12 November 2007
South African spirits company Distell won the prestigious V&S Distiller of the Year trophy at this year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) held in the UK, beating illustrious international rivals such as Diageo, Beam Global and William Grant & Sons.
According to a statement issued by the IWSC organisers last week, the award is based on the company’s achievements in the competition, as well as on the range of high-quality spirits in their portfolio.
Organisers said the specialist panel of judges believed Distell demonstrated “a dedicated, resolute approach to the highest standards of distilling, blending and bottling”.
Distell faced stiff competition, with entries in the spirits categories increasing by 16% in 2007, making the IWSC the largest spirits competition in the UK with close on 1 300 products from 70 different producing countries.
“With over 340 whiskies entered from Scotland alone, the shortlist for this trophy ran to 26 companies, and it wasn’t only the large producers who where being considered,” competition director Frances Horder said.
Cape Business News reported that Distell’s strong showing was due to the outstanding results achieved by its portfolio, made up of Mainstay, Amarula Cream and brandies from the Klipdrift, Van Ryn, Oude Meester, Richelieu and Nederburg distilleries.
Distell’s brandy portfolio won two gold and eight silver medals, as well as four best-of-class ratings, while Amarula Cream was voted best liqueur. The distiller’s Mainstay brand was also voted as best vodka ahead of its Russian, Polish and Finnish competitors, causing some debate, as this is a sugar cane based vodka and base ingredients for vodka are currently the subject of much dispute.
“The IWSC is one of the most important industry platforms in the world. To be accorded such an honour is no mean feat,” Distell director of primary production Hennie Heyl told Cape Business News.
“It is a reflection of the stringent quality standards we set ourselves and demonstrates the exceptional talent in our midst. While South Africa has to date been internationally better known for its wines, the country is starting to build an impressive reputation for other alcoholic beverages too.”
The Stellenbosch-based Distell Group states that it is South Africa’s leading producer and marketer of fine wines, spirits, ciders and ready-to-drinks. The company is listed on the JSE, employs over 4 000 people and has an annual turnover in excess of R6.7-billion.