IWSC 2024 Spirits results revealed

Spirit news

Mon 3 Jun 2024

By Mila Gorchakova

For our 2024 Spirits Judging, around 100 international judges gathered in London to taste over 4,000 spirits entries from around the world. Our strong judging team comprised of Master Blenders, Master Distillers, Buyers from on-trade and off-trade, Spirits Educators, Consultants and renowned Spirits Communicators.

IWSC 2024 Spirits highlights

  • Nearly 3,760 medals were awarded to spirits, including almost 500 golds and over 100 gold outstanding medals.
  • Gin was our biggest category this year, topping the medal table with over 760 medals including over 50 golds.
  • Our judges proclaimed 2024 “the best year we’ve had for Vodka at the IWSC” awarding as many as 16 gold outstanding medals.
  • Scotch whisky put on a stellar performance earning over 100 gold medals and 12 gold outstanding awards.
  • The Liqueurs category scooped over 340 medals, with more than 40 golds and 15 gold outstandings – a truly impressive result.

Gin

Gin is one of the biggest categories at the IWSC. Our judges spent three days tasting gins from different parts of the world, led by Spirits Judging Committee member, Olivier Ward. Over 760 medals were awarded to gins including more than 50 golds.

The classic/traditional gin subcategory performed admirably this year, with just shy of 20 gold medals awarded. One of the absolute standouts came from Australia: Naught Distilling Overproof Gin scored 97 point and earned a gold medal, the judges admiring its “enticing aromas of vanilla and pepper kick start with a smooth and integrated palate.”

Several gold-medal winning traditional gins came from England, one of the highlights being the 96 points Opihr Spices Of The Orient London Dry Gin which revealed “delicious harmonious aromas of floral spice, cracked black pepper, and juniper, leading to a textured palate”.

Germany also did brilliantly in the traditional category earning 3 gold medals for St. Kilian Distillers Bud Spencer The Legend Distilled Dry Gin, Eckerts Wacholder Brennerei GmbH Hampstead London Dry Gin (42%) and Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin.

Contemporary gins showed exceptionally well, with just over 20 gold medals awarded, and many more silver and bronzes. One of the top scorers was the 97-points gold-winning Mediterranean Gin by Dune Distilling Co. (Australia), the judges admiring its “inviting bouquet of menthol and delicate spice, with a refreshing lime zing”.

Asian gins put on a stellar performance in the contemporary subcategory, with as many as 6 gold medals going to Japan, 1 gold going to China and 1 more to Cambodia. One of the highlights was the Japanese Iwai Gin by Nozawa Onsen Distillery showing “soft and green notes on the nose”, “a drying and fruity palate with complex pepper notes”, and “a touch of sweetness that balances the earthy umami”.

Flavoured Gins showcased a variety of botanicals used across the world, with many medals awarded. The judges were particularly impressed with Junipero Smoked Rosemary Gin (USA) raving about its “inviting nose with rosemary leading the way. Dry resinous notes and well-managed smoke add depth.”


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Scotch Whisky

2024 became our biggest Scotch judging to date with our experts tasked with tasting over 600 entries. The IWSC Spirits Judging Committee member, Dawn Davies MW, oversaw the two days of tasting.

“The overall quality of this year’s entries is very high,” said Dawn Davies MW following the tasting. “We saw some very solid whiskies with a couple of beautiful, elegant styles. Normally, we see the big powerful whiskies but it was quite nice to see some of the more delicate ones coming through and getting golds.”

Over 550 medals were awarded to Scotch whiskies, including 100 golds and 12 gold outstanding.

An impressive collection of medals went to single malts with nearly 70 golds and as many as 10 gold outstanding awards. The gold outstanding winners included two Highland expressions by Loch Lomond Whiskies: 12 YO Inchmurrin Single Malt Scotch Whisky - “subtle whisper of peat with underlying white fruits and a palate of lingering sweet blackcurrant-citrus” - and 12 YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky - “a rounded, polished nose of summer fruit in a fog of peat smoke. Continuing to a lovely viscous texture on the palate”. Another gold outstanding highlight was Braeval 26 YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the judges exclaiming that it’s “Amazing! Excellent” wowed by the expressive nose and palate of “aromatic woods, orchard fruits, dark chocolate, and spices”.

