A list of the world’s top whiskies has just been released by the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI). The whisky category scored nine platinum medals and 15 gold medals. Platinum medals are awarded to any spirit that scores 96/100 or higher points.
BTI plays a dual role in the beverage industry. The Chicago-based organization reviews and scores, on a hundred-point scale, thousands of beverages each year. This activity makes it more like a conventional wines and spirits competition.
On the other hand, it also functions as a consultancy that, in its own words, utilizes:
Exceptional methodology, proprietary tools, and decades of experience to offer research, development, and marketing services that protect large investments, elevate brand reputations, optimize market reception and engage consumers.
This dual role is unprecedented within the beverage industry. Global wine and spirit companies and consumers closely follow its evaluations and advice in the beverage industry.
The world’s top-rated whisky was Midleton Dair Ghaelach Kylebeg Wood Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, which scored 98/100 points. The Judging Panel described it as having:
Aromas and flavors of cassis and tart red cherry, baklava, pistachio cream, and canelé with a glycerous, fat body and a warming, complex, medium-long finish with accents of apple pastry, grape seed oil, and leather. A powerful yet graceful and flavorful Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey with a spicy, high-octane mouthfeel without overwhelming the palate.
Also scoring Platinum Medals were Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (Best Taiwanese Whisky) and Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Best Straight Bourbon).
The Official Tasting Note described the Kavalan as featuring:
Baked, citrusy, jammy, fruity, toasty aromas and flavors of spiced peach jam, dates in vanilla cream, and apple and honey mead with nutmeg with a round, flat, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, medium-long finish that shows notes of peanut brittle, lilac, and tobacco. A distinguished, complex, and fruit-forward Taiwanese Whisky with apple and pear aromas balancing out the grains.
At an average retail price of around $45/bottle, Larceny Barrel Proof has consistently represented one of the best values in bourbon whiskey. The Judging Panel described it as having:
Baked, roasted aromas and flavors of pecan pie and s’mores, freshly baked yellow cake and vanilla frosting, cocoa nibs and caramel syrup, and orgeat with a round, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a hot, interesting, medium-length finish manifesting accents of orange marmalade and butter cream, coconut cream, and corn flakes and cocoa nibs. Bigger and bolder than a beginner’s whiskey, so complex with an incredible depth of sweet bakery aromas and flavors.
Jameson Bow Street 18 YO Cask Strength Irish Blended Whiskey (Best Irish Blended Whisky) and Knappogue Castle 21 YO Exclusive Cask Vatting Single Malt Irish Whiskey (Best Irish Single Malt) were the other two Irish whiskey platinum medalists.
The Official Tasting Notes described the Jameson 18 YO as demonstrating:
Aromas and flavors of French oak with mocha and espresso bean, clove and nutmeg, oatmeal cookie, and salted caramel with a round, vibrant, dry full body and a warming, very long finish with touches of cinnamon, Chinese five spice, and rancio. A bold, spicy whiskey to pair with any momentous occasion or your favorite cigar.
The Judging Panel described the Knappogue Castle as exhibiting:
Aromas and flavors of pomegranate, cantaloupe, mango, lemon, green apple, and phyllo dough, pickled ginger, banana bread, and candied bacon with a fat body and a very long finish with notes of cooked mango rolled in walnut, grilled peaches, cinnamon roll, and banana bread. An incredible example of Irish whiskey; lush and balanced flavors, extraordinarily well done.
The Best English Whisky was Bimber Single Malt London Whisky Batch 3. English whiskies have been eclipsing their Scottish cousins, increasingly medaling in international spirit competitions and underscoring the quality and range of whiskies produced in England.
The Official Tasting Note described the whisky as showing:
Aromas and flavors of tarragon, Chinese five spice, miso soup, and sandalwood with a fat body and a very long finish with touches of sultana dates, tangerine, apricot, and white peach, caramel and honey, and butterscotch. A big and beautiful whisky with a savory nose and fresh fruit on the palate.
The last three Platinum medalists were all American whiskeys.
The Best Tennessee Whiskey was Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition Premium Tennessee Whiskey. The Judging Panel described the whiskey as having:
Aromas and flavors of maple candies, polished leather and oak, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and roast sesame and cumin with a round, bright, dry, medium-full body and a peppery, distinctive, very long finish with accents of maple, vanilla, and buttered corn, graham cracker, treacle and rooibos, butterscotch, and licorice. Simply delicious, this is dessert in a glass. The aromas and flavors transport you to a summer afternoon indulging at your favorite ice cream parlor.
The Best Cask-Finished Straight Bourbon Whiskey was Middle West 6 YO Sherry Finished Bourbon Whiskey. Cask-finished bourbons have emerged as one of the fastest-growing categories of American whiskey, with Sherry cask-finished expressions proving to be the most popular.
The Judging panel described the whisky as showing:
Aromas and flavors of cinnamon, candied ginger and vanilla cream, nutmeg, clove, cracked black pepper, and leather with a satiny, bright, dry medium-to-full body and a warming, distinctive, long finish revealing elements of black pepper on a fresh hush puppy, pecan pie with extra cinnamon and red plum syrup, walnut paste, and dates and sandalwood. A barrel-forward Bourbon that holds its age well and expresses cocoa, caramel, and dried fruits.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey was the Best Rye Whiskey.
The Judging Panel described it as exhibiting:
Aromas and flavors of baker’s dark chocolate and pecan, rye bread and toasted sesame, walnut brittle, and incense with a satiny, bright, dryish medium-to-full body and a peppery, colossal, long finish with accents of fresh caramel corn with salt and cracked black pepper, cinnamon candies and mace, white pepper, and lilac and manuka honey. A spicy and delicious showstopper expressing youthful, powerful grain flavors and just the right delicate influence of barrel characteristics.
Among the standout gold medalists were: Aberlour A’Bunadh Cask Strength Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky. A’Bunadh, a perennial medalist in spirit competition, was the top-ranked Scotch and Speyside whisky in the BTI 2022 judging.
Also winning Gold Medals were KOVAL Distillery Maple Syrup Cask Finish Single Barrel Rye Whiskey, Morris Rutherglen Muscat Barrel Finished Australian Single Malt Whisky, and Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage 26 Rye Whiskey.
Once dismissed as little more than a marketing gimmick, aging at sea is now increasingly seen as an innovative maturation technique. Referred to as hydrokinetic aging, it produces a constant rocking of the liquid in the cask. This action maximizes the wood contact and the extraction of flavor components in the cask wood.
Sonic maturation, where low-frequency sound waves are used to agitate the liquid in a barrel, has a similar effect and should be considered a sub-category of hydrokinetic aging.
Other gold medalists worth singling out are Stranahan’s Sherry Cask American Single Malt Whiskey, Don Michael Andean Black Corn Whiskey, and Kirkland Signature 6 YO Oak Cask Aged Blended Canadian Whisky.
Stranahan’s is an outstanding Sherry matured American single malt that represents incredible value and outshines many of its Scottish whisky contemporaries in the depth and complexity of its aroma and flavor.
Don Michael is a Peruvian whisky crafted from Andean black corn – an ancestral corn variety native to the Andes. It’s a new whisky and has consistently won medals in 2022 international spirit competitions.
At an average price of just $18/750 ml bottle, the Kirkland Canadian whisky, Costco’s in-house brand, represented the top-scoring Canadian whisky and an incredible value.
For a complete listing of all the gold medal whisky winners, see the BTI website.