International Spirits Challenge 2015

Rewarding quality, celebrating excellence

Accolades from the International Spirits Challenge for the exceptional quality of our products is a phenominal achievement. We pride ourselves on the distinct character and taste of each of our vodkas and we are very pleased that the judges, all global connoisseurs, have commended Belvedere Vodka time and time again.
Claire Smith-Warner Head of Spirit Creation Belvedere Vodka

Distell is proud to have a distinctly successful track record with the International Spirits Challenge. Winning many trophies over the years has not only affirmed our confidence in our products, but also transferred that confidence to our customers and consumers. Awards from competitions like the International Spirits Challenge are of the utmost importance to our brand communication strategies.
Nick Holdcroft

Beam Suntory is delighted to have won the Distiller of the Year Award this year, 4th time in this 5 years, as well as 3 trophies by both Suntory and Beam team. As all of the judges are experts in the industry, we believe that winning awards in this competition is really credible and important.  We will continue to pursue for the best quality always.
Keita Minari Brand Manager, Japanese Whisky, Beam Suntory EMEA

Chateau du Tariquet was awarded Individual Distillery of the Year 2014. We are very honoured to receive this award as it is a true recognition of our family's work for the last five generations. Our aunt Maïté and our father Yves have given us passion for the vine, the distillation and the ageing of Bas-Armagnacs. We and the whole team at the estate are very proud that Château du Tariquet won such a fantastic trophy.
Rémy Grassa from Responsable ADV Export

Entry Deadlines

JAN 16 Gin & Genever, Liqueurs

FEB 13 Vodka, White Spirits, Tequila & Mezcal, Anise Spirits

MAR 13 Scotch Whisky, World Whiskies

APR 10 Rum, Cachaça, Brandy & Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Pisco, Grappa

MAY06 Design & Packaging, Marketing


The Category Chairmen

Liqueurs and Specialities - Patrick van Zuidam

Patrick van Zuidam

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.

Rum, Cane Spirits and Cachaça - Carsten E. Vlierboom

Carsten E. Vlierboom

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.

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

Neil Mathieson

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.

Gin and Genever - Desmond Payne

Desmond Payne

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.

Tequila & Mezcal - Steffin Oghene

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.

Whiskies - John Ramsay

John Ramsay

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.

Vodka and White Spirits - Ian Wisniewski

Ian Wisniewski

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.

Design & Packaging - Paul Foulkes-Arellano

Paul Foulkes

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.

Marketing Awards - Nicky Forrest

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.

2014 Judges


  • Elie-Arnaud Denoix
  • Isabel Graham-Yooll
  • Peter Hallgarten
  • Christian Davis


  • Charles Maxwell
  • Patience Gould
  • Lucy Britner
  • Lesley Gracie
  • Will Lowe


  • Jon Anders Fjelstrud
  • Jesse Estes
  • Gabriela Moncada
  • Alex Fitzsimmons
  • Deano Moncrieff
  • Davide Segat

VODKA & Other White Spirits

  • Lesley Gracie
  • Claire Smith
  • Markku Raittinen
  • Halvor Heuch
  • Aizhamal Kayupova
  • France Despert
  • Johan Svensson
  • Matthew Du Cann
  • Robbie Bargh
  • Matthew Dakers


  • Patrick Zuidam
  • Peter Martin
  • Will Lowe
  • Ben Reed
  • Ian Smith

Brandy & Cognac

  • Pieter De Bod
  • Louis Nomdedeu
  • Simon Palmer
  • Olivier Paultes
  • Brink Liebenberg

Design & Packaging

  • Tim Croxson
  • Neil Vestrini
  • Chris Dumont
  • Chris Forecast
  • JJ Goodman

Marketing Awards

  • Louise Lynch
  • Paul Foulkes-Arellano
  • Simon Weston