And the whiskey markets will shift.
The longtime influential spirits writer Jim Murray has announced details from his 2020 “Whiskey Bible.” This popular annual book includes his ratings of whiskeys from around the globe, culminating in the 2020 “World Whisky of the Year” Awards, which often set off buying sprees for the products named.
Atop the chart in this edition is an unprecedented triple crown — going, appropriately enough, to Kentucky whiskey. The author awarded the first three spots, his picks as the three best whiskeys in the world from this past year, all to Sazerac.
Top prize of “World Whisky of the Year” went to the 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon from the Barton 1792 distillery. Murray describes this whiskey as “melodious, mysterious and slightly exotic,” with a nose of “near-perfect proportions” and with an “unfaltering” finish when tasted.
The runners-up, from 1,250 new expressions tasted throughout the world by Murray this past year, are both Buffalo Trace brands: bourbon William Larue Weller 125.7 proof, the latest version of last year’s victor, and Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye 127.2 proof.
“There will be eyebrows raised and claims of favoritism, which, of course, is never the case with the Whiskey Bible: I call it exactly as I see it,” Murray explains. “Once I knew the top three were from the same company, I spent two extra days running through my top ten whiskies once more . . . and the results came out exactly the same!
Says Mark Brown, president of Sazerac, “To not only be named ‘World Whisky of the Year’, but also to have our whiskeys named second and third finest, is astonishing. We could not be happier nor more motivated to continue to strive for perfection in the American whiskeys we make.”
This year’s release of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 is also notable in that it’s the first time that Dram Good Books, Ltd. (the book’s publisher) has released a North American version of the book. This edition has greater emphasis on the American and Canadian sections, highlighting the region’s whiskies in the forefront of the 384-page guide.
“It’s as though Kentucky knew we were producing this first North American edition,” Murray says. “But we had strictly kept it under wraps. If Kentucky was ever going to steal the show, this was the year to do it. And, even by their own their high standards, they’ve exceeded themselves and duly obliged. Considering the quality of the whiskies they were up against worldwide, that’s quite amazing, really.”
Sectional winners include: the Taiwanese Nantou Distillery Omar Cask Strength Bourbon Cask (Single Cask of the Year); Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition (Scotch); Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare (Blended Scotch); Penderyn Single Cask no.M75-32 (European); Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt (Japanese).
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 contains tasting notes for almost 5,000 whiskies and is available for purchase now on whiskybible.com and can be found at U.S. book retailers in late October. The suggested retail price is $19.99.