Scotch drops off leading expert’s list of world’s best whiskies

yamazaki sherry 2013

Scotland’s distillers have been given a “wake-up call” by the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible which has given its top award to a Japanese whisky.

Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 gained a record-equalling 97.5 marks out of 100 in the authoritative whisky guide, earning it the title of world’s best whisky.

Yamazaki’s offering beat off challenges from two American whiskeys, with bourbon William Larue Weller in second place and Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old in third.

The title of best European whisky went to Chapter 14 Not Peated from the English Whisky Co in Norfolk.

Best Irish whiskey was named as Redbreast Aged 21 Years while the best scotch was The Last Drop 1965.

Murray praised Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 for its “nose of exquisite boldness” and finish of “light, teasing spice”.

At Japan’s oldest distillery, at the foot of the mountains which rise above Kyoto, the whisky was matured in Spanish sherry casks, lending it a “huge oloroso signature, nutty, thick, dry, as rounded as a snooker ball”.

The result is “a single malt which no scotch can at the moment get anywhere near”.

It’s the first time a Japanese whisky has landed the accolade. It is also the first time that a scotch has failed to make the Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible final-five shortlist.

In an explosive editorial, Murray speaks of a hardcore of “astonishing” scotches but warns that some “old world” distilleries are now beginning to churn out drab drams and mediocre malts.

After tasting more than a thousand new samples for the 2015 edition, he laments: “Where were the complex whiskies in the prime of their lives? Where were the blends which offered bewildering layers of depth?”

He adds: “It is time for a little dose of humility… to get back to basics. To realise that something is missing.”

Keita Minari, Europe brand manager for Beam Suntory, which owns Yamazaki, said: “It is such an honour to be Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year. Sherry casks were used to age the very first Japanese whisky over 90 years ago at the distillery. It provides a strong, rich character to the whisky and a delicate sweetness.”

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is available from book retailers and online at, priced £12.99.

The 2015 edition contains detailed taste notes for 4,700 whiskies – including 1,145 new labels – all marked for nose, taste, finish and balance.

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