The best whiskies in the world 2017, Icons of Whisky Global winners and the conclusion to this year's Battle of the Blends
After many months of debate, scrutiny and four rounds of voting, Whisky Magazine's international panel of judges has finally settled on the winners. Here we reveal who has scooped the coveted Global Icons
This year the Icons have expanded with two new categories: distillery manager and visitor centre manager. Both roles are worthy of inclusion. The distillery managers are the people who run the distilleries providing liquid consistency day after day, they are the custodians of the place. In some cases ambassadors have come and gone but these guys still stand.
The visitor centre managers are the backroom folk who keep the home fires burning providing a perfect experience for each and every visitor through their doors.
Another change comes with the further evolution of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. This year we are announcing five new inductees; two in America and three in the United Kingdom.
The Hall of Fame is intended to be a permanent tribute honouring those noteworthy individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the world of whisky.
The Icons are designed to celebrate the people and places behind the great whiskies of the world. Continuing the same format as previous years the editorial panel held voting rounds for companies based in the USA, Scotland and the rest of the world.
This gave us a final shortlist from which the global icons are voted on by the editorial judging panel. Voting this year was pretty close in many categories, with just a few votes separating the winner from the rest of the nominations.
Irish Distillers continued to lead growth and innovation within the Irish whiskey category and in May, work began on a e100 million expansion of the Midleton Distillery, to cater for the growing global demand for Irish whiskey. The project followed an initial e100 million investment into a maturation facility in Dungourney and once complete will see the Midleton Distillery operate at double production capacity to fuel growing demand.
The Single Pot Still Whiskeys of Midleton continued to fuel the resurgence of single pot still Irish whiskey with the launch of two new expressions in 2012. In May, Yellow Spot - an expression matured in individual American Bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and Spanish Malaga casks for 12 years before blending - was launched to much acclaim. In October, Irish Distillers honoured the work of The Irish Whiskey Society with the launch of a single cask limited edition expression exclusively for its members. The Irish Whiskey Society Single Cask Whiskey was released following a tasting at The Old Jameson Distillery in April, where members selected the cask. Meanwhile, flagship brand Jameson reinforced its position as the world’s No 1 Irish whiskey.
Morrison Bowmore Scotland
Four Roses USA
Corsair Artisan Distillery USA
Undoubtedly Ireland’s best stocked whiskey shop. Located in the centre of Dublin, it is an Aladdin’s Cave for anyone remotely interested in whisky, and particularly Irish whiskey. Owner Ally Alpine has build up a formidable reputation since opening the shop in 2003. Today it remains the only specialised whiskey shop in the country.
If it’s Irish and if it’s whiskey, then chances are Ally has it and this includes some special shop only bottlings. The range isn’t just limited to Irish whiskeys however, and he also boasts one of the most comprehensive range of Scottish and world whiskies available in Ireland. If you are looking for a rare, unusual or collectable Irish whiskey, then the Celtic Whiskey Shop is probably where you will find it. The staff are all highly knowledgeable about whisky, and will only be too delighted to recommend different whiskies to you. They usuallly have a bottle or two open which you can sample, making your choice that bit easier and more fun!
Loch Fyne Whiskies Scotland
Julio’s Liquors USA
Park Avenue Liquor Shop USA
With shops spanning the Chicago area, Binny’s has carved out a niche for itself with an ‘everything under one roof’ attitude, with densely stacked shelves to tempt the malt lover. The various shops have become havens for Illinois malt lovers offering hundreds of lines, encompassing single malt, Bourbon, rye and world whiskies as well. The staff are always on hand to help out if you get lost in the vast aisles or need a hand choosing that special bottle.
Scanning the shelves you can choose a single malt Scotch from a single cask, a Japanese single malt, pure pot still Irish one, a single barrel American Bourbon or even an Australian single cask offering. The stores also have their own handpicked barrels and exclusives; giving the whisky lover something different and interesting to try. The shops also have cigar rooms so you can choose from a vast array of cigars selected from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and, of course, the USA.
La Maison du Whisky Rest of World
Royal Mile Whiskies Scotland
Building on its success in last year’s Icons, the Master of Malt team has triumphed yet again. The bar for online retailer has just been raised once more. From humble beginnings in a retail shop in Royal Tunbridge Wells, the Master of Malt website now provides one of the most expansive ranges of fine and rare malts to be found anywhere in the world. The site is simple and easy to navigate, combining distillery facts, handy tasting notes and of course products, lots of them.
