Japan’s first whisky and spirits competition, the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition, has just announced the results of this year’s judging process in the Western spirits division.2020 has been a tough year for plenty of us for a lot of different reasons. For the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition, it meant having to first delay, then entirely do away with, their massive judging session. How do you run a spirits competition in the midst of a global pandemic, and a nationwide state of emergency here in Japan?
For many the answer is simply “you don’t.” After considering a host of different options, including canceling it altogether, the TWSC Executive Committee made the decision to conduct the judging session 100% remotely.
The original judging panel of hundreds of people was reduced to help mitigate the manual labor associated with the decision. Still, TWSC staff ended up filling (by hand!) a whopping 2000+ mini bottles and shipping them to 37 carefully selected judges. (Disclaimer: I was one of the judges in that first pool, but I didn’t make the cut.)
Today, the results of the Western spirits division have just been announced. There’s an official press release in English this year–officially translated by guess who–so definitely give it a read. The release contains some thoughts on the trends of the winners from Executive Committee Chair and whisky critic Tsuchiya-san.
DOWNLOAD: Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition TWSC2020 Results Announcement
For the full list of winners in the Western spirits division, you can also check out this PDF file on the TWSC website. Like last year, I’ll highlight the Japan-made winners below. And I will give my first impressions after the list, so keep scrolling!
- Suntory Spirits: The Essence of Suntory Whisky Yamazaki Distillery Refill Sherry Cask (review)
- Hombo Shuzo: Komagatake 1991 28 Years Old Single Cask No.160
- Suntory Spirits: The Essence of Suntory Whisky Yamazaki Distillery Montilla Wine Cask (review)
- Suntory Spirits: The Essence of Suntory Whisky Yamazaki Distillery Spanish Oak (review)
- Suntory Spirits: Hakushu 18 Years Old
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu On The Way 2019 (review)
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt Chuchibu 2012 7 Years Old for Whisky Talk Fukuoka 2019
- Hombo Shuzo: Komagatake 2013 6 Years Old Single Cask No.1689
- Hombo Shuzo: Komagatake Tsunuki Aging 2019
- Hombo Shuzo: Mars Shinshu 2013 5 Years Old for Whisky Talk Fukuoka 2019
- Suntory Spirits: Yamazaki 12 Years Old
- Suntory Spirits: Yamazaki 18 Years Old
- Suntory Spirits: Hibiki 21 Years Old
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Limited Edition 2020
- Suntory Spirits: The Hakushu
- Hombo Shuzo: Komagatake Limited Edition 2019
- Hombo Shuzo: Mars Malt Le Papillon Yakushima-Ruri-Shijimi
- Eigashima Shuzo: Single Malt Eigashima Sherry Cask
- Suntory Spirits: The Yamazaki
- Suntory Spirits: Chita
- Suntory Spirits: Hibiki Blender’s Choice (review)
- Suntory Spirits: Hibiki Japanese Harmony
- Komasa Shuzo: Kanosuke New Born Limited Bottle by Kanosuke Distillery #2 Wine Cask Finish
- Wakatsuru Shuzo: Saburomaru New Born 2018 7 Months Toyama Mizunara Head
- Wakatsuru Shuzo: Saburomaru New Born 2019 5 Months New American White Oak Cask
- Wakatsuru Shuzo: Saburomaru New Pot 2019 (review)
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Distillery Single Cask No.5080
- Sasanokawa Shuzo: Yamazakura Asaka Distillery New Born Single Cask No.17189
- Sasanokawa Shuzo: Asaka The First
- Miyashita Sake Brewery: Okayama Triple Cask
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries
- Komasa Shuzo: Kanosuke New Born 2019 Matured 16 Months Bourbon Casks
- Komasa Shuzo: Kanosuke New Born Limited Bottle By Kanosuke Distillery
- Nagahama Roman Beer: Nagahama New Make 59° Heavily Peated
- Nagahama Roman Beer: Amahagan Edition No.2 Red Wine Wood Finish**
