The World’s Best Scotch Whisky—According To The 2023 Tasting Alliance World Championship

Food & Drink

There’s obviously no shortage of spirits competitions out there these days. Indeed, judging booze has become big business, and there are countless upstarts now attempting to cash in on the trend. But it wasn’t always this way. When Anthony Dias Blue established the San Francisco World Spirits Competition back in 2000, he essentially created what has now become a veritable cottage industry.

The head-start allowed SFWSC to maintain a vaunted stature it still enjoys, built upon the celebrated reputation of the talented palates it perpetually attracts to its annual panels. Today the reins of that operation have been passed down to the founder’s daughter Amanda Blue. In 2018 she expanded the organizational footprint by establishing a parent company called The Tasting Alliance. It manages SFWSC along with two other annual competitions in Singapore and New York.

Those three competitions necessarily end up with their own respective “Best In Class” winners across all major categories. Now for the first time, The Tasting Alliance has set up a best-of-the-best showdown, wherein judges tasted in the blind to arrive at the supreme selection out of three options for each style of liquor. It’s sort of a global spirits olympics. And the first international gold-medalist to stand atop the podium is in the whisky category. Cue the Scottish national anthem because the winner is Tomatin 36 Year Old Highland Single Malt.

The well-aged scotch is renowned for its layered complexity, progressing from an aggressive tropical fruitiness in the nose, to a leather-laden, Christmas spice extravaganza on the tongue. There’s also a pleasant creaminess to its copper-hued body, one which helps each dram glide effortlessly down the gullet. It feels festive and warmly inviting at a cask strength bottling of 45.1% ABV.

After it took home the “Best In Show” prize at San Francisco in 2023, Tomatin master distiller Graham Eunson had this to say about his lauded liquid:

“Our 36 Year Old single malt is a really special dram. A marriage of casks, a refill hogshead and an Oloroso sherry butt, gives us a remarkably smooth yet complex whisky that keeps you intrigued with lively top notes of peach, apricot, honeydew melon and mango which bring vibrancy to this rich and warming expression.”

Remarkably, it wasn’t even the first time the bottling had received the top prize at SFWSC. In 2017 it accrued the very same honor. It underscores the point that this liquid is more than simply sensational, it is consistently top-tier. It’s also relatively easy to find on American shelves compared to some of its more well-known scotch counterparts. You can typically score a bottle—swaddled within a wooden box alongside a numbered certificate—for around $1500.

We’ll see if this latest accolade affects those prices. In the meantime, follow along to keep up-to-date on all Tasting Alliance World Champions in the weeks ahead.

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