My recent Thursday night took me to Guildhall in the city, where I was invited to the annual awards of the International Wine & Spirit competition.
As well as witnessing the winners to some of the most prestige awards in wine and spirits, the International wine & spirit competition teams allowed us to explore and sample over 300 award winning bottles in the market. All wine and spirits available to sample have all been given the mark of excellence by the IWSC.
This will always be a favourite to me, no matter what. Mortlach is one of the finest single malt scotch whiskeys around, blended in the whisky capitol of Dufftown. The bottle of the night was the great 18 year old single malt, rich with meaty notes and a malty sweetness.
One of the main reasons i enjoyed the sampling session, as this was a new discovery for me. The Balblair 1983 is a lip-smacking rich single malt Scotch whisky from the distillery in the Highlands. Matured in ex-bourbon barrels since 1983, its packs a real smooth sweetness, with a warming hint of oak.
You can’t sip a selection of whiskeys without adding American bourbon to the mix. Jim Bean has been given a couple of awards by the ISWC which are worth shouting about. The Jim Bean original has never been a favourite of mine in the past however; the bonded bottle is changing my opinion fast. With an ABV of 50 %(!), this is no Kentucky bourbon to me taken lightly.
Glenfiddich is a classic single malt scotch and now they bring to you, the 38 year old ultimate blend. The bottle itself is enough to get you attracted it, but the taste is a big point of difference. The 40% ABV brings you smooth taste, from a rich gold colour. Expect layers of vanilla, caramelised fruit and wood spiciness.
I had to save the best for last. I’ve always enjoyed a John Walker blends over the years, in a big way! From over hearing a conversation in the background, I immediately glided myself over to this precious liquid gold. King George V is a very special edition to the collection, using Johnnie Walkers rarest stocks. If someone got me this for Christmas the emotions I would exert, would be something worth documenting.
Celebrating its 46th year, the IWSC was the first competition of its kind and is now renowned for its rigorous seven month judging process which includes a double blind tasting and chemical analysis. Truly international in its reach, entrants are judged from all over the world by over 300 experts from 30 different countries.
Highlights of these years’ award winners included:
Marks & Spencer – Retailer of the Year Award and Wine Buyer of the Year Award
This year saw a double a scoop for Marks and Spencer who picked up both the coveted Retailer of the Year and Wine Buyer of the Year Awards. This is the first time the international, multi-channel retailer has been awarded the prestigious Retailer of the year Award, recognising its innovative approach to the BWS category. Their plan to lead the market in bringing excellent products from lesser-known regions to the high street is one of the initiatives that impressed an independent panel of judges.
Distell – Distiller of the Year Award
One of my personal favourites, Distell was awarded Distiller of The Year due to their fresh approach to the spirits category. From the launch of African icon, Amarula, to today’s offering which includes Three Ships Whisky, Deanston Scotch whisky and Van Ryn’s single pot still brandy and Viceroy brandy, the company have displayed innovation, versatility and real growth.
Gusbourne Estate – English Wine Producer of the Year Award
This year’s English Wine Producer of the Year Award goes to Kent’s Gusbourne Estate, having scooped two IWSC Gold medals and one Gold Outstanding makes them the only English winery to be awarded the IWSC’s highest accolade this year. Founded in 2004, the estate focuses on three traditional champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.