Australia triumphs at IWSC 2023

Australian distillers and winemakers have collected a swag of trophies at the 2023 International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) in London overnight.

In the spirits categories Four Pillars was awarded International Gin Producer of the Year for the third time; Curatif took out the RTD Producer Trophy for the second year running and Grainshaker won the Vodka Producer Trophy.

In the wine awards, Western Australia’s Cherubino nabbed both the Outstanding Wine Producer Trophy and the White Wine Producer Trophy, while Margaret River stood out as the world’s most decorated wine region.

Four Pillars named world’s best gin maker

Four Pillars’ win is the first time any gin producer, let alone an Australian distillery, has won this award three times, with Four Pillars receiving the same accolade back-to-back in 2019 and 2020.

The IWSC is the world’s longest-running, largest and most prestigious spirits competition with more than 4000 entries from distilleries across the globe in 2023, and gin being the biggest category this year.

Co-Founder and Distiller Cameron Mackenzie was on hand to accept the award, which firmly cements the Australian gin community at the very pinnacle of gin worldwide. Australia’s Kangaroo Island Spirits and Sweden’s Herno Gin were the other two distilleries on the final shortlist.

“Back in 2013, we set out with the ambition to make world-class gin, so to win this award three times is simply mind-blowing. I kind of knew we had a chance when two of our gins scored 98 points [out of 100], but kept it on the lowdown until last week when I dusted off the kilt!,” Mackenzie said.

“It’s a massive thrill for our team back at home and for the Australian spirits industry overall, and even sweeter that Four Pillars celebrates 10 years of making gin this December.

“Cheers also goes to our friends at Kangaroo Island and Herno who have also been consistently shortlisted and awarded.

“I can’t wait to get home to share the spoils with all our mates in Healesville and frankly right across Australia all summer.”

At the same awards in 2022, Four Pillars was presented with the inaugural Green Spirit Initiative Award that recognises work and concerted efforts to improve environmental credentials.

In March 2022, Four Pillars became Australia’s first certified Carbon Neutral gin distilling business with both the new distillery itself and all the gins bottled on the premises certified Carbon Neutral by Climate Active. The Yarra-based distillery has been newly expanded and reimagined to minimise waste, save energy, and tread more lightly on the planet. 

IWSC CEO Christelle Guibert said: “We are delighted to see Four Pillars take home our International Gin Producer Trophy for a third time. Our judges were greatly impressed by the sheer work the brand has taken on, as well as the medal-winning gins they are creating.

“The commitment to their sustainability efforts did not go unnoticed when they were awarded our inaugural Green Spirit Initiative Trophy last year, and this year was no different, our judges were unanimous in their vote for Four Pillars as the worthy winner of this year’s IWSC International Gin Producer Trophy. The brand’s success in the IWSC sees no sign of slowing down!” 

In December 2023, Four Pillars will celebrate a decade of Australian gin-making and tonight in London at Mansion House (20 October), Cameron Mackenzie and Senior Distiller Sarah Prowse will be inducted into London’s prestigious Gin Guild. 

Curatif named world’s leading RTD producer

IWSC awarded Curatif the RTD Producer Trophy, saying it was the world’s leading producer of ready-to-serve cocktails, having been recognised as such around the globe they endlessly strive to create incredible cocktail experiences by combining class leading spirits, liqueurs, fresh ingredients and sophisticated manufacture techniques.

“Our judges believe that Curatif has established themselves as an ‘evergreen presence’ in the RTD category,” IWSC said.

“As a new brand that is growing quickly, our judges were impressed with their steadfast commitment to a consistent product with no corners cut.”

Their many awards included a Gold medal for their Archie Rose Espresso Martini, with judges praising the “gorgeously fragrant nose with big notes of roasted coffee beans, chocolate and vanilla. Sumptuously indulgent on the palate with rich flavours of smooth cacao and toasted tonka beans. An elegantly creamy mouthfeel with an equally sweet, luxurious finish.”

“Curatif has demonstrated that they are passionate and incredibly focused on their craft, but that focus also extends to their sustainability commitments,” IWSC said.

“Their cocktails are predominately produced into aluminium cans, which along with being infinitely recyclable, are two to three times more likely to be recycled. As well as being the perfect vessel in which to preserve fresh ingredients, aluminium cans require less energy to recycle, and thanks to their weight advantage, less fossil fuels to transport. All of the packaging is fully recyclable, with a significant percentage being made from recycled paper goods.”