Blended whiskies also didn’t disappoint, scooping nearly a dozen gold and 3 gold outstanding awards. The gold outstanding winners include Wildmoore Rugged Coast 30 YO Blended Scotch Whisky - “plenty of attractive cask spice, dried fruits, and beautifully subtle smoky tones”, and Grant’s Triple Wood Blended Scotch Whisky -“a harmonious blend of sweet pear, balanced by a touch of smoke” – both by William Grant & Sons, as well as Diageo’s Johnnie Walker High Rye Blended Scotch Whisky - “treacle toffee aromas swirled with subtle smoke textures”.

The cask finish whiskies performed exceptionally well, earning nearly 40 golds, as well as 4 coveted gold outstanding awards. The gold outstanding winners included two Speycide whiskies by William Grant & Sons: Glenfiddich 22 YO Gran Cortes XXII Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Worldwide Whiskey

With a total of more than 570 medals awarded, including over 53 golds and 10 gold outstanding medals, Worldwide Whiskey was one of our most coveted categories this year. The panels were overseen by our Spirits Judging Committee member, Dawn Davies MW.

Finland was one of the highlights of this year’s judging, the Finish whiskeys described by our experts as “absolutely fantastic! With pure flavours and good balance from oak and texturally great”. It is, therefore, no surprise that our judges awarded 2 gold outstanding medals to Finish whiskeys. Both expressions came from Teerenpeli Brewery & Distillery. Their 15 YO Single Malt Whisky was praised for its “rich biscuity aromas of honey and banana porridge” leading on to “a fruity palate of delicate orange peels, Amalfi lemons, apples, and subtle caramel.”Teerenpeli Kulo 7 YO Sherry Matured Single Malt Whisky impressed our judges with its “luscious bouquet of rich caramel, butterscotch, cocoa, and pears. The sweet palate bursts with flavours of honey, sherry, raisins, baking spice, and dates, leading to a glorious finish of stand-out complexity.”

Ireland was another standout country, earning just shy of 100 medals, including nearly 15 golds and 5 gold outstanding medals, as well as an impressive number of silvers and bronzes for its high-quality whiskeys made in various styles. The single pot stills showed “real promise and superb quality”, with 3 gold outstandings awarded. One of the highlights was Irish Distillers Redbreast 27 YO Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey described by our judges as “an indulgent and rich winter spice character with bold polished oak undertone”.

The judges praised the whiskey entries from Japan for their elegance and complexity. With over 40 medals awarded, they showed consistent quality across the board. One of the standout Japanese whiskies was Iseman Co Kamiji Blended Whisky that won a gold outstanding award. The judges admired “a gorgeous aromatic display of rich mocha, polished mahogany, and thick marmalade on the nose, leading to a wonderfully seductive palate. Glorious!”

The IWSC judges are looking forward to tasting and assesing a variety of North American whiskeys at our Global Judging event in Kentucky in September.

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Rum

Rum category shone this year picking up over 340 awards, including over 40 gold and several gold outstanding medals. Our Judging Committee member who oversaw the rum panels, Ian Burrell, was blown away by the step up in consistency from previous years, with very few rums not awarded a medal.

The agricole subcategory showed brilliantly, with many medals awarded and 2 particularly impressive entries reaching the heights of the gold outstanding. Craft Cask Strength Single Rhum  (Taiwan Red Sugar Cane) by Taiwan Tabacco & Liquor Corporation Nantou Winery impressed our judges with “pronounced nose with deep, rich cacao aromas that are perfectly complemented with tropical fruit. The well-balanced palate unfolds with a bounty bar sweetness and a touch of oak”.  Another standout here was FNQ Iridium X Agave Cask 10 YO Rum by Mt. Uncle Distillery (Australia): “the palate sings with symphonic notes of balanced rich oak, creamy stewed apple, plump raisins and a full, satisfying, citrus-driven finish.”

Aged rums have historically done well at the IWSC, our judges appreciate the complexity of these rums. Even with this in mind, it still took everyone by surprise when a flight of 11-15 YO rums were all awarded a medal, but not just any medal, all rums received either a gold or gold outstanding, something that has never been seen before in IWSC history. Out of all the high scores, the highest scoring entry was the 99 points gold outstanding medal winner - Foursquare 14 YO Equipoise Rum by R L Seale (Barbados). The judges were highly impressed by the “enticing aromas of leather and olive oil, leading to a tantalizing blend of citrus peel, cinnamon, oak, dark chocolate, and nutmeg. Plummy, spiced fruit dances on the palate, upon a soft, sweet mouthfeel.”

