From The Times:
Yoichi 20 years old, distilled on the shores of the Sea of Japan, has become the first variety produced outside Scotland to win the coveted single malt award in an international competition run by Whisky Magazine, the main industry publication.
I don’t want to diminish what Suntory has accomplished here, because I do think it is indicative of a larger trend- that of people understanding that Scotch isn’t the end all be all of whisky (let alone single malts). But I don’t believe this is a whisky version of the the Judgement of Paris.
For one, this idea that Whisky begins and ends in Scotland is an idea that is less than ninety years old. Up until the turn of the twentieth century, it was the Irish brands that held both favor and flavor, for it was the Irish who, for the most part, held on to the traditional distilling processes of pot stills whilst the Scottish made their money in the blends. It wasn’t even until 1963, when Glenfiddich released and mass marketed the idea of “single malts” outside of Great Britain, that single malts took off throughout the world. The reason why Scotland was dominating single malts was that there was almost nobody else making them for the longest time, certainly not on the scale that the Scots were/are.
Additionally, I am willing to bet that the scoring between the #1 and #2 whiskys was microscopic. There are many, many great single malts out there, and any one of them could have won.
Still, I am quite happy to see the folks at Yoichi (and at Suntory, who won best blend) win. Both clearly have shown an attention to production details which I believe is crucial to creating an amazing spirit. Anyone who believes that it is Scotland’s inherent destiny to make the best whisky in the world needs to get out a little more.
(Thanks to The Leisure Guy for the heads up)