SCOTLAND has been knocked off the top spot in whisky rankings after an American rye was crowned best in the world.
Sazerac, known for its Christmas cake ‘nose’, beat Ardbeg Supernova into second, whose distillery has dominated the list in recent years since reopening in 1997.
Renowned whisky writer and publisher Jim Murray defended his decision, saying that crowning an American rye whisky was a wake-up call to complacent Scots distillers.
He said: “There is still a sneering attitude in some quarters that, if it is not made in Scotland, then somehow it is not proper whisky.“I don’t think the Scots have a lot to be complacent about at the moment in terms is whisky.
“There are some very, very poor casks of Scotch whisky in circulation just now.
“While the best is still exceptional, there is a lot of Scotch whisky out there which is really not good at all.”
And in a further blow to Scots producers, an Indian Single Malt made it into the top three for the first time since the guide began.
Stocks of Amrut Fusion, made in Bangalore, sold out in weeks when it was released in June, with Murray saying the single malt was among the best he’d ever tried.
“Hopefully the arrival of Indian whisky will act as a wake-up call for the Scotch whisky industry.
“If these guys in Bangalore can produce exceptional, world-class whisky, why can’t Scottish distillers who have been for 100 years or more?
“Very often the answer is that distilleries don’t take a huge amount of bother in choosing the casks they use and it has become a numbers game for them.”
Rob Allanson, editor of Whisky Magazine, said that Scots distillers have to up their game if they are to keep up with new world distillers.
He said: “There are some truly phenomenal non-Scottish whiskies out there just now.
“Some whiskies, especially those being produced in Japan, are incredible and completely beyond anything that is produced in Scotland.”
He added that a sharp rise in the price of casks could have affected the quality of Scotch.
He said: “Because of this maybe some distillers weren’t as scrupulous when they were buying casks.
“We are now starting to see some of those casks coming into the market.
“You can always learned lessons from others, but the smaller Scotch whisky companies are still punching well above their weight.”
Nationalist MEP Ian Hudghton, who has lobbied the European Parliament to protect Scottish whisky, said that Scotland is still regarded as having the best whisky in the world.
He said: “The international market is the ultimate test and it shows that, if anything, the desire for genuine whisky made in Scotland is stronger than ever.”
A spokesman for Scotch Whisky Association said: “Landmark regulations to protect and promote Scotch whisky show Scottish distillers are continuing to maintain the highest standards in every aspect of the production process.”
Ashok Chokalingam, international sales manager at Amrut, said that his firm would be releasing two more whiskies in the UK next year after the success of their first batch of Fusion.