Dating to 1980, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) is the oldest spirits competition in the US and the second oldest in the world. The competition has an unrivaled reputation for the quality of its judges, many of whom are the world’s leading experts, as well as for the scope of the categories of spirits that it judges.
Each year the SFWSC judges hundreds of blended Scotch whiskies across three broad categories: Best Blended Scotch No Age Statement (NAS), Best Blended Scotch Up to 15 years, and Best Blended Scotch 16 Years & Older. There was a total of 12 Blended Scotch whiskies that won Double Gold medals. Three of those medalists were also chosen as the Best in Category.
Blended Scotch whisky is a mix of grain whisky and malt whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) does not mandate the ratio of grain whisky to malt whisky. A blend can be as much as 90% grain whisky and as little as 50%. Both the ages of the grain whisky and the malt whisky component are used in determining the age statement. Both portions of the blend must be no younger than the stated age.
The Winner of the Best Blended Scotch – No Age Statement is Compass Box, Glasgow Blend Scotch, 43% ABV ($40 list). Compass Box is a specialty bottler that has been among the most innovative and, at times, been the most willing to stretch SWA rules.
The Glasgow Blend release is part of a two-release set that also includes Compass Box, Artist Blend, 43% ABV ($40 list). Artist Blend is supposed to reflect the character of the city of Edinburgh and its inhabitants (Edinburghers), while the Glasgow expression reflects the character of the city of Glasgow and its inhabitants (Glaswegians). As to what the inhabitants of each city call the other, well that’s another story.
There were five NAS, blended Scotch whiskies that won the coveted Double Gold medal. Some like Johnnie Walker, Red Label, 40% ABV ($25 list), a member of the Johnnie Walker family of blended Scotch whiskies, which is the best-selling blended Scotch whisky brand in the world, are well known. So, too, are Buchanan’s Master Blended Scotch, 40% ABV ($50 list) and Buchanan’s Two Souls Blended Scotch, 40% ABV ($34 list).
Bladnoch, Pure Scot, Signature Blended Scotch, 40% ABV ($55 list) and The Sassenach, Blended Scotch Whisky, 46% ABV ($99 list) are less well known, but they were also both Double Gold medalists. Bladnoch is the southernmost of all the Lowland distilleries. Sassenach is a whisky launched by Sam Heughan, an actor, best known for his leading role as Jamie Fraser in the TV historical drama Outlander.
The winner of the Best Blended Scotch – Up to 15 years is
Dewar’s, Caribbean Smooth Blended Scotch, 40% ABV ($22 list). Dewar’s also won a Double Gold medal for its 12 YO Blended Scotch, 40% ABV ($30 list). Imperial, 12 YO Blended Scotch, a whisky made in Scotland for the Sazerac company, also medaled. Note that this whisky is different from Imperial Single Malt that was produced in the past at the now-closed Imperial Distillery in Carron Speyside. Highland Black, 8 YO Blended Highlands, also medalled.
The winner of the Best in Category – 16 Years & Older is Dewar’s, Double Double, 27 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, 46% ABV ($90 list). The only other Double Gold was awarded to White Heather, 21 YO Blended Scotch Whisky from The GlenAllachie Distillers, 48% ABV ($135 list).
Blended Scotch whisky remains highly underappreciated by Scotch whisky enthusiasts. That’s a pity. Because there are really some outstanding blended Scotch whiskies and they represent fantastic values.