It's been a rough year for Scotland. First, the country fails to break ties with the United Kingdom during the Scottish independence referendum vote in September. And now Scotch whisky, once the source of great national pride, is apparently not as good as it used to be.
Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 has been deemed the best whisky in the world, according to the 2015 edition of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. The whisky comes from Japan's oldest malt whisky distillery Suntory, which was founded in 1923. Murray, a whisky expert, described the winner as "near indescribable genius" and gave it a score of 97.5 out of 100.
This is the first time in the book's 12-year history that a Japanese whisky has claimed the top spot. If you know anything about Scotland, you know that the country prides itself on its Scotch whisky. It's the national drink of Scotland, for crying out loud. As far as national symbols go, Scotch whisky is right up there with tartan, the Loch Ness monster and William Wallace. Scotland even spells the world differently than neighboring country Ireland and the United States, both of which use the more familiar spelling of "whiskey." But sadly, no Scottish whisky even made it into the top five of Murray's list this year. I think that calls for a drink.
Lucky for us Yanks, two American brands made it into the top five. These were the bourbon William Larue Wellerand and the whiskey Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old, which took second and third place, respectively.
But really, Scotland should look on the bright side. At least it doesn't have the headache of being the country responsible for bringing Fireball Cinnamon Whisky into the world, a liqueur that was recently recalled in Norway, Sweden and Finland for containing some ingredients used in antifreeze. No, that distinction belongs to Canada, although the brand is owned by Sazerac based in New Orleans.
Also good news for Scotland is that it's totally using its whisky to make some pretty sweet scientific discoveries. The Scotch whisky distillery Ardbeg sent 20 vials of whisky particles into space in 2011 to see how compounds called "terpenes" interact with charred oak in Earth's gravity and in micro-gravity in space. The specimens returned to Earth in September of this year, and they're now travelling around the globe in the name of science.
Cheer up, Scotland. It's the small victories, really.
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