The International Wine & Spirits Competition has unveiled its annual list of top-rated liquors, as selected by its panel of distinguished industry experts. When it comes to the Scotch whisky winners, there’s quite a lot to unpack. The results are quantified on a scale out of 100 and this year there were only 2 expressions—out of hundreds of entries—to receive a near perfect score of 99 (let’s just assume that 100 is theoretically impossible).
First we’re examining the bigger surprise of the two. Actually, that’s a mild understatement. After a blind tasting, these judges shocked the industry by awarding the highest mark to a whisky which is bottled pretty much exclusively for supermarkets. Glenfairn Floral is their champion, a non-age-statement single malt bottled at 40% ABV and available at Tesco and other select British retailers.
If you do a little cursory research you’re learn that there is, in fact, no Glenfairn Distillery. The whisky is produced by Whyte & Mackay Group—the same folks responsible for Jura and Dalmore. But they also own two other Highland malt-makers: Ben Wyvis and Fettercairn. Being that this is a private label release, produced for a retailer, the company does not divulge from where exactly the scotch is sourced.
Online aficionados have speculated that it probably comes from Fettercairn, but why bother making guesses? What we know for sure is what it tastes like—according to the folks at the IWSC tasting table. In their words, Glenfairn Floral is “wonderfully fragrant on the nose with a tropical mango base and a creamy toffee palate that is sweet and unctuous with great balance that finishes with a rich floral character that lingers.”
It’s also readily available across the UK for around £22 per bottle…Not too shabby for a 99-point whisky. Underscoring the point is the fact that its top-scoring counterpart regularly fetches more than 7x that amount. We’re speaking of The Glenturret Triple Wood 2022 Release. And it is a treat, to be sure, even at $173 per 700ml. What makes it so special? Here’s what IWSC says:
“A summer Turkish delight of sweet raisin, marmalade and orange blossom aromas with a rich fruitcake palate, hints of brown sugar and honey, with a creamy toffee texture on the finish.”
So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice. In fact, The Glenturret has plenty going for it these days, after being purchased in 2019 by the group behind Lalique crystal. Since then, the historic operation—which, by some accounts is the oldest of all scotch producers around today—has gone through a complete redesign, overhauled its core lineup, and gave birth to the world’s first ever Michelin Star restaurant at a distillery.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to sample the goods, the Triple Wood is an impactful way to understand what you’ve been missing. As the name suggests, it’s matured in three separate sorts of cooperage: sherry-seasoned American and European oak, along with ex-bourbon casks. They are vatted in small batches by the blender, all with the aim of achieving wood spice subtlety. The finesse and grace of the final liquid assures us they’ve met those marks with aplomb.
The Glenturret releases also have the added benefit of looking elegant in their ornate new packaging. But if the IWSC judges can teach you anything from their 2023 results, it’s that great scotch can crop up in all shapes and sizes. Even in the most unassuming of presentations. And, indeed, even when you’re walking down the aisle of your local supermarket.