By Rupert Wheeler

Awards Special

It's that time of year again
It's now nearly two years since I took over the editorship, which means it must be awards time once again. I am certainly looking forward to not only the Whiskies & Spirits Conference but also our Whisky Magazine Awards dinner at which we will present the World Whiskies Awards, our Icons of Whisky Global winners and our Hall of Fame inductees (see full details from page 14).

Once again I was involved as one of the judges at the World Whiskies Awards finals in London and this year a Scotch has been awarded the World's Best Single Malt. At the final event there were 35 judges split over four tables and we tasted, in total, 79 whiskies.

In this final round, a new type of scoring was introduced this year. This simplified the scoring process but I found it particularly difficult when it came to choosing only three whiskies out of a flight of seven. This was at times extremely challenging.

This year, the judges had come from all over the world including USA, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, India and Ireland. Our awards are run by Anita Ujszaszi (our mathematical genius) and she had the unenviable task of calculating all the award winners. You can see the complete list of results starting on page 83.

Whisky Live London is upon us again and I will, as last year, be looking after the Whisky Magazine stand. This year we will have author signing sessions as well as some of the category winning whiskies for visitors to sample. This proved extremely popular last year and I ran out of the winning single malt within half an hour. We are, for the very first time, running a Whisky Treasure Island competition where 12 bottles of whisky will be 'hidden' and in return for your contact details you can try and find them. There is little skill required and I look forward to seeing you at the show.

With the sucess of our Battle of the Blends challenge last year, I am very pleased to announce that George Keeble, Manager of The Soho Whisky Club, has agreed to be the new contender and he will take on Neil Ridley, our current champion. George has a wealth of experience but whether he is a master blender remains to be seen. I wish them both the best of luck.

This year we are going to run a half-way stage deconstruction. Neil and George will be at the Soho Whisky Club in late August to explain how their blend is developing. There will be a restricted number of places to attend this event and we will be running a competition in the next issue of the magazine for five lucky readers to win a 'place'.

John Glaser of Compass Box will be in attendance giving a short talk on blending but also offering his considerable knowledge and advice to the two blenders. This should be beneficial to both contenders so that they can take any tips on board for the latter part of their blends.

Our plan this year will be to send out in the region of 500 samples for judging, which will be organised by Master of Malt, and the result will be announced in a year's time at Whisky Live London 2017.

We have a referendum coming up in the UK on 23 June to decide whether we should remain part of the European Union or leave. With 37 per cent by volume of Scotch whisky exports going to the EU, the outcome of the vote will be extremely important to those 10,000 people who work in the industry in Scotland.

I must admit I am in a complete quandary as to which way to vote. I cannot find anywhere a comprehensive list of the pros and the cons. I have listened to both sides of the argument but the problem with those advocating leaving is that no one knows, or can guarantee, what would happen as it's not happened before.

My other concern about us leaving is that the Scottish National Party have stated that if this is the case, it will result in them calling a second referendum in Scotland on their own independence.

I will continue to listen to the pros and cons, read as much as possible and even mull over the occasional dram in order that in three month's time, I can come to a final conclusion.