One of the world’s most remote distilleries has been awarded World Whisky of the Year for the very first time.
The Gimli Distillery, which sits on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in central Canada, is the home to the Crown Royal brand. Which in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016, published today, has been given the coveted title of World Whisky of the Year with its special Northern Harvest Rye edition.
It is the first time a Canadian Whisky has won the top prize in the Whisky Bible in this, its thirteenth annual edition. Last year the whisky world was shaken when the award went to a Japanese single malt.
Whisky authority Jim Murray, who tasted over 1,000 new whiskies before making his announcement said: “Last year people were shocked when I gave Yamazaki the award – until they tasted it. Then they saw it was not the affront to Scotch they first thought and something truly extraordinary.
“This year, doubtless there will be many more eyebrows raised because rarely is Canada mentioned when it come to the world’s top whiskies. But, again, I have no doubt people finding the bottling I tasted will be blown away with this whisky’s uncompromising and unique beauty. It certainly puts the rye into Canadian rye.”
Although Canadian whisky is commonly known as rye, this new brand is one of only a handful which is actually made from near 100% rye grain. Most others are distilled from corn or wheat with rye and other flavourings added.
Said Mr Murray: “To be honest, I had been considering actually demoting Canadian whisky from having its own chapter in the Bible The quality of Canadian has been disappointing me for some time with too many non-whisky products, like fruit juice or wine, being added to give a softer flavour.
“Then Crown Royal Northern Harvest pops up out of nowhere and changes the game. I think other distillers out there have to have a close look at this and see if they can at least have a go at reaching where this new bar has been set. Otherwise the name of Canadian whisky will continue to decline against the high standards being set in other countries.”
In his Whisky Bible 2016 he gives Northern Harvest Rye a record-qualifying 97.5 out of 100 points and comments: “Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.”
The Gimli Distillery in Manitoba was first visited by Mr Murray in the mid-1990s when he described it in his Complete Book of Whisky as being located “where the Prairies are at their Prairiest”. The warehouses each year sit under a foot of snow and the usual -18 temperature in January can sometimes plummet to -40. It is, quite literally, many hundreds of miles from its nearest fellow distillery.
Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye made it a astonishing one-two for rye whisky, as it narrowly eclipsed Pikesville 100 proof Straight Rye from the Heaven Hill Distillery Kentucky for top spot. Third came another traditional whiskey, a pure pot still from Ireland – Midleton Dair Ghaelach. It is the first time an Irish whiskey has made one of the top three spots.
With Buffalo Trace’s William Larue Weller bourbon coming in fourth and Yamazaki Mizunara from Japan fifth, it is the second year running Scotland has missed out in a top five placing in the Whisky Bible.
* Other award winners: Scotch of the Year – Glenfarclas Family Cask 1957;European Whisky (Multiple casks) – English Whisky Co. Chapter 16; European Whisky (Single cask) – Kornog Taouarc’h Chwec’hved 14
* Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is available from Monday in all good book shops and online at whiskybible.com, priced £12.99.
* The 2016 edition contains detailed taste notes for around 4,600 whiskies – including more than 1,000 new labels – all marked for nose, taste, finish and balance.
* For more information, contact Vincent Flint-Hill at Dram Good Books 0117 317 9777 firstname.lastname@example.org
* Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible has sold more than half a million copies in English language.