We’re super pleased to announce the Winners in Dom Roskrow’s New Wizards Awards 2022. The awards in each category are as follows:
New Wizards of Whisky World Distiller of the Year: Overeem, Australia
Golly this was tough. Right up to starting to write this entry I was still debating who to pick. Distillerie des Menhirs is making exciting and unique new malts; Milk & Honey is showing off the late Dr Jim Swan’s whisky making techniques to great effect, and Dublin Liberties is everything an Irish distillery should be; inviting, warm and with great whiskey. Up in Denmark Fary Lochan is making totally original, unusual and challenging whiskies. But there’s an excitement to them. A bit like Bob Dylan, you never really know what to expect next. Kavalan is still at the top of its game and could easily have been in the honours.
But my two highly commended distilleries have been a revelation. Seven Seals’ Zodiac range has taken the whisky producer’s blueprint and given it a subtlety that is highly impressive. Once upon a time its whiskies were thunderstorm sherry, port and/or peat – hard hitting and direct. Now diversity and nuance have arrived at the party and make every release a treat.
Penderyn is working on its third distillery, proving beyond doubt what a success story it has become. Now maybe it will let people outside Wales get a taste of some of the special bottlings I tasted in recent months. The standard bottling has an army of fans, but doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. But the incredible whiskies I tasted prove that this distilling team know exactly how to make perfectly formed and gorgeous whisky.
But my New Wizards World Distiller of the Year is Overeem on Tasmania, Australia. Casey Overeem has handed the reins over to daughter Jane but the whisky is right at the top of its game. The concept is a similar one: take a sherry cask whisky and a port cask one, and bottle each of them at a standard strength and at 60% abv. Make sure they taste sensational. Four perfectly formed malts. The distillery has diversified a little: I tasted a whisky from a Muscat cask and about now a Bourbon Cask will be released at the two different strengths.
One of the highlights of the Awards was the evening I spent with my five Overeem samples. A very worthy winner in a very strong year.
Highly commended: Seven Seals, Switzerland
Highly commended: Penderyn, Wales
New Wizards World Whisky of the Year: Milk & Honey Apex Dead Sea
One of the most exciting things about this year’s regional whisky winners is that the majority of them are under five years old. It puts to bed the claim that you can’t cut corners with malt whisky and it needs many years in the cask. Maybe in Scotland, but a combination of climate, innovation and new technology means that other countries are making young whisky better than most Scottish Non Age Statement ones.
I was delighted that The English Whisky Company and Zuidam are holding their own against the new wave of distillers, both making a number of gold medal standard whiskies. There were at least eight whiskies that would have taken the title of World’s Best Whiskies in previous years, such was the standard.
But the winner is Milk & Honey’s Apex Dead Sea. It is matured in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. Temperatures occasionally hit 50 degrees centigrade, and that, as well the influence of the late Dr Jim Swan, ensure an oral rainbow of a malt.
It’s like drinking a Pink Floyd show, with all sorts going on. Expect vanilla, toasted oak, honey, caramel, and liquorice-like whisky rancio. Wonderful.
