Irish whiskey has had a remarkable two years. It's no exaggeration to say it has reinvented itself and turned a lumbering and largely irrelevant scene in to a clean, mean whiskey making machine. Ireland's back from the brink and it's come out fighting.
Just a few years back Irish Distillers pretty much had it all its own way. Jameson was a worldwide success story and most of the rest of the portfolio ticked along without great support of financial backing. And for many years even the sale of Bushmills to Diageo and the arrival of new boys Cooley couldn't shake the country out of its stupor.
But as world demand for whisky in general increased Irish Distillers realised it was missing a trick. It would successfully launch in to a new territory with Jameson but had no follow up, so it left the door open for its rivals. More than that, it had little to service the premium and super premium end of the market.
So it set about doing something about it. And in 2011 whisky lovers were treated to a triple whammy of world class stronger pot still whiskeys - the launch of Powers John's Lane, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy and Redbreast 12 Year Old cask strength was the Irish whiskey equivalent of The Beatles releasing Revolver, Sergeant Pepper Wand the White Album - classic, top drawer works of art, one and all.
And if we can stretch the Beatles analogy with Alan Partridge-like efficiency, this year's Yellow Spot is the company's Abbey Road, another slice of sweet wonderfulness.
Meanwhile Cooley, now part of Beam Global, which had set the pace with some fine and unusual Irish releases, also upped its game and started to release aged gems and some ground-breaking whiskeys. This year the company was bought by Beam Global, Tullamore DEW was bought by William Grant and a host of new whiskey companies have started to spring up.
Irish whiskey is on a role. And Irish Distillers seem determined to lead the way. Here, then are the Irish whiskey results:
IRISH WIZARD DISTILLER OF THE YEAR
- IRISH DISTILLERS
IRISH WIZARD WHISKEY OF THE YEAR
POWERS JOHN'S LANE
Although I prefer Redbreast 12 year old cask strength to this - though I have to admit the gap is closing - this whiskey was something of a surprise, being the second highest scored whiskey in the Wizards awards after Yamazaki 18 Year Old. It's a beautiful example of the rugged, earthy, gurney and fruity pot still whiskey style and a worthy champion.
Highly commended: Connemara Peated Cask Strength
In what was one of the strongest Wizards category Connemara Cask Strength was a strong runner up. If you don't know it, treat yourself to a green fruit and peaty delight - like eating a toffee apple out of an ashtray. But nice!
GOLD MEDAL WINNERS
- Connemara cask strength
- Powers John's Lane
- Redbreast 12 year old cask strength
- Yellow Spot
SILVER MEDAL WINNERS
- Inish Turk Beg
- Jameson Select
- Tyrconnell single malt
BRONZE MEDAL WINNERS
- Jameson Gold
- Tullamore DEW