The winning spirits in the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) have been announced, revealing some of the key progressive spirits categories set to dominate for the year ahead.
The 11th annual event was held at London’s Vintners’ Hall and saw more than 200 of the competition’s top-awarded spirits showcased to guests of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, alongside leading industry experts, including David T Smith, Ivan Dixon, Olivier Ward.
While industry gurus have long been predicting an end to the gin bubble that’s dominated the spirits sector for the past five years, the enthusiasm for gin shows no signs of abating.
There are an estimated 3,500 gin brands and varieties in existence worldwide. This year’s competition received well over 600 gin entries – nearly a 50% uplift from last year’s 400. For the first year ever, gin entries have overtaken Scotch as a category. With Brits’ thirst for gin far from waning, experts predict that sales of the spirit could officially topple Scotch by 2020.
Alongside the increase in entries, the IWSC reveals a host of developments in the innovation and creativity within the category.
Following the introduction of the Signature Botanical category last year, this year’s competition featured an abundance of quirky and wonderful new styles; from wood-aged, cask-finished gins to adventurous new flavours such as saffron spices, matcha tea and lemongrass and sweeter infusions including chocolate and orange.
The growth of gin has come hand in hand with the emergence of sub-categories such as mixers, with discerning drinkers hunting for top-end tonics to match the quality of these premium gins.
With the staple pairing of gin with tonic still the most popular, the IWSC introduced the Gin & Tonic category in 2015, which this year saw a 42% increase in entries from last year. This category sees the judges assess which gin pairs best with Fever Tree premium Indian tonic.
The prestigious Gin & Tonic Trophy was awarded to Ginstr Stuttgart, a German gin which showcased its superior “cocktail compatibility” with one of the nation’s favourite tonic brands.
Gin entries may have overtaken Scotch in this year’s competition, however Irish whiskeys have enjoyed unprecedented success. The IWSC had a 56% increase in the entries of Irish whiskey this year compared to last, and not only has the industry been seeing an unprecedented boom in volume, but the quality of what is being produced has grown in tandem.
Irish whiskeys raked in 11 Gold and Gold Outstanding medals at the IWSC this year and the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy was awarded to Irish whiskey, Tullamore Dew 18 YO – the first time in nine years an Irish whiskey brand has won.
The rise of new liqueurs and aperitifs coming to the fore has seen classic spirits take a back seat in recent years. However, the UK is starting to renew its appreciation for old favourites, and the results of this year’s IWSC have indicated a huge increase in the quality of Armagnac in particular.
The category saw a staggering 425% increase from last year in top medals being awarded, with a 267% increase on Gold and Gold Outstanding medals alone. As a result of this success, the IWSC awarded its first ever Armagnac Trophy due to unprecedented success in the category.
Armagnac Trophy: Château du Tariquet Pur Folle Blanche 12 Years, Château du Tariquet SCV
Madeira Trophy: Justino’s Madeira Colheita Malvasia 1997, Justino’s Madeira Wines SA
Sherry Trophy: Matusalem Cream Vors, Gonzalez Byass UK Ltd
The Independence Trophy for Blended Scotch: 23 YO Glenalba Blended Scotch Whisky, Whyte & Mackay Ltd.
Tequila Trophy: El Tesoro Paradiso Extra Añejo Tequila
Prosecco DOC Trophy: Petrai Prosecco DOC – Extra Dry, Coste Petrai SRL
English Sparkling Wine Trophy: Marksman English Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs, Marks & Spencer’s plc
International Indigenous Grape Varieties Trophy: Terre del Grico Primitivo Salento Rosso IGP 201, Apollonio Casa Vinicola SRL
Cast Strength Scotch Whisky Trophy: Cask 3.305 – The Scents of Perfection, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Ltd
Bourbon Whisky Trophy: W L Weller 12-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Rum Trophy: Rivières VSOP Réserve Speciale
Worldwide Brandy Trophy: Torres 20, Miguel Torres SA
Rioja Trophy: Don Jacobo Gran Reserva 2004, Bodegas Corral SA, Trois Rvières
Vintage Champagne Trophy: Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002, Lanson International Diffusion
Liqueur Trophy: Birlou Eden, Pagès Vedrenne
Single Malt Scotch Whisky over 15 Years Trophy: The Balvenie Thirty Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Single Malt Scotch Whisky No Age Statement Trophy: Glenfiddich Finest Solera, William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd.
Worldwide Whiskey Trophy: Tullamore Dew 18 YO, William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd
Shochu Trophy – Shasharakuraku, Nishi Sake Brewing Co, Ltd
Contemporary Style Gin Trophy: KI NO BI Kyoto Dry Gin, K K Number One Drinks (The Kyoto Delivery)
NV Champagne Trophy: Champagne Palmer & Co Blanc De Noirs NV, Champagne Palmer & Co
Port Wine Trophy: Kopke Porto 40 Years Old Tawny, Sogevinus Fine Wines
Cava Trophy: MM Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 2013, The Haciendas – Company, Ltd
Fruits Spirits Trophy: Lörch Alter Mirabellenbrand, Bimmerle KG
Cognac Trophy: Richelieu XO Fine Champagne, Distell Limited
London Dry Gin Trophy: Scapegrace Gold, Rogue Society Distilling Co
Pomace Brandy Trophy: Grappa Glare Amarone, Distilleria Marzadro Spa
Vodka Trophy: Adnams Longshore Triple Malt Vodka, Adnams Copper House Distillery
Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 years and under Trophy: Ballantine’s Glentauchers 15 YO Single Malt Scotch, Chivas Brothers
Gin & Tonic Trophy: Ginstr – Stuttgart Dry Gin, Stuttgart Distillers GBR
Rum & Cola Trophy: Cabby’s Rum, Taxi Spirit Company
Rum & Ginger Beer trophy: J Gow Spiced Rum, VS Distillers Ltd
Vodka & Tonic Trophy: Gustav Dill Vodka, Lignell & Piispanen