Highly commended: The English The Original
Highly commended: Millstone Sherry No 16 Double Sherry Cask
New Wizards 2022 GOLD
Armorik Double Maturation
Amrut Greedy Angels 10 year old
Amrut Greedy Angels 8 year old
Bakery Hill Peated Malt Cask
Bakery Hill Classic Cask Strength
Balcones Texas Single Malt
Belgian Owl Intense Single Malt
Bimber The First
Bimber Re-charred Oak Casks
Blackwater Dirtgrain Heritage 1915
Blackwater Dirtgrain Heritage 1908
Black Gate That Boutiquey Whisky Co 3 year old
Brenne Estate Cask
Broger Triple Cask
Broger Burn Out
Cotswolds Sherry Cask
Cotswolds Bourbon Cask
Cotswolds Madeira Cask
Cotswolds Peated Cask
Cotswolds Founder’s Choice
Dingle Single Malt Whisky
Distillerie des Menhirs Ed Gwenn
Dublin Liberties Copper Valley
Fary Lochan Distiller’s Choice Batch 3
Fary Lochan Virtuel Edition
Filey Bay Flagship
Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
Filey Bay STR
Filey Bay IPA Finish
Filey Bay STR (US Specific)
Fleurieu That Boutiquey Whisky Co 3-year-old
Forest/Cat & Fiddle Cask No 1
Forest/Cat & Fiddler Cask No 20
High Coast 63
Indri Indian Single Malt
Kavalan Distillery Select No2
Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask
Kavalan Solist Fino Cask Strength
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Cask Strength
Killara That Boutiquey Whisky Co 2 year old
The Lakes Whisky Maker’s Edition No 3
Langatun Old Wolf
Langatun Old Bear
Langatun Old Deer
Milk & Honey Classic
Milk & Honey Apex Dead Sea
Milk & Honey Elements Red Wine
Milk & Honey Elements Peat
Millstone 12 year old
Millstone Oloroso Sherry
Millstone Peated PX
Millstone Special No16 Double Sherry Cask
Millstone Special No19 Peated Amarone Cask
Millstone Special No20 Peated OL 2016 @ 46% abv
Miyagikyo Single Malt
Ninkasi Small Batch 2022
Ninkasi Chardonnay Cask
Ninkasi Single Cask
Overeem Port Cask Strength
Overeem Sherry Cask Strength
Paul John Brilliance
Penderyn Port Wood
Penderyn Tawny Port
Penderyn Brandy Finish
Penderyn Rum Finish
Rampur Asava Cabernet Sauvignon
Rampur Double Cask
Säntis Swiss Highlander Appenzeller
Seven Seals Age of Virgo
Seven Seals Age of Taurus
Seven Seals Age of Aquarius
Seven Seals Age of Scorpio
Seven Seals Age of Leo
Seven Seals Port Wood
Seven Seals Sherry
Spirit of Hven Tycho’s Star
The English – The Original
The English – Smokey
The English – Virgin Oak & Sherry
St George’s American Single Malt
Taketsura Pure Malt
Three Ships Shiraz Cask
Three Ships 12 year old
Tin Shed That Boutiquey Whisky Company 3-year-old
Westland American Oak
Westward American Single Malt
Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve
Yoichi Single Malt
New Wizards 2022 SILVER
Adnams Copper House
Akeshi Single Malt Peated
Bakery Hill Doublewood
Bakery Hill Classic Malt
Belgian Owl Single Malt
Blackwater Dirtgrain Heritage 1838
Blackwater Dirtgrain Heritage 1893
Da Mhile Tarian Welsh Single Malt
Dublin Liberties Murder Lane
Dublin Liberties The Dead Rabbit
East London Liquor Silver Medal
Fary Lochan Bourbon casks
Filey Bay Peated
High Coast Single Malt
Lambay Small Batch
Langatun Old Crow
Langatun Cigar Malt
Langatun Old Woodpecker
Limeburners American Oak
Mackmyra Svensky Rok
Mackmyra Moment Maveld
Milk & Honey Elements Sherry
Millstone Rye100 @ 50% abv
Millstone Special 8 OL, 1996 @ 49,4% abv
Paul John Peated Cask
Paul John Edited
Penderyn Ruby Port
Riverbourne That Boutiquey Whisky Co 3 year old
Smogen 6 year old
Starward Left Field
Teeling Single Malt
Teeling 18-year-old Renaissance No 4
Teerenpeli That Boutiquey Whisky Company 3-year-old
Three Ships Non Vintage 10 year old
Westward Wire Works 1st Release
For the new Wizards there are four regions in Europe – Northern Europe featuring distilleries from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway; Central Europe, featuring distilleries from France, Belgium and The Netherlands; and the Alpine region of South Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Northern Distiller of the Year 2022: Fary Lochan, Denmark
Northern Europe is producing some of the world’s most original, exciting and challenging whiskies. The distillers there are constantly questioning the boundaries of malt whisky, and are fearless in their quest to produce unique whiskies. Sweden has a history of taking whisky and seeking out empirical evidence to better it. The likes of High Coast and Spirit of Hven take whisky production very seriously indeed. Meanwhile there’s something a little mad scientist about the folks in Denmark and Finland. Take a look at the website of Kyrö for instance, or taste the incredible whiskies from Stauning. They call one malt Kaos – and it is. But our winner of Northern Distiller of the Year is Fary Lochan. Here Jens-Erik Jorgensen has been smoking his malt with nettles, resurrecting a method his mother used to smoke cheese. The resulting whiskies are big, growly, with oily smoke. It’s all or nothing whisky – but so is Ardbeg. Original and unforgettable.
