IWSC 2024 Spirits Judging: Judges’ deliberations on Worldwide Whiskey

Spirit news

Mon 20 May 2024

By Kristen Dougall

With so many countries producing exceptional whiskeys from around the world, our experts enjoyed two days of judging the IWSC’s Worldwide Whiskey category. The panels were overseen by Spirits Judging Committee member, Dawn Davies MW. Dawn noted that the “overall quality of the worldwide whiskey category is going up, with more medals being awarded than previous years, showing real promise.” Our judges were treated to “weird and whacky finishes” from all over the world. The improvement in quality and consistency across the countries was emphasised by Dawn who believes this level of consistency is “so important for consumers, who want something they can go back to again and again.”


The highlight of this year’s judging was Finland. Dawn explained that the whiskeys from Finland were “absolutely fantastic! With pure flavours and good balance from oak and texturally great”. The aged whiskeys from Finland showed our judges how well balanced and fruity these whiskeys could be. It is therefore no surprise that our judges awarded two gold outstanding medals to Finish whiskeys. A gold-oustanding winner was a 7 YO Single Malt, praised for its “rich and sweet palate, with caramel, butterscotch and honey coming through with hints of pear. A long finish with pure complexity.” The other Single Malt that received a gold outstanding medal was a 15YO, our judges stated that this was “an outstanding whiskey with great complexity. Vanilla, honey and porridge on the palate that progresses to a fruity delicacy with hints of orange peel, apple and vanilla. A fantastic achievement!” 


Ireland was another standout country for our judges, with no less than 6 gold outstanding medals awarded across the different styles of whiskeys. Our judges praised the Pot Stills that showed “real promise and superb quality”, with 3 gold outstandings awarded. One recipient of a gold outstanding medal showed “a creamy texture with tropical fruit developing on the palate and a well-balanced long finish with a hint of spice”.

The highest scoring Single Malts were the aged whiskeys, showcasing that they are still “the heart of premium and high-quality within Irish whiskey”. Two gold outstanding medals were awarded to aged Single Malts.


Our judges were pleasantly surprised by the offering from Australia. With the Rye category really standing out for its diversity in flavour – showcasing the best of what this category can offer. One particular Australian Rye whiskey was awarded a gold medal with our judges praising the “punchy spice, peppery nose, aromas of sourdough and complex finish with chocolate and lots of liquorice.”

The Single Malts from Australia also showed some real promise, with 3 gold medals awarded. Our judges praised the good balance between integrity of distillate and oak character.


Dawn Davies MW exclaimed that “Chinese whiskey showed some real progression, based on the medals that were awarded this year and last”, with almost all whiskeys receiving a medal. Our judges also saw the great potential of the country, the whiskeys displayed a distinct peated characteristic that is hallmark to Chinese whiskey. A strong silver was awarded to a Port Cask Single Malt, with the judges enjoying the whiskey’s “baked apple and fruit cake nose, with a long fruity finish showing complexity, enhanced by smoky notes”.


The Japanese whiskeys were praised for their elegance. A standout Blended Whiskey from Japan was awarded a gold outstanding. The judges were delighted by the whiskey’s “tertiary aromas, with hints of acetone on the nose, and sweet marmalade. The dark chocolate finish was persistent and complex.” A gold medal was also given to a Peated Blended Malt. The judges admired the “delicate fruit-forward nose with grapefruit, mango and pear aromas, the smooth, mouth-coating palate and powerful but well-balanced finish with the peat influence kept nicely under control.”


Taiwan delivered to the judges what they were hoping to see, with the big, powerful flavours Taiwanese whiskeys are known for. The judges praised “the strong work” they are seeing from the country as they “continue to evolve and showcase a contemporary, yet classic style of whiskey making”. The distillate-driven characteristics demonstrated to our judges that it “isn’t all about wood in this very cask-driven category”. A Single Malt, finished in Sherry cask was awarded a high gold medal, with our judges praising the “unmistakably wine cask finish, with juicy black grapes on the palate, not too much extraction, and a well balanced and long finish”.

As we come to the final days of our spirits judging, be sure to stay tuned for more deliberations from our judges and our results announcement on 3 June.

*Our international judges are looking forward to delving deep into American and Canadian whiskeys during the IWSC Judging in Kentucky in September.