1) We assemble a group of AT LEAST 12 JURORS
so that individual preferences don't play too much of a role in the overall results;
2) We sample all entries in the competition 100% BLIND so that there is no 'label effect' or misplaced brand loyalty influencing the results;
3) We 'calculate' the medals and awards based on the AVERAGE SCORE , which is based on the individual scores of those 12 malt maniacs.
Those are really just the 'broad strokes' - but there is some 'fine print' as well.
For the benefit of our readers, our participants and the press we've collected everything there is to
know about the Malt Maniacs Awards on this page, although much of it can be found elsewhere too.
You'll find an explanation on all the details of the MM Awards in the following chapters;
Who are the Malt Maniacs? (some background information about our international collective)
What about the Malt Maniacs Awards? (an introduction to our grass roots whisky competition)
What are the rules for the competition? (the basic approach and logic to find each year's winners)
Are there costs involved in the competition? (do we charge competitors money to participate?)
What are the 'logistical' arrangements? (how to get the bottles to the dozen jurors on time?)
Which medals are available? (an overview of the glorious 'metal' praise that awaits the winners)
Which awards are available? (an overview of the glorious 'paper' praise that awaits the winners)
What were the results of previous competitions? (just to give you an idea of the competition)
Does 'the public' really care? (so, if we feel a whisky is recommendable - does anybody listen?)
Do you have press & promotion material? (high resolution graphics, quotes, etc. - coming soon)
Well, if you've browsed around a bit on the 'members' section of our website you'll probably already know most of this, but just in case...
The 'Malt Maniacs' are an international collective of hard core single malt whisky enthusiasts, ranging from accomplished experts like Charles MacLean, Dave Broom and Martine Nouet to relative beginners who have sampled 'only' a few hundred different whiskies so far. The 'interactive collective' gradually formed around the 'Malt Madness' website that was first published by Johannes van den Heuvel in 1995. Although from very different backgrounds (the team includes several writers and IT consultants but a bank manager and an advertising executive as well), all malt maniacs share a passion for single malt whisky and a willingness to share that passion with the rest of the world.
The composition of the team evolves over time, but in 2006 the team had members
from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France,
Italy, Israel, India and Taiwan. Over time our website has grown into one of leading
independent whisky websites in the world and more than 30,000 whisky fans visit
www.maltmaniacs.org at least once every month.
On the 'locals' page you can find an overview of all members of our group.
So, now you know who we are - how about those awards?
In a way, the Malt Maniacs Awards were inspired by a bottle of my dear old
grandmother's '4711' eau de Cologne. As a little kid I was fascinated by the shiny
medals on the label and that fascination has left its marks in my subconsciousness.
I never went as far as buying '4711' eau de Cologne myself, but in retrospect I think
I may have picked up quite a few bottles of whisky just because they had a bunch of
pretty medals on the label. For many years I just subconsciously assumed that a
collection of medals on the label meant that the whisky had to be good. As I grew
older, sadder and wiser I slowly learnt that this was not always the case...
When half a dozen malt maniacs were 'in retraite' in Scotland in 2003, one of our
whisky fuelled discussions ended up on the topic of medals on bottles - and the
organisations that hand them out. Unhappy with the results of some 'commercial'
drinks competitions, the malt maniacs launched their own 'grass roots' whisky
competition in 2003.
Since then, the Malt Maniacs Awards have established themselves as the major independent whisky competition. Our first try in 2003 already
was a success with dozens of participants supporting our initiative. In the end, 55 awards and medals were awarded to the single malts in
competition. The enthusiastic response from both 'the industry' and our readers inspired us to have a second competition in 2004 and this
time the results were even more encouraging; a total of 78 awards & medals were distributed among the submitted whiskies. Wonderful encouragement, so we decided to give it another go in 2005. The end result: well over 100 medal winners and 18 award winners. But that was only the beginning...
2006 was one for the record books;
25 awards, 15 gold medals and over
150 silver and bronze medals. Phew!
