Competition Finds Year’s Best Scotch Whisky is Made in Germany
PADERBORN, Germany — The best whisky in the world is officially German, according to the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
The Westfalian 2012 6YO Single Malt was recently awarded the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy 2020. It is distilled in Paderborn, Germany.
The International Wine and Spirit Competition judges said the winning 54.6 alcohol by volume whisky was made by Thomas Ewers, master whisky maker and Keeper of the Quaich.
Ewers’ entry “had incredible aromas of toasty malted milk and vanilla flowers; there is outstanding depth to the palate: warm flapjacks and sweet honeycomb balanced by aged leather and dried tea leaves, and a building crescendo of intense, savory peat smoke,” the judges wrote.
According to the Keepers of the Quaich website, there are only 2,000 such keepers in the world, a select international society. Ewers was appointed to the group in 2016 as “one of the leading voices of Scotch whisky in Germany.”
Ewers, a former electrical engineer, started his spirits career in 2003 during a trip to London — he tried a 10-year-old Aberlour neat and became obsessed. Aberlour is from the Speyside distillery in Scotland.
Seventeen years later, Ewers has racked up multiple international awards for his variations under his company Malts of Scotland, founded in 2009. He sells a wide variety of world whiskies, as well as his own Westfalian label. (There are more than 150 German distilleries that produce whisky.)
In spite of his impressive career, he said it took him some time to register he had won the competition’s award — a first for Germany.
“We’re giving the Scots a really good run for their money. I never expected it. We always say, you have to see German whisky as a product in its own right, and you just have to try it. German whiskies are getting better and better,” Ewers said.
Despite that, Ewers feels connected to Scotch whisky’s roots. “The Scots are the best role model in the world, and we see our whisky somewhat in a Scottish perspective.”
“I love and live the Scottish customs, the Scotch whisky, the Scottish habits, and I am proud to be so closely connected to Scotch whisky. I’ve been in the Scotch whisky business much longer than I’ve been trading in Germany, so I had very good contacts with Scotland and the distilleries from the beginning. Added to that is the fact our master distiller is the only German to have learnt his craft in Scotland in the 1960s.”
The Westfalian 2012 has been aged in 50 special barrels that had previously been used to store various Scottish single malts. (Each barrel cost up to 1,000 euros ($1,171 U.S.).)
To be considered a single malt scotch, the whisky must be distilled from a mash bill of 100% malted barley at one distillery and aged for a minimum of three years in wooden casks. After that, distillers can get creative.
The Worldwide Whiskey Trophy caps his career, but it isn’t Ewers’ first important win.
In 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, the Westfalian was chosen internationally as the best German whisky by the IWSC.
Details of where to buy the 2012 Westfalien 6YO, which was casked in 2012 and bottled in 2018, are available on the company’s site. Links to traders who also sell other Malts of Scotland whiskies is here.
The Scots have long produced stellar single malts. There are more than 120 distilleries in Scotland making single malt whisky, which is also used as a component in blended whiskies. In November 2018, a bottle of 60-year-old Macallan single-malt whisky sold at auction for $1.5 million. However, the production is worldwide.
Countries where single-malt whiskey is distilled include Japan, India, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, reports Vinepair. The U.S. is also home to a burgeoning number of such distillers, Eater reports.
(Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew Hall)