International Spirits Challenge 2014

Rewarding quality, celebrating excellence

Marks and Spencer's was delighted to be involved with the International Spirits Challenge this year. To have our products endorsed by this recognised competition reaffirms the hard work we have put in, to expand and diversify our range. By participating in these awards we have increased awareness of the quality of our spirits range both within the trade and also to consumers.
Emma Dawson, Wine & Spirits Buyer, Marks & Spencer Group plc

We are delighted to receive recognition from such a respected and independent industry body as the International Spirits Challenge. The quality of the panel means that this award is of great significance to us, and we are honoured to have received it for a third consecutive year, reflecting our commitment to our range, our products, our suppliers and to our customers...
Anne Jones Wines, Beers and Spirits Buying Team Waitrose Ltd

Quality is our No. 1 priority and we are delighted with the Sierra results from the ISC. Not only does this endorse our own views but it also provides an independent reference point for our customers and consumers which we can use beneficially in our Brand communications strategy...
Bill Oddy Managing Director of Sierra Tequila UK Distributor, The Drinks Company Ltd

The Whisky Exchange is delighted to have won the ISC's Independent Spirits Retailer of the Year– although we have been honoured with several awards in recent years we are particularly proud of this one as we were nominated and voted for independently by the industry rather than entering ourselves. To win this coveted title twice in three years is very special...
Tim Forbes The Whisky Exchange

Winning an ISC award for our whisky has great value because it's the only authentic "Spirits" competition. The judges are real specialists...
Kazuyuki Takayama, European Brand Manager, Suntory

KWV has participated in the International Spirits Challenge for many years, as our company believes that it offers an objective, credible and highly competitive platform by which KWV benchmarks its products, and is recognised for its quality...
Hymli Krige, Communications Director, KWV South Africa Ltd

We were very honoured to pick up two Trophies this year and received numerous new business references as a direct result, as well as congratulations from clients...
Kevin Shaw, Managing Director, Stranger & Stranger

I am proud to have worked with the International Spirits Challenge for many years, particularly when I am judging alongside the most dedicated "Master Blenders" of the World. Therefore I know that every spirit sample evaluated receives the highest scrutiny possible which not only reflects the success of the competition but more importantly benefits the consumer...
Richard Paterson, Master Blender, Whyte & Mackay Ltd

KWV's number one priority is quality and measuring ourselves against the best products and producers in the world. The ISC being one of the oldest competitions and most certainly the most independent competition there is, showcases a lot of products over the whole spirits portfolio. As a company we were proud to be honoured with the Best Brandy trophy in 2013 and this shows the dedication of our team to be the best when looking at our track record in previous years. The ISC will always be the competition to track the best quality brands...
Lourens Stander, Manager: Blending and Distillation, KWV South Africa

Entry Deadlines

JAN 17 Gin & Genever, Liqueurs

FEB 14 Vodka, White Spirits, Tequila & Mezcal, Anise Spirits

MAR 14 Rum, Cachaça, Brandy & Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Pisco, Grappa

APR 11 Scotch Whisky, World Whiskies

MAY9 Design & Packaging, Marketing


The Category Chairmen

Patrick van Zuidam

Patrick van Zuidam - Liqueurs and Specialities

Patrick van Zuidam is Managing director and master distiller at his family owned distillery Zuidam Distillers. He started distilling when he was 12 years old in his father's distillery that he now runs together with his brother. As such he has a broad experience in the distilling and producing of award-winning, ultra-premium spirits and liqueurs for both the European and US markets. Well known brands include Millstone Dutch Single Malt Whisky, Dutch Rye, 100% potstill rye whisky, Zuidam Dutch Courage Dry Gin, Zuidam Genever range, Zuidam Liqueur range. He is a judge at numerous international spirits competitions.

His involvement with the ISC started as a judge of liqueurs in 1999 and he has been Chairman of liqueur judges since 2000.

Last year's judges included: Dawn Davies, Selfridges drinks buyer; Isabel Graham-Yooll, spirits buyer for Milroy's of Soho London & Jeroboams; Peter Hallgarten, writer and consultant; Adrian Subia, Diego Zamora Licores; Adeline Loizeau, Cognac quality manager Grand Marnier; Elie-Arnaud Denoix, Pages Vedrenne.

Carsten E. Vlierboom

Carsten E. Vlierboom - Rum, Cane Spirits and Cachaça

Carsten has been working within the drinks industry for the last 17 years and is currently Managing Director of E&A Scheer BV in the Netherlands, a dedicated and specialist company dealing wth bulk rum. Carsten is an experienced master rum blender for various applications and holds extensive experience working with Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. He has recently been appointed Honorary Consul for Jamaica in the Netherlands.

Last year's judges included: Will Lowe, distiller, The Cambridge Distillery; Patrick van Zuidam, master distiller, Zuidam Distillers; Dr Kirstie McCallum, global brands ambassador, Burn Stewart; Steve Hoyles, Chivas Brothers' technical lab and sensory manager.

Neil Mathieson

Neil Mathieson - Brandy, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Grappa and Pisco

Having joined the wine trade at 20, Neil Mathieson has been Managing Director of Eaux de Vie and latterly Marussia Beverages, the Dutch based specialist spirit producer and distributor. His role encompasses distillation, blending and buying for the group's international spirits division with a focus on brandies from France and the rest of the world.

