The Judges

In a blind tasting, our expert panel of nine judges, including whisky writers, industry representatives and specialist retailers, selected two finalists from each Whisky Awards category.

Matt Chambers

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Matt Chambers is a whisky writer and blogger. He stumbled in to the world of whisky by accident almost a decade ago when accepting a part-time job at Royal Mile Whiskies. This inspired him to start a blog called Whisky For Everyone with his wife. In the last nine years, this has grown to become one of the leading and most influential whisky blogs in the world, with a strong social media presence and diverse worldwide readership.

As well as continuing with the blog, Matt also regularly writes about whisky and other spirits on The Huffington Post. He has written articles for Whisky Quarterly, The Spirits Business and Shortlist magazine, plus featured in The Guardian and The Sun newspapers as a whisky expert.

He has also consulted with a variety of single malt and blended Scotch brands and judged for various competitions including The Spirits Business Scotch Masters and the IWSC. He also regularly hosts tastings and whisky talks across the UK for a number of companies including The Whisky Lounge. Matt was inducted a member of The Keepers of the Quaich for his services to the Scotch whisky industry in April 2015 - one of the first bloggers to be honoured in this way.

Jim Coleman

20170131 Jim Coleman 004Jim has enjoyed Scotland's national drink for more years than he can count. Over the past fifteen years he has got very involved in all things Whisky. About ten years ago with his daughter Nicola, he started the Whisky Boys website whiskyboys.comwhere they both blog news, views & reviews. As a result of the website they were asked to attend some tastings at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and were eventually asked to become Society Whisky Ambassadors. This included tastings at the Society venues and external tastings throughout Scotland and running stands at numerous festivals throughout the country. The next invite from the Society was to join the elite group of Ambassadors on the Society's tasting panel. Jim has regularly been to many global launches of new expressions and has recently been inducted into the Aberlour A'Bunadh Collective. Although Jim is retired he still works 2 or3 days at The Society venue at The Vaults, Leith, Edinburgh where he is very involved in hosting.  You could say if it involves Whisky, Jim loves to be involved.  He feels it is a great industry and a great privilege to be so closely involved.

Penny Ellis

Penny Ellis PhotoPenny, a former Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Director, jointly owns and runs Knockomie Hotel in Forres.  With over 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Penny has also worked with J&B Rare Whisky and Cutty Sark Scots Whisky, looking after and managing the companies' corporate guests.  Penny developed a keen interest in whisky through her hotel located near the Western gateway to the Speyside Whisky Trail.

Penny has written many articles about whisky and used to write a regular Whisky Column for the Scots Magazine.  She has written a book titled Distinguished Distilleries and regularly hosts whisky tastings at the hotel and other locations.

Lyndsey Gray

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Lyndsey started her love for whisky when she started as a tour guide at Glenfiddich Distillery back in 2006.  After graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, she took the decision to build a career within the whisky industry and has worked for both Chivas Brothers and The Scotch Whisky Experience.  She became the manager of the world famous Quaich Bar at The Craigellachie Hotel in 2014 where she has been given the opportunity to create bespoke tastings, events and whisky cocktails in an environment that allows her to challenge people’s opinions towards whisky and create accessibility to the spirit.  The Quaich Bar was in the final for Whisky Bar of the Year 2015 with SLTN and Lyndsey has recently been a judge in the World Whisky Awards and was one of 25 bartenders in the UK in William Grants & Sons  first bartending “1887 Collective”.

Mike Lord

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Mike Lord is genuinely passionate about whisky. He has always loved whisky but it was a visit to Speyside for Hogmanay that created his real passion for single malt and the Speyside region. Mike gave up his career in the City to pursue his love of whisky full time and in 2006 he bought The Whisky Shop Dufftown and has made it a world renowned business. In 2016 he won Whisky Magazine’s Icon of Whisky Award for Best Whisky Shop in Scotland (single outlet) for the second time. 

The Whisky Shop Dufftown is one of the largest providers of events to the festival.  The shop also runs its own festival over the last weekend in September.

