Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 – the winners

10 Comments on Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 – the winners

With its usual lack of fanfare (followed by a lot of internet-based raging), the latest edition of ‘The World’s Leading Whisky Guide’ has landed – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020.

It’s a big year for Jim. It’s 2020 and matching up (just in time), he has hit a milestone – breaking the 20,000 mark of total whiskies tasted since the first edition appeared in 2003. Whether you agree with his scores and favourites or not, you have to agree that he’s tried a lot of whisky.

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2020

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 – my favourite cover yet

Print copies of the Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 will be arriving imminently, but in the meantime, let’s get on to the thing that everyone wants to know: who are the big winners this year.

The Winners

Jim Murray’s 2020 World Whisky of the Year

1792 Bourbon Full Proof

1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Second Finest Whisky in the World

William Larue Weller 2018 Release

William Larue Weller 125.7 Proof – 2018 Release

Third Finest Whisky in the World

Thomas H Handy 2018 Release

Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 128.8 Proof – 2018 Release

Single Cask of the Year

Nantou Omar Cask Strength Bourbon Cask #11140804


Despite the expected presence of some of last year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection in the line-up, this is still an interesting selection.

1792 is far from the biggest name in American whiskey, but the last decade has seen the distillery that makes it – Barton – develop and become a much better-known player. The fact that it was bought by Sazerac – owners of Buffalo Trace – in 2009, giving them the backing they needed to grow, will no doubt set conspiracy theories running across the internet.

Much more interesting to me is the single cask of the year – a whisky from Taiwan’s second distillery, Nantou. While Kavalan has been paving the way around the world for whisky from Taiwan, the state-owned Nantou distillery has been quietly impressing whisky fans. Its whisky is hard to get, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change any time soon – Nantou is a small operation which can’t distil all year round due to the heat and humidity during spring and summer.

The Omar rangebourbon- and sherry-cask single malts – are well-balanced and tasty whiskies, but it’s the single casks where the distillery really shines. Hopefully, this nod from Jim will lead to more of them making their way to the UK.

The Winners 2020

The winners list is much more than just the top four. The bible covers whisky from across the world and Jim sometimes uncovers a hidden gem, as well as reaffirming his (and, in a lot of cases, our) favourites.

You can find all the winners we have in stock on our Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2019 page.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky of the Year
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask)
The Macphail 1949 China Special Edition 1

Scotch Blend of the Year
Ballantine’s 17 Years Old

Scotch Grain of the Year
The Last Drop Dumbarton 1977

Scotch Vatted Malt of the Year
Glen Castle Blended Malt 1990

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

No Age Statement
Glen Grant Rothes Chronicles Cask Haven

10 Years & Under (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 10 Years

10 Years & Under (Single Cask)
Annandale Man O’ Sword

11-15 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 15 Years Batch Strength

11-15 Years (Single Cask)
Signatory Vintage Edradour Ballechin 12 Year Old

16-21 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glen Grant Aged 18 Years Rare Edition

16-21 Years (Single Cask)
Whisky Castle Glen Spey Aged 21 Years

22-27 Years (Multiple Casks)
Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1996

22-27 Years (Single Cask)
The Whisky Shop Glendronach Aged 26 Years

28-34 Years (Multiple Casks)
Ben Nevis 32 Years Old 1966

28-34 Years (Single Cask)
Gordon & MacPhail Inverleven 1985

35-40 Years (Multiple Casks)
Port Ellen 39 Years Old

35-40 Years (Single Cask)
Glenfarclas The Family Casks 1978 W18

41 Years & Over (Multiple Casks)
Glen Scotia 45 Year Old

41 Years & Over (Single Cask)
The Macphail 1949 China Special Edition 1

Blended Scotch Whisky

No Age Statement (Standard)
Ballantine’s Finest

No Age Statement (Premium)
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare

5-12 Years
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years Old

13-18 Years
Ballantine’s 17 Years Old

19 – 25 Years
Dewar’s Aged 25 Years The Signature

26 – 50 Years
The Last Drop 56 Year Old Blend

Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 12 Years Cask Strength

Irish Pot Still Whiskey of the Year
Redbreast Aged 12 Years Cask Strength

Irish Single Malt of the Year
Bushmills Aged 21 Years

Irish Blend of the Year

Irish Single Cask of the Year
Kinahan’s Special Release Project 11 Year Old

American Whiskey

Bourbon of the Year
1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Rye of the Year
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 128.8 Proof

US Micro Whisky of the Year
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea

US Micro Whisky of the Year (Runner Up)
291 Barrel Proof Colorado Whiskey Aged 2 Years


No Age Statement (Multiple Barrels)
1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon

No Age Statement (Single Barrel)
Colonel E H Taylor Single Barrel Bottled In Bond

