Halfway through our first week of spirits judging, we caught up with Spirits Judging Committee members Dawn Davies MW and Olivier Ward to hear about what they were tasting and any trends they were seeing in the worldwide whiskey and gin categories.
Fronting today’s gin judging was Olivier Ward. Japanese gins and Australian gins were the conversation stoppers today.
Olivier comments that looking back, approximately five years ago, much of the gin being produced in Australia was made using weird and wacky botanicals. Trying to prove their locality by producing something off the beaten track, the trend over the past couple of years has been for Australia’s gin to realign themselves closer to the mainstream. Becoming a little more classic in style.
“This doesn’t mean they’ve lost any of their regional identity – but just that perhaps they’ve reconsidered the crazy whilst keeping the gins distinctly Australian. As a result, the scores have been leaping up for this category. What would be really interesting to see would be the scores of this year versus perhaps four or five years ago…”
Also worth remarking on as a category today was the Japanese gin category. Olivier adds: “We are seeing two schools of thought for gin in Japan: producers making rice based funky spirits with botanicals and then there’s the more traditional gin style. Whilst the funky rice-based spirits are uniquely Japanese, the more traditional gin makers are clearly thinking of ways to bring their style of gin a uniquely Japanese element to the spirit. So we are seeing two extremes.”
So overall, an interesting juxtaposition for Japanese and Australian gins, with one category finding ways to put a unique stamp on their gins, and the other trying to reign in the uniqueness in order to bring their category more into line with what is expected of a more traditional gin.
Heading our worldwide whiskey judging today, Dawn Davies MW had lots of positive things to say about this category.
“American whiskey performed really well today – we saw some truly great whiskeys at a really consistent level of quality.”
She added that overall, the single-barrel whiskey from America was the style that was noticeably on the rise.
Looking beyond America, other regions are producing some really interesting liquid and it’s clear that producers are stepping their game up. “The Australians feel like they're upping their game, we saw some real momentum coming from Down Under. Also, we tasted a fabulous German peated whiskey. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ireland was of course showing well.”
A great day of judging overall with some very promising spirits tasted. We look forward to sharing the results on 16 March.