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The Best Whiskeys In The World, According To The World Whiskies Awards 2020

If you’re into whiskey, you’ve probably seen the gold and black World Whiskies Awards logos floating around at some point or another. The group is part of TheDrinksReport.com, which offers industry news and insights and runs alcohol-centric awards for whiskey, beer, brandy, vodka, etc. The point of this particular award is to find and promote the best whiskies in the world, and they take the job very, very seriously.

Since this list is about the best of the best, it’s broken down into 16 unique whisk(e)y categories. The awards cover everything from America’s bourbon to the world’s best single malts to primo bottles of rye. Within each category, there are specific regional winners — that is Scotch single malt, American single malt, Taiwanese single malt, and so on. But we’re not focusing on those today. We’re diving into the best of the best, the so-called “Taste Winners” of 2020 for each category.

Since this award was specifically about taste, we’ve pulled the tasting notes from the judges for each winner. Also, we haven’t priced these bottles out. While some are accessible, several of them are very hard to come by. Even if you do find one of the rarer bottles, they’ll cost a small fortune. That being said, this is a stellar international selection of great whiskeys that are worth tracking down if you have the means or opportunity.

World’s Best Blended Limited Release — Ichiro’s Malt & Grain

ABV: 48.50%
Distillery: Chichibu Distillery, Chichibu, Japan

The Whisky:

Chichibu Distillery founder and master whisky maker, Ichiro Akuto, takes his time when making a blend. He knows what’s he’s doing. Akuto’s family has been making spirits since the 1600s in Japan. Where this whisky truly stands out is in its blend. The base grain and malt whiskies are from Chichibu’s stills and aging program. That is then blended with malt and grain whiskies from Canada, the U.S., Scotland, and Ireland.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Rich with slight hints of sulfur. A burst of fresh mint is mixed with slightly peaty notes. A powerful dram.”

World’s Best Blended Malt — MacNair’s Lum Reek Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 21 Years Old

ABV: 48%
Distillery: The GlenAllachie Distillery, Aberlour, UK

The Whisky:

This masterful blend mingles peaty single malts from both the Speyside and Islay whisky regions of Scotland with a single malt from GlenAllachie (also Speyside). Ex-bourbon, new oak, ex-Oloroso sherry, and ex-red wine casks are used in the aging process. The aged juice then goes into the bottles without any fussing or filtration.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Fragrant and sweet, with floral and fruit aromas. Fruit Pastilles and a touch of honey. Rich with a gentle mouthfeel, fruitiness of plums, and black grapes with a touch of cinnamon, tobacco, and licorice. Lingering pepper and spice on the finish. Great balance.”

World’s Best Blended Whisky — Dewar’s Double Double 32 Years Old

ABV: 46%
Distillery: John Dewar & Sons, Ltd. (Bacardi)

The Whisky:

This is a very complex dram. The blended whisky goes through what master blender Stephanie Macleod calls a “four-stage aging process.” The first stage takes single malt and grain whisky and ages them separately for 32 years. Then the whiskies are blended — single malts with single malt, grain with grain — and mellowed in old whisky casks. Next, the single malts and grains are blended and rested again in old oak. Finally, the whisky is transferred for final finishing in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. This imbues a lifetime of wood, weather, and terroir into every single drop.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Brown sugar-glazed roasted pineapple on the nose. Polished oak develops. Thick, sweet palate with caramel, vanilla, molasses, and toffee with soft spice and baked apples. Raisin notes build. Water brings out tropical fruit notes. Rich and rather complex.”

World’s Best Bourbon — Ironroot Harbinger

ABV: 57.5%
Distillery: Ironroot Republic Distillery, Denison, TX

The Whisky:

This multiple-award-winning bourbon keeps it simple. The grain-to-glass experience embraces locally grown Texas heirloom corns in the mash alongside a nice dose of rye. The hot juice is then aged in Texas until it meets the high standards of co-founder and head distiller Jonathan Likarish who founded the craft distillery with his brother, Robert, back 2014. If you can get your hand on a bottle, you won’t be disappointed.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“A punch of alcohol on the nose, kettle corn, oak, salted caramel, and vanilla. Full-bodied and strong with a caramel sweetness, licorice, and dried fruits. Rounding out with a long finish of oak and spice.”

