IWSC reveals drinking trends alongside winners of spirits competition

Corte Vetusto mezcal

The IWSC has revealed what it sees as the key trends in spirits drinking after announcing the winners of this year’s spirits competition.

Not only has this year’s competition confirmed a number of key consumer trends, it has also heralded the arrival of a multitude of lesser-known but bold newcomers to the spirits premier league.

This year’s IWSC results have debunked the long-standing myth of “the older the better”, with a range of whiskies with no age statements taking the sector by storm. Turning the focus to the cask wood and the art of the blend, rather than the prestige tied up in age, the trophy this year was awarded to Richard Paterson’s The Dalmore Valour Single Highland Malt – a rich, chocolatey elixir with warm orange and cinnamon aromas.

Possibly the greatest success story to have come out of this year’s awards is the rise of mezcal. For the first time ever, this year saw IWSC’s Tequila Trophy being renamed the Mezcal Trophy to cover all agave spirits from Mexico. The top prize was awarded to the Corte Vetusto Mezcal Espadin, hand-crafted by fourth-generation master mezcalero Juan Carlos Gonzalez Diaz.

The IWSC predicts that leading producers within this category are set to challenge consumers’ perceptions of agave spirits, positioning them as a genuine sipping alternative to single malt whisky. David Shepherd, co-founder and director at Black Sheep Spirits, said: “Mezcal is niche – it’s about 2% of tequila sales – but it’s coming out of the darkness. It’s made that transition from bartender’s secret to being requested by consumers.”

This year, the IWSC received nearly 400 gin entries from 35 different countries – an enormous 571% increase since 2013 – with no sign that consumer interest is yet to wane. Ableforth’s Bathtub Navy Strength Gin, which won the Contemporary Gin Trophy, packs a botanical punch thanks to the “bashing up” of the ingredients, including orange peel and cinnamon, to release even more flavour.

Ableforth’s Bathtub Navy Strength Gin was one of two wins for Atom Brands which also picked up the London Dry Gin Trophy for That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Swedish Rose Gin, which is distilled by Hernö in Sweden. Ben Ellefsen, Atom Brands’ sales and new product development director, said: “We’ve long been confident that Ableforth’s produces some of the very best liquids in the world, and the recognition of our very first Boutique-y Gin collaboration with the fantastic Hernö distillery goes to show the power of unleashing distillers’ creativities through the world’s first independent gin bottler.”

After the rise of Japanese whiskies, IWSC highlights that Asian spirits are thriving and making in-roads in the west, from India’s feni to China’s baijiu. Testament to consumers’ enthusiasm to explore new offerings – both in flavour and in provenance – recent years have seen baijiu, made from the fermented grain sorghum, expand beyond its heartland. With an increasing number of baijius being entered each year, IWSC officials introduced a baijiu trophy which this year was won by the Yushan Taiwan Kaoliang Liquor – thought by the judges to have soft lavender and pine needles on the nose, followed by a delicate palate that has a touch of baked bamboo and Chinese pickle.

Other spirits trophy winners included Purity Vodka 51 Limited Reserve, Mozart Chocolate Cream, The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask Single Malt, Glenglassaugh Highland Scotch Whisky 40 Year Old, Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old Single Malt and Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt. See below for the full list of trophy winners.

The overall White Spirits packaging trophy went to Brighton Gin which is labelled and wax-sealed by hand, with packaging of a distinctive blue colour inspired by Brighton’s seafront railings and a logo reflecting the lights of Brighton Pier. The Contemporary Trophy went to Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, the Italian spirit that won the title of the world’s best new spirit or cocktail ingredient at the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail on Saturday.

Product Awards

  • Vodka Trophy – Purity Vodka 51 Limited Reserve, Purity Vodka AB
  • London Dry Gin Trophy – Swedish Rose Gin – Hernö that boutique-y Gin Company, Atom Brands
  • Contemporary Gin Trophy – Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin Navy Strength, Atom Brands
  • Fruit Spirits Trophy – Lörch Hocharomatischer Waldhimbeergeist, Bimmerle KG
  • Pomace Brandy Trophy – Grappa Le Giare Gewürztraminer, Distilleria Marzadro
  • Baijiu Trophy – Chinese Spirits Baijiu Yushan Tawiwan Kaoliang Liquor Aged 5 years, AOW
  • Shochu Trophy – Shasharakuraku Aka, Nishi Sake Brewing Co.
  • Mezcal Trophy – Corte Vetusto Mezcal Espadin, Corte Vetusto
  • Cognac Trophy – Cognac Roullet VSOP Grande Champagne, SAS Maison de Negoce Charentaise
  • Rum Trophy – Rhum Agricole Vieux Neisson 12 ans d’âge, Distillerie Neisson
  • Bourbon Trophy – Big House Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Sazerac Company
  • Liqueur Trophy – Mozart Chocolate Cream, Schlumberger Wein-und Sektkellerei GMBH
  • Worldwide Brandy Trophy – KWV 15 Potstill Brandy, KWV
  • Blended Scotch Whisky Trophy – Syndicate 58/6 12 YO Blended Scotch Whisky, Syndicate 58/6 Ltd
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky no age statement Trophy – Dalmore Valour Single Highland Malt, Whyte & Mackay Ltd
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 years and under Trophy – The Balvenie 14YO Caribbean Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky, William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky over 15 years Trophy – Glenglassaugh Highland Scotch Whisky 40YO, The BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky Cask Strength Trophy – Bunnahabhain 18YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Distell
  • Worldwide Whiskey Trophy – Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky, Kavalan Distillery
  • Aquavit Trophy – Gylden Akvavit, Pabst & Richarz Vertriebs GmbH

Mixer Awards

  • Gin & Tonic Trophy – Spritfabrikens “G” Gin, Skånska Spritfabriken
  • Rum & Ginger Beer Trophy – Worlds End Rum Dark Spiced, 2240 Social Club
  • Vodka & Tonic Trophy – Gustav Dill Vodka, Lignell & Piispanen
  • Rum & Cola Trophy – Rom Rincon, Cadushy Distillery

Packaging Awards

  • White Spirits Trophy – Brighton Gin, Brighton Gin Spirits Company Ltd
  • Brown Spirits Trophy – (Joint winners) Glenfiddich Project XX Single Malt Scotch Whisky / Glenfiddich IPA Experiement Single Malt Scotch Whisky, William Grant & Sons
  • Contemporary Trophy – Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Italicus Ltd
  • Traditional Trophy – (Joint winners) Cap Mattei Grande Réserve Quinquina Rouge 2015 / Cap Mattei Blanc 2015, La Distillerie
  • WoW Trophy – Padró & Co. Rojo Amargo Light Box, Unión Vegas SL
  • Storytelling Trophy – Ableforth’s Bathtub Cut Gin, Atom Brands

For a full list of winners of the gold, silver and bronze awards, visit https://www.iwsc.net/.

Previous Expanding Arc Inspirations appoints MD as sales and earnings grow
Next Competition returns to challenge chefs to create London's tastiest sliders