A journey round Islay, visits to Maker's Mark and Penderyn, and the conclusion to our trip down the Rockies
Following months of debate, scrutiny and several rounds of voting, Whisky Magazine's international judging panel has finally settled on the winners. We reveal who has collected the coveted Icons
The Icons has becomeone of the biggesthighlights of the whiskycalendar and the 2011competition has lived up toits reputation with thenumber and quality ofcompanies entering the awards.
The Icons are designed tocelebrate the people and placesbehind the great whiskies of theworld, with the World WhiskiesAwards taking care of the liquidlater in the year.
We asked the industry tonominate themselves in the variouscategories, then based on theevidence, an independent editorialpanel drew up a shortlist fromwhich the winners were picked.
Continuing the same format asprevious years' events we heldvoting rounds for companies in theUSA and also in Scotland. Then weopened up the competition to therest of the world, including Japan,Canada and Ireland.
This gave us a final shortlist fromwhich the global icons are drawn.Voting this year was painfullyclose in many categories, with just afew votes separating the winnerfrom the rest of the nominations.
In some cases we have seensmaller companies punching wellabove their weight to top theirbigger rivals in the polls. Theresults also reflect the global natureof the whisky world.
It has to be said that to make thefinal shortlist, given the allencompassing nature of theseawards and the quality of theentries, is an honour. We hope thatyou will join us in congratulatingthis year's winners.
One of the great single retailers in the world with a lengthy history as well.
The shop began life in May 1895. The local newspaper, the Elgin Courant reported the opening: "in New, Centrical, and Commodious Premises, No's 38 and 40 South Street... a Family Grocers, Tea, Wine & Spirit Merchants".
The founders of the firm were James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, and from the outset (as the newspaper reported) the stock was "personally selected", with a view to providing "a superior article at a popular price" and giving "the utmost satisfaction".
A tradition that still continues today. The malt lover can find everything offered from its independent bottling ranges under one roof, and what a room it is. Whisky lovers will find themselves spoilt for choice and possibly spending hours deliberating. Also the company offers tasting sessions which are well worth looking out for.
This elegant outpost in Elgin is surely a must visit for any whisky lover.
Arkwrights, Rest of World
Federal Wines and Spirits USA
Royal Mile Whiskies has been no stranger to this category, and has yet again returned to scoop the top award.
Royal Mile was established in 1991 and has steadily grown its range and reputation and is now known worldwide as being one of the world's great specialist whisky merchants.
All of its staff are whisky enthusiasts, who love to chat about Scottish malt whisky. Part of the job is getting involved in regular whisky tastings, to make sure that staff knowledge is always improving.
This philosophy extends to the online whisky shop with its information about Scotch whisky, regular whisky offers, distillery features and news. Providing outstanding service in both its London and Edinburgh shops, it has an impressive range of whiskies to match the talent of its staff.
The shops also offer other premium spirits and help promote these categories at various events.
Whichever outlet you chose, Royal Mile is the place to indulge yourself in.
Shinanoya Shokuhin, Rest of World
The brainchild of Sukhinder & Rajbir Singh, two brothers with a passion for fine spirits and over 40 years experience in the offtrade between them, Speciality Drinks Ltd began online trading in 1999 with the launch of their first website, www.thewhiskyexchange.com.
During the last few years the website has gone from strength to strength and is now an internationally recognised treasure trove for connoisseurs and collectors of fine spirits, with Single Malt whisky at the forefront. The range now stands at around 1500+ whiskies, with hundreds of cognacs, rums and other spirits also available.
To complement the Whisky Exchange side of things the brothers launched specialitydrinks.com, a platform for the previously undiscovered hidden gems from the Whisky Exchange's extensive collection.
Catering for everyone from amateur mixologists to specialist collectors and connoisseurs, it is expected the new site will become as prominent in its target marketplace as The Whisky Exchange website.
Loch Fyne Whiskies, Scotland
Set in the heart of Scotland's rolling hills lies Speyside Cooperage, one of the few working cooperage in the United Kingdom where you can experience up close the ancient art of coopering.
Since 1947, the family owned company has produced the finest casks from the best American Oak. The cooperage continues to work and produce the age-old product, still using traditional methods and tools. Although shipped across the world, many of the casks remain in Scotland, providing a vital ingredient in the whisky making process.
A truly great place to find out more about the art of coopering. Join one of the informative tours as your guide takes you on a journey through the lifecycle of the cask, see the highly skilled coopers at work, try it for yourself with the centre's mini casks or simply relax and enjoy the gift and coffee shop.