Central European Distiller of the Year 2022 Distillerie des Menhirs, France
I am well aware how controversial this decision is but the French Government recognises this distillery’s products as whisky and as Scotland is no longer part of the European Union it is in no position to do anything about it anyway. And there’s another factor in play: the five whiskies I tasted from Distillerie des. Menhirs are a match for anything else I’ve tasted this year. You can quibble all you like about pulses and grains but, frankly, it’s all quite inconsequential when you taste spirits this bloody good. Distilleries des Menhirs is in Brittany, which was the beating heart of French whisky. Nowadays France is enjoying a whisky boom, so it’s great to see this distillery and Distillerie Warenghem holding their own. Incidentally from time to time a French distiller states that the country will become a leading malt whisky nation before long. Given this award and the commendation below, I wouldn’t bet against it.
Central European Whisky of the Year 2022: Millstone Special No 16 Double Sherry Cask, Netherlands
Dutch family spirits and liqueurs producer Zuidam is one of the oldest whisky makers outsider the five traditional areas, and it has an untouchable record in The Wizards, picking up a hatful of medals pretty much every year. 2022 is no exception. It picked up another five this year. And it was pipped by the finest of margins for the Central Distiller of the Year title. Zuidam’s whiskies, marketed under the name Millstone, are all about attention to detail and Patrick Zuidam and his team have mastered the art of marrying peaty malt with quality sherry casks. It’s not an easy skill to get right. This whisky isn’t peaty, but it’s as juicy and sherry rich as any whisky you’re likely to taste this year. Beautifully made, perfectly balanced and very hard to resist.
Ninkasi Single Cask 22, France
Alpine Distiller of the Year 2022: Seven Seals, Switzerland
Let me state at the outset that I work with Seven Seals and am paid by them. There is, therefore a clear conflict of interest. But let me also state that I am very comfortable with this award, for the following reasons:
The reason I work with this company is because they make exceptional whisky. That’s the whole point
The reason we started working together is because some years ago I gave their whiskies the same sort of scores as they have in my New Wizards Awards in a blind tasting in Switzerland.
It would be very unfair to deprive the best Alpine distillery of an award because of its association with me
I have a proud record of honesty and integrity and just wouldn’t risk my career reputation by rigging a vote
Nearly every whisky writer if not all of them take paid work from whisky makers. And accept degrees of hospitality from them to a level unacceptable to a professional journalist
So with that said Seven Seals win this category mainly because of its Age of The Zodiac range.
Seven Seals takes young whisky and uses a patented technique to speed up its maturation. The results are all in the taste, and a growing number of European whisky experts and writers are championing these whiskies – including me.
Like Distillerie des Menhirs, Seven Seals represent what the New Wizards are all about.
Alpine whisky of the Year: Broger Burn Out, Austria
There’s peated whisky and there’s peated whisky. And this is peated whisky. It is a big and bouncy malt that roars at you. We’re talking brimstone and fire. Phenols and maritime notes try and get a look in and a caramel-coated wafer is there, too. But really this is a headbanger plain and simple.
South European Distiller of the Year 2022 Milk & Honey, Israel
I hope the team at Milk & Honey is relaxed about being called South European, but a sub category featuring only one distillery is all but worthless.
