At this years Whisky Live, I decided it was high time to hand out some gongs.
Since its launch in 1998, Whisky Magazine has celebrated all that is great about whisky. We have unashamedly championed whisky the product. That, after all, is what the industry is about and that is what readers and consumers want to learn about. The tastings, where we record side-by-side tasting notes from our two resident tasters, Michael Jackson and Dave Broom, are still the most popular section of the magazine.
However, the principle difference between whisky and other spirits is its reliance on people. In a here today, gone tomorrow spirit like vodka or gin there is no role to be played by individuality. The distillation model there is truly industrial. Only whisky can explore the artisanal aspects. As Martine Nouet wrote in Issue 20 of Whisky Magazine, having worked for a week at Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, she discovered a secret ingredient in the production of great whisky: sweat. I feel we have a duty to recognise the sweatiest people in the industry.
Like the Oscars (except with fewer embarrassing speeches), The Whisky Magazine awards are judged by the industry. A questionnaire was sent to a cross-section of 270 people in the industry. This selection is nominally known as the Whisky Academy. They are drawn from whisky distillers, independent bottlers, retailers and whisky writers. We asked them to propose first, second and third choices in the following categories: Distiller, Blender, Independent Bottler, Retailer, Visitor Centre Manager and Innovator. In addition, the Whisky Magazine editorial board awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award and the readers of Whisky Magazine and visitors to www.whisky-world.com voted for their favourite new release of the year.
Put simply, the objective was to reward those whose efforts had gone beyond the norm, working tirelessly to drive whisky forward, to put it in front of you the consumer, to help whisky maintain its rightful mantle as the best drink in the world. Of course, some in the industry (mainly those lacking in personality) find the idea of promoting individuals anathema. However, I maintain that there are only so many evasive answers, spin and artfully directed bottle shots that the whisky ddrinker will accept. The industry needs personalities and I wanted to recognise that.
The point of all this, gentle reader, is that the retailer of the year, as ajudged by the whisky industry, is none other than Richard Joynson. Of course, you knew that thats why you buy your whisky from him. All sorts of people said all sorts of nice things about him but Ill spare his blushes. Maybe just the one, then: Richard Joynson is an exemplar to all independent retailers. A nice shop with great music and an outstanding range of malt whiskies, an excellent mail order business with a straightforward, reliable website, a real sense of customer care, a genuine passion about the whisky he sells and bucketfuls of attitude. Nicely put.
Its also worth pointing out that Turnbull Hutton, regular SWR contributor, picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Those results in full:
Distiller of the year: Jim McEwan, Bruichladdich
Blender of the year: Richard Paterson, Kyndal Spirits
Independent bottler of the year: Andrew Symington, Signatory
Retailer of the year: I think you know by now
Visitor centre manager of the year: Jackie Thompson, Ardbeg
Innovator of the year: John Glaser, Compass Box
Lifetime Achievement Award: Turnbull Hutton, ex- Guinness UDV
Lifetime Achievement Award: Iain Henderson, Laphroaig
New release of the year: Ardbeg 1977
New release of the year: Compass Box Hedonism