Judges were blown away by the brand’s quest to bring lesser-known spirits and smaller producers to a mass audience – Curatif is now served on board Qantas flights – with the ultimate goal of creating what it calls ‘luxurious moments’ for those who are lucky enough to enjoy its canned creations.

Curatif founder Matt Sanger said: “The esteemed judges at the IWSC have deemed Curatif to be the best in the world, an absolutely thrilling result for our whole team, made even more so to back it up from last year’s title. It was an awesome night tasting gold medal winners from every category and spending time with other incredible makers from around the world.”

Grainshaker awarded IWSC’s 2023 Vodka Producer Trophy

Grainshaker is a modern Australian vodka brand, working with Australian farmers to create world-class vodkas from corn, wheat and rye grains.

It is part of Top Shelf International, which described the win as a “VERY big deal”.

“When we launched Grainshaker in the middle of the COVID pandemic in 2020, never in a million years did we think that just three years later we’d be hearing our name read out at the largest, most authoritative and competitive drinks competition on the planet,” the company said.

“We’re just the second Australian distiller to take home a global producer trophy from the IWSC. Our trailblazing friends at Four Pillars have made a habit of winning the gin producer award (including another trophy this year – congrats guys!) and we are so thrilled to add vodka to Australia’s list of all-conquering spirits.”

IWSC said the “grain-to-glass” movement had been making waves for many years, and its judges believe that Grainshaker is the leader in it.

They proactively promote it in everything they do, saying “it may be more time consuming, more expensive to make but we believe that drinkers deserve better.”

“Grainshaker impressed our judges with their continuous commitment to flavour, working with customers to innovate and ensure they are delivering the products that consumers want,” IWSC said.

“Vodka is not an easy spirit to make, and make well, vodka is more than just a vehicle for alcohol. Our judges appreciated Grainshaker’s passion for the raw materials that go into their vodka. From just three based spirits, Grainshaker has been able to make award-winning vodka.”

The judges were particularly impressed by their Wheat Vodka, awarding it a high gold with 98 points and commenting that it was “A stylish and versatile spirit. Light in body and gently warming, the palate shows great purity. Fresh citrus notes provide lift and balance amid the creamy mouthfeel. Very smooth offering showing good character on the finish.”

Cherubino win Outstanding Wine Producer Trophy

One of the leading wineries of Western Australia, IWSC judges said Cherubino’s rise to the fine wine producer Olympus has been “truly remarkable”, awarding them the Outstanding Wine Producer Trophy for 2023.

Having started as negotiants in 2005, Larry and Edwina Cherubino have now bought their own winery and hold vineyards in Margaret River, Pemberton and Great Southern. Founded by Edwina and Larry Cherubino in 2005, Western Australia’s Cherubino Wines have made a remarkable journey from negotiants to vineyard owners and to running their own winery.

The judges also appreciated Cherubino’s gentle and thoughtful approach at the winery – avoiding over-maceration and using less oak, allowing the grape aromas and the terroir expression to shine through. The judges said the resulting wines were “fresh and vibrant, offering fragrance, elegance and complexity without ever being overripe or heavy”.   

“Cherubino’s medal performance in 2023 proves that they have chosen the right approach. With four gold (all of them awarded to their stellar Chardonnays, seven silver and dive bronze medals, Cherubino are one of this year’s leaders in the overall medal count.”

Australia’s wine trophy tally

Margaret River stood out as the most decorated wine region, having earned four wine trophies for its red wines: Clairault Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Passel Estate Lot 71 Reserve Syrah 2018, Evans & Tate Redbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot 2020 and A. G. Oatley Wines Robert Oatley The Pennant Cabernet Sauvignon 2018.

Another trophy was awarded to a Southern Australian wine – Leo Buring Leonay Mature Release Riesling 2017 from Eden Valley.

Australian Vintage’s Tempus Two Lighten Up Pinot Noir 2022 scored the Lighter Alcohol Trophy for 2023. The judges described it as “An excellent food wine that is bright with red Pinot fruit. Black cherry and stewed fruit notes on the palate with liquorice tannins and a good texture and density. Very light considering the ABV, this a great example of low ABV Pinot Noir.”

View the full IWSC 2023 results here.

Four Pillars co-founder inducted into Australian Distillers Hall of Fame

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