A journey round Islay, visits to Maker's Mark and Penderyn, and the conclusion to our trip down the Rockies
The Icons mark a highlight in the whisky calendar and 2008 is no exception with the quality of companies entering the awards. The Icons are designed to celebrate the people and places behind the greatest whiskies in the world.
This year we decided to ask the industry to nominate themselves in the various categories. Then based on the evidence, an independent editorial panel drew up a shortlist from which the winners were picked.
Voting this year in several catagories was painfully close, with just a few votes separating the winner from the pack. As in previous years, some of the larger companies fell victim to the success of much smaller operations that are punching above their weight.
While it would not be right to detail the judges’ decisions, it must be said every vote was cast after careful deliberation and much serious thought This year’s Icons saw regional heats take place in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Japan Scotland and for the first time the inclusion of India, giving us the short list for the final Icons.
It has to be said that given the extremely global nature of the awards, to make it to the shortlists, both regional and final is an honour as in all categories there was some serious competition.
We hope that you will celebrate the diversity the industry has to offer and join us in congratulating the winners.
Bars are often the first port of call for a whisky enthusiast visiting a new destination. As the competition in this category was so tough, and the voting left nothing between three entrants we decided to call a dead heat between the winners.
The short list was drawn up from the Supreme Bars taken from Whisky Magazine’s Whisky Bar, Restaurant and Hotel programme. All three Icon winners have great whisky ranges and a passion to educate the consummer.
The Whisky Café, Montreal
Rest of World
Aspen Café, Samoens, France
London’s haven for whisky and civilised escape from the toils of city life is finally honoured as an Icon of Whisky. Boisdale has been shortlisted before; this year it has pipped the rest of the competition.
Sporting a delectable whisky list, and with a staff who exude a passion for the good stuff, Boisdale continually champions the whisky cause, and with a range of own bottlings has made the greatest commitment to whisky this year.
Via Allegro Ristorante, Toronto
Rest of World
Nominated in last year’s final Icons, this New York boutique outlet has done the most this year to spread the whiskey gospel, particularly bourbon and rye, across the world.
LeNell’s stores one of the largest selections of American whiskey in New York, and possibly the world, with more than 100 bottlings including much sought after private shop bottlings.
The staff are immersed in the world of whiskey so that consumers are given the best advice and care.
LeNell’s does not have a website where you can order product on line because LeNell feels the best way to do business is to have personal contact and build relationships with customers.
The Celtic Whisky Shop
Rest of World
Berry Bros.& Rudd
The Collection of Wines
United Luxury Spirits
Loch Fyne Whiskies
No other multiple retailer has done more in 12 months to bring whisky to the high street, particularly in England where the Whisky Shop has been expanding most.
The company recently opened three new stores in London, Oxford and Norwich, and launched a national whisky club which now has more than 500 members in less than a year. Annual footfall across the shops has increased to more than 1.5 million people.
The Whisky Shop has extended its own bottling range including four instore straight from the cask offerings.
The shops also promote lesser known distilleries, and through staff training and enthusiasm are bringing quality whisky at sensible prices to new drinkers across Britain.
Rest of World
La Maison Du Whisky
World Duty Free Europe
The continued commitment of Maker’s Mark to their visitors was showcased when it unveiled its new $2.5 million visitors’ centre last year, the culmination of many months of hard work.
The new interactive and engaging enhancements to the attraction include state-of-the-art audio visual displays in the bottling hall; new tastings bar, training room and gift shop built in the surroundings of a century-old rack house; and the Samuels family distiller’s house featuring an exact replica of Margie Samuels’ kitchen laborotory and an interactive family library.
Canadian Club Visitor Centre
The Glenlivet and the Smugglers’Trail
In keeping with its heritage, pioneering spirit and pace-setting reputation The Glenmorangie Company took bold steps to alter the presentation and perception of its iconic Glenmorangie brand.
For the first time in its 164 year history, Glenmorangie has refined its complete range, introducing six new core products. These are non chill-filtered for the first time to enhance taste and drinker enjoyment.
The company has also continued with its limited edition cask bottlings with the Glenmorangie Margaux Cash Finish. To complete the tasting experience for drinkers the company has started to use an electronic kaleidoscope using cross cultural visual cues.
In addition, the Ardbeg 1965 used micro particle Stealth Mark technology in the bottle closure to prevent fraud.
Rest of World
English Whisky Company
Highly commended in 2007, Ronnie has continued his outstanding contribution to promiting Scotch, malts and in particular The Glenrothes around the globe.
The Glenrothes is now one of the fastest growing malts in the world, with the Select Reserve, the house style for The Glenrothes, growing to 27,000 cases from zero in the first two years, in large part due to Ronnie and his team of ambassadors.
Last year he took part in 42 events in 20 countries including USA, Spain, Japan, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Holland, Canada, UK, South Africa, France, Switzerland, Taiwan and Australia.
He has spread the whisky word and enthusiasm to more than 3000 people. Descended from a long line of distillers, Ronnie has been in the industry for nearly three decades. Atrue gent with a dapper dress sense and a great knowledge of the whisky world, Ronnie is also a Master Keeper of the Quaich and an ambassador for Scotland and its whiskies as much as for The Glenrothes.
Rest of World
John Ramsay is one of blending’s quiet men. Joining the industry in 1966 he has been responsible for countless bottles of some of the world’s most loved brands. He was Master Blender with Wm.
Lawson from 1981 and is now in charge of Edrington’s huge range which includes Famous Grouse, one of the world’s largest selling whiskies, the most popular Scotch whisky in Scotland and a brand with a heritage stretching back to 1896.
With Famous Grouse alone, John is responsible for more than 30 million bottles of whisky sold in more than 30 countries every year.
To add to this, he also blends Cutty Sark for Berry Bros and Rudd, and plays a major role in The Glenrothes and Highland Park ranges.
He controls the whisky-making process across all aspects of production, which is very technical. While he accepts that the blender must have knowledge of barley varieties through to “the uses for Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME/GC) as used by our chemists”, John’s also happy to accept that there’s a creative side to his work – not only producing new products but fusing apparently disparate elements into a seamless whole.
He’s quick to refute the notion that you should be able to taste individual malts in a blend. “The malts will direct the style, but blending is a synergy – the blended complex exceeding any component part.”
This is achieved, he feels, by Edrington’s insistence on using the unfashionable (and expensive) technique of marrying the whiskies together before bottling. “Not just malt and grain,” he emphasises, “but malt, grain, water and time. Utilising these four elements allows me to blend for consistency, as well as maximising flavour and mouthfeel by the use of a very gentle filtration regime.”
A big year for this distiller as it relaunched one of its core brands in a new format and new liquid.
Balblair was launched in an ‘aged’ format in 1997, and since then gathered numerous accolades at tastings reinforcing the true quality of the spirits in the bottle.
However it was felt that the packaging was uninspiring and no longer stood out on the shelf. Arevolutionary approach was taken to give a new modern design. In addition to a complete redesign, the age statement was removed from Balblair and the whisky is now being sold in vintage formats – currently 1997, 1989 and 1979.
Only those whiskies which have reached their peak of perfection are selected by the master distiller and released as vintages offering consumers the best of the best whiskies the Balblair has to offer from that particular vintage year.
Inver House Distillers has made a bold statement in terms of the whisky, packaging and its marketing strategy.
Shaking off the old fashioned Scottish image of whisky, Inver House replaced it with a modern contemporary approach without losing the heritage at its core.
Kittling Ridge Estates
Irish Distillers Group
Mackmyra Swedish Whisky
Welsh Whisky Company