The new 2015 World Whisky Bible featured two major firsts: A Japanese whisky finally took the top spot while, possibly more surprising, not a single Scottish spirit finished in the top five.
For a dozen years, whiskey writer Jim Murray has published his annual Whisky Bible. This year, he and his team considered more than 4,500 whiskeys and when the dust cleared Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 topped the list. It’s the first time a Japanese brand has received Murray’s top accolade, but Yamazaki certainly isn’t a fresh face: Established in 1923, its Japan’s oldest malt whisky distillery.
Scotland, on the other hand—possibly the world’s most famous producer of whisky—didn’t land a Scotch anywhere in the top five. It was another first for the Bible, and happened despite Scotland’s Glenmorangie Ealanta taking top honors just last year.
Murray, who personally tasted more 1,000 of the whiskeys (let’s hope not in one sitting), hammered home his opinion, stating that the Yamazaki is “a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near” with its “nose of exquisite boldness” and “light, teasing spice” finish.
In general, experts seemed to agree that Japanese whiskeys have recently risen to the top of the crop. However, as spirit judge and educator Ron Taylor told Time, it’s important to remember the rankings often reflect the taster’s personal preferences. He also noted that Suntory, which makes the winning Japanese whisky, produces other whiskies around the world, including in Scotland.
America, for its part, was able to round out the top three. William Larue Weller bourbon took the second spot; Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old was third.