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Friday, 18 December 2009

BIG Award Winner... Here it is...!

A chilly night in a non-disclosed location. Six men sit around a table, laden with glassware, bottles and the remnants of a homemade fish pie. Ten whiskies, the finest new releases this year has to offer have been assembled in a sensible tasting order. One overall winner will triumph, two other whiskies will be highly commended alongside the victor.

2009's BIG Award was back, bigger and ready to spill the beans on some great whiskies...

This year's panel was comprised of some crack noses- so both of us Caskstrength chancers had a lot to live up to with our opinions:

'Sir' Colin Dunn needs no introduction at all. As one of the top bods at Morrison Bowmore, he was instrumental in bringing Japanese whisky to the palates of the UK. He has also delighted and educated thousands of new whisky converts as Senior Whisky Ambassador for Diageo.

Tim Forbes is one of the key chaps at the Whisky Exchange, partly responsible for selecting some of the excellent single casks that the Exchange bottle and providing the tasting notes for the hundreds of whiskies on offer on their website. He also runs a fabulous blog too.

Darren Rook is the manager of London's Scotch Malt Whisky Society rooms. As well as being a panelist deciding which society casks are bottled, he is also a top draw cocktail expert, runs a great blog and was one of the chosen bartenders for this year's Whisky Picnic in Edinburgh.

Darrell Sheehan has one of the keenest palates we've ever come across and has a splendid collection of single malts. Darrell was also one of our top chums who made the last 2 year's Feis Ile events such an unforgettable experience. All hail the 'Faceman'....

With the panel assembled it was time to pour the drams and cogitate and deliberate.

With such a range of flavours on offer, our palates undoubtedly took a pounding - debate raged as to personal favourites, but what surprised everyone was the consistency of our thoughts- whilst each whisky demonstrated it was at the height of its game, three drams were emerging as front runners from the 10. After several 're-tastes' we had found our winner- and jolly pleased we were too.

Firstly - our 2 runners up:

Four Roses Single Barrel (2009 Release) - 50% -70cl

A truly extraordinary bourbon and certainly the best we've tried this year. A huge range of fruity flavours, well balanced spice and masses of sweet vanilla, this really is well worth grabbing.

For more info, click here:

Master Of Malt 26 year-old Bowmore - 53.40% - 70cl

We first reviewed this back in July and what struck us immediately was the wonderful light and gently peated nose, but the unusually sweet, tropical fruits on the palate. Colin remarked that it was a reminder of some of the classic older expressions of Bowmore and we certainly wouldn't disagree!

There are still a few bottles of this 'soon to be classic too' bottling here:

So on to the numero uno.

There was no argument from the panel about this whisky being clearly the worthy winner. Not only does it strike a chord for new distillation, it really showcases the quality of young whisky and the potential it has in the years to come.

Drum roll please....

Well done to the Kilchoman distillery for the Inaugural Release and this year's BIG Award Winner!

The freshness at the heart of this whisky is the key to what makes it a champion- coupled with the fabulous balance of crisp peat and wonderful zestiness. On accepting the award, Anthony Wills, the man behind bringing this whisky to fruition said that "this is a tremendous climax to what has been an historical year in the short history of Kilchoman Distillery. It demonstrates that young malt whiskies can be very palatable and Kilchoman releases will definitely be something to look forward to over the coming years."

You can read our full review of the Kilchoman 3 year-old Inaugural Release here.

Well, that's it for this year's award- well done to all the short listed whiskies and we can't wait to start putting together next year's list!