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Icons of Whisky Rest of World 2017

It’s that time of year again when we begin our search for the most iconic figures and companies in the world of whisky. The annual Icons of Whisky awards highlight the growing popularity of this wonderful spirit by showcasing the vast array of producers and individuals offering innovative and exciting products on a global scale.

This year, the hunt for regional winners to compete for the overall Global title next March begins with the Rest of World stage of the awards. The ever-evolving whisky industry is having a direct impact on these awards as we look to breaking out some of the more popular whisky producing nations to make new Icons of Whisky regions.

Once again, we asked the industry to nominate their icons online before our Whisky Magazine editorial panel whittled each category down to a shortlist of five.

Following voting and a final review by the panel, we now present to you the Rest of World winners and we hope you will join us in celebrating their success. Keep an eye out in the next issue for the results of Icons of Whisky Scotland.

American Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year

Matt Jones - Beam Suntory (Canada)

After his Highly Commended award in this category last year, 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.

Highly commended
James Goggin - Maverick Drinks (England)

Brand Innovator of the year

Tullamore D.E.W. (Ireland)

At Tullamore D.E.W., 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 D.E.W.’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.

Highly commended
Compass Box (England)

Craft Producer of the year

Hombo Shuzo (Japan)

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.

Highly commended
West Cork Distillery (Ireland)

Distiller of the year

Suntory Spirits (Japan)

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.

Highly commended
Kavalan Distillery (Taiwan)

Distillery Manager of the year

David Fitt - The English Whisky Company (England)

It’s almost ten years since The English Whisky Company made its first 29 barrels of whisky after enlisting the help of renowned Laphroaig distiller, Iain Henderson. By August 2007, Iain was drafted in again to train up ex-brewer David Fitt. David soon took charge of distilling and has been chief whisky maker ever since. He oversees all aspects of production including maturation and bottling and has created an award-winning brand of peated and unpeated whiskies.

Highly commended
Koki Takehira - Mars Shinshu Distillery, Hombo Shuzo (Japan)

Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year

Stephen Teeling - Teeling Whiskey Company (Ireland)

Walter Teeling, 1782 is where it all began for the Teeling family’s long tradition of whiskey making. But it’s the latest generation that has revived distilling in Dublin as brothers Jack and Stephen continue the family’s legacy. With the new distillery welcoming 60,000 visitors in its first year, sales and marketing director Stephen has helped propel the success of this award-winning whiskey. His pride and enthusiasm for the ‘Spirit of Dublin’ has catapulted the brand far beyond its spiritual home of The Liberties in Dublin.

Highly commended
Emmet Murphy - Celtic Whiskey Shop (Ireland)

Master Distiller/Master Blender of the year

Jota Tanaka - Fuji Gotemba Distillery (Japan)

Jota Tanaka has worked in the wine and spirits industry and for Kirin for 28 years. After working at Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky as director of quality for seven years, Jota returned to Japan in 2009, and was appointed chief blender for Kirin Brewery Company’s Fuji Gotemba Distillery in 2010. Jota has taken over leadership in various aspects of Kirin’s whisky business to drive development of authentic yet innovative products for the future. The most recent expression, Fuji Sanroku 50°, is a unique blended whisky bottled at 50% ABV.

Highly commended
Gregg Glass - Compass Box (England)

Multiple Outlets Retailer of the year

La Maison Du Whisky (France)

Having recently visited the Rue d’Anjou store in Paris, it is easy to see why La Maison du Whisky has topped this category again. The impressive selection of rare whiskies 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 both in France and around the world, La Maison du Whisky has been able to open up a number of successful stores in Paris, Réunion and Singapore.

Highly commended
Dan Murphy’s (Australia)

Online Retailer of the year

Master Of Malt - www.masterofmalt.com (England)

It comes as no surprise that Master of Malt has retained its e-commerce crown. This 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.

Highly commended
Lion’s Whisky - www.lionswhisky.com (Italy)

Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year

Matthew Fergusson-Stewart - Glenfiddich (Singapore)

Some would consider travelling around Asia Pacific talking about Glenfiddich a dream job- For Matthew Fergusson- Stewart, this is a reality. Based in Singapore, Matthew combines his love for both whisky and Asia in his role as regional brand ambassador. Drawing on his knowledge of both the area and Scotch, he mentors a team of ambassadors to spread the word about this hugely celebrated and worldrenowned single malt.

Highly commended
Lawrence Graham - Victoria Whisky Festival (Canada)

Single Outlet Retailer of the year

Celtic Whiskey Shop (Ireland)

For the second year running Celtic Whiskey Shop, based in the heart of Dublin, has taken the title of Single Outlet Retailer of the year. Since 2003, the company has worked hard 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.

Highly commended
Big Tsukiji (Japan)

Supermarket of the year

Waitrose (England)

Waitrose first appeared on the high street in 1904 when Wallace Wyndham Waite, Arthur Rose and David Taylor opened a shop in Acton, UK. After various developments and ownership changes, the first supermarket opened in 1955. By the time Waitrose celebrated its centenary in 2004, the chain had expanded to over 200 stores and continues to grow today, still aspiring 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.

Highly commended
Lidl (Europe)

Travel Retailer of the year

World Of Whiskies - London Heathrow Airport (England)

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 terminals two, three, four and five are suitably stocked. With an extensive collection of world whiskies selected by expert buyers, you will find a comprehensive range of the finest drams, and the highly trained staff are on hand to offer an exceptional customer experience.

Highly commended
Schiphol Airport Retail - Schiphol Airport (Netherlands)

Visitor Attraction Manager of the year

Mary Hensey - Tullamore D.E.W.(Ireland)

Success again for Mary Hensey as she retains her crown in this category. Mary is a Tullamore local with a strong sense of pride working with Tullamore D.E.W. After completing a diploma in interior architecture, she ran her own furniture shop before joining the team as visitor centre manager. Mary was heavily involved in the refurbishment and development of the new visitor centre in 2012. Under her management, the visitor centre continues to see record numbers of people through the doors of this must-see attraction.

Highly commended
Laura Davies - Penderyn Distillery (Wales)

Visitor Attraction of the year

Irish Whiskey Experience (Ireland)

No trip to Killarney in the south west of Ireland would be complete without a visit to the country’s premier sensory and interactive whisky attraction, the Irish Whiskey Experience. Whether new to Irish whiskey or a connoisseur, there is something for everyone here as you delve into the history of whiskey production, the distilling process and comparative tastings of the nation’s finest. Masterclasses and courses will take you through the art of blending, cooperage, food pairing and deconstructions of Ireland’s most celebrated whiskeys. The venue can also be hired out for that special occasion.

Highly commended
Mackmyra Gravity Distillery (Sweden)

World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year

Ian Chang - Kavalan Distillery (Taiwan)

Ian Chang joined Kavalan in 2005 as master blender but within his role he also encompasses that of brand ambassador and director of business development. That said, no one understands Kavalan’s whisky and brands better than this man. He puts the consumer at the heart of everything he does and aims to target whisky lovers of all ages, while expecting top quality every time. Ian’s dedication is reflected in each expression of Kavalan Single Malt as the brand continues to put Taiwan firmly on the world whisky map.

Highly commended
Krish Kumar - Paul John Distilleries (India)