Although we all take the awards very
seriously, keep in mind that it's all still
'just a hobby' for most of us. Because
most jurors have busy day jobs, the
Malt Maniacs Awards 2007 samplings
took place mostly in the wee hours of
the evening - for weeks and in some
cases even months on end.
It's a testament to the commitment
of the jurors (or to the fact that they
should be committed ;-) that those
who had 'only' 4 or 5 weeks of 'dram
time' perceived that to be a problem.
But it's true - getting to the bottom
of a dram takes time, at least if you
don't want to miss some aspects of it.
Some maniacs want to give each entry
at least three tries before coming up
with a final score and if you consider
that we usually take at least half an
hour with a whisky you can imagine
that we didn't have much of a social
life during the last months 2006.
Fortunately, looking over the results, it was all worth it - we've never handed out so many gold medals as in 2006.
The harvest of pure gold wasn't quite as high in 2007, but since the composition of the jury changes each year it's not entirely possible to compare the results from different years. Each competition is a 'closed circuit' where a limited number of bottles compete.
So, how does one earn such a coveted gold medal? In other words...
The 2006 Awards were really a stretch, so we had to tweak the logistics and rules for the 2007 MM Awards.
Until now, the rules & regulations have been plain and simple, though. Keen observers may have noticed the word 'malt' in our name.
That means that we are united in our passion for single malt whisky. That doesn't make us 'fundamentalists', though; (single) grain whiskies and blended whiskies are welcome to join our competition as well. A beautiful Invergordon single grain whisky that was sneakily submitted by Duncan Taylor in 2004 convinced us that it would be shortsighted (even for a collective known as the MALT maniacs) to assume only single malt whiskies can be 'medal material'. Or Scotch whiskies for that matter - since 2006 the awards welcome whiskies from other countries and continents with open arms as well. Because we are all gentlemen (or like to think so at least), we never mention the 'losers' (or rather non -winners) on these pages. We don't think the competitors should be 'punished' for their bravery in joining such a stiff competition.
All that competitors have to do to participate is send us one bottle (70cl or 75cl) of each expression they want to submit for the competition. Each 'distillery' participant can submit up to a maximum of three bottles each year, each 'bottler' participant can send up to five bottles. The maniacs will take care of everything else; transferring the whisky into a dozen 'blind' sample bottles, distribution amongst the 12 members on the jury, sampling the whisky, publishing the results, etcetera.
One remark in general: At the Malt Maniacs Awards 2005 a few relatively affordable whiskies like the Laphroaig Quarter Cask managed to
earn high grades, proving that a whisky doesn't have to be very old or very expensive to do well in the awards. Although we love the fact
that some of our participants are highly competitive and the awards offer some members of the jury the chance to sample exquisite malts
they might otherwise never have tasted, we also want to feature the whiskies that our average reader can actually go out and buy.
That's why we introduced six 'daily dram ' awards in 2006 - something we expanded on in 2007 and 2008.
No - at least not for the participants in the competition. The malt maniacs pay the various expenses out of own pockets.
It all started off relatively modest but as the response from the industry grew, so have the costs for packing and shipping the sample bottles to a dozen (and sometimes even more) maniacs. Various customs organisations have turned into virtual nemeses as well, charging heavy duty on a few packages in 2006. (So, here's an IMPORTANT REQUEST for possible future participants of the awards: please mark your packaged 'Test Samples - no commercial value', 'NON COMMERCIAL SAMPLES' or something along those lines.)
By the way, on a related topic: We'd like to urge participants to pack their packages with great care. Especially in recent years several bottles were broken in transit, which is a real shame. By the time participants are informed that one or more bottles were broken it's often too late to
Fortunately, Serge Valentin lured his offspring into providing child labour in 2003 and 2004 to handle the filling and labeling of the hundreds of
samples. By 2005 those hundreds of samples had grown into thousands of samples and Serge's children had grown older and smarter - so
we had to find another solution for all the hard 'work' involved in filling, tagging and packing all the blind samples for the members of the jury. So, in 2005 we organised a Malt Maniacs Filling Party
in France where a group of maniacs assembled to take over the filling duties.
The 'volunteer work' at harvest time in France proved to be a lot of fun, so we didn't really feel it was 'work'.
Despite the volunteer work, there ARE costs involved in the competition - and those costs are growing...
That doesn't mean we charge participants to join in the competition, though...
Until now we've managed to come up with the costs ourselves, although I should admit that we've leaned heavily on Serge's and Olivier's generosity and some maniacs putting in serious overtime. Nevertheless, because this is a genuine competition, no money is involved.
We don't want to erect a 'threshold' for the smaller independent bottlers - their life is difficult enough as it is...
Until now we have managed to keep matters relatively simple.
Each year we send out invitations to everybody in 'the industry' that we know at distilleries,
bottlers and stores. We invite them to submit the bottles they want to and ship those to our
'Awards Head Quarters' in France early in September. Our deadline is usually MID SEPTEMBER.
Please note that we may have to change the logistical arrangements in the future.
Join the mailinglist or contact me if you want to stay informed about the developments.
Over the years I've received several questions about the 'samples' we sample - and how
we know they represent the actual product. Well, participants have to submit entire bottles
(minimum 70cl) before we divide them into 50cl or 60cl samples ourselves to ship around to
a dozen individual maniacs. We've made a few rare exceptions for very late bottlings in the
past (most of the bottling happens in September), but when we found one sample that didn't
match the actual product we had to withdraw it from the competition. That pised us off greatly.
I'll make sure that we will NOT to accept anything but the bottled product again in the future.
On another matter: until now we invited participants to submit any bottle they would like.
In the beginning that meant that some competitors submitted bottlings that didn't really stand a
chance of actually winning anything. These days most of the submitted bottles are selected with
care, proven by the fact that just a few dozen bottles didn't win at least a bronze medal in 2006
and 2007. We don't want to scare away our loyal participants by humiliating their bottles, so we
usually don't talk about the 'losers'.
We've also received quite some comments and questions about the large number of very old
and expensive whiskies that have won in recent years. Some people wondered why we selected
so many old whiskies they could never find and/or afford. Well, we don't SELECT anything. Each
year we just invite everybody in the industry (distilleries, bottlers, etc.) to submit the bottles they
would like to our competition. Some do join and some don't - and the choice is up to them.
So, we don't pretend that the results of the MM Awards offer a complete picture of the entire whisky market.
Unlike some other competitions, there is no 'entry fee' - but there are no 'chocolate medals' for simply entering the 'competition' either.
So, all of the 'selecting' is done by the participants who submit their bottles to our competition. And I guess that after analysing the results of the first few years some of them really wanted one or more gold medals badly, so 'they pulled out the big guns'...
And with results, I might add...
For the Malt Maniacs Awards, (at least) twelve certified malt maniacs from all over the world will sample the whiskies that were submitted,
usually over the course of 4 to 8 weeks. Each whisky is sampled and scored blind to make sure the taster is not influenced by any possible
bias towards brands, distilleries or bottlers. All whiskies will be rated on a 0-100 points scale by the jurors on the tasting panel. From all the
individual scores an average score is calculated, which determines if a submitted whisky earns a medal or not. All whiskies scoring 90 points or more will receive a gold medal, 85-99 points means silver
and 80-84 points means bronze. So, scoring just better than average (=75 points) isn't good enough to earn a Malt Maniacs Medal; we want our medals to really mean something.
So, here's the distinctly non-olympic meaning of the metal once again;
Gold Medal = 90 points or more (Truly sensational whisky - budget & liver permitting, you should try this at least once in your life.)
Silver Medal = 85 to 89 points (Highly Recommendable - use only to impress friends with impeccable noses and palates.)
Bronze Medal = 80 to 84 points (Recommendable - interesting and considerably better than just 'better than average'.)
And just to make sure that there are no misunderstandings, let's go over it once more...
