South Africa is standing tall mid-way in the 2018 Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky awards held in London, with Distell being named Rest of the World Distiller of the Year and Andy Watts as the Rest of the World Master Distiller/Master Blender of the Year.
With strong competition from the innovative whisky countries favoured amongst whisky connoisseurs, South Africa beat contenders from Taiwan, Japan and Europe to go into the final stage to compete against the country winners of Scotland, America, Ireland, India and Australia for the World Icon titles.
The final Icons awards along with the announcement of the World’s Best Whiskies will take place at the prestigious World Whisky Awards Dinner to be held at the famous Waldorf Hotel in London on 22 March 2018.
The introduction of Bain’s to the UK and Germany and the innovation around Three Ships had a significant impact on these accolades.
Andy Watts says that innovative whiskies from non-traditional countries have over the past 10 years overcome the odds against the perceived perception that only traditional whisky producing countries can be taken seriously.
“The younger the industry, the more open we are to innovation. We’ve seen this across all the Rest of the World contenders with the ability to be agile, to create whiskies of difference with interesting styles and finishes which are finding favour with whisky consumers.”
“We’ve had many hurdles the past 40 years whilst establishing our portfolio of whiskies and we share a common set of challenges with all the non-traditional whisky producing countries but what this means is that we’re constantly pushing the boundaries, coming up with solutions unique to our own climate, and finding creative ways to use home-grown raw material to our best advantage. It’s an exciting time to be part of the whisky industry and awards such as these contribute to our passion and on-going commitment to excel.”
South Africa is no stranger in receiving awards. The Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select was awarded as the World’s Best Blended Whisky in 2012 and Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky created a few tidal waves when in 2013 it was named as the World’s Best Grain Whisky, making the world take notice of South African produced whiskies. Since then both brands have enjoyed phenomenal successes at all the major international whisky competitions taking coveted double gold and gold awards from more well-known, established international brands.
With the higher temperature enjoyed with the warm South African climate, the whiskies produced at The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington about an hour from Cape Town, have a distinctive advantage above those produced in the colder Northern Hemisphere countries. The warmer climate accelerates the interaction between the spirit and wood, resulting in a higher loss in volume (Angel’s Share) but the benefit is a whisky that is incredibly smooth at a far younger age.
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, the only whisky in the world to be made from 100% South African maize, is incredibly smooth and this, together with its depth of flavour is a direct result from the warmer climate and it’s rather unique double maturation over a five year period in casks previously used for Bourbon.
Andy’s vision for the young South African whisky industry – 40 years to be exact – has been to create whiskies with intrigue which led to the Three Ships brand creating the Master’s Collection with a yearly release of limited edition and special cask finishes with great success. These limited release whiskies are driven by their interesting finish, style as well as age and has seen the brand launch a 10-Year-Old Single Malt Single Cask PX Finish, and a World’s First 15-Year-Old Pinotage Cask Finish with the next release due in 2018.
Andy says that with consumers demanding unique whiskies, the growth in World Whiskies is expected to be the fastest contribute to the expected continuous boom in whisky consumption. “With whisky appealing to a new generation of drinkers who embrace authenticity, gravitate towards products with a story to tell and migrate to those that can offer them something different from the norm, the world is now one big whisky producing community.”