Supermarket Scotch tops the big boys

The International Wine and Spirit Competition is a well-regarded event, so any prizes won in it are legitimately something to celebrate.

Why? Here's what its officials say about the IWSC:

"The International Wine and Spirit Competition is the premier competition of its kind in the world. Its aim is to promote the quality and excellence of the world's best wines, spirits and liqueurs.

"All our wines, spirits and liqueurs are blind tasted in groups divided by variety, region and vintage as necessary. Awards are made on a points system and sponsored trophies are presented in selected categories. Technical analysis is carried out on Gold, Gold (Best in Class), Silver (Best in Class) award winning wines, spirits and liqueurs to ensure that all products are technically sound and will be of the same high quality when they reach the consumer as they were when our judging panels originally tasted them."

So, the UK's Tesco supermarket chain is crowing about its own label single malt whisky beating several branded whiskies in the blind tasting to take an international title -- the Anglo Overseas Trophy for best single malt whisky up to 15 years old.

Tesco's Highland Single Malt 12-Year-Old, which sells for £15.58 ($30 US) did better than such up-market names as Glenmorangie, Laphroaig and Glenkinchie. It was produced by Whyte & Mackay, which is owned by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya.

"This award will come as a real shock to the centuries-old whisky industry which is not noted for its keen appreciation of supermarket varieties," said Simon Dunn, Tesco senior buyer. "To beat world renowned whiskies such as Laphroaig and Glenmorangie is some achievement and will hopefully help encourage all malt lovers to try it."

Sainsbury's, another supermarket chain, also won a gold medal for its own label 10-year-old Islay malt.

Tesco is not widely admired in the Scotch whisky industry. Back in 2000, it announced plans to re-import whisky that had already been exported from Scotland, claiming the industry was "ripping off customers" and saying it would be cheaper tyo buy the exported whisky and import it back to the UK. It said it was doing so in an effort to force distillers to offer better prices for the whiskies offered at Tesco's stores.

At that time, the whisky industry said Tesco's would accomplish more by lobbying the government to lower the duty on spirits.

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