World’s Best Canadian Blended — J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Whisky Series Darryl Sittler

ABV: 40%
Distillery: J.P. Wiser’s Distillery, Windsor, ON (Pernod Ricard)

The Whisky:

J.P. Wiser’s teamed up the NHL Alumni Association to create whiskies that celebrate iconic players and support the NHLAA’s charities. This expression celebrates the career of Darryl Sittler who led the record-breaking ten-point game while playing for the Maple Leafs. That’s why this corn-forward expression is aged for ten years in ex-bourbon and new Canadian oak. There’s six percent rye in the mash to represent the six goals Sittler scored in the game alongside four percent wheat for his four assists.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Dark amber in color. Nose is quite oaky, herbal, lots of tobacco. Palate is dark caramel. Very little spice. Pleasant. Finish is medium length, peppery. Semi-sweet on the nose with a vanilla backbone. Integrated and smooth on the palate. Very good rye notes, grassy on the finish with a splash of citrus.”

World’s Best Corn — Spirit of Hven MerCurious

ABV: 45.6%
Distillery: Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn, Sankt Ibb, Sweden

The Whisky:

This year’s best corn whisky went to craft Swedish distillery Spirit of Hven. The whisky is made in the world’s smallest pot still distillery situated on an island in the Öresund Strait between Sweden and Denmark. The whole operation is carbon neutral. The mash bill of 88 percent corn, five percent wheat, 3.5 percent barley, and 3.5 percent rye are all locally and sustainably sourced. The corn whisky then ages for eight years before going into the bottle.

Tasting Notes according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Very creamy on the nose, sweet corn with vanilla pastries, subtle berries, pear drops, red apples, and white chocolate. Well-integrated wood. The palate offers pear drops, caramel popcorn, and chocolate nibs. The finish lingers on with gentle wood spice, vanilla, pastries, and a little spearmint.”

World’s Best Flavored — FEW Spirits Cold Cut Bourbon

ABV: 46.5%
Distillery: FEW Spirits, Evanston, IL

The Whisky:

This is an interesting marrying of small-batch, cask-strength bourbon meeting cold brew coffee. What’s at play is a flavoring of bourbon by cutting the juice with coffee instead of water when it’s brought down to proof. Yes, it’s a flavored whiskey, but it’s flavored with the actual product as opposed to an artificial adjunct or flavoring agent. That makes this expression the perfect base for a bourbon-forward coffee cocktail.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Nose is subtle with aromas of cold brew coffee.”

World’s Best Grain — Fuji Single Grain 30 Years Old

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Kirin Mount Fuji Distillery, Gotemba, Japan

The Whisky:

This very rare bottle of Japanese whisky masters the single grain experience. Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba distillery is all about precision at every step. The distillery’s location at 2,000 feet above sea level on Mount Fuji provides a mild-climate similar to Scotland, making it a great place for whisky to age to perfection.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Great depth, gentle, fruity, vanilla beans, woody notes, popcorn, tannin, sherry. Oaky.”

World’s Best New Make — Macaloney’s Peated Clearach

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Victoria Caledonian Distillery, Victoria, BC

The Whisky:

Any white dog, or unaged whisk(e)y, is always an interesting entry. This “new make” is made on Vancouver Island from peated barley grown in British Columbia. The whole operation is a nod to the traditions of Scottish distilling and aging and has only been around since 2017.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Nose is reminiscent of barbecue, smoky and meaty with vegetal notes. Palate has a beautiful fruity note with green pepper. Sweet spirit on the palate well done. Palate stands out with a beautiful fruity note.”

World’s Best Pot Still — Redbreast 21 Years Old

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Irish Distillers, Ireland (Pernod Ricard)

The Whisky:

This unique Irish whiskey has malted and un-malted barley in its mash bill. It’s triple distilled in pot stills. Then the juice goes into ex-bourbon and ex-Olorosso sherry oak for 21 long years before bottling. This expression remains a masterpiece if Irish whiskey-making.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Beautiful nose – oaky, fruity, zingy. Soft, creamy, and fruity with small zaps of oak spice. A honey softness on the tongue. The fruit intensifies throughout too, with a hint of wine alongside. Some nutty notes. Delicious.”

