International Spirits Challenge, The Awards

06 July, 2016

Holly Motion reports on the ISC Brandy & Cognac, Rum, Pisco, Armagnac & Calvados and design and packaging awards.


KWV has an impressive haul in the brandy stakes, with four golds and two silvers. Torres and Distell claim the other golds and nine of the 17 silver medals awarded in this category.

In total, chairman Neil Mathieson and his panel of four named 22 brandies worthy of bronze medals.

LVMH’s Olivier Paultes, KWV’s Pieter de Bod, Mare-Loe Prinsloo of Distell and independent spirits consultant Simon Palmer blind-tasted their way through 125 brandies over the one-and-a-half day judging last month.

Mathieson said: “It was the finest pot brandies and VS and VSOP cognacs that shone this year.

“The South Africans continue to show they have mastered the fine art of blending by producing 10 to 20-year-old brandies of great stature and finesse, all showing the hallmarks of the grape base and a clever use of clean oak.”



Chairman Carsten E Vlierboom and his three-strong panel tasted 130 rums and cane spirits. Of those, 104 were awarded medals and 11 were named gold winners.

Vlierboom said of the category: “Quality seemed to move towards premium rums. The basic rums were still good [but] some of the premium entries were a bit on the sweet side.”

A big talking point at the judging this year was the addition of sweeteners. Vlierboom said: “The addition of sugar was considered OK if not overpowering and is advised to be declared. Some producers, however, seem to use sugar to cover up flaws or try to move their product into smooth/premium without a good base.”

He had this message for entrants: “Make sure you choose the right category, make a good product before you enter, do not expect a medal when entering this competition, and if you do get medals, promote their real value.”



“The pisco and calvados entries showed good fruit purity,” said chairman Neil Mathieson. “And those from the Armagnac region showed much of their distinctive ‘gout de terroir’.”

Château du Tariquet stole the Armagnac show, picking up a gold and six silver medals. In pisco Miguel Torres took gold for its Pisco El Gobernador and Agroproductos Bauzá nabbed three silvers for its brands. Viña Tacama rounded off the medals with a bronze for its Demonio de los Andes Albilla.

No golds were awarded for grappa this year but Distilleria Sibona took home three silvers and two bronzes and Distillati Levi’s Grappa di Fumin received a silver.



The biggest Design & Packaging judging panel in ISC history awarded six golds this year.

“The thing about design and packaging is that it tends to be polarising,” judging panel chairman Paul Foulkes-Arellano said. “It is not like a whisky tasting when everyone tends to agree it is a ‘good whisky’ – they may have differing opinions and preferences but generally they will be in agreement.

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Nick Strangeway

Bar food's blurred lines

Once upon a time pubs and bars were somewhere you went with the sole purpose of getting pissed and there wasn’t a knife and fork in sight, just a packet of dry roasted nuts.