The rise in quality and recognition of Australian spirits continues on the global stage as Australian distillers received a total of 295 medals at the 2023 IWSC Awards.
Coming just a week after Australian Distillers President Holly Klintworth said there were huge opportunities for growth for local spirits, bars around Australia can now look with confidence to Australian spirits and putting them on their shelves and in cocktails.
With four Outstanding Gold medals and 16 Gold medals, the Australian spirits industry made a strong showing at the IWSC awards. Australian gin was particularly impressive, taking home three of the seven Outstanding Gold medals.
An Outstanding Gold represents a score of 98 and over, with the Australian spirits all receiving an exemplary score of 98. Grainshaker Australian Wheat Vodka won Outstanding Gold in the category of contemporary vodka, Kangaroo Island Spirits O Gin won for contemporary gin, and Four Pillars received two medals – Bloody UnderHill Vineyard Shiraz Gin in the flavoured gin category, and S36 Gin in cask finish.
The judges described Kangaroo Island Spirits O Gin as “exotic and alluring with pears, apricots, beautiful acacia honey and a sweet smokiness displaying bramble jelly and soft brown sugar spice on the velvety finish.”
Kangaroo Island Spirits Head Distiller Charlie Schmidt expressed his excitement at the recognition.
“The competition was tough this year with a record number of entries, and it’s awesome to think that our gin is one of the best in the world,” he said. “These awards are a tribute to the dedication and to receive a score of 98 for our O Gin shows the world our distilling talents here in Australia.”
Managing Director of Mighty Craft Mark Haysman agreed.
“These awards confirm that Kangaroo Island Spirits represents the pinnacle of premium spirits, not only in Australia, but the world.” Charlie and the distilling team are highly skilled at making spirits that capture a rare purity of flavours and place, and it’s great to see them receive international recognition.”
Cameron Mackenzie, Four Pillars co-founder and distiller, spoke about the exciting showing of Australian gin.
“We are thrilled with these results. The entire gin category at the IWSC (which is huge!) saw only seven gins awarded Outstanding Golds so to snag two of these is pretty exciting. And for Australia to get a third with Kangaroo Island’s brilliant “O” Gin just shows Australia is making the most interesting gins in the world,” he said.
The tasting notes for the Bloody UnderHill Shiraz gin said it was “a lusciously bold expressive gin supported by an unyielding backbone of rippling Shiraz.”
“The Four Pillars x Yarra Yering Bloody UnderHill Shiraz was always going to turn a few heads,” Cameron commented. “The intensity of the fruit coupled with the complexity of the barrel-aged gin has produced a truly unique flavoured gin.”
For the Single Cask S36, the judges found it “charmingly suave with a gloriously robust juniper heart.”
“Our Single Cask “S36” has spent five years in an old McWilliams fortified barrel,” Cameron explained. “It’s a twisted array of spices but never moves away from being gin. We didn’t know whether to release that barrel or keep it to drink ourselves!”
Grainshaker has the accolade of being the only Australian vodka to take home a gold medal. The judges said the Australian Wheat Vodka was “light in body and gently warming. The palate shows great purity. Fresh citrus notes provides lift and balance amid the creamy mouthfeel.”
Grainshaker’s head distiller Seb Reaburn was blown away.
“I can’t believe our local vodka, made in Campbellfield in Victoria, is the equal third highest-rated vodka in the entire world. It’s just amazing,” he enthused, “To be recognised on the global stage in both vodka and whisky categories is something worth celebrating. As it happens we’ve got just the spirits for the occasion.”
The Australian Gold medal winners are:
- Settlers Spirits Yuzu Gin
- Mt. Uncle Distillery FNQ Iridium 5 YO Rum
- The Gospel Whiskey Straight Rye Whiskey
- Coles Liquor 1585 Pink Gin
- Vok 23rd St Yuzu Gin
- Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery 65 Miles Gin
- North of Eden Connoisseur Gin
- Never Never Distilling Juniper Freak Gin
- Capricorn Distilling Oak Aged Gin
- Beachtree Distilling Co. Organic Skippy Gin
- Capricorn Distilling Pure Single Rum
- Archie Rose Distilling Co. Rye Malt Whisky
- Square 1 Gin Sea Legs Navy Strength Gin
- Australian Distilling Co. Shiraz Gin
- Archie Rose Distilling Co. True Cut Vodka
Excitingly, Act of Treason #4 Blanco Agave spirit received a bronze medal in the silver agave spirit category. It is the first spirit of its kind in Australia, and judges described it as having “damp pepper on the palate with notes of fruit, coconut and sweetness.”
It was an enlightening experience, according to Trent Fraser, Top Shelf’s president of agave.
“It’s super humbling to receive the feedback from the ISWC judging panel this early on. We really didn’t do this in hope of winning a medal, but really to gain some impartial and expert feedback on how our current trial liquids are progressing. While a bit confronting, there´s really no better and more honest way to receive such unbiased assessment, so yes we´re thrilled the results were not only positive but affirming we are on the right track,” Trent said.
Speaking at the 2023 Australian Distillers annual conference last week, Australian Distillers President Holly expressed her confidence in the growth potential for the Australian spirits industry.
“There is still so much room for growth. And even with Covid disruptions, analysts project the Australian spirits industry’s growth over the next five years will exceed the growth experienced over the last five years,” said Holly.
Her opinion is certainly supported by the results of the IWSC Awards, which indicate a promising climate for Australian spirits, both in Australia and internationally.