World’s Best Rye — Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky

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ABV: 46%
Distillery: Archie Rose Distilling Co., Rosebery, Australia

The Whisky:

This new craft rye from Down Under is wowing whiskey-lovers worldwide. The whisky is the product of carefully selected malted rye and barley in the mash bill. The juice then goes into new American oak that has spent 36 months baking in the Australian sun. The barrels are then racked next to Syndey’s coastline so they can weather the sea air.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“An apple-led nose with dried apples and dry cider, some anise, caraway, and toasted bread crust. Palate has a thick, almost creamy texture. Spiced sponge, light ginger, and star anise. Initial sweetness dries out with a medium, nutty, dry fruit finish.”

World’s Best Single Barrel Bourbon — Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Years Old

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown, KY

The Whisky:

This wheated bourbon spends ten long years in charred new American oak. The expression is then barreled directly from individual barrels with no alterations. This means that bottles from the same year’s batch will have a lot of nuances. It’s one-of-a-kind in every way.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):
“A sweet, buttery nose with salted caramel, vanilla, and chocolate. Nice balance of spice in flavor with pink peppercorns and candied fruit. Hot, drying, and a long finish.”

World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt — Sandy McIntyre’s Tamdhu Single Cask Speyside Single Malt

ABV: 56.2%
Distillery: Ian Macleod Distillers, Broxburn, UK

The Whisky:

The single casks for this whisky were hand-picked by distillery manager Sandy “Big Mac” McIntyre. The juice went into ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks back in 2003. This single cask expression was bottled and released late last year. There were only 595 bottles made, so don’t count on it being cheap if you do find one.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Excellent complexity and depth. Nose has notes of rosewater and wildflowers with rich manuka honey, flapjacks, vanilla, and overripe nectarines. Velvety palate with orange oil, dried papaya, cherry chocolates, and some gentle spice. Superb.”

World’s Best Single Malt — The Hakushu Single Malt 25 Years Old

ABV: 43%
Distillery: Suntory Hakushu Distillery, Hakushucho, Japan (Beam Suntory)

The Whisky:

This is another rare and crazy expensive bottle. Hakushu is often billed as one of the highest elevation distilleries in the world. It’s nestled in the Mt. Kaikomagatake forests in southern Japan, providing a unique water source and climate. The expression is a blend of single malts that have been produced at the distillery. Each has been aged for at least 25 years in varying casks (mostly ex-sherry).

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Fresh wood and green apple make for a fresh, summery whisky with a pleasant lightness and complexity leading to a sophisticated aftertaste. Elegant and clean throughout.”

World’s Best Tennessee — Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey 1820 Single Barrel

ABV: 58.6%
Distillery: Nearest Green Distillery, Shelbyville, TN

The Whisky:

This masterclass in Tennessee whiskey is worth getting your hands on. The hot juice from the still is first filtered through sugar maple charcoal before spending eleven years in charred new American oak. The barrels are hand-selected from Uncle Nearest rickhouses with a less than one percent selection rate. That makes this expression an extremely special bottle of Tennessee whiskey.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):
“Pleasing nose with roasted corn and oak. Rich on the tongue, with the notes of oak continuing throughout. Good complexity, great character.”

World’s Best Wheat — Bainbridge Two Islands Hokkaido Cask

ABV: 43%
Distillery: Bainbridge Organic Distillers, Bainbridge Island, WA

The Whisky:

This Seattle-area craft whiskey distillery is making very unique expressions through very rare barrel programs. Their Hokkaido Cask is aged in rare Mizunara Oak from, well, Hokkaido. The juice that goes into those barrels is made from 100 percent Washington-grown organic white wheat. That juice is then aged in small-format new oak with a medium char. Finally, the juice is transferred to the used Mizunara oak for a finishing mellow.

Tasting Notes (according to World Whiskies Awards):

“Very nice color. On the young side, but well balanced. Grain forward and sweet caramel on the nose. Nice mouthfeel includes hot flavors of spice and sweet pear, hints of wood are balanced. Dry on the finish, warm with pleasant spice and oak.”

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