The company demonstrates industry-leading knowledge and experience with a drive and passion for all things whiskyrelated. These include the company’s own independent offerings and the excellent ‘try a sample before you buy’ service. The company has also launched the Whisky Club from the Times and Sunday Times. This is a joint project with News International, and we can expect it to take the retail world by storm this year. Followed by the recently launched online ‘blend your own’ service, another game changer for customers.
Loch Fyne Whiskies Scotland
The fruits of two years of planning and research, the multi million pound refurbishment of this bastion of Scotch whisky has really yielded results. The project brought together some very talented people to create a new, interactive attraction to show off one of Scotland’s most famous and iconic products.
The brand new interactive whisky shop includes a specially researched and developed flavour map to help visitors choose their perfect whisky; an innovative interactive system operating in 20 languages allowing users to delve deeper to discover more about their favourite distillery; a ‘Pick 'n' mix’ whisky miniatures allowing visitors to create their own unique tasting pack, and a luxury VIP whisky sales area with an Ipad whisky Selector. A treasure trove for all whisky lovers, offering the chance to discover more than 300 different single malt, grain and blended Scotch whiskies and a selection of Scotch whisky based liqueurs. Just don’t forget the barrel ride tour as well.
Kavalan Distillery Rest of World
Maker’s Mark Distillery USA
In the past 12 months Master of Malt has been extremely busy releasing some exceptional and innovative brands and ideas. It took Christmas by storm with the Whisky Advent Calendars, no doubt the envy of many retailers. These sets garnered huge levels of global press attention and social media coverage on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Then came a flurry of bottles under the new independent label, That Boutique-y Whisky Company. With their quirky cartoonesque labels and limited run whiskies, these have become a firm favourite in the whisky market place. As has the Lost Distilleries Blend. The company also gave the power back to the consummer with its ‘Blend your own whisky’ (the first of its kind in the world) and ‘Mature your own’ kits (a one litre cask made from toasted Kentucky Oak).
The Edrington Group, Scotland
Corsair Artisan Distillery, USA
Blossoming in his role away from the lab, Iain represents a new breed of ambassador who manages to mix a mastery of hard-core technical knowledge with a rare passion for the fun aspect of whisky.
Iain started in 1992 as a trainee lab technician at Morrison Bowmore. After that he trained as a distillery manager. In 2000 he returned to the lab at the company's head office to train as group senior blender. In April 2011, he joined the sales and marketing team as global master of malts, taking the Morrison Bowmore message, and of course his love and enthusiasm for whisky, across the world.
Angela Forsgren d’Orazio, Mackmyra Distillery, Rest of World
David Blackmore, The Glenmorangie Co. USA
Gable Erenzo, Tuthiltown Distillery, USA
With 40-plus years service under his belt, Eddie has unfalteringly steered Bowmore through the tough times and the good, he knows every nut and bolt of the place, and his pride and passion for the distillery is evident when he takes you on a tour of the site.
Eddie worked his way through every area at Bowmore , hence his knowledge and love for the place. Starting in the warehouse, the malt barn, the stillhouse and the mash house until he became head maltman, followed by brewer, head distiller and distillery manager. The range of whiskies released under Eddie’s watch is pretty impressive by any standards. It includes the likes of Legend, 12, 15, 18, Surf, Enigma 12, Mariner 15, 17, Tempest 10, Laimrig 15, as well as some rare whiskies and Islay festival special bottlings.
John McLellan, Kilchoman Distillery Scotland
Greg Davis, Maker’s Mark Distillery USA
Jackie is the backbone who keeps the home fires burning and provides a perfect experience for each and every visitor through her doors. With a focus on good fun and a clear passion for Ardbeg, Jackie can often be found flitting around the visitor centre, wearing many hats in a very capable and adaptable fashion.
When she isn't talking about whisky, showing visitors around the centre and distillery, or leading tastings, she might be tending cash at the hugely popular shop or working in the excellent restaurant; the amount of people through the doors are a testament to her passion. With the distillery due to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2015, it's reasonable to expect parties and surprises during that year, and no doubt Jackie will be at the heart of these.
Lynne Grant, Heaven Hill Distilleries USA