Last call

10 July, 2017

In the final leg of the annual judging, seven categories were tasted in the final marathon session. Shay Waterworth reports


THIS YEAR’S INTERNATIONAL Spirits Challenge concluded with rum, vodka, brandy, cognac, armagnac, tequila and white spirits. The two days of tastings were held at Hatton House in central London where more than 1,500 different spirits were tasted between 34 judges.

The ISC is one of the largest spirits competitions on the planet and has been running for 22 years.

The team, led by Agile Media events manager Sarah Burnett and senior events coordinator Helen Heppell, rounded up some of the most experienced industry experts to regulate the seven categories on trial.

Neil Mathieson, chairman of the brandy judging panel, said: “There were one or two crude examples, but generally there were a lot of commercially well-made products. But where was the excitement? I think there is a lack of fitness among some of them.

“I have been doing the ISC judging since year one. Professionalism has increased rapidly. Every five years or so there is a step upwards. There has been quite an improvement. We get fewer faulty products.”

“That is not true of rum,” said rum judges chairman, Carsten Vlierboom.

“There are still a lot of products pretending to be something they are not.”

Rums are made in different countries with different production methods and conflicting standards in terms of colourings and flavourings. This was reflected in the variability of quality seen by the rum judges.

With major drinks companies moving towards premiumisation, Mathieson questioned the prices asked by brand owners for limited-edition and single cask spirits when the price was based on rarity rather than quality.

Sixty-four gold medals were awarded across all categories, with cognac topping the charts on 20 golds. There was also one gold medal awarded to a Peruvian pisco brand.

Here’s the full listing of gold medals from the final round of this year’s ISC.

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