Shock as no Scotch whiskies make it into Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2020 top 3

No Scotch whisky has made it into the top three of this year's Jim Murray's Whisky Bible with the top prize once again going to an American whiskey.

Published 17th Oct 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

An American bottling once again scooped the crown this year, following in the footsteps of fellow US whiskey William Larue Weller 128.2 proof, which won last year.

According the controversial whisky writer and critic, The Full Proof release of 1792 bourbon was the top player this year, returning the crown to Kentucky and describing the whiskey as “melodious, mysterious and slightly exotic” with a nose of “near-perfect proportions” and with an “unfaltering” finish when tasted.

Funnily enough it was only 25 years ago that Jim himself branded Barton the worst distillery in Kentucky.

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The only Scotch to usually make the grade, The Glen Grant 18 Year Old, which took third spot in last year’s Bible, dropped out of the running with the William Larue Weller 125.7 Proof – 2018 Release taking second and the Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 128.8 Proof – 2018 Release, scooping third place.

Most surprisingly, the Single Cask of the Year was given to the Nantou Omar Cask Strength Bourbon Cask, with the smaller state-owned Taiwanese distillery stealing the limelight from its better-known compatriot, the ever popular Kavalan.

The Scottish section of the Bible saw Glen Grant 18 again take the Scotch Whisky of the Year and Single Malt of the Year titles, while Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask) went to The Macphail 1949 China Special Edition 1.

The Scotch Blend of the Year went to Ballantine’s 17 Years Old, with The Last Drop Dumbarton 1977 taking the Single Grain of the Year.

Speaking about the book's release on the Whisky Exchange, content manager Billy Abbot said: "It’s a big year for Jim. It’s 2020 and matching up (just in time), he has hit a milestone – breaking the 20,000 mark of total whiskies tasted since the first edition appeared in 2003. Whether you agree with his scores and favourites or not, you have to agree that he’s tried a lot of whisky."

Mr. Murray’s choices will no doubt cause a hint of controversy after he once again decided against giving a Scotch the title for the sixth year running; five years ago, he named the Japanese whisky Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as his winner, with Canada’s Crown Royal taking the 2016 title and 2017's release saw the honour go to America, and Booker’s Rye 13 year old.

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The Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain, which is made using corn, rye, wheat and malted barley and was released by Buffalo Trace took the title in 2018.

A whisky from Wales once again beat out competitors from Scandinavia to take the coveted European Whisky of the Year title with Penderyn Single Cask no. M75-32 taking the Single Cask crown.

Social media users were once again not impressed with many taking to Twitter and Facbook to deride the list.

One user on Facebook quipped: "He's clearly got shares in Buffalo Trace and a secret stash of Glen Grant casks somewhere."

While another added: "I generally like Jim Murray, I really do, but the fact that he keeps naming Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 'Canadian Whisky of the Year' leads me to believe he’s recycling tasting notes and not necessarily tasting everything he says he’s tasting."

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Speaking about the release, Jim Murray said: “There will be eyebrows raised and claims of favouritism which, of course, is never the case with the Whisky Bible: I call it exactly as I see it.

Once I knew the top three were from the same company, I spent two extra days running through my top ten whiskies once more…and the results came out exactly the same."

Jim added that he knew when he visited the 1792 Distillery 25 years ago, he felt they were capable of producing something that could do well if aged properly, stating that he implored the then owners, who at the time had no interest in high-end whiskey, to bring out "something much older", he added: “It is wonderful that my gut instinct of 25 years ago has been vindicated under the ownership of Sazerac, who have turned a potentially great distillery into something truly magnificent."

• A full list of the winners can be found here

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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