Distell has been crowned the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s (IWSC) Distiller of the Year for 2015. The prestigious industry title for top quality was announced to an international audience of some of the world’s foremost spirits producers and spirits specialists at a gala dinner in London last night (November 26).

This is the second time Distell has triumphed against famous-name whisky and cognac producers across Europe, North America and Asia. The previous time was in 2007.

What clinched it this year, were two category trophies, five gold outstanding and 11 gold medals. The company took the Best Worldwide Brandy trophy for the Van Ryn’s 12 Year Old potstill made using the traditional technique of Cognac, while the Best Worldwide Whisky trophy was awarded to Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old.


The award comes hot on the heels of three significant wins at the New York International Spirits Competition, where Van Ryn’s Distillery was crowned Brandy Producer of the Year, and the James Sedgwick Distillery, the Best International Whisky Distillery of the Year. Distell also won the title of South African Distiller of the Year and bagged five gold medals. The New York International Spirits Competition, part of the International Beverage Competitions Group, drew entries from 35 countries.

Commenting on the wins, Primary production director Johan Venter said: “We are enormously proud of these achievements and the confidence they convey in the intrinsic quality of our products. It’s a great mark of affirmation to attain the IWSC distinction in what is essentially a peer-reviewed competition and it speaks to the extensive expertise and teamwork behind our brands. Similarly, in New York, the panel is drawn from top industry, hospitality and retail expertise. However, we see these as more than gains for Distell. They represent gains for the entire South African spirits industry.”

For Van Ryn’s, this is the sixth time the distillery has won the IWSC Worldwide Best Brandy trophy and it continues to excel in other competitions around the world too. This is also the second time it has brought home the Brandy Producer of the Year award in New York. Three Ships master distiller, Andy Watts, received the IWSC Best Worldwide Whisky trophy at the gala dinner.

One of the most important global spirits competitions, the IWSC’s credibility lies in the fact that all submissions are assessed blind, with the expert panels unaware of what they are tasting except by category. To achieve a gold medal, entries have to earn a score of at least 90 points out of 100 and be considered standard-setters. Gold outstanding medals are given at the discretion of the judges to the best amongst these. Gold and gold outstanding scorers are then tasted during a second round to identify the trophy winners.

2015 IWSC Result:
Gold outstanding:
Van Ryn’s 12 Year Old pot-still brandy  (trophy winner)
Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt whisky (trophy winner)
Oude Meester Souverein 18 Year Old pot-still brandy
Richelieu 10 Year Old Vintage brandy
Scottish Leader 12 Year Old blended whisky
Richelieu brandy
Klipdrift Gold pot-still brandy
Oude Meester Reserve 12 Year Old pot-still brandy
Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old blended whisky
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky
Amarula Cream liqueur
Amarula Gold spirit aperitif
Mainstay Island Fusion (hazelnut flavour) flavoured vodka
Ledaig Single Malt 42 Year Old
Deanston Single Malt 12 Year Old
Bisquit XO Cognac
Van Ryn’s 12 Year Old potstill brandy
Van Ryn’s 20 Year Old potstill brandy
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky
Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish
Amarula Cream