Agave spirits

The growing global trend for agave spirits is reflected by the incredible diversity of entries that we have been seeing in recent years. This year, our judges were tasked with tasting nearly 200 agave spirits from Mexico and beyond.

“Last year the quality of entries was really good, but this year it has been exceptional,” shared Deano Moncrieffe, the IWSC Spirits Judging Committee member who oversaw the judging. More than 110 medals were awarded, including 13 golds, and 2 gold outstandings.

The flights of 100% agave tequila blanco showed the “evolution of the category towards more diversity,” noted the judges. A gold outstanding medal was given to the standout 100% agave tequila blanco - Lunazul Primero Humoso Blanco Tequila by Heaven Hill Brands (Mexico). Its “fresh grass and peppermint creaminess with a whisper of smoke” and “nuances of root with tropical and citrus aromatics” highly impressed our judges.

The flights of 100% agave tequila anejo showed consistent quality with many medals awarded. One of the gold winners, Sango Blanco Agave Spirit by Spearhead Spirits Inc(South Africa), scored 96 points with our judges raving about its “soft subtle nose and a lovely gentle palate with sparks of bell pepper, green chilli spice and a hint of chocolate”.

The real standout flight, however, was the extra anejo, with no entries left unawarded and one particularly impressive entry - 1800 Milenio Extra Añejo Tequila by Proximo Spirits (Mexico) earning a gold outstanding: “Luscious stone fruit and red apple aromas lead to a harmonious blend of alcohol and sweetness on the palate.”

Our judges found this year’s mezcal entries exceptional praising their clarity and precision. Mezcal artesanal entries earned many well-deserved gold medals, along with 3 coveted gold outstandings. One of the gold outstanding winners, San Cosme Artesano Joven Mezcal, Mexico, revealed “a delightfully layered complexity of grassy, smoky, floral, fruity, and peppery notes. Candied lemon, creamy pear and oyster juice intermingle with mandarin, lemon verbena and herbal nuances.” 

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Vodka

“The best year we’ve ever had for vodka at the IWSC” was our judges’ summary of the two exciting days of tasting various styles of vodkas. "It was just a delight!” exclaimed David T Smith, our Spirits Judging Committee member who oversaw the judging. Vodka entries received 230 awards, just shy of 50 gold medals and a roaring number of 16 gold outstanding awards.

Many medals were awarded to rice vodkas with one entry reaching the heights of gold outstanding - Tenjaku Japanese Vodka by Minami Alps Wine and Beverage Co. impressed our judges with its “appealing soft notes of rice with layers of citrus aroma”.

Our experts noted the high standard of mixed grain vodkas with “some surprising and enticing character coming from these neutral spirits”. Indeed, one of the gold outstanding winners, English Single Pot Still Vodka by Spirit of Birmingham delivered “notes of melted chocolate fudge cake and exotic fruits greet the nose, followed by a rich and creamy palate”.

Wheat vodkas received over a dozen golds and several gold outstandings. The judges admired the complexity of flavours and “luscious notes of creamy butterscotch and caramel-vanilla aromas” of one of the gold outstanding winners, 5 Times Distilled Vodka by Marks & Spencer.

The corn vodkas also delivered this year, with good balance across the board and the clear character of the base material shining through. Several gold outstanding medals were awarded, with one of the winners, Prairie Organic Vodka by Phillips Distilling Company (USA) praised for its “exquisite notes of candied peel, vanilla, and squidgy marshmallow with a touch of zesty citrus and light honey sweetness”.

Nearly all rye vodka entries received golds, with two gold outstanding medals awarded to the standout spirits. One of them was Initiale Vodka by Maison Solignac, France, that received as much as 99 points from the judges who were blown away by the “delight in a rich tapestry of flavours”.

The array of styles of flavoured vodka was incredible this year, with the most impressive entry – Mango Vodka by Desi Daru (England) receiving a gold outstanding award, wowing our judges with the “beautifully fresh aromas of real mango”.

