Kentucky beats Scotch whisky in world top 10

India joins global roll-call of best distillers as Bangalore spirit wins third place

It was the liquor loved by thirsty cowboys and was immortalised by the Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep. But Prohibition nearly killed off the taste of the frontier when America turned to the milder demands of bourbon.

Now, rye is back, and has punched Scotch straight through the saloon bar doors to be named the world's top-rated whiskey. The 2010 edition of the Whisky Bible, Britain's biggest selling whisky book, has named 18-year-old Sazerac Rye from Kentucky as the finest dram available to mankind.

The amber chestnut spirit, celebrated for its oak, leather and molasses overtones with hints of mint and eucalyptus, beat off competition from 3,850 whiskies including second-placed Ardbeg Supernova from the Hebridean island of Islay, arguably the smokiest dram ever made, and which has dominated the awards for the past three years.

The book's author, Jim Murray, described the rye, distilled at the historic Buffalo Trace distillery – famed as the first company to send liquor down the Mississippi River – as "reaching previously unknown heights". "In beating all other world-whiskey types, Sazerac 18 has set the bar for rye whiskey and it will be fascinating in forthcoming years to see what is bottled to at least match it," he said

Harlen Wheatley, the master distiller at Buffalo Trace, said he was delighted with the accolade. "It is a true honour to have our products singled out by Jim. He truly understands what makes a fine whiskey," he said.

While the US distillery took the coveted first place with a joint record score of 97.5, third place went to Amrut Fusion from Bangalore with 97 out of 100. The newcomer was praised by Mr Murray for its "mystical complexity", in a move which recognises the world's second most populous nation as a major whisky manufacturer. In his tasting notes, he advises would-be drinkers: "It is one of those which command a big mouthful, a chair with a headrest ... and silence."

The arrival of the Indian-made Amrut, which at £33.99 costs less than half the price of the £89 rye or the £94.99 leading Scotch, signals a growing challenge to centuries-old Caledonian dominance of the international whisky market. The Japanese malt Yoichi was named best in the world last year by Whisky Magazine and makers there have been piling up gongs in both single-malt and best-blended categories once again this year.

Mr Murray said that some sections of the Scotch whisky industry needed to raise their game. "There is still a sneering attitude in some quarters that, if it is not made in Scotland, then somehow it is not proper whisky," he said. "I don't think the Scots have a lot to be complacent about at the moment in terms of whisky. While the best is still exceptional, there is a lot of Scotch whisky out there which is really not good at all."

He added: "Hopefully the arrival of Indian whisky will act as a wake-up call for the Scotch whisky industry. If these guys in Bangalore can produce exceptional, world-class whisky, why can't Scottish distillers who have been around for 100 years or more? Very often, the answer is that distilleries don't take a huge amount of bother in choosing the casks they use, and it has become a numbers game for them."

Rob Allanson, the editor of Whisky Magazine, agreed. He said that the rising cost of materials could be impacting on home-grown quality. "There are some truly phenomenal non-Scottish whiskies out there," he said. "Some whiskies, especially those being produced in oak casks in Japan, are incredible and completely beyond anything that is produced in Scotland."

A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association defended standards. "Landmark regulations to protect and promote Scotch whisky show Scottish distillers are continuing to maintain the highest standards in every aspect of the production process," he said.

Rye whiskey is made from a mash that is 51 per cent rye – compared to the sweeter, more full-bodied bourbon which is produced from corn. Scotch whiskies contain malted barley, while the high-strength Amrut Fusion takes its name from the deployment of both Indian-grown and peated Scottish barley.

World whisky league: Tasting notes

*Sazerac Rye 18 Years Old (Fall 08): World Whisky of the Year Amber chestnut in colour, boasting notes of oak leather and molasses. It is described as "enormous in every respect" with a "chewy texture" while its finish is preceded by notes of mint, eucalyptus and lingering pepper. £89

*Ardbeg Supernova, From the distillery on the southern tip of Islay, it is described as "heavily peated, with a turfy smoke and seaspray character". The dram has been an international phenomenon with customers limited to one bottle each. £94.99

*Amrut Fusion, Distilled 3,000ft above sea level in Bangalore, India, this high-strength liquor blends Indian-grown with peated Scottish barley. It combines oak, smoke, dark fruit, mocha and high-cocoa dark chocolate. £33.99

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum