On September 16th, the Matsui Distillery received notification that the 18th edition of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible had named its single malt whisky Matsui Mizunara Single Cask Number 318 Best Japanese Single Cask of the Year.

This is no small praise. According to its own website, the Whisky Bible is “the most comprehensive, internationally influential, and thoroughly researched guide to all the world’s whiskies. In terms of whisky, this is the gospel.”

The magazine’s editor, Jim Murray, is a leading player on the whisky world stage. It is now over 25 years since he became the world’s first-ever full-time whisky writer and he is reputed to have visited more whisky distilleries than anyone in the world.

For the 2021 issue, Murray personally tasted and reviewed more than 4,500 whiskies from more than 30 countries. Here’s what he had to say about Matsui’s Mizunara Single Cask Number 318: “A nose to melt a thousand hearts… So soft… has the magical ability to allow both the oak and the malt itself to express themselves individually and then together.”

In his email notifying Matsui of the award, Murray went on to call Single Cask Number 318 “the most Japanese of Japanese malts with its own unique signature.”

He also said that it was, “The most complex whisky I have sampled this year so far (and this is number 1,058 - and took me over 90 minutes to nose and taste!). He said it was “a definite contender for World Whisky of the Year.”

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible’s World Whisky of the Year awards is probably the world’s most prestigious international whisky competition. Every year, the spirits industry pays careful attention to Murray’s reviews – or perhaps commandments would be a more apposite term.

The trade is paying attention to Jim Murray this year too – but not for the usual reasons. Murray has recently found himself in the eye of a Twitter storm, after fellow whisky writer Becky Paskin accused him of sexism. It turns out that Murray is something of a Swiss Tony, the fictional character who compared everything he liked to “making love to a beautiful woman” in British TV hit "The Fast Show."

Jim Murray’s tasting notes might have garnered plaudits from some, but plenty of whisky drinkers find his endless talk of ‘sexy’ and ‘enticing’ whiskies tiresome, and Becky Paskin found them downright offensive. She called Murray out for his sexism, prompting the whisky trade to have a #MeToo moment of its own.

Matsui is a small distillery in Kurayoshi, a small town in Tottori prefecture on the Sea of Japan. Mizunara Single Cask is a single malt whiskey aged in an oak barrel. Just one barrel has been produced. To celebrate winning the award, Matsui plans to release a small number of bottles. Details will be announced later through their official website at a later date, but it is sure to be quickly snaffled up by sharp-eyed whiskey connoisseurs.

For more details, see the Matsui Whiskey website.

By - George Lloyd.