Lachlan Watt and Emma Cookson win big at Icons of Whisky

The Whisky Magazine has presented its World Whiskies Awards and Icons of Whisky awards for 2023, with big wins for bar stars Lachlan Watt and Emma Cookson winning big.

Since 2007, the Icons of Whisky awards has celebrated the industry’s leading people, places, and innovations. Lachlan from Whisky & Alement was recognised as Icons of Whisky 2023’s Global Bar Manager of the Year and Emma from The Whisky List has been awarded Icons of Whisky 2023’s Global Communicator of the Year.

Lachlan said he was humbled and honoured by his first international award.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do and making whisky accessible to everyone. But to be recognised on a global stage is both unexpected and incredibly exciting, and I’m just really grateful to manage such a wonderful venue.”

Whisky & Alement co-owner Brooke Hayman added: “We’re delighted to see Lachlan acknowledged on the global stage. Lachy and the team he leads are an integral connection between whisky producers and consumers as both storytellers and hosts with an incredible skillset that often goes unrecognised.

“It’s fantastic to see the growing recognition of spirits professionals like Lachlan alongside chefs and sommeliers, and we couldn’t be more proud of him. We absolutely love being a part of the Melbourne, Australian and global whisky communities.”

Emma, a former member of the Whisky & Alement team, was also understandably delighted by her win.

“This win and the recognition on the international whisky stage is such an immense honour and I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to truly express what this award means to me,” she said. “This achievement is a testament to the thriving Australian whisky scene and showcases that we do more than make amazing whisky. We are a passionate and deeply connected community and I’m honoured to be a part of it.”

“One of the Hall of Fame inductees this year, Brendan Walsh said it best, this is a people industry. From the bottom of my heart I thank all the people who make up our industry, both at home in Australia and internationally,” Emma added.

This year, over 200 judges were tasked with evaluating more than 1500 different whiskies from over 40 countries. Australian whiskey-makers Whippersnapper Distillery won 2023’s World’s Best Corn Whiskey with the Upshot Whiskey. Additionally, the Element Sherry Cask from the Israeli M&H Distillery was named the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky. The Whisky List recently announced it is taking over M&H’s Australian distribution.

Christopher Coates, editor-at-large of Whisky Magazine and chair of the awards, was impressed by the showings across the categories.

“The 17th annual Icons of Whisky awards saw the stiffest competition yet. The experiences offered by the top whisky bars, retailers and attractions today are truly world-class – and have become bywords for hospitality and tourism excellence beyond just the drinks sphere,” Coates said. “Meanwhile, whisky professionals – whether they are makers, ambassadors, bartenders, marketers or retailers – are truly going above and beyond to make the category inclusive and fun, while also delivering the education required to maintain whisky’s status as the world’s most respected and valued spirit category.”

Awards director Anita Ujszaszi echoed the sentiment.

“This was an incredibly strong year across all of the categories and there were worthy winners all across the globe. It is an honour to celebrate this among so many of the industry’s finest people and long may the industry as a whole continue to thrive for many years to come,” Ujszaszi said.

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