Japanese whisky swipes Scotland’s crown

Competition judges sharing a dram of whisky
Just because you’re taking it seriously doesn’t mean you can’t have fun

IT’S official, folks: Japanese whisky is better than Scotch.

Before the whisky aficionados get their keyboards in a twist, that was the opinion of several whisky experts after a recent blind tasting in Glasgow.

Hosted by Fever-Tree, the competition saw the panel blind taste a range of drams selected by Glasgow whisky pub The Pot Still (representing Scotland) with Manchester’s Sexy Fish choosing the Japanese drams.

Competition judges making notes
The judging took place at The Pot Still in Glasgow

There were five rounds: Malt under £100; Malt over £100; Blend; Wild Card; and Highball.

The competition was fierce, the judges diligent, but when the dust had settled Japan led Scotland by three rounds to two.

The judging panel included whisky writer Dave Broom, master of wine Dawn Davis, Georgie Bell of whisky bottler The Heart Cut, Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana, owner of bars including Lyaness and Seed Library, and author and bar owner Tristan Stephenson.

The results were announced at Glasgow bar The Gate, before Sexy Fish hosted a bar takeover featuring several of the competing whiskies.

Bartender pours Fever-Tree into drinks
The competition was followed by a bar takeover at The Gate

The competition, dubbed ‘The Judgement of Glasgow’, was the brainchild of Fever-Tree’s Craig Harper, who said: “It was extraordinary to get such an array of whisky royalty into one room sampling some of the very best whiskies that Scotland and Japan have to offer. To witness the care and attention they gave each dram was to witness true experts at work.

“As with the Judgement of Paris in 1976 which signalled the potential changing of the guard between and French and American wine, these results show Japanese whisky can rightfully sit alongside Scottish whisky at the very top table.”

So there it is, folks: yet another painful loss for a Scottish side. Perhaps 2024 is just not our year.

Frank Murphy of The Pot Still
The Pot Still’s Frank Murphy was set the unenviable task of selecting five drams to represent Scotland

The Judgement of Glasgow full results:

First round – Malt under £100:

Japan: Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

Scotland: Caol Ila 12yo 2012

Result: Japan Win


Second round – Malt over £100:

Japan: Chichibu #5253 7yo red Wine Cask

Scotland: Benromach 21 Tokaji wood Finish

Result: Japan Win


Third round – Blend

Japan: Hibiki Harmony Master’s Secret

Scotland: Cutty Sark 25yo

Result: Scotland Win


Fourth round – Wild Card:

Japan: Hanyu #1386 Isetan 1991 Madeira Cask

Scotland: Whyte & Mackay 40yo

Result: Scotland Win


Fifth Round – Highball

Japan: Hakashu 12yo & Fever-Tree Premium Soda Water

Scotland: Arbikie Rye & Fever-Tree Premium Soda Water

Result: Japan Win