By SAM BUTLER
Four Northern Ireland whiskeys have been named among the world’s best in new global awards.
The latest awards are a further demonstration of the growing strength and success, especially in global markets, of local whiskeys, both single malt and blended varieties.
Locally distilled whiskeys are now on sale in upwards of 30 global markets, including the hugely important US market, the largest for Irish whiskey.
Sales there are predicted by industry experts to exceed those of Scotch in the next decade.
Expert judges in the New York-based ‘Fifty Best’ named Killowen Distillery in Rostrevor, County Down, and Limavady Distillery as Double Gold winners, the highest award.
There was a single Gold for McConnell’s Irish Whisky from Belfast and Silver for Ballynahinch’s Hinch Distillery.
The results are the outcome of a “blind” tasting of Irish whiskeys with a panel of 12 judges.
Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery.
The Irish whiskeys were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at room temperature.
Each of the whiskeys were judged and scored separately. Only ice water, unflavoured unsalted crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate. The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a five-point system, with five as the highest.
Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals were awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges.
Killowen, a small distillery in the Mournes, is run by master distiller Brendan Carty, and gained the prestigious award for its unique Rum and Raisin Single Malt, which has been aged over five years in bourbon casks and then finished in dark rum casks.
The distillery, a specialist in small batch whiskeys loved by enthusiasts for the golden spirit, also works closely with Two Stacks, a dynamic Newry-based independent bottler and blender of whiskey.
Two Stacks was also named number 2 in the Top 50 Awards for Innovation for its Dram in a Can, a unique canned single malt whiskey.
Limavady Single Cask and Single Malt Whiskey is produced by master distiller Darryl McNally, who trained at Old Bushmills, and is finished in ex-bourbon and sherry casks and is a collaboration with Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey of New England in the US.
The whiskey is now on sale in most US states as a result of this collaboration and Darryl’s relentless marketing there. Single Gold winner McConnell’s Irish Whisky of Belfast is described as a blend of malt and grain whiskies aged over five years by Belfast Distillery Company based in the former Crumlin Road Gaol in north Belfast.
The company is scheduled to start distilling its own whiskies later this year.
It recently won an order from a distributor in South Korea for a consignment 10,000 bottles and expects to be on sale in around 30 international markets this year.
Hinch Distillery at Ballynahinch in County Down, owned by businessman Terry Cross, was awarded Silver for its Double Wood Aged five years and finished in ex-bourbon casks for at least a year.
The four local distilleries were among nine from across the island to win awards for their whiskeys.
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