A journey round Islay, visits to Maker's Mark and Penderyn, and the conclusion to our trip down the Rockies
The Icons has become one of the biggest highlights of the whisky calendar and the 2010 competition has lived up to its reputation with the number and quality of companies entering the awards.
The Icons are designed to celebrate the people and places behind the great whiskies of the world, with the World Whiskies Awards taking care of the liquid later in the year.
We asked 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. Continuing the same format as last year's event we held voting rounds for companies in the USA and also in Scotland. Then we opened up the competition to the rest of the world, including Japan, Canada and Ireland. This gave us a final shortlist. Voting this year was painfully close in many categories, with just a few votes separating the winner for the rest of the nominations. In some cases we have seen smaller companies punching well above their weight to top their bigger rivals in the polls. The results also reflect the global nature of the whisky world.
It has to be said that to make the final shortlist, given the all encompassing nature of these awards and the quality of the entries, is an honour. We hope that you will join us in congratulating this year's winners and celebrate whiskies' diversity.
One of the great single outlet liquor stores in the world. A stellar and massive selection of whiskies, bourbons, rums (and craft beers) with an emphasis on the unusual, with the independent bottlers and many rare bottlings also on offer, and at very fair prices.
It's the only shop that Whisky Magazine's Dave Broom found sold Japanese rum! It is a must-visit for every distiller who arives in Tokyo and serves bars, whisky enthusiasts and newbies alike. The staff sit a blind tasting test every day, it's cash only and there's no website.
Whiskies of Scotland. Scotland
Park Avenue Liquors. USA
Royal Mile Whiskies has been no stranger to this category, and has yet again returned to scoop the top award. Providing outstanding service in both its London and Edinburgh shops, it has some of the most gifted staff in the retail world and an impressive range of whiskies to match. The shops also offer other premium spirits and help promote these categories at various events.
Also specialising in cigars, Royal Mile offers a comprehensive range of Cuban cigars together with a selection from countries such as The Dominican Republic. Always ready to source even the most difficult whiskies, Royal Mile is the place to indulge yourself in.
Shinanoya Shokuhin. Japan
Retaining its crown for a second year, this retailer has consolidated its position as the largest, most popular online retail presence in the UK, offering the consumer a wealth of whiskies and knowledge.
The website is one of the best places to head for if you are looking for something special, unusual, rare or even just your regular whisky. The site also features a blog which contains distillery news and new product launches, as well as tasting notes, features and analysis. Other impressive features include a photo gallery and even a section of whisky related wallpapers you can download for your computer.
Loch Fyne Whiskies, Scotland
This family owned company based in Franklin County, Kentucky has always had big ideas that keep pushing the boundaries of bourbon. Now this philosophy has spread to its visitor tours. The hard hat tour deserves particular mention as there is no stone left unturned for the whiskey enthusiast. This is essentially an 'access all areas' pass that lets you take in every aspect of whiskey making including grain delivery, cookers, fermentation tanks, three story column stills, and more. With expert guides on hand to answer any questions it has raised the bar for distillery tours.
The distillery's rich tradition dates back to 1787 and one of its most important periods is explored in the Post Prohibition Tour. This focuses on the architecture and building expansion that occurred on the grounds from 1930-1950. This was a time of huge growth and featured distilling legends such as Albert B Blanton, Orville Schupp and Elmer T Lee.
Auchentoshan Distillery. Scotland
The business of finishing whisky can be a tricky one but when it comes to pushing the envelope with bourbon, Woodford Reserve has shined. The judges felt that its innovative Master's Collection deserved recognition, especially the recent Sweet Mash and Seasoned Oak expressions. Released periodically at master distiller Chris Morris' discretion, the Master's Collection whiskeys are extremely limited in quantity. The packaging is equally eye catching, being in bottles inspired by the copper pot stills of The Woodford Reserve Distillery, which is also the only distillery in the US to triple distil.
The inspiration for the Master's Collection is rooted in the rich history and tradition of what is today known as The Woodford Reserve Distillery. In the mid-1800s distillery owner Oscar Pepper and master distiller James Crow studied and recommended use of key processes like sour mashing and charred barrel maturation at the historic Woodford County distillery.
Millstone Distillery. Holland
The Edrington Group. Scotland
Whisky Magazine decided it was time to honour the upcoming ambassadors who work and travel as hard as their more senior counterparts. These are the young guns, the lifeblood of the industry to come, and we decided it was time they were recognised. A veritable roving ambassador taking the J & A Mitchell brands, Springbank, Hazelburn, Longrow and Kilkerran to an expanding audience across the globe. Pete has the sort of job others envy working for J & A Mitchell. He has already visited countless countries and doubtless others will follow soon as he raises the profile of Campbeltown's whiskies and the industry in general.
