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Icons of Whisky 2017

As whisky evolves, so too do our awards. With the emergence of stunning whiskies from less well-known whisky producing nations, we are expanding our Icons of Whisky awards by adding new regional heats. This year saw the addition of India as a fourth region, and we are excited to announce the inclusion of Australia and Ireland for 2018.

With the India, Rest of World and Scotland results now announced, we conclude this year’s Icons of Whisky with the overall Global winners. As always, it is then down to our editorial panel to review the shortlist of regional winners and decide on which company or individual will take the title in each of the Icons categories. This is no easy task given the wealth of talent on the world whisky stage.

The Icons of Whisky awards are a celebration of the years of hard work that go into every bottle. From the distillers themselves, still makers and coopers, to warehouse staff and visitor centre managers – a great deal of craftsmanship, skill and knowledge are imparted at each stage of the process. This is our chance to thank the individuals and producers for their dedication to each innovative release, unique visitor experience or expert retail service that they work tirelessly to deliver.

We are delighted to present to you the finest companies and people in the whisky industry as we proudly reveal the 2017 winners.

American Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the Year

Matt Jones - Beam Suntory

After last year’s Highly Commended, it is time for the face of WM Issue 138 to shine. Matt Jones has worked in the industry for 18 years having started out in a roadhouse style bar. He then spent time in Belize and Japan learning new mixology styles and rekindling his love of whisky. In 2010, Matt accepted his current role as Beam Suntory’s Bourbon specialist in Canada. He represents the company’s Bourbon portfolio as well as that of Kentucky’s Bourbon history and culture.

Shortlist
Adam Harris – Beam Suntory
Matt Jones – Beam Suntory

Brand Innovator of the Year

Tullamore Dew - William Grant & Sons

At Tullamore DEW, it’s all about the Power of Three: triple distilled, triple blended and triple cask matured. Creator Daniel E Williams and his grandson revolutionised whiskey with innovative methods and determination. Using three natural ingredients, three grain varieties and three types of cask, Tullamore DEW’s unique character has made this an award-winning spirit. With innovative cask finishes including cider and rum casks, and limited edition releases such as Phoenix single batch, we expect great things from this distinctive Irish brand.

Shortlist
Maker’s Mark Distillery
Tomatin Distillery Company
Tullamore DEW – William Grant & Sons
United Spirits

Craft Producer of the Year

Hombo Shuzo Company

Founded in 1872 by Matsuzaemon Hombo, Hombo Shuzo is a small Japanese producer of alcoholic beverages with a distillery located high up in the Japanese Alps. Sitting at an altitude of 798 metres above sea level, the Mars Shinshu Distillery is situated in the small village of Miyada near Tokyo, and first opened its doors in 1985. The colder mountain climate coupled with moderate humidity and high quality water makes for the production of great whisky. The company is building a second distillery next to the old Hombo family house in Tsunuki with spirit due to flow off the stills in November.

Shortlist
Glasgow Distillery Company
Hombo Shuzo Company
Mohan Meakin – Solan No1
Sons of Liberty Spirits Company

Distiller of the Year

Suntory Spirits

The Yamazaki Distillery is credited with being the birthplace of Japanese whisky after founder Shinjiro Torii built Japan’s first distillery here back in 1923. 50 years on, Suntory had honed its distilling skills and built the Hakushu Distillery in a location complete with its own natural water source. With refined expertise and excellent raw materials, Suntory has developed a portfolio of world-class whiskies including single malts Hakushu and Yamazaki, Hibiki blended and Kakubin. Hibiki 21 Years Old was recently named World’s Best Blended Whisky in our World Whiskies Awards.

Shortlist
Beam Suntory
International Beverage
Pernod Ricard India
Suntory Spirits

Distillery Manager of the Year

Victoria Macrae-Samuels - Maker's Mark Distillery

Victoria MacRae-Samuels was the first woman to be named vice president of operations at a Bourbon distillery. Responsible for overseeing every aspect of the Maker’s Mark Distillery, her expertise and her 90 staff keep things running smoothly. Victoria is responsible for the production of Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46, from distillation to bottling.

Shortlist
David Fitt – The English Whisky Company
Keith Cruickshank – Benromach Distillery Company
Victoria MacRae-Samuels – Maker’s Mark Distillery

Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the Year

Tim Herlihy - Tullamore Dew

Last year, Tim Herlihy embarked on an epic pub crawl as he challenged himself to visit Irish pubs in all 50 US states in the 30 days leading up to St Patrick’s Day. As far as whiskey experts go, they don’t come more ‘Irish True’ than Tim. He began his whiskey career with the Cooley Distillery before taking up this role with William Grant & Sons. A natural raconteur, Tim travels the US educating, entertaining and sharing his passion for this award-winning Irish whiskey.

Shortlist
Stephen Teeling – Teeling Whiskey Company
Tim Herlihy – Tullamore DEW

Master Distiller / Blender of the Year

Jota Tanaka - Kirin Brewery Company

Jota Tanaka has worked in the drinks industry and for Kirin for 28 years. After working at Four Roses in Kentucky as director of quality for seven years, Jota returned to Japan in 2009, and was appointed chief blender for Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba Distillery in 2010. Jota has taken over leadership in various aspects of Kirin’s whisky business to drive product development for the future.