- Nagahama Roman Beer: Amahagan Edition No.3 Mizunara Wood Finish**
- Eigashima Shuzo: Blended Eigashima Sherry Cask Finish**
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve**
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt Wine Wood Reserve**
- Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery: Ichiro’s Malt & Grain World Blended Limited Edition**
- Sasanokawa Shuzo: Pure Malt Yamazakura Rum Cask Finish**
**denotes World Whiskies, or in TWSC lingo, “Japan-made Whisky”
- Sata Shoten: Akayane Craft Gin Bifu
- Kyoya Shuzo: Hinata (review)
- Takada Shuzojo: Jin Jin Gin
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Gin Hamagou 2019 (review of the 2018 edition)
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Gin Original (review)
- Kyoya Shuzo: Yuzugin
- Ishikawa Shuzojo: 2019 Navy Strength Craft Gin
- Hokkaido Liberty Whisky: 9148 #0210
- Hokkaido Liberty Whisky: 9148 #1922
- Sata Shoten: Akayane Gin Heart Haru
- Ishikawa Shuzojo: Ginger Craft Gin
- Chiyomusubi Shuzo: Impact
- Umegae Shuzo: Japanese Premium Craft Gin Yokitsuki
- Jinhichi Shoten: Jin7 Series 00
- Koganei Shuzo: The Japanese Craft Gin Koganei
- Takada Shuzojo: Kumamoto Jin Jin Gin
- HUGE: Number Eight Gin
- Tamura Shoten: Perfume Gin Chirankoucha Bartender’s Edition
- Suntory Spirits: Roku
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Gin Barrel Aged
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Gin Limited (review)
- Hombo Shuzo: Wa Bi Gin
- Hombo Shuzo: Wa Bi Gin Cognac Cask Finish
- Hokkaido Liberty Whisky: 9148 #4102
- Minakuchi Shuzo: Dogo Craft Gin
- Yomeishu Shuzo: Kanoshizuku
- Nakano BC: Kodachi
- Tamura Shoten: Perfume Gin Lemongrass Bartender’s Edition
- Miyashita Shuzo: Sakura Gin Syukou
- Chugoku Jozo: Sakurao Gin Hiroshima
- Meiri Shurui: Wa Gin
Rum, Vodka and Other spirits
- Alchemiae: Alchemiae Absinthe Innaki
- VINVIE: Shinshu Absinthe 2018 Barrel Aged
- Alchemiae: Tatsumi Distillery First Essence Green Absinthe
- Helios Shuzo: Teeda 21 Years Old
- Satsuma Shuzo: The Hinokami 30 Years Old
- Sanwa Shurui: Wapirits Tumugi (review)
- Sanwa Shurui: Wapirits Tumugi Buntan
- Sanwa Shurui: Wapirits Tumugi New Oak Cask Storage
- Tokyo Distillery Company: Rum Za
- Suntory Spirits: Haku
- Sata Shoten: Akayane Craft Spirits Oriental Cardamon
- Sata Shoten: Akayane Craft Spirits Sansho
My first impressions
- Where the heck are Nikka and Kirin? Did they not even enter any bottles this year? Unfortunately TWSC only discloses the winners, so we may never know.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Japanese gin is a category you need to be paying attention to. This year’s results are a testament to the great things happening in that space. Compared to 2019, there are so many new names and bottles in 2020!
- It’s great to see more recognition of up-and-coming distilleries like Kanosuke. In fact there’s a new category in TWSC dedicated entirely to Japanese New Make.
- Needless to say, several of these bottles have not been publicly announced or released yet. I’ll bring you more info when I get it!
This is only the first set of results — TWSC2020 has also added a division for shochu, Japan’s native spirit. Further down the road we’ll also see special award announcements and the “Best of the Best” winner crowned. Stay tuned!
Hi there! I created and run nomunication.jp. I’ve lived in Tokyo since 2008, and I am a certified Shochu Kikisake-shi/Shochu Sommelier (焼酎唎酒師), Cocktail Professor (カクテル検定１級), and I hold Whisky Kentei Levels 3 and JW (ウイスキー検定３級・JW級). I also sit on the Executive Committees for the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition and Japanese Whisky Day. Click here for more details about me and this site. Kampai!
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I wanted to connect with Japanese blenders who freelance. Would you know anyone in that field?
Look forward to hearing from you.
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