The Acorn to Cask exhibition will take you on a journey of the cask, where you will learn why, in years gone by, almost everyone needed a cooper.
Kavalan Distillery, Rest of World
Maker's Mark, USA
The James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington, South Africa, is the continent's sole malt whisky distillery. Established in 1886, it is the spiritual home of Three Ships, one of the country's leading blended whiskies, consisting of native grain blended with Scottish malt.
Now this innovative distillery, under the watchful eye of master distiller Andy Watts, has produced a truly South African grain whisky, which is bringing this style to the masses. Watts has also been working quietly to produce whiskies made with local grain and malt. The distillery is also now producing 100 per cent South African distilled whiskies, in the form of a 10 Years Old and a 5 Years Old.
An 18-month investment project, including new blending and fermentation cellars and a visitors' centre, has been completed, showing parent company Distell is serious about whisky. It is time South Africa, and the world took notice.
Diageo's Masters of Whisky scheme, USA
Gordon & MacPhail, Scotland
Richard Paterson is one of the world's best-known master blenders, having travelled the globe extensively as an ambassador not just for Whyte & Mackay, but for Scotland, becoming a master blender at the incredibly early age of 26.
The master blender's role is one of the most important and complex in the whisky making process. With a great talent for 'nosing whisky', one of the main tasks of the position is nosing often hundreds of samples of whisky, and being able to distinguish each to maintain particular layers of flavour, aroma and depth.
As well as creating whisky, Richard is well known as a charismatic presenter, taking enthusiasts through both whisky history and the steps needed to taste and appreciate whisky.
These sessions are known to be explosive, and Richard takes no prisoners when hosting a whisky tasting, if you make a wrong move, you will know about it.
Simon Brooking, Beam Global
Gillian Macdonald, Penderyn
Stephen Marshall, John Dewar & Sons
Fred Noe, Beam Global
I first met Evan more than 20 years ago when he was still manager at Cardhu. Of course he was from that generation of distillers, now all gone, who were more like lairds than simple managers.
He had an air of authority about him, and an intense stare that could be slightly intimidating, were it not for the sly wink, the hefty slap on the shoulders, and the big laugh.
He had worked almost everywhere; the absolutely iconic distilleries like Talisker, Lagavulin and Cardhu. The famous names such as Caol Ila, Dalwhinnie and Cragganmore.
And then the forgotten ones; Rosebank, Towiemore, Coleburn and Linlithgow. Fifteen distilleries in all.
And of course he travelled, often I suspected somewhat to the mystification of his bosses. The USA, Latin America, Europe, Asia, there wasn't anywhere he didn't go to first in the service of Johnnie Walker and Cardhu, and later to support the 'new' Classic Malts.
And then, when he retired from Cardhu in 1993, he chose to relocate to the United States to work first for Schieffelin and Somerset, and then Diageo there, relentlessly promoting both Walker and his beloved malts across the continent.
I couldn't count how many people Evan Cattanach has spoken to during the years, how many he has inspired with his passion for Scotch Whisky, or for that matter how many bottles were sold on the basis of his personal intervention.
I do know that few could resist his charms when he spoke (and sometimes sang) about the subject most dear to his heart many in his audiences left loving Scotch, and not a few left loving him.
His contribution to the industry during the years has been simply immense, and few deserve such an honour as the Icons of Whisky Lifetime Achievement Award more than Evan.
DR NICK MORGAN
Scotch Knowledge and Heritage
It was the dream of William Grant to make the 'best dram in the valley' and five generations later, this still holds true. William Grant & Sons distils some of the world's leading brands of Scotch whisky, including Glenfiddich, the world's favourite single malt, The Balvenie range of handcrafted single malts and, Grant's one of the world's most loved blended Scotches. In addition, the company has added one of Ireland's finest Irish Whiskeys, Tullamore Dew to its portfolio, not to mention acquiring the innovative Hudson Whiskey range from Tuthilltown Spirits in the USA.
To this day, William Grant's simple legacy still inspires the company in all its ventures. Indeed, Glenfiddich has grown and is now found in homes and bars on every continent in the world; while The Balvenie is the malt whisky enthusiasts' malt of choice.
The company also continues to innovate in categories other than Scotch, including rum and gin.
With its new Ailsa Bay Distillery coming on line, its recent aquisitions (including investments in wood management in Jerez), the future is looking pretty bright for this fiercely independent company.
Amrut Distillery, Rest of World
Four Roses Distillery, USA
Tuthilltown Spirit, USA