Fruit spirits

The judges were treated to some exceptional flights of fruit spirits this year with hardly any entries left without a medal – a testament to the high quality that this growing category can deliver.

Our panels were overseen by David T Smith who noted that the quality this year was very high. More than 70 medals were awarded to fruit spirits, including just shy of 20 golds and 9 gold outstanding medals.

Balancal Banana Eau de Vie (Aged) by Vinha Alta(Portugal) impressed our judges so much that they not only awarded it with a gold outstanding medal, but also described it as "the standout of the day". 

The raspberry fruit spirits performed well, with one particularly impressive entry – Martenz Malinovice No.2016 Raspberry(Czech Republic) awarded a gold outstanding medal: “freshly picked raspberries and elegant florals on the nose, sweet and creamy with lovely fresh raspberries continuing onto the palate”.

Some of the other gold outstanding winners include an “expressive” Mirabelle plum spirit - Goldhauch Mirabellenbrand 6 YO Eau-De-Vie by Bimmerle Private Distillery(Germany) and a “superbly freshFang Ge Lychee Brandy by Danyang Yihe Foods Co. (China).

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Liqueurs

The awards were showered upon the liqueur entries this year: over 340 medals, including more than 40 golds and 15 gold outstandings – a truly impressive result.

The lemon liqueurs were a high-performing category, with almost every single entry winning a medal, as well as two entries awarded with gold outstanding: Lime Bro's Limoncello (Netherlands) – “so zesty and refreshing!”, and Mure Liqueurs Properly Bitter Lemon (England) – “a beautifully fragrant and zesty nose with a well-defined lemon profile which carries through onto the palate”.

Another favourite of the judges was Phillips Root Beer Schnapps by Phillips Distilling Company (USA), awarded with a gold outstanding medal: “smells like a wonderful root beer, with a minty wintergreen character.”

The chocolate liqueurs “were the most impressive” shared our judges. One of the highlights was Mozart Coconut Chocolate Liqueur by Mozart Distillerie  (Austria) that received a gold outstanding medal. The judges thoroughly enjoyed this “decadent offering with a milky white chocolate profile.”

Spirits & Mixers

For our Spirits & Mixers Awards, sponsored by Franklin & Sons, our judges were provided premixed samples comprising one part of the spirit and three parts of the chosen mixer (no ice or garnish was used).  Our panels of experts were overseen by Judging Committee member, Shannon Tebay.

More than 120 medals, including just shy of 20 golds, were awarded to various combinations of spirits and mixers, including Gin & Tonic, Vodka & Tonic, Agave & Tonic, Rum & Tonic, Whisky Highball, Paloma, Rum & Cola, Whisky & Ginger ale.

The gin and tonic category is always a strong category and this year the great consistency was evident, with 4 gold medals awarded. The standouts include Hernö Gin Dry Gin (Sweden), LuckyLiquor Papa Salt Coastal Gin (USA),  1979 Distillery Saturday Gin (Poland) and KOTO Spirits Oy Small Batch Gin (Finland). When mixed with tonics, these gins "remained true to the spirit characteristic, but had a particular edge to them," said our judges.

New to this year, paloma category really shone, winning 5 gold medals and many more silvers and bronzes. The best examples “allowed the spirit to sing and had a touch of salinity that worked really well”. The highest scoring entry, 400 Conejos Cuishe Joven Artesanal Mezcal by Proximo Spirits (USA), was praised for its “fruity character from the mezcal that worked nicely with the soda, offering complexity, balance and smokiness on the finish and a pleasant acidity on the palate.” 

The vodka tonics pleased our judges with the diverse range of vodkas made from varying base materials, showing how “fun” this often-considered neutral spirit is. An impressive number of 4 gold medals were awarded to vodka tonics, the highlights included a wheat vodka, Kaiho Single Estate Organic Vodka by Turku Distillery (Finland) and a grape vodka, Kirke Vodka by Telavi Distillery (Georgia). 

The judges were also very impressed by the whisky highballs presented this year, awarding a staggering 4 gold medals. Some of the standouts included Bushmills 10 YO Single Malt Irish Whiskeyby Proximo Spirits and Peat Chimney Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Wemyss Family Spirits.

Congratulations to all winners. Full medal results of the IWSC 2024 Spirits Judging are available here.