Every year, lovers of Scotch and single malts eagerly await the publication of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. It is widely considered the world’s leading whisky guide. Each edition contains roughly 4,500 professionally-analysed tasting notes on the world’s leading and lesser-known whiskies. The 2015 edition is just out and it has left Scottish distilleries with eggnogg on their faces. For the first time, the top five rankings feature not a single Scottish brand. Instead, Murray has named a Japanese whisky, the Yamazaki Single Malt, as the best in the world. The Yamazaki is from Japan’s oldest distillery (1923) and was given 97.5 marks out of 100. Murray described the drink as a work of ‘near genius’, extolling its ‘nose of exquisite boldness’ and finish of ‘light, teasing spice’. Murray, an English journalist, has been writing about whisky for years and his bible is now in its 12th edition, known for its extensive research and the range it covers.
The 2015 edition contains over 1,000 new entries. Indeed, the bible shows how far the Japanese single malt and whisky industry has progressed. The country’s whiskies have won a slew of awards and widespread critical acclaim in recent years. To rub salt into Scotland’s wounds, the second-ranked whisky was from America: the William Larue Weller 2013 bourbon made by Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, which has sold out all its stock. The best European whisky of the year went to a British brand, Chapter 14 Not Peated, from the English Whisky Company. Even the best Scotch of the year went to Single Drop, a distillery that shut down some years ago, though its produce is still available.
Two of the last three editions of the bible have named Scotch whiskies as the best in the world—Old Pulteney’s 21-year-old single malt in 2012 and Glenmorangie Ealanta in 2014. Murray says this emergence of such high-quality overseas brands should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the Scottish industry, adding that the Yamazaki is ‘a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near’.
Murray said he had sampled hundreds of Scotch whiskies while tasting 4,700 varieties from around the world for his 2015 bible. Murray bemoans the lack of innovation in the present-day industry in Scotland. However, if you’re looking to pick up a bottle of the winning Yamazaki whisky, it may prove difficult. Only 18,000 bottles were made and are only sold in a few specialist shops for around £100 (R10,000 approx).
For connoisseurs of whisky, here’s the edited list:
2015 World Whisky of the Year:
Yamakazi Single Malt Sherry 2013
Second Finest Whisky in the World: William Larue Weller 2013
Third Finest Whisky in the World: Sazerac Rye 18-year-old 2013
Scotch Whisky of the Year:
The Last Drop 1965
Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks): Highland Park Loki
Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask): The Last Drop Glen Garioch
Scotch Blend of the Year:
The Last Drop 1965
Scotch Grain of the Year:
Sovereign Port Dundas 1978
SINGLE MALT SCOTCH
10 years and under:
Glen Grant 10-year-old
11-15 years: Highland Park Loki
16-21 years: Glenmorangie 1993 Ealanta
22-27 years: Glenturret 1986 Famous Grouse Commonwealth Games
28-34 years: Balbair 1983 Ist Release
35-40 years: Old Pulteney 40-year-old
41 years and over: Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 50-year-old
No age statement: Ballantine’s Finest
5-12 years: Johnnie Walker Black
13-18 years: Ballantine’s 17-year-old
19-25 years: Royal Salute 21-year-old
26-50 years: The Last Drop 1965