Arts & Entertainment

Dowd On Drinks: World Whiskies Awards Are Out

More than 200 whiskies were considered for this year’s edition of the World Whiskies Awards, sponsored by Whisky Magazine, the U.K. publication that sets the pace for the international whisky coverage.

I was privileged to be one of just four American judges on the 15-judge international panel, chaired by Dave Broom.

Three rounds of blind tastings were held to come up with the top category winners. Our process was simple but laborious, given the size of the field.

The first round was conducted by the editorial panel at their homes, with sample bottles telling us only the category and the alcohol by volume (ABV) strength. The whiskies that scored the highest in that round provided the subcategory winners, which then moved to the second round of tastings, held in London where category winners were picked. Then it was back to the editorial panels to decide the overall titles.

You can get the full rundown on the judges, the category and subcategory winners plus selected tasting notes from judges on the Whisky Magazine online site. Meanwhile, here are the top winners:

• World’s Best Whisky Liqueur: Wild Turkey American Honey.

• World’s Best Grain Whisky: Compax Box Hedonism.

• World’s Best New Release: Glenrothers 25 Year Old.

• World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky: Blue Hanger 30 Year Old.

• World’s Best Blended Whisky: Suntory Hibiki 30 Year Old.

• World’s Best American Whiskey: George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

• World’s Best Single Malt Whisky: Yoichi 20 Years Old.

In other whiskey news:

• Cooley Distillery, an independently owned Irish whiskey distiller, has launched a 15-year-old small-batch bottling of its Greenore Single Grain Whiskey. The company claims it is the oldest bottling of an Irish grain whiskey ever released. It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and matures in the 200-year-old granite warehouses of the Old Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath.

Cooley’s previous release is Greenore 8-year-old, which will be maintained as a permanent brand. The 15-year-old will be limited to 5,000 bottles.

Greenore Single Grain won a gold medal in 2007 at the International Wine and Spirits Competition and a double gold at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Noel Sweeney is the company’s master blender.

• Most people think "Caribbean" when they think of rum. But the Cayman Islands never could lay claim to its own such spirit. That has changed with the debut of Seven Fathoms Premium Rum, the first commerciallymade distilled rum made entirely in the Caymans.

Walker Romanica, a co-founder of Cayman Islands Distilleries with Nelson Dilbert, said the rum is made using an underwater aging process thought to be the first ever used with a spirit. After distillation, the rum is put into oak barrels, taken out to sea and dropped to a depth of 42 feet, or seven fathoms.

"By aging our spirits underwater, we are able to take advantage of the kinetic properties of the ocean tides and currents to create a very unique flavour profile and a remarkably smooth rum," Romanica said at a press conference.


(William M. Dowd covers the beverage world at

c.2008 Albany Times Union