rye No Age Statement:
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 2019 Release

Rye Up to 10 Years:
Wild Turkey Cornerstone

Rye 11-15 Years:
Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Years Old

Rye Over 15 Years:
Sazerac 18 Year Old

Rye Single Cask:
Michter’s 10 Year Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye

US Micro Whisky of the Year Multiple Barrels:
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2020 Release

US Micro Whisky of the Year Single Barrel:
Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey Private Select

American Blended Whiskey of the Year:
Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey Release No. 3

Best Whiskies 2020 - Canadian Club Chronicles 42 Year Old

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Whisky of the Year
Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Second Finest Canadian Whisky of the Year
Canadian Club Chronicles 42 Year Old

Best Whiskies 2020 - Puni Aura Italian Single Malt

European Whisky

European Whisky of the Year (Multiple Cask):
Puni Aura Italian Single Malt

European Whisky of the Year (Single Cask):
Braeckman Belgian Single Grain Whiskey Single Barrel 12 Year Old

Austrian Whisky of the Year:
J.H. Original Rye Whisky 6 Jahre Gelagert

Belgian Whisky of the Year:
Braeckman Belgian Single Grain Whiskey Single Barrel 12 Year Old

Danish Whisky of the Year:
Copenhagen Single Malt Whisky First Edition

English Whisky of the Year:
The English 11 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

German Whisky of the Year:
Hercynian Willowburn Exceptional Collection 5 Year Old

Swedish Whisky of the Year:
Mackmyra Svensk Single Cask Whisky Reserve The Dude of Fucking Everything

Swiss Whisky of the Year:
Langatun 10 Year Old Second Edition Single Malt

Welsh Whisky of the Year:
Penderyn Rhiannon

Best Whiskies 2020 - Nikka Whisky Single Malt Yoichi Apple Brandy Wood Finish

Japanese Whisky

Japanese Whisky of the Year:
Nikka Whisky Single Malt Yoichi Apple Brandy Wood Finish

Japanese Single Grain of the Year:
Makoto Single Grain Whisky 23 Year Old

Japanese Single Malt of the Year:
Nikka Whisky Single Malt Yoichi Apple Brandy Wood Finish

Japanese Single Cask of the Year:
The Matsui Single Cask Mizunara Cask Single Malt

Best Whiskies 2020 - Adams Distillery Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky Cask Strength

World Whiskies

Asian Whisky of the Year:
Paul John Mithuna

Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year:
Adams Distillery Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky Cask Strength

Australian Whisky of the Year:
Adams Distillery Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky Cask Strength

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General FAQs

Who is Jim Murray?

Jim Murray is a legend of world whisky. More than 25 years since he became the world’s first-ever full time whisky writer, his recommendations remain as relevant as ever. This 2021 edition of his Whisky Bible marks the 18th year of annual publication.

What is the best whisky in the world for 2020?

While there are differing opinions on the whisky scene, the Whisky Bible 2021 names the Canadian brand Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye as the world's best. The World Whisky Awards named Ichiro's Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Whisky Limited Edition 2020 and Dewar’s Double Double 32 Years Old scored as World's Best Blended Limited Release.

Who owns Buffalo Trace?

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, that is owned by the Sazerac Company. It has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.