With expert knowledge of hundreds of whiskies at his fingertips, he fended off stiff competition from the rest of the pack. His boundless enthusiasm and easy going manner undoubtably comes from his alternate life as a surfer. He seems to bring the infectious joy of catching waves into the whisky world leaving his audience wanting more.
Gregg Glass. Compass Box Whisky Company
Heather Greene. William Grant & Sons
Established in 1798 on Orkney, Highland Park is one of the most remote Scotch whisky distilleries in the world. Highland Park whisky, part of The Edrington Group, is exported to more than 50 markets worldwide. Gerry Tosh is head of brand education and responsible for building relationships with the international drinks trade and consolidating the brand's profile around the world. The 35 year old joined Highland Park as its first global brand ambassador from the brand's worldwide distributor Maxxium. Previously he also worked for Highland Distillers and has worked continuously in the whisky industry since 1997. Gerry was the youngest male to be asked to be a Keeper of the Quaich.
Gerry's role involves spending half of his time abroad, travelling as far east as Japan and as far west as Alaska. He has been in climates where the temperatures reach +44 degrees Celsius and -44 degree Celsius. His enthusiasm and energy for Orkney and it's spirit has inspired many a Highland Park devotee to make the pilgrimage to the distillery
Heidi Donelon. Ireland Whiskey Trail
Frank Coleman. DISCUS
Without Jack and Wallace's pioneering work in the late 1960s and 70s in pressuring the blend owners to supply their single malts the story of whisky as we know it could have been very different. When I joined Milroy's in 1990 it was already established as a haven for whisky lovers and the big bearded bear that is Jack was displaying his aptitude in filling cases of rare whiskies for countless Japanese visitors. A copy of Wallace's famous Malt Almanac was always included in the sale and Jack sat busy autographing bottles. Wallace, meanwhile, would be nurturing a few containers of whisky to the Far East. Their flair with whisky began in their early teens in the cellars of the family pub in Dumfries where they were able to extract liquid from bottles without damaging the seals. And they could differentiate between several blends at this tender age. I had the pleasure of working with both of the brothers and we remain great friends. Wallace, always the quieter of the two but with a tremendous sense of humour. Jack was and is notorious for tempting one to join him for a so called "picnic" and a "glass of lemonade". I ended up in St Thomas's hospital as a result of one such "picnic". (This was actually down to food poisoning not the alcohol) and woke the next morning to find him snoring in a chair at the bedside. I've not touched lemonade since. I often tell people that there's only two things that give me a hang-over. Cigars and Jack Milroy.
Doug McIvor – Berry Bros. & Rudd
It was my first real introduction to single malt. event: a Greek wine tasting at UDs Hammersmith offices. Wallace is in attendance. "I've had enough of that stuff," he says to me after about half an hour of nosing and spitting. "Let's try some of these new Classic Malts." They were very new at that time. He walks over to the display cabinet, pulls it open, much to the horror of the PR people, and proceeds to take me through an impromptu tasting consisting of large measures in big glasses, of the range. I remember little of the afternoon bar, my editor telling me: "Dave, if one goes to lunch it's understood that one doesn't return to the office, especially if that lunch has been taken with the Milroys." Wallace was unfailingly supportive to me in my early days of drinks journalism, tips, advice, contacts, comments, not to mention his tasting guides and full glasses.
Established in 1899 by Shinjiro Torii, Suntory has a proud history of pursuing new businesses and markets with a pioneering spirit. It built the first dedicated whisky distillery in Japan in 1923, helping to create a whisky drinking culture in Japan that has benefited both its own nation's distillers and those of Scotland and America. It has also pioneered new distilling and maturation techniques, both at home and through the funding of research at Heriot-Watt. It was the combination of these approaches which has earned Suntory the accolade of Distiller of the Year. The past 12 months has seen the launch of the innovative Hibiki 12 Years Old, the start of a global strategy for Yamazaki single malt and, in Japan, a campaign which is bringing whisky, through the Highball serve, to a new generation of drinkers.
With its Scotch brands, Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch, having had recent make-overs, Suntory is set to continue to raise the profile of Japanese whisky globally and also feed the growing passion for Scotch single malt in Japan. As the company motto says "Yatte Minahare" (Go for it!)
Springbank Distillery. Scotland
Heaven Hill Distilleries. USA