Milk & Honey is located in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, and is a full size purpose built distillery. It fits in with the somewhat wild nature of Tel Aviv, and it is very much at home in a city where exciting food is in abundance and a wide range of cuisines makes for a lively and entertaining restaurant and bar night life.
The single malts here were made under the guidance of whisky trouble shooter and innovator, the late Dr Jim Swan. His method of Shaving, Toasting and Re-charring casks (STR Casks) is evident in the sweet vanilla and tropical notes of the distillery’s whisky. With the exception of a strange spirit matured in pomegranate barrels, every whisky from here is phenomenal.
South European whisky of the Year 2022 Milk & Honey Apex Dead Sea
Edges it over other whiskies from this distillery because while there is vanilla, honey, sherbet, chocolate and a hint of liquorice, there is a feisty and earthy side to it, and wood shavings add to the complex but utterly enjoyable oral performance. A master class in malt making.
British distiller of the year 2022: Penderyn, Wales
I’m not going to lie – I was never the biggest fan of standard Penderyn. While I could appreciate how different and well-made it was, and how rounded and blemish free it was for a four year old whisky, the Madeira and bourbon cask combination made the finished malt too perfumy sweet and floral for me.
This year, though. I have been fortunate enough to taste a large number of special releases, cask strength and single casks from the distillery – and they have all been amazing.
The all female distilling team here has been making some monsters. Nor is it totally new. A cask strength portwood finish to celebrate Swansea’s promotion to the Premiership (those were the days) still stays as one of my favourite whiskies. I’m hoping that the large expansion of this Welsh distillery will mean these special whiskies will be more widely available. If you get the chance to taste any of them, take it.
Highly commended: The Spirit of Yorkshire, England
Highly commended: Cotswolds, England
British whisky of the year 2022 The English Original, England
We media types love a new story. A chance to drop in a new name that we hope everyone will be talking about soon. Get seen to be fun and funky. And this year for the New Wizards Awards that has been easy. Great stories out of Australia, the emergence of quality whisky from France, great releases from Taiwan, India, Wales and Israel. As a writer, what’s not to like?
But perhaps the most exciting whisky story has come from England. From the Cotswolds and Lakes, to Spirit of Yorkshire, Bimber, East London Liquor Company and The Oxford Artisan Distillery and through to newbies Forest and White Peak, this has been an amazing year.
The whiskies have been exceptional, but the one that started it off playfully cuffed the young pretenders and came up trumps. I am not totally surprised that the English Whisky Company is not only able to match the new kids on the block, but can excel them. Before Covid I spent a few glorious afternoons with top distiller David Fitt tasting incredible experimental casks in the warehouse. But this whisky just blew me away. It’s a masterclass in integrated malt flavours, shiny happy fruity flavours, great maturity and sprinklings of tannins and spice. A total treat and the best value for money malt whisky on the market.
Highly commended: Bimber, England
Irish Distiller of the Year 2022: Dublin Liberties, Dublin
Like so many other countries, Ireland has witnessed the emergence of a large number of new distilleries. What has made its story a little different is the fact that until Teeling opened its distillery in Dublin, the capital had no distilleries making whiskey. Now it has several and as a city, it offers the whiskey tourist one of the best experiences in the world. Teeling is situated in the Shambles, close to the old city walls. Until a few years the area was derelict but it had once been a bustling area of bars and brothels, where trader were able to avoid Dublin taxes and then could indulge in their vices in the drunken, bawdy and frequently violent streets of the region.
The area is now enjoying a renaissance and some distilleries have opened here. Each of them is worthy of a visit, but the Irish Distillery Award goes to Dublin Liberties. A tour here is packed with anecdotes, the purpose built distillery is perfect for visitors, and the bar area is a delight.
