Forget the Oscars and their flubs (seriously, how do you blow it on Best Picture?), this year’s best award show was the 2017 World Whiskies Awards. Yes, that liquid gold swirling in your snifter is so much more than a reason to get loaded on a Wednesday night–it’s the delicious and painstaking result of premium sourcing, expert aging and timeless craft. Consumers and experts alike know as much and it keeps the grain train rolling big time. Heck, if anything the brown stuff is more popular than ever before, which is saying a lot because it was already massively popular. And should the whisky bubble ever burst, all you brands out there are free to contact us immediately because we have this storage closet that would be perfect place to keep your overstock. What? No takers?
Held by UK-based Whisky Magazine in conjunction with The Drinks Report, The World Whiskies Awards is serious business even if everyone is probably drunk off his or her rear end by the end of the ceremony. The big takeaway from 2017? Japan is killing it with their whisky. Another takeaway from this year’s awards is that we personally have a lot of great whisky to taste and there’s a good chance we’ll go broke trying to taste it. Read on for a list of 2017’s biggest winners.
World’s Best Grain – The Fuji-Gotemba Distillery Single Grain 25 Years Old Small Batch
Aged for 25 years inside a Kirin-owned distillery at the base on Mount Fuji, the 2017 World Whiskies Awards Best Grain in Show takes a few cues from Kentucky by being distilled “bourbon style”, meaning an initial column still distillation followed by a second round of kettle distillation. The small batch whisky is unchillfiltered before bottling and best served neat. Most Japanese whiskies offer a taste comparable to Scotch, but many say the Fuji-Gotemba delivers the kind of dense sweetness and notes of oak that are again more commonly associated with bourbon. Good luck finding a bottle, or being able to afford one at least.
World’s Best Bourbon – John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon
The A. Smith Bowman Distillery won at the 2016 World Whiskies Awards with their Port-Finished Bourbon, and now in 2017 they’re triumphant yet again with this more straightforward single barrel expression. Boasting a complex body of spice, vanilla and toffee and then a long finish, the John J. Bowman Single Barrel exudes a timeless essence and is a must-have for those seeking classic, premium bourbon.
World’s Best Canadian Blended – Gooderham & Worts
Gooderham & Worts was Canada’s first distillery and at one point the country’s most popular brand. It shuttered in 1990 and then Corby Distillers brought the name roaring back from the dead. Featuring a mashbill of corn, wheat, rye and barley, this World Whiskies Awards champ delivers a taste big on cereal and spice with underlying notes of sweetness. Gooderham & Worts is history resurrected and then bottled for your drinking pleasure.
World’s Best Corn – Ironroot Republic Hubris Whiskey
Hailing from Texas, Ironroot Republic Hubris Whiskey is the right kind of corny. The mashbill is 95% Yellow Corn and 5% Purple Corn and the taste is exceptionally unique, touting notes of honey, black pepper, cream and even a little good old Texas barbecue smoke.
World’s Best Flavoured – J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky
Canada’s J.P. Wiser probably knows that flavoured spirits are considered blasphemy among connoisseurs so they took a smart approach by aging the whisky is three types of barrels and then dry hopping it with aromatic, herbal bravo hops at the very end of the blending process. The result is a formidable, full proof spirit that generally sounds more like a clever twist on production than it does a blasphemous flavour injection.
Best Irish Single Pot Still – Redbreast 21 Year Old
Jameson might reign supreme when it comes to Irish whiskey awareness, but Redbreast is the brand that prompted a newfound focus toward Ireland’s brown stuff as a top shelf contender. Redbreast 21 Year Old Irish Whiskey is matured in first-fill sherry and bourbon casks to deliver a full body rife with notes of tangy fruit and layered spice.
World’s Best Rye – A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye Bottled in Bond
With a Latin-derived name that translates to “rye grain”, A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye celebrates its namesake with every sip. The 100-proof craft spirit is aged for 4 years and made from mashbill that’s 96% rye and 4% malted barley. For those looking to explore rye as a firm, grassy alternative to traditionally sweeter bourbon, this would surely be good place to start.
World’s Best Wheat – Bainbridge Battle Point
Made near Seattle using a mashbill of locally sourced 100% USDA organic soft white wheat, Bainbridge Battle Point Whiskey is aged for 2 years in barrels with a #3 char. From the taste expect a pleasant sweetness paired with menthol and some heat at the finish.
World’s Best Blended Limited Release – J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation
The word “dissertation” makes us think this awesome looking Canadian whisky would probably school our palates with delectable expertise. The words “limited release” make us think we’ll probably never find out.
World’s Best Blended Malt – Johnnie Walker Green Label
Aged for 15 years, Johnnie Walker Green might very well be the brand’s true masterpiece. This blended Scotch whisky is the epitome of smooth and deep, with notes of smoke, nuts and chocolate flowing across your palate like liquid silk. To think Johnnie Walker temporarily killed production on the Green Label blend. Thankfully, wiser palates prevailed.
World’s Best Blended – Hibiki 21 Years Old
The accolades keep coming for Suntory’s Hibiki 21 Years Old, which won the World Whiskies Awards back in 2013 and scored a whopping 96 points in Jim Murray’s 2014 Whisky Bible. From the body of the Hibiki 21 Year Old Blended Whisky comes the downright remarkable combination of sweet, fruity, buttery and nutty with ample hints of wood, smoke and spice. And we’re sure it tastes even better than it sounds, which is saying a lot because it sounds absolutely fantastic.
World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt – Venture Chichibu Whisky Matsuri 2017
Japan represents yet again with this premium entry that we imagine would make our toes curl with each sip, not just due to its brilliant taste but also a 60% ABV. Just FYI there’s a likely chance you’ll have to go all the way to Japan just to try this tasty beast–probably worth it, though.
World’s Best Single Malt – Craigellachie 31 Year Old
How long does a whisky have to wait to be crowned single malt champion at the World Whiskies Awards? 31 years, apparently. Up to the task was Craigellachie, who delivered the goods with this dreamy sounding, balanced expression. One modest sip seduces the palate with ample notes of fruit, honey and cream. Unfortunately, it might be another 31 years before we can afford a bottle.