Scottish distilleries are in shock after a Japanese single malt was named the best whisky in the world.
Whisky expert Jim Murray described the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 as a drink of “near incredible genius”, awarding it 97.5 marks out of 100 in the 2015 World Whisky Bible.
To add insult to injury it is the first time in the Whisky Bible’s 12-year history that a Scottish malt has failed to make the top five drams. It is also the first year that a Japanese whisky claimed the highest accolade.
Mr Murray, who oversees the review that samples over 4,500 different whiskies, labelled the results a “wake up call” for Scottish distilleries, claiming the winner was “a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near”. The review unfortunately awarded the best European whisky of the year to English tipple Chapter 14 Not Peated, from the English Whisky Company.
After personally tasting nearly 1,000 whiskies, Mr Murray said Scottish distilleries were in danger of churning out drab or mediocre malts and said it was time for “a little dose of humility” from the northern whisky makers so they could “realised something is missing.”
He praised praised the Yamazaki’s “nose of exquisite boldness” and finish of “light, teasing spice”.
10 best Scotch Whiskies
10 best Scotch Whiskies
1/10 Glen Grant 10-Year-Old
Dry, peaty, and very sophisticated, this Speyside 10-year-old is a steal. Little wonder it’s one of the world’s best-selling single malts and received 95 points in Jim Murray’s most recent Whisky Bible. An easy-going dram, not too heavy on the smoke. £29, timeswhiskyclub.com
2/10 Talisker Storm
Those facing a wet 25 January, should shelter themselves from the elements with a dram of Talisker Storm. The excellent distillery has drawn from its maritime surrounds – on the coast of the Isle of Skye – and has fashioned a rich, smoky drink. £34, waitrose.com
3/10 The Glenrothes 1998 Vintage
The first of the Glenrothes vintages to emerge from the distillery since new Malt Master, Gordon Motion, took over. Some accuse it of being too simple on the palate - caramel and spice feature heavily - but for our money, that’s the charm of this gentle drink. £55, bbr.com
4/10 Ballantine’s 17-Year-Old
Ballantine’s teenager has won a constellation of awards of late including Scotch of the year 2013 in the Whisky Bible. We love this full-bodied blended scotch, with its creamy texture, flavours of vanilla and slight kick in the finish. £44, masterofmalt.com
5/10 Ardbeg Uigeadail
Named for the loch where the celebrated distillery gets its waters, this whisky has been showered with awards. Sweet and silky, it provides the perfect finish to a Burns supper. £60, ocado.com
6/10 Johnnie Walker Black Label 12-Year-Old
For the price, this shows the skill of the blender remarkably well. It combines oomph on the tongue with sophistication and silkiness. There is vanilla, there is peat, and there is raisin flavours, too – together they’re formidable. You can see why the Royal Household favour JW. £29,waitrose.com
7/10 Balblair 2003
This 2003 was matured in old bourbon casks until 2013, when the honeyed liquor was decanted into the beautiful Balblair bottles. On the palate it has a touch of orange, oodles of honey and a good spicy finish. The distillery at its best. £39.99, thedrinkshop.com
8/10 Highland Park 25-Year-Old
A single malt, matured in old sherry and bourbon casks, this is of singular quality. It hits the tongue in a tidal wave of loveliness, rich honey, toffee and white chocolate. For a whisky of its age, it is surprisingly sweet, and all the better for it. £188, thewhiskyexchange.com
9/10 The Glenlivet 12 year old
Very popular and reasonably priced, but don’t think this isn’t a quality whisky. Bring a bottle of this smooth, refreshing and easy-drinking Speyside to a Burns supper, and you’ll be a very popular guest. £25.60, ocado.com
10/10 Glen Garioch 1797
Founder’s Reserve This single malt, from one of the oldest producers in Scotland, reaches maturity in bourbon and sherry casks. The makers claim its robust qualities of flavour, spice and richness make it the perfect accompaniment to a haggis. It tastes very fine on its own too. £29.20, masterofmalt.com
But whisky-lovers may need to be quick. There were only 18,000 bottles of the winning whisky made – and retail in only a few hundred specialist shops in the UK for around £100.