Like his shop, Mike is truly independent. He loves to bring out the fun and excitement of sampling whisky from the first to the last drop. A visit to Mike’s shop will show you the vast range of whiskies that are available from Scotland and the amazing variety of flavours that whiskies have. The shop hosts whisky tastings to help you on a tailor-made journey to explore the world of single malts. Mike will also answer any questions that you have from the perspective of an independent whisky ambassador running a small shop with a global reputation.

Annabel Meikle

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Annabel has worked in the whisky industry since 2001, organising events and tastings with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. She was instrumental in opening new venue at 28 Queen Street in Edinburgh, in 2004. There she continued to grow the corporate membership. 

In 2007 she was appointed as the global brand ambassador for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg and she travelled extensively, evangelizing about both brands. Annabel has delighted audiences all over the world with her knowledge and passion for Scotch Whisky.

In 2013, she established her own consultancy, the Whisky Belle, working with a variety of clients, including some of the newly built distilleries. She was a regular contributor to Radio Scotland and was contributing editor on two publications. Annabel continued to educate and entertain during her imaginative tastings and she is well respected for her sensory evaluation and tasting notes.

Annabel has been in the role of Director of the Keepers of the Quaich since May 2015, when she relocated the office north of the Border. The Keepers of the Quaich recognises the outstanding contribution to those who work in the industry. Her role is to organise the two ceremony and banquets each year where new members are inducted into the society at Blair Castle. She has successfully brought the society up to date with the energy and enthusiasm she brings to her work, driven by her passion and commitment to Scotch Whisky.

Sean Murphy

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Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean Murphy has written extensively on the subject for The Scotsman, which he joined in 2015.

Working as part of the team behind the Scotsman Food and Drink he has helped to run the online blog for the past few years, where he has written articles and reviews, as well as hosting regular live tastings for whisky, beer and gin, featuring some of Scotland's most popular brands. 

A fan of whisky in all of its forms, Sean specialises in Scottish single malts, though he also enjoys everything from single grains and blended malts, to whiskies produced in other countries, particularly those hailing from Japan. 

Before becoming a journalist, he could be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill pub in Glasgow where he learned his trade and still does the occasional guest shift where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

Martine Nouet

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French born, Martine Nouet, is an author and journalist who writes exclusively about food and spirits. Her love of Scottish Malt Whiskies brought her to the Isle of Islay on the west coast of Scotland and she has now made Islay her home. Martine currently works both in France and in the UK as well as travelling the world to invitation whisky events. She is a regular contributor to She launched Whisky Magazine French edition in 2004 and was the editor for six years before deciding to concentrate on writing and cooking. She has pioneered a new trend in the world of whisky, the sensory idea of pairing whiskies with a suitable food counterpart.

Martine was made a Master of The Quaich in April 2012, an honorific distinction awarded to very few by the whisky industry. She has also taken part in TV programmes on whisky e.g. as whisky chef on “Singlemalt TV” and with French Canadian film-maker Bruno Carrière in his fourteen part series “Passion Whisky” for Evasion Channel. She has been a judge at the annual international Wine & Spirit Competition since 2000.

In September 2015, she authored "Le guide Hachette des whiskies" for which she was awarded "Le Grand prix du Livre Spirits 2015".

Keir Sword

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Keir Sword’s introduction to the whisky industry was as a student back in 1993 when he got a summer job in Royal Mile Whiskies. He was immediately hooked and worked on and off in the shop throughout his university days, as well as in Oddbins and in Peckhams. He considers himself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, when the opportunity to buy Royal Mile Whiskies came up in 1997. In the twenty years since, the business has grown to include The Cigar Box, a London branch of RMW, the multi-award-winning, as well as Drinkmonger shops in Pitlochry and Edinburgh and The shops have built up a strong reputation for their huge range and their friendly and very knowledgable staff.

Keir, a Master of the Quaich, has sat on various whisky judging panels including a previous stint for The Speyside Whisky Festival Awards. He works out of the company’s Edinburgh base where he commutes daily from his home in the Scottish Borders.

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