Highly commended: Powerscourt Distillery, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Irish whiskey of the Year 2022 Writer’s Tears
Bernard and Rosemary Walsh established their whisky business more than 20 years ago and they have been making some of the finest whiskeys in the world ever since. The last few years haven’t been the easiest. The couple built a distillery in as pretty rural location only to have disagreements with their partners which led to them moving out. Writer’s Tears is a mix of single malt whiskey and pot still and captures everything great about Irish whiskey. It is triple distilled and non peated, and it is dripping in vanilla, sweet green fruits, with hints of spice.
The Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards binned the term ‘Rest of the World’ some years ago because some world distillers felt the term implied they were an after-thought, a second division to the Premier league Establishment Big Five. But at the same time, small sub categories look a bit daft. I mean, who cares if a distillery is the best Fijian Rye Distillery of the Year? So to avoid either of these two things happening, my Asian category includes India, Japan and Taiwan.
Asian Distiller of the Year 2022. Kavalan, Taiwan
No distiller has made more of an impact in the last few years than Kavalan has. From the earliest days when I tasted two osamples labelled ‘China’ and just two years old, the distillery has produced a range of whiskies which are world class. This year is no exception. Equally at home with standard and cask strength malts, Kavalan’s output is noteworthy for big flavours particularly in its rich, juicy sherry finishes. It only just pipped Nikka to the post but the fact that did tells a story in its own right. Fabulous.
Highly commended: Nikka, Japan
Asian Whisky of the Year 2022: Indri Trini Indian whisky
This was one of the most competitive categories in this year’s Awards, with several gold medal winners competing for the title. This, though, was a revelation and joins a growing band of wonderful Indian whiskies. It is matured in ex sherry, ex bourbon and French oak casks so unsurprisingly there’s a lot going on- berry fruits and red peanuts, lemon, grapefruit and tropical notes, all held in place by freshly shaved wood tannins and soft spice.
Highly commended: Rampur Asava Cabernet Sauvignon
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my writing that I am a big fan of Australian whisky and its makers. I love the way Australian whisky-makers gate crashed the world whisky party but then set about making whisky exactly as they wanted. I admire the way they make the most of whatever resources they have to hand to create whisky that is original and exciting. And I adore how the whisky scene has evolved and now the likes of Bill Lark, David Baker, Cameron Syme, Patrick Maguire, Peter Bignell and Casey Overeem established are overseeing the arrival of a whole new wave of producers, many of them already making great whisky. This next bit was tough then.
Australasian Distiller of the Year 2022: Overeem, Tasmania, Australia
On the face of it, one of the more established distilleries. The core range hasn’t changed. But lots has. Firstly, Casey has stood aside and daughter Jane is at the helm. And while the core Port and Sherry at standard and cask strength remain a key component, the distillery entered a Muscat cask version in to these Awards, and at the time of writing is releasing malt matured in Bourbon and bottled at standard and cask strength. All five Overeem whiskies entered are gold medal winners and utterly delightful. Judging the five together one evening was one of the highlights of this year’s Awards.
Highly commended: Fleurieu, South Australia
Australian Whisky of the Year: Heartwood Angel and the Darkness
Heartwood owner Tim Duckett has stated that this might be the best bottle he has ever produced – and he may well be right. I’m fortunate that over the last 20 years I have tasted many of Tim’s whiskies and I have loved them in the same way as I love Iron Maiden. Subtlety isn’t an issue, volume and impact is. Just as Maiden are having the time of their lives flying war planes through the concert hall, waving flags and having sword fights with their giant mascot Eddie, Tim seems to get great enjoyment taking ageing stocks from Lark and elsewhere, creating monsters to have oral sword fights and putting the whisky in to bottles with crazy names.
Convict Unchained anyone? Or Vat Out of Hell? He even has one that sounds like a Maiden album: Release The Beast. Angel and The Darkness has the big plummy grungey and utterly compelling flavours you would expect, but there’s something else going on. Rich as the flavour may be, it’s not as spikey as some bottlings have been. It’s soft, smooth and rounded and exudes age and quality. Tim and his cask strength whiskies go to a totally different level here. Unique and world class.
Highly commended: Killara
Highly commended: Tin Shed, That Boutique Whisky Co, South Australia