We were very interested to read an article in the newsletter of MY WHISKY JOURNEYS penned by the very respected commentator and whisky aficionado Philip Morrice.

Philip has written several books, including "The Schweppes Guide to Scotch" and "The Whisky Distilleries of Scotland and Ireland” as well as numerous articles.
He has been Glenfiddich Whisky Writer of the Year and has also broadcast on the subject for the BBC. He has been whisky correspondent for “Decanter” magazine and “Harper’s Wine and Spirit Gazette”. 

Given his experience his views are worth noting and we are pleased that he ventured a view on competitions, medals and awards.

Philip wrote “The number of whisky awards is, frankly, becoming preposterous and totally confusing for the consumer’ and we could not agree more. 

As pointed out in the article the labels of old bottles of blended Scotch carry medals going back to the 1900s. Those are obviously totally meaningless today. 

Philip also wondered whether with specific whisky awards that are now being made in multifarious categories are designed to make sure that every entry gets a prize and asks, “Are we being taken for suckers?”

In the final part of the article he posed the following -
“First of all, how much does it cost to enter each competition in terms of entry fee and number of bottles to be sent in for the thirsty judges - whoever they might be - to make those awards?"
"What does it do for the consumer in terms of guiding him as to quality and character of the individually recognized whisky?"
"Does it mean that distillers simply become trophy hunters in order to get yet another accolade of dubious origin to hang on the website and how does the consumer judge the value of such awards against the whiskies which have never been entered?”

From our viewpoint it is simple. 

  • Medals and awards simply mean a whisky appealed to 3 or 4 people who made up a judging panel. There is no panel of qualified judges from which judges are drawn and that results in a lack of consistency across competitions. 
  • The public generally do not understand that there are multiple winners of gold, silver or bronze medals. Those categories indicate the whisky has been awarded points on colour, aroma and flavour that total a level to be awarded that colour of award.  If 100 whiskies were judged, it is possible that the could ALL get a gold medal.  In fact, we hope they all would!
  • The cost of entry and the number of bottles demanded for the competitions make it impossible for smaller distilleries to participate. Most competitions demand a fee per bottle entered plus up to six bottles for judging.  Against this, the venerated Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible only requires distilleries to submit a minimum of 100mls for assessment and rates each whisky out of 100 points,  The consumer can see each whisky and compare it to the rest.  A very transparent result.

What do you, as consumers, feel about the value of Awards hanging off a bottle?  Please leave your comments.


Martin Pye said:

I entered a brutish one to discover all the judges were bar men or bar managers, hardly qualifications to judge a malt whisky, never again!

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