Our gold medals are most definitely reserved for 'the best of the best
When one looks at the results of some other spirits 'competitions' one sometimes almost gets the feeling that the mere
fact that a candidate was submitted to a competition was enough to earn that candidate an award or medal of some kind.
Well, the malt maniacs don't play that way... We don't give out 'chocolate' medals and especially medals of the gold variety
are very rare. In the first three years of the MM Awards we only had to give out a grand total of 13 gold medals, but during
the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 the participants sent in some stunners and we had to hand out no less than 15 gold medals.
If you know that we've already had some 500 entries over the first four years, you'll see that a gold medal is a rare thing.
Silver may not be quite as rare as gold, but some silver medals are very 'thick' and incredibly close to gold.
Besides - even a wafer thin silver medal is still 'highly recommendable' in our book. And keep in mind that the tasting
procedure itself can be a fairly grueling experience. In 2005 some judges had to sample well over a hundred samples
(100% blind, I might add) in just 2 weeks! As a result, handful of the scores sometimes turn out quite 'extreme' compared
to the opinions of the other maniacs. To make sure that the end results properly reflect the opinion of the majority of the
maniacs the most extreme individual score is ignored for the calculation of the average score that determines the medal.
Effectively, this means that an entry with 2 votes for gold, 3 for silver and 5 for bronze still receives a bronze medal...
Which is nothing to be scoffed at, by the way... I've has to correct a few our readers that were under the impression
that a bronze medal was a 'consolation prize'. No it's NOT - and you would be surprised to learn which whiskies failed to
earn the score needed for a medal at the awards. I estimate that half of all whiskies released are better than average.
Just being 'above average' isn't enough to earn a bronze medal in the MM awards. I would even go as far as claiming
that a bronze medal in our awards equals a gold medal in some other competitions - but I won't mention any names.
All I'll say is: if we hand out a medal you can be certain that it's a whisky that we find (at least) recommendable.
Each candidate with an average score below 80 points didn't receive a medal.
I suppose we could have laughed and made fun about the entries that didn't win a medal, but there were very little avoidable or even mediocre whisky among the submissions in recent years. In fact, looking over the full list I wouldn't be surprised if some participants did take a long hard look at the matrix before they decided what to submit. And anyway, when we invited our participants to submit bottlings for the awards we didn't want to hurt their feelings so we promised them we wouldn't identify the losers. So, we won't - and I'll leave it at that.
(All I want to add is that there turned out to be no real 'losers' - just a wide and interesting variety of 'non-winners' ;-)
All medal winners are eligible to win one of the awards mentioned in the next paragraph.
We're reviewing this section of the page - but you can see all awards winners for a particular year on the annual pages.
Alternatively, you can also see all awards winners so far on the overview of all medal winners (2003-2006) in this site section.
So, now you're wondering what sort of whisky wins a medal or an award...
What a coincidence - that is precisely what I was planning to write about next.
The complete list of medal winners (2003-2006) provides an overview of all medal
winners since the start of our competition, but just like in a real sports competition,
the results in a particular year (partly) depend on the strength of the opposition.
If you want to know which whiskies turned out to be winners so far, check out;
All 2003 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
All 2004 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
All 2005 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
All 2006 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
All 2007 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
All 2008 Award winners & participants - Medals: Gold - Silver - Bronze
As you can see on those pages, the competition can be fierce, but we like to think
the rewards are worth it - even though those rewards are mostly virtual in nature.
We've been told that our certificates are highly sought after by distillers, bottlers
and liquorists to provoke fear and envy in the hearts of their competitors...
But does the public actually care about the results of the Malt Maniacs Awards?
Well, according to the number of messages in my inbox around the day that the results are published they certainly do!
In fact, when I write this particular paragraph (December 3, 2007) I still have to reply to a few hundred messages I received about the results of the MM Awards. I'll publish a selection here later, but for now I've just pulled one message from a relative beginner from the hat...
'What a fantastic site!
I am a newbie to the Single Malt Whisky experience and recently explored many, many websites on the subject -- yours is definitely the best!
