December 3 2015  |  Spirits & Tobacco

South Africa's Distell crowned world's best distiller in London and wins big in New York

By Wendy Morley

Andy Watts, Master Distiller, who was shortlisted last year and again this year for the title of Distillery Manager/Master Distiller of the year by Icons of Whisky, received the IWSC Best Worldwide Whisky trophy at the gala dinner.

Distell has been judged the International Wine & Spirit Competition's (IWSC) Distiller of the Year for 2015. The prestigious industry title for top quality was announced to an international audience of some of the world's foremost spirits producers and spirits specialists at a gala dinner in London.

This is the second time the Stellenbosch-based Distell has triumphed against famous-name whisky, whiskey and cognac producers across Europe, North America and Asia. The previous time was in 2007.

Distell's Primary Production Director Johan Venter said: "We are enormously proud of these achievements and the confidence they convey in the intrinsic quality of our products.”

What clinched it this year were two category trophies, five gold outstanding and 11 gold medals. The company took the Best Worldwide Brandy trophy for the Van Ryn's 12 Year Old potstill made using the traditional technique of Cognac, while the Best Worldwide Whisky trophy was awarded to the Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old. 

The coup comes hot on the heels of three significant wins at the New York International Spirits Competition, where the company's Van Ryn's Distillery was crowned Brandy Producer of the Year, and the James Sedgwick Distillery, the Best International Whisky Distillery of the Year. Distell also won the title of South African Distiller of the Year and bagged five gold medals. The New York International Spirits Competition, part of the International Beverage Competitions Group, drew entries from 35 countries.

The Best Worldwide Whisky trophy was awarded to the Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old

Commenting on the wins, Distell's primary production director Johan Venter said: "We are enormously proud of these achievements and the confidence they convey in the intrinsic quality of our products. It's a great mark of affirmation to attain the IWSC distinction in what is essentially a peer-reviewed competition and it speaks to the extensive expertise and teamwork behind our brands. Similarly, in New York, the panel is drawn from top industry, hospitality and retail expertise. However, we see these as more than gains for Distell. They represent gains for the entire South African spirits industry."

Van Ryn's is South Africa's most decorated name in specialty brandy.  This is the sixth time the luxury distillery, along the banks of the Eerste River near Stellenbosch, has won the IWSC Worldwide Best Brandy trophy and it continues to excel in other competitions around the world too. This is the second time, for example, it has brought home the Brandy Producer of the Year award in New York. The IWSC trophy was accepted on behalf of the company by Brink Liebenberg, head of the company's South African spirits production and himself a master distiller.

The company took the Best Worldwide Brandy trophy for the Van Ryn's 12 Year Old potstill made using the traditional technique of Cogna

Three Ships is made at Distell's James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington. The brand caused a stir when its Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old bagged the 2012 World Whisky Awards title for Best Blended Whisky in the World.  Andy Watts, Master Distiller, who was shortlisted last year and again this year for the title of Distillery Manager/Master Distiller of the year by Icons of Whisky, received the IWSC Best Worldwide Whisky trophy at the gala dinner.

One of the most important global spirits competitions, the IWSC's credibility lies in the fact that all submissions are assessed blind, with the expert panels unaware of what they are tasting except by category. To achieve a gold medal, entries have to earn a score of at least 90 points out of 100 and be considered standard-setters. Gold outstanding medals are given at the discretion of the judges to the best amongst these. Gold and gold outstanding scorers are then tasted during a second round to identify the trophy winners.

Last year's IWSC Distiller of the Year title went to the Sazerac Company of Louisiana in the US and in 2013, to William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd of Scotland.

Distell's 2015 IWSCGold Outstanding medals were awarded to:

South Africa

Van Ryn's 12 Year Old pot-still brandy  (trophy winner)

Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt whisky (trophy winner)

Oude Meester Souverein 18 Year Old pot-still brandy

Richelieu 10 Year Old Vintage brandy

Scotland

Scottish Leader 12 Year Old blended whisky

 

Gold medals went to:

South Africa

Richelieu brandy

Klipdrift Gold pot-still brandy

Oude Meester Reserve 12 Year Old pot-still brandy

Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old blended whisky

Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky

Amarula Cream liqueur

Amarula Gold spirit aperitif

Mainstay Island Fusion (hazelnut flavour) flavoured vodka

Scotland

Ledaig Single Malt 42 Year Old

Deanston Single Malt 12 Year Old

France

Bisquit XO Cognac

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