2017 World Whiskies Awards Winners

By Alona Abbady Martinez

It is a well-known fact that Ol’ Blue Eyes loved his Jack Daniel’s so much he was even buried with a bottle of it when he died in 1998. Other famous folks with a fondness for the amber spirit included Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, and more recently, celebrities like David Beckham and Mila Kunis. There is a myriad of whiskeys to love, and there’s just something about ending the day with a glass, neat or on the rocks, that makes life taste lovelier.

All whiskeys are made by distilling a fermented mash of grain, most commonly corn, rye, wheat or barley and then aged in oak barrels to give it flavor and color. Depending on the grain and the barrel in which it is aged, tasting notes will often include references to nuts, fruits, spices, vanilla and oak.

In March, the 2017 World Whiskies Awards announced what distilleries stood out from the rest in this very competitive industry. Opulence International was fortunate to hear from some of the victors with regard to what makes them stand out from other worthy competitors.

World’s Best Grain
The Fuji-Gotemba Distillery
from Japan
Single Grain,
25 Years Old Small Batch

The Fuji-Gotemba distillery sits on the southeastern side of Mount Fuji in Gotemba, the city in Japan selected for the distillery because of its climate similar to Scotland. This Asian whisky offers roasty aromas and bold flavors of vanilla, custard and oatcake, with notes of marzipan, ginger and oak.

World’s Best Bourbon John J. Bowman, USA

Single Barrel Bourbon
“Whether we’re making our single barrel, or experimenting to create new limited editions, we’re dedicated to always creating the best products we can. At A. Smith Bowman, it’s important to us to remain true to tradition while also embracing innovation and creativity. We’re excited and feel very honored to have received the title of ‘World’s Best Bourbon’ two years in a row for two different bourbons,”  said Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller.

Best Irish Single Pot Still
Redbreast, 21 Years Old, Ireland
“Redbreast 21 Years Old is rich and spicy, displays notes of dried sultanas and figs,” said Liam Sparks, Redbreast brand ambassador. “Its hint of toasted wood and vanilla takes me back to my granny’s house as a boy – to the kitchen filled with aromas of dried fruits soaked in whiskey as Christmas cake preparation began.”

World’s Best Rye

A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye
Bottled in Bond, Colorado, USA
“Our ‘no shortcuts’ philosophy at A.D. Laws whiskey house starts from fresh grains and malts produced on a family farm in Colorado,” said Alan Laws, founder and CEO. “We coax the huge rye flavor out of our heirloom grain through heavy mashes using traditional sour mash techniques. Careful and slow distillation follows with lengthy aging in full-sized, heavily charred, American white oak barrels that benefit from the unique environment of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. In short, our distinctive rye stems from our soulful process and regional terroir.”

World’s Best Blended
Suntory Hibiki, 21 Years Old, Japan
Hibiki Whisky embodies the soul of Japanese craftsmanship, this harmonious blend resounds with calm complexity and “Wa”, oneness. The history of Japanese whisky is the history of Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory. In 1923, Shinjiro Torii envisioned a whisky filled with the essence of Japanese nature and hand-crafted by artisans through a patient process of enhancing
the work of nature.

World’s Best Single Malt

Craigellachie, 31 Years Old,
United Kingdom

“You can really feel the high ABV on the nose, but it doesn’t transfer onto the palate. The texture is rather dry and almost chalky, with initial nectarine flavours giving way to pepperoni before a green, hoppy, beery character comes in on the long finish. There’s a hint of bonfire in there too.”


Jeff Quint knows a thing or two about distilleries – after all, it’s in his DNA. Quint can trace his love and dedication to spirits back to Germany, where his descendent, Johann Jakob Quint had a cooperage and  winery on the Mosel River in Wintrich, Germany. Quint’s great-grandfather, John Quint, migrated to Eastern Iowa in 1881, bringing his trade and skills with him. Jeff learned the art of wine and brandy-making from his father, Howard, and, although Jeff went on to have a successful career in the world of finance, his passion for spirits led him back to his family roots where, in 2005, along with his wife, Laurie, he founded Cedar Ridge Distillery.

Since then, they have won numerous awards including, most recently, the American Distilling Institute’s 2017 Distillery of the Year, the 2016 International Craft Spirits Award (gold for Bourbon, Single Malt, and Malted Rye), and the 2016 North American Whiskey Competition (gold for Bourbon and Single Malt).

Cedar Ridge is a grain-to-glass distillery. “While there are hundreds of new distilleries carrying the ‘craft’ label, there are only a few dozen of us that are actually producing our whiskey from grain to glass,” Jeff explained. “For Cedar Ridge Bourbon, our flagship product, we actually grow our own corn. We mill it, mash it, ferment it, distill it, barrel age it and bottle it all on our property. And we ferment ‘off grain’, providing a cleaner starting product going into the stills. I think that’s what makes the nose and flavor nuances a bit more delicate in our Bourbon than in most.”

Editor’s Note:  In case you noticed multiple spellings of whiskey (or whisky) in this article, it’s not typos. In Ireland and the United States, whiskey is spelled with an “e”. In Scotland, Canada and Japan, whisky is sans the “e”.
2017 World Whiskies Awards Winners