I've been seriously drinking SMSW for about six months and now have a collection of 24 different whiskies. So far my favorites are Balvenie 21 Port Wood, Talisker 18, Arbeg Uigeadail, Highland Park 12 & 18, Lagavulin 16, Aberlour A'bunadh (batch # 16), Laphroaig 10 yo Cask Strength, Balvenie 12 Double Wood, and Macallan NAS Cask Strength. I have devoured your site (along with the Whiskyfun site) and the information has been tremendously helpful in making excellent choices on whisky purchases. I've read through several of your Liquid Logs, to my great joy!
Your write-ups on the Sherry Monster tastings inspired a whole series of purchases. The "Malt Maniac Monitor" is a great resource! Please find some extra time to complete the reconstruction of these sites in the near future. I made copies of the Malt Maniac's 2006 Winners and Awards and handed them out to several friends along with the web site info (I also gave it to the largest liquor store in downtown Houston, hoping they'll make some excellent decisions in the future.) By the way, Johannes, my 52 year-old nose really appreciates your recommendation of a large cognac -snifter, I now experience so much more from my "nosing" (I'm not as good as some of my friends, but definitely better). To think I visited Scotland three times over the past four years and never knew what I was missing. ... I hope to return in the near future and visit several of the distilleries.
Well, this is much longer than I originally intended. I guess I'm a little enthusiastic. But seriously, I really appreciate the tremendous effort and dedication you and the other MM's put into this wonderful web site. Please keep up the great work!
Bob Gardner, Texas, USA.'
Ah, it's always nice to receive fan mail - especially when people follow our sage advice;-)
I'll publish some more from the 'vox populi' here later...
Well... Not yet - but we will offer some more high resolution graphics, promotional material and quotes on this page soon.
Please drop me a line (see the address at the bottom of this page) if you need some logo's or pictures of the Malt Maniacs Awards.
Logos of all participating distilleries and brands (as well as links to their web sites) are included on the pages with the 'annual' results.
High resolution graphics of the various awards and medals are available for all the winners after the results have been published.
After being published on the Malt Maniacs website, the results of the competition (as well as 'outtakes') have appeared on several other web sites and in 'paper' publications. Also, in early December 2006 we were featured for well over 20 minutes on a recent podcast from Whiskycast - and I needed all that time of the interview to get through just the awards winners! An interview with juror Davin de Kergommeaux about the 2007 Awards was recently added. Here is a handful of the international web sites where the results of the Malt Maniacs Awards were mentioned or discussed:
I COULD go on for a while, but I suggest you just google 'malt maniacs awards' or 'malt maniacs awards 2007' if you want to find out how others feel about the Malt Maniacs Awards. Please drop me a line if you need graphics related to the MM Awards.
Phew... And I think that's really 'it'...
Please contact me if you have any other questions
Johannes van den Heuvel
Founder Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
And if I'm not mistaken, that pretty much covers all the basics of the Malt Maniacs Awards.
But then again I could (theoretically) be mistaken, so please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you
have any further questions; you can find my e-mail address at the very bottom of this webpage.
Otherwise, put that brain of yours to good use and learn more about the Malt Maniacs Awards...
Johannes van den Heuvel
Editor Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs
Since 2003 the malt maniacs have organised the MM Awards - possibly the world's
premier amateur whisky competition. For the first few years we tried to get ever
more participants and bottles into the Malt Maniacs Awards. However, when we
broke the 200 entries barrier at the 2006 edition of our whisky competition we
realised that this was about as far as our health & sanity would allow us to go.
We may be 'maniacs', but we're not completely funny in the head, you know...
If you've read the 'editorial comments' for various editions of our competition, you
probably already know about the harsh tasting conditions of our competition, but
we felt that it might be useful for readers and participants alike to have a clear
understanding of all the rules and regulations that apply;
Since (single malt) whisky is our passion, we would like to keep on dramming for
a few more years to come, but doctors tell us we'll still need our livers to process
our alcohol intake. One would imagine that in this modern day and age of artificial
cheese and smart phones, they would have invented an alternative by now... ;-)