9 Years and Under
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

10-12 Years
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Aged 12 Years

11-15 Years
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Years Old

16-20 Years
Michter’s 20 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon

21 Years and Over
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Years Old


No Age Statement
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 128.8 Proof

Up to 10 Years
Knob Creek Cask Strength

11-15 Years
Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Years Old

Over 15 Years
Sazerac 18 Years Old

Single Cask
Knob Creek Single Barrel Select

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Whisky of the Year
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Japanese Whisky

Japanese Whisky of the Year
Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt

Single Malt of the Year (MB)
The Matsui Mizunara Cask

European Whisky

European Whisky of the Year (Multiple)
Thy Whisky No. 9 Bøg Single Malt (Denmark)

European Whisky of the Year (Single)
Penderyn Single Cask no. M75-32 (Wales)

World Whisky

Asian Whisky of the Year
Nantou Distillery Omar Bourbon Cask #11140804 (Taiwan)

Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year
Bakery Hill Peated Malt Cask Strength (Australia)

Posted in Books, Irish Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, North American Whisk(e)y, Scotch Whisky, Whisky News, World Whisky
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David Stewart says:

Let’s not forget this is 1 man and his opinion. Yes, those bottles are suddenly selling for lots more cash. Doesn’t mean the world voted for the best dram in the world.

Mark Milsom says:

Can I play devil’s advocate here…. Political games seem to be afoot… recent tax levies placed by the Trump government on Scotch whisky exports means “trouble” ahead…. so one of the MOST influential whisky critics in the world gives the American “stuff” the big UP !!…. Maybe hoping imports will surge and so the export duty will be axed by the Yanks ???…. Maybe I just getting cynical from too many drams after my birthday last Thursday !!

Billy says:

I think you’re seeing things that aren’t there – the book was completed way before the current round of tariffs and continues a pattern of liking US whiskies that has been going on for most of the life of The Bible. It’s definitely a good conspiracy theory, but like with most conspiracy theories, I suspect the people involved aren’t quite organised enough to have done things that they’re accused of 🙂

vincent ford says:

Jimmy’s gone senile. Taketsuru NAS for the best japanese? FOH!!!

[…] whisky business, where Jim Murray just (controversially) named their "The Matsui Mizunara Cask" the best Japanese single malt of the year in his 2020 Whisky […]

[…] at SFWSC earlier this year, Matsui Shuzo can now add another accolade: The Matsui Mizunara Cask was recently named the best single malt Japanese whisky of the year in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible […]

Stuart says:

Definitely think the win by the notorious Matsui Shuzo (infamous for its Kurayoshi brand of imported Scotch passed off as Japanese whisky) is very suspicious. If it really is distilled by them in Japan, the it’s new make that is aged 3 years at most, by a sake and shochu brewery eager to cash in on the Japanese whisky boom and stock shortage at the big players Suntory and Nikka. They aren’t open about using Scotch fillings so have no business passing their Kurayoshi brand off as Japanese. They may actually be distilling in Kurayoshi now for The Matsuo, so would like some independent reviews of The Matsui for greater insight.

Billy says:

Jim’s not commenting on the origin of the whisky or anything around its labelling – he’s just saying what he reckons is the best whisky in the category that it is stated to be. The Matsui is, by Japanese law (currently…), a Japanese whisky – I suspect it’s a mizunara-finished Scottish whisky, and it looks like they’ve chosen a good cask. I very much doubt that Jim Murray has been consulting for Matsui Shuzo, so his review is almost certainly independent by most definitions of the term. I’ve not tried it, but I hope it is as good as Jim suggests, no matter where it actually comes from.

Stuart says:

Yes, in the end it should be judged on its own merits, but I think transparency is equally important, and as always Chichibu leads the way there – it labels its Malt & Grain as a World Whisky, and that way customers know what they are getting. Would love to try the Malt & Grain Japanese Whisky Limited Edition, but that will never be affordable without selling several organs…

Billy says:

There are definitely moves in progress within the Japanese whisky industry to strengthen the laws to make things more transparent. The push is coming from within the industry and feels like it’s mostly focused on foreign sales, as the everyday Japanese consumer (mostly drinking highballs and blended Japanese whiskies that mostly don’t leave the country) doesn’t seem to really care very much – this has only really become a thing since the popularity of Japanese whisky overseas has become more of an issue. I am investigating and have an article bubbling away in the back of my brain – more research required…

As for Chichibu and Ichiro Akuto – they have been at the forefront of this since the early days, and are key players in pushing for more regulation. When it comes to the Malt & Grain Limited: I was at the distillery earlier this year, and they didn’t even have any there to try – they had one bottle of last year’s, but it was on display, surrounded by its awards 🙂

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