The Singapore World Spirits Competition has only been in existence since 2019. But in that short sum of time, it has grown into one of the most important annual judgings in all of Asia. A big reason why it attained so much stature so rapidly is because it’s run by the Tasting Alliance. These are the same folks responsible for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition—which is regarded by many in the industry as the gold standard of booze contests.
This year saw thousands of entries roll in across all major categories of adult beverage. Several weeks ago we were here talking about the best bourbon winner. It was an eyebrow-raiser, to say the least; a brand that didn’t enjoy widespread recognition, even amongst ardent aficionados of American whiskey. That all changed after the announcement of the accolade, underscoring just how valuable these contests can be for brands.
Today we’re taking a look at the top-ranked scotch from the Singapore Worlds Spirits Competition. And it’s bound to generate its own fair share of rancor. The honor belongs to The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky.
Why is this a controversial pick? Well, most notably it’s a blend. That means it includes a combination of malt and grain whiskies plucked from across the Scottish landscape. The conventional wisdom of the day holds that blended scotches are somehow inferior to their single malt counterparts.
If you don’t know the difference between the two categories, don’t kick yourself. It’s relatively straightforward: single malt is whisky distilled from malted barley—and only malted barley—in a pot still at a single distillery. Blends, by contrast, can combine any number of single malts, often times collected from dozens of distilleries, and then married against a lion’s share of grain whisky.
And there lies the rub, in that last bit. Grain whiskies can come from a number of different ingredients—chiefly corn (but sometimes wheat and rye and other cereals). They are distilled in large column stills, which results in a markedly lighter flavor profile. Some deride this liquid as merely scotch-flavored vodka. Being that this component often makes up the majority of the booze in any blend, it’s a short jump to blended scotch being lesser than.
But here’s a not-so-little secret: blends can be beautiful. They are often times more accessible and “easy-drinking.” Hence why they are far and away the most popular style of scotch on the planet. And when rendered properly, they can serve up a kaleidoscopic array of tastes which is difficult to achieve when you’re only working with malt sourced from a single distillery.
And that brings us back to The Sassenach. This marmalade-hued hooch is undeniably complex. It holds a bouquet reminiscent of the sweet shop: marzipan, candied orange peel and ginger. Upon the palate is a smattering of heather, ripened stone fruit, and dried apricot. It fades after the sip in a subdued sweetness—butterscotch and nutmeg are both apparent. Overall, the 92-proof scotch leaves you with little resistance but plenty to contemplate.
For anyone who remains dismissive of the blended style, this bottle stands as a testament to the follies of your preconceived notions. Although it does so at a relatively hefty price: it typically retails at around $125 per 750ml.
The Sassenach is also a celebrity spirit. It was launched by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, back in 2020. That revelation will inevitably be met with a degree of blowback from a certain subset of drinks enthusiasts. But it’s not really a discussion worth engaging in, because either a whisky is good or it isn’t. And the Singapore World Spirits Competition makes it plainly clear in which camp this one belongs.