The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards is held annually at, you guessed it, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. The special thing about this awards ceremony is that it is completely in hands of the public. Or at least the second part. In January there is already made a pre-selection by a group of nine selected experts.

To arouse the interest of international whisky enthusiasts the judging sessions will go global for the first time this year. The events take place in Amsterdam, Cologne and New Brunswick in Canada. They are also hoping to set up events in New York and Stockholm.

Because the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is already a fixed point in my agenda for the last couple of years, my interest was quickly aroused. Especially since this event would be held in the J.D. William’s whisky bar in Amsterdam, where I’ve never been. A great opportunity to travel to Amsterdam and to take part in the tasting!

Spirit of Speyside whisky awards 2017

For those not familiar with the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards, it’s pretty straightforward. There are 4 categories for which Speyside distilleries may submit a whisky. Two whiskies are nominated in each category and will be blindly tasted by the public during the Spirit of Speyside Festival and the new international events. Every contestor chooses a winner in each category and an overall winner. After all tastings are done the winners will be announced on April 30th, the last day of the festival.

The Categories

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards 2017 are divided into 4 categories:

  • In the 1st category 12 years and younger, are the Cragganmore 2004 Distiller’s Edition and Aberlour 12 years nominated.
  • The 2nd category is 13 to 20 years old whiskies, the nominees are Glenlivet 18 year old and Glenfiddich 15 years old.
  • The 3rd category 21 and older includes Mannochmore 25 years Special Release and Macallan 30 years old Sherry Cask.
  • And the last category are non-age statement whiskies. The nominees participating in this category are the Aberlour a’bunadh and Tamdhu Batch Strength 002.

The tasting in Amsterdam

The setup of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards tasting was good, although it might be improved on some small details. The whiskies were served two to two and the categories were announced each time. For me this would be more interesting if they had not disclosed this. I was trying to identify the whisky and I’m also wondering if this has affected my choices. But overall it was good fun and quite interesting!

Figuring out the best whisky in each category and then to designate the winner was sometimes a challenge. This caused a lot of discussion about what whisky really was the best. But ultimately it was therefore exactly what has made this tasting so much fun.

Global Spirit of Speyside whisky awards competition

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards as an event certainly has potential to expand into a global event. It’s in a good way related to Spirit of Speyside and it will certainly draw attention to the Speyside festival itself. The tasting has done its job well and is a welcome addition to the festival.

It was a very successful tasting. It provides surprising insights when you start looking for the best whisky in this way. Tasting everything blind is what makes it exciting and interesting. Besides that it was great to bump into some familiar and new faces, like Thijs from Wordsofwhisky and Ansgar and Thomas from Whiskyspeller. It was good fun!

More information about this event can by found here.