Last year's judges included: Rocio Osborne, Osborne; Simon Palmer, independent spirits consultant; Pieter de Bod, manager – spirits, KWV; Louis Nomdedeu, independent spirits consultant; Dr Caroline Snyman, business director - spirits, Distell.

Desmond Payne

Desmond Payne - Gin and Genever

Desmond's gin career began when he joined Seager Evans & Co, the wine merchants and gin distillers, in 1967. In 1969 Desmond moved on to the Plymouth Gin distillery where he worked his way up to distillery manager. After a brief stint in the scotch whisky industry, Desmond joined Beefeater as master distiller in 1995. With a passion for continuing the tradition of excellence that was started by Beefeater founder James Burrough in 1820, Desmond is involved in every aspect of the production process from selecting the juniper berries to discussing the latest cocktails with the new generation of bartenders.

Recent highlights include the creation and introduction of Beefeater super premium gin, Beefeater 24, followed by the limited edition, Summer, Winter and London Market variants.

Last year's judges included: Charles Maxwell, Thames Distillers; Lucy Britner, World's 50 Best Bars Editor; Bernard Fillers, Filliers Graanstokerij's; Lesley Gracie, new liquid development leader, William Grant & Sons; Patience Gould, gin expert.

Steffin Oghene - Tequila & Mezcal

Having worked for 12 years in restaurants and bars in Edinburgh. Steffin eventually made the move to London in 2008 to become General Manager of the former tequila mecca of East London, Green & Red, which was owned by industry legends Henry Besant & Dre Masso.

Steffin had a love for tequila from his early days of bartending so this was a perfect role to move in to. Steffin managed Green & Red for over 2 years before joining global tequila education programme the Tahona Society.

Since 2008 he has travelled to Mexico multiple times every year in order to learn as much as possible about the tequila industry and the history of all the brands. Recently he was based there full time. He has visited a great number of the registered distilleries and studied their production methods. Many of the producers are his close friends. He has travelled to around 20 countries in the past 3 years educating bartenders on the category of tequila.

John Ramsay

John Ramsay - Whiskies

John was born in 1949 and has worked in the whisky industry from 1966 – 2009. Initially he was a chemist then he trained as a whisky blender, becoming Master Blender for William Lawson Distillers in 1981. He joined Edrington Distillers as Master Blender in 1991 and retired as Master Blender Emeritus in July 2009. He was responsible for Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blended whisky and blended malt ranges and single malts from Glenrothes, Highland Park and Macallan.

John is a Chairman of Whisky Judges at The International Spirits Challenge and currently a judge at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, the two most prestigious whisky judging competitions in the world today. He has been awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from Whisky Magazine, International Spirits Challenge and Malt Advocate.

Last year's judges included: Tadashi Sakuma, chief blender Nikka Whisky; Billy Leighton, chief blender, Irish Distilers; Gordon Motion master blender, Edrington Group; Angela d' Orazio, master blender, Mackmyra Svensk Whisky; Caroline Martin, master blender, Diageo; Richard Paterson, master blender, Whyte & Mackay; Seiichi Koshimizu, chief blender, Suntory Whisky; Randy Hudson, master distiller ,Tiple Eight Distillery.

Ian Wisniewski

Ian Wisniewski - Vodka and White Spirits

Ian Wisniewski is a freelance writer and broadcaster specialising in spirits. He has written for various publications and is the author of seven books on spirits, including Classic Vodka, Classic Tequila and Classic Malt Whisky. He is particularly interested in the production process, and visits distilleries on a regular basis. He has been involved in the International Spirits Challenge since 1997 and has been chairman of the white spirits judges for several years.

Last year's judges included: Leonid Vladimirovich Gelibterman, The International Center of Wine & Gastronomy; Joanne Moore, master distiller, G&J Greenhall; Alexander Zaitsev, Russian Alcohol Association; Alexey Zaitsev, Russian Alcohol Association; Claire Smith, head of spirit, creation & mixology, Belvedere Vodka; Halvor Heuch, vice president of spirits, Arcus; Markku Raittinen, master taster, Finlandia.

Paul Foulkes

Paul Foulkes-Arellano - Design & Packaging

Paul Foulkes-Arellano has been working in design and innovation for 23 years, specialising in alcoholic beverages. He is Client Services Director at Seymour Powell, one of the world's leading design and innovation companies.

Last year's judges included: Simon Weston, director, Bamboo London; Tim Croxson, operations director, Croxsons UK; Neil Vestrini, creative director, Cartils.


Nicky Forrest - Marketing Awards

Nicky has been in the drinks industry for over 15 years and has been involved in various marketing and PR campaigns for both spirits and wine brands throughout that time. Key campaigns in her career include working with The Famous Grouse, Highland Park and Finlandia Vodka. Her view has always been that the wine industry has a lot to learn from spirits marketing and that some of the strongest brand marketing activity in any sector comes from the spirits sector.

Last year's judges included: Nicky Forrest, managing director, Phipps PR; Louise Lynch, category planner, Sainsbury's; Paul Foulkes-Arellano, client services director at Seymour Powell; Simon Weston, director, Bamboo London.