Edinburgh to host year’s top whisky contest

A panel of 10 judges will taste 300 different whiskies over three days from April. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
A panel of 10 judges will taste 300 different whiskies over three days from April. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Master blenders from across the globe will meet in Edinburgh next month in search of the year’s top whisky.

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, home to the world’s largest collection at 3,384 bottles, will host the International Spirits Challenge for a second year.

A panel of 10 judges will taste 300 different whiskies over three days from April 22 to 25 at the attraction on the Royal Mile.

Some of Scotland’s most revered whisky experts will be joined by master blenders - the name given to the professional who decides on a whisky’s composition - from a host of other malt-loving nations.

Among those on the panel are Angela D’Orazio from Sweden’s Mackmyra brand, Seiichi Koshimizu from Suntory in Japan and Randy Houston from Triple 8 in the US.


Whiskies are judged across the categories of taste, design, packaging and marketing in the awards, now in their 18th year.

International Spirits Challenge chairman John Ramsay, a former master blender at Famous Grouse producers Edrington, said: “After the success of last year’s event, we are delighted to be bringing the competition back to Edinburgh for a second year.”

Whisky is Scotland’s largest international export and worth £4.2 billion to the economy, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

The industry is one of few not to feel the pressure of the eurozone crisis thanks to booming demand from emerging markets in Latin America and Asia.

In the year to the end of June 2012, the value of Scotch whisky exports increased by 12%.

While the US remains the biggest buyer, sales to Venezuela leapt 31%.

In 2011 exports to Peru increased by a massive 97% and to Colombia by 74%, the Scotch Whisky Association said.

Brazilians are the fifth most frequent international visitors to the Scotch Whisky Experience after Americans, the French, Germans and Chinese.

In 2009 it took delivery of the record-breaking collection of whisky enthusiast Claive Vidiz from Sao Paulo.

Mr Vidiz spent 35 years scouring the world for rare whiskies including Dimple Pinch, one of the first special editions of a Scotch whisky ever produced.


Bought in 1969 for 1,000 US dollars, it was the most expensive limited edition bottle of Scotch whisky on the market at the time, according to the Scotch Whisky Experience.

Some of the malts date back to the end of the 19th century but among the most popular is a whisky chess set where the black and white figures of English and Scottish monarchs each contain a dram.

The collection was shipped over by drinks giant Diageo, which produces millions of cases of different branded Scotch whisky at its distilleries each year, among them Caol Ila on the isle of Islay and Skye’s Talisker.

Around 90% of the firms whisky produced in Scotland is sold overseas.

At the opposite end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is Cadenhead’s, a whisky shop producing its own blend on the premises for customers.


Assistant Neil Cammock from County Durham said both tourists and locals are fans of the mix of lowland, Highland, Campbeltown and Islay malts.

He said: “The cask stays here, we top it up every morning. We get one cask, we bottle it, we don’t do anything to it.”

Mr Cammock said international demand for whisky was high.

“Big companies are making inroads in places like South America,” he said. “We just keep doing what we do.”