Scottish distilleries were left in a state of shock after whisky expert Jim Murray awarded top honors for his Whisky Bible 2015 to a single-malt from Japan’s oldest distillery, Yamazaki.

The Whisky Bible has exhaustively reviewed whiskies from around the world for twelve years, and the Independent notes that this is the first year ever that Scottish malts have failed to make the top five.

According to Murray, the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 is the Best Whisky in the World for 2015.

yamazaki single malt sherry cask 2013


Photo: Suntory Holdings

The 2015 Whisky Bible awarded the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 a total of 97.5 marks out of a possible 100. The Independent says Murray called it a drink of “near incredible genius.” He also went on to praise its “nose of exquisite boldness” and finish of “light, teasing spice.”

Master of Malt quotes Murray as saying, 

If anyone wants to find out roughly what the first Macallan-10-year-old I had in 1975 tasted like, then grab a bottle of this…


Photo: Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible

Murray himself didn’t taste every single whisky in the 2015 Whisky Bible, but he did taste around 1,000 of them. He believes that Scottish distilleries need “a little dose of humility” to wake them up and make them realize that “something is missing.”

Beam Suntory owns Yamazaki, and Beam Suntory Europe Brand Manager Keita Minari offered the Independent some insight into the choice of sherry casks for aging 

“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.

Scottish distilleries couldn’t even win the 2015 award for Best European Whisky of the Year, which instead went to the English Whisky Company’s Chapter 14 Not Peated.

To make himself absolutely clear, Murray further praised the Yamazaki as being “a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near.”

If you’re a whisky fan, you might not be able to get anywhere near a bottle of the winner, either: only 18,000 bottles were produced, it retails for around $160 a bottle, and it seems to be sold out via most retailers.

There’s always next year to stock up your liquor cabinet with the world’s finest.

Until then, here’s a video offering some insight into the world of Japanese whisky distilleries.

[via the Independent, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible]

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