Shortlist
Alan Winchester – The Glenlivet Distillery
Jeff Arnett – Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Jota Tanaka – Kirin Brewery Company
Michael D’Souza – Paul John Distillery

Multiple Outlets Retailer of the Year

La Maison du Whisky

La Maison du Whisky’s impressive selection of rare bottles and the stunning Samples Room makes this more than a retail experience. Founded by Georges Bénitah in 1956, the company grew to become one of the largest French specialists of the importation and distribution of rare whiskies. Thanks to the ever-growing whisky market, La Maison du Whisky has been able to open up a number of successful stores in Paris, Réunion and Singapore.

Shortlist
Binny’s Beverage Depot
La Maison du Whisky
Madhuloka Liquor Boutique
Robert Graham

Online Retailer of the Year

Master of Malt - www.masterofmalt.com

Master of Malt’s website provides one of the most expansive ranges of fine and rare malts to be found anywhere in the world. The site is simple and easy to navigate, combining distillery facts, tasting notes and products. Master of Malt shows industry leading knowledge and experience, with a drive and passion for all things whisky related. Indulge in the retailer’s own independent offerings or explore the vast range of tasting and gift sets on offer.

Shortlist
Ace Spirits
Master of Malt
Royal Mile Whiskies

Scotch Whisky Ambassador of the Year

George S Grant - J&G Grant (Glenfarclas Distillery)

George is the sixth generation of the Grant family to act as a custodian for the Glenfarclas Distillery having joined the business in 2000. George enjoys introducing whisky lovers to older expressions, those distilled by his grandfather and watched over by his father. He oversees brand activity in over 60 markets and regularly travels the globe to promote the family business.

Shortlist
George S Grant – J&G Grant
James Pennefather – William Grant & Sons
Martin Daraz – The Edrington Group
Matthew Fergusson-Stewart – William Grant & Sons

Single Outlet Retailer of the Year

Celtic Whiskey Shop

Celtic Whiskey Shop, based in the heart of Dublin, has worked hard since 2003 to build strong ties with distilleries and wineries around the world, offering a whiskey mecca for lovers in Ireland and abroad. The company also has its own exclusive label, Celtic Cask, of which bottles are only released upon reaching their full potential! The store offers the customer a true whiskey experience with exclusive products, launches, tasting evenings and distillery tours.

Shortlist
Astor Wines & Spirits
Celtic Whiskey Shop
Gordon & MacPhail
La Cave

Supermarket of the Year

Waitrose

Waitrose first appeared on the high street in 1904 with a shop in Acton, UK. The first supermarket opened in 1955 and by the time Waitrose celebrated its centenary in 2004, the chain had expanded to over 200 stores and continues to grow today. The company still aspires to the founders’ original intention to ‘lift the food trade to a higher plane’. Waitrose offers a fine selection of single malts, blends and world whiskies in store with an online flavour wheel to help pre-select something you’re sure to love.

Shortlist
Le Marche
Tesco
Waitrose

Travel Retailer of the Year

World of Whiskies - London Heathrow Airport

World of Whiskies first opened in 1992 with the aim of offering fine whiskies from around the world. Whether after the perfect gift, or simply adding to your whisky collection with the latest Travel Retail exclusive, the stores at Heathrow are suitably stocked. With an extensive collection of world whiskies selected by expert buyers, you will find a comprehensive range of the finest drams.

Shortlist
Delhi Duty Free – Indira Gandhi International
Duty Free Americas
World of Whiskies – Edinburgh & Glasgow
World of Whiskies – London Heathrow

Visitor Attraction Manager of the Year

Rikki Scott - Aberlour Distillery

Rikki joined Aberlour in May 2014 as visitor centre supervisor. His passion for Aberlour comes across to both visitors and colleagues, boosting the average spend in the shop over the last year. His enthusiasm and innovation have brought positive changes to the attraction. On identifying the issue of designated drivers missing out on sampling Aberlour’s world-renowned malts, he created the £3 drivers’ kit for nosing samples before decanting into bottles to enjoy at home.

Shortlist
Kimberley Bennett – Beam Suntory
Mary Hensey – Tullamore DEW
Rikki Scott – Aberlour Distillery

Visitor Attraction of the Year

Highland Park Distillery

No trip to Orkney would be complete without a look around Highland Park Distillery, which has welcomed over 15,000 visitors this year. With a variety of tours ranging from a one hour Heritage tour to the more in-depth Connoisseur and Magnus Eunson tours, this popular tourist attraction caters for all levels of Highland Park enthusiasm. For the hard-core fan, take on a Specialist tour and prove your worth by working a day at the distillery. At £1,000 per person, this promises to be a truly memorable experience with a full island tour, seven course meal, photobook of your day and exclusive distillery bottling.

Shortlist
Amrut Distillery
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Highland Park Distillery
Irish Whiskey Experience

World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year

Paul P John - John Distilleries

While Paul P John assumes the role of chairman and MD of John Distilleries, his entrepreneurial skills and passion for premium products have made him a wellknown ambassador. With a successful wine range and award-winning hospitality business to his name, it is no surprise that he decided to try his hand at producing whisky. Given his love for single malts, Paul established John Distilleries in 1992. Paul John single malts have achieved international success.

Shortlist
Allison Patel – Brenne Whisky
Ian Chang – Kavalan Distillery
Paul P John – John Distilleries