International Spirits Challenge 2016 :: Welcome

Welcome to the International Spirits Challenge 2017

Rigorous, independent, high calibre.



The International Spirits Challenge is the most authoritative, respected and influential spirits competition in the world.

Now in its 22nd year, the ISC is the premier event in promoting outstanding quality spirits from across the globe. The competition is founded on a rigorous and independent judging process, which serves to encourage the high calibre of spirits, designs and campaigns entered into the competition each year. Receiving more than 1,300 entries from nearly 70 countries worldwide makes the ISC a truly global competition. It is supported by many of the world's leading spirits producers as the international standard for quality and excellence.

Winning an ISC award is indeed an impressive achievement for any spirit that passes the scrupulous blind assessment from our experienced panel of specialist judges.

Entry Deadlines

JAN 13
Gin & Genever, Liqueurs & Specialities, Anise Spirits
FEB 10
Scotch Whisky, World Whisky
MAR 10
Vodka, White Spirits, Tequila & Mezcal 
APR  07
Rum, Cachaça, Brandy & Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Pisco, Grappa
APR 28
Design & Packaging


Rewarding Quality, Celebrating Excellence
The Finest Palates in the World

Tasting Awards

The ISC Tasting Awards winners are established through a rigorous judging process - a highly controlled operation held over seven days of intense blind tastings by panels of more than 50 respected and experienced industry professionals.

Samples are delivered to the judging area in flights of numbered tasting glasses to ensure the accuracy of the blind tasting. Each judge will assess products according to their age, region and variety which is determined by the entrant and verified by the chairman. Each product is blind tasted and awarded a score for its aroma, appearance, taste and finish. Scores are collated and recorded by the category chairman before Trophy, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded.

The ISC takes great care in ensuring that all products are blind tasted equally and fairly in the correct conditions set by the ISC rules. The chairman will monitor each product ensuring that all samples are consistent and authentic. This precise judging process is the basis of the reputation the ISC has established for rewarding quality and celebrating excellence.

Trophey Medal Gold Medal Silver Medal Bronze Medal

Producer of the Year Awards

Our Producer awards recognise the best performing drinks producers in the challenge. The results are determined by a weighted points system, which scores the achievement of all brands entered into a single category.

The categories for 2017 are:

Gin Producer of the Year
Liqueurs Producer of the Year
Vodka Producer of the Year
Tequila Producer of the Year
Scotch Whisky Producer of the Year
World Whisky Producer of the Year
Brandy/ Cognac Producer of the Year
Rum Producer of the Year
Supermarket Own Branded Spirits Range of the Year

Supreme Champion Spirit

For this award, all the trophy winners are re-tasted blind by the category chairmen. The Supreme Champion Spirit is then awarded to the highest scoring trophy winner of the competition.

Distiller of the Year

Designed to show consistent excellence and quality across large spirit portfolios, the Distiller of the Year award is scored on a weighted points system based on the performance of all brands entered by a company.


A Highly Controlled Operation Held Over Seven Days of Intense Blind Tastings

Design & Packaging Awards

Design is a vital element for the success of any spirit brand. Design has many functions such as brand development and awareness, functionality and the communication of the brand to consumers. The ISC Design & Packaging Awards recognise the very best design within the spirits sector. They are supported by some of the world's leading design agencies.

Our esteemed panel of judges assesses each product against its design brief. Scores are based on initial impact, originality, creativity, innovation and relevance to target market.

2017 Design & Packaging Categories

Established Individual Product
Established Product Range
New Individual Product
New Product Range
Repackaged Individual Product
Repackaged Product Range
Design & Packaging for Travel Retail
Design & Packaging for the On-Trade
Innovative Graphic Design
Innovative Pack Format


Recognition Awards

Our recognition awards are determined by an expert panel of judges who vote for the winner in each category. The panel comprises of journalists, authors, spirits consultants and independent experts,

Master Blender/Distiller of the Year
Based on innovative product launches and initiatives, this award recognises the craftsmanship, skill and talent of a master blender or distiller's work from the past twelve months.
Rising Star Award
This award honours a young individual who has demonstrated exceptional talent within the field of distillation and production of spirits.
Lifetime Achievement Award
This award celebrates the work and commitment of an individual, who has made a significant impact on the drinks industry during their career.


The Category Chairman

<h2>Vodka & White Spirits</h2>
<h3>Ian Wisniewski</h3>
<p>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..</p> <h2>Gin & Genever </h2>
<h3>Desmond Payne</h3>
<p>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.</p> <h2>Tequila & Mezcal</h2>
<h3>Jesse Estes</h3>

<p>Jesse Estes was first inducted into the London bar scene by Henry Besant and Dre Masso of the Worldwide Cocktail Club. He has since gone on to work at the likes of Green & Red, All Star Lanes, Callooh Callay, Luggage Room, as well as guest bartending around the world. He has won a number of cocktail competitions and now regularly acts as a judge for various cocktail competitions and spirits awards including the Drinks International's International Spirit Challenge, Bartenders' Best Awards, and Tequila Masters. In 2013, Jesse joined the Pacifico Group to work as the European Brand Ambassador for Tequila Ocho and to help develop the bar program for London's first 'agaveria' – and latest addition to the Pacifico Group – El Nivel. He is often consulted as an expert on agave spirits, and has been interviewed or featured in publications such as: Imbibe, Esquire, Shortlist, the Spirits Business and Drinks International, among others. </p><p>Jesse can now be found leading seminars, tastings, and masterclasses on tequila and agave spirits across Europe. He was recently named one of London's Best Bartenders by the Huffington Post.</p> <h2>Brandy, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Grappa & Pisco</h2>
<h3>Neil Mathieson</h3>
<p>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.</p> <h2>Rum, Cane Spirits & Cachaça</h2>
<h3>Carsten E. Vlierboom</h3>
<p>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.</p> <h2>Marketing Awards </h2>
<h3>Nicky Forrest</h3>
<p>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.</p> <h2>Design & Packaging</h2>
<h3>Paul Foulkes-Arellano</h3>
<p>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.</p> <h2>Liqueurs & Specialities</h2>
<h3>Patrick van Zuidam</h3>
<p>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.</p><p>
His involvement with the ISC started as a judge of liqueurs in 1999 and he has been Chairman of liqueur judges since 2000.</p> <h2>Scotch Whisky & World Whisky</h2>
<h3> Richard Paterson </h3>
<p>Richard Paterson is third generation in a family which has had a long association with the Scotch Whisky Industry. Richard started the art of “nosing” whisky at the tender age of 8 years old with his father so it is not surprising whisky runs in his blood. In 2016 Richard celebrates 50 years in the industry having spent the last 46 years with Whyte & Mackay Distillers and being their Master Blender since 1970. Over this long period Richard has been heavily involved in both wine and spirits and still remains a great supporter and presenter at The Wine & Spirit Education Trust, London. He has produced countless award-winning whiskies however one of his greatest achievements was replicating The Mackinlays Malt Whisky which had been preserved under Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut in the South Pole for a staggering 103 years!  </p><p>He is a past President of The Institute of Wines & Spirits, Visitor of the Incorporation of Maltmen, Deacon of the Incorporation of Coopers, The Benevolent Society of the Licensed Trade of Scotland and in 1999 was made a “Master” Keeper of the Quaich at Blair Castle. In 2013 Richard was inducted into the “Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame.” In 2015 Whyte & Mackay Distillers was awarded the “UK Spirits Producer of the Year”.  </p>
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
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, Responsable ADV Export
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
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