The first stop on this year’s journey is Australia, which, along with Ireland, is a stand-alone region in our awards for the first time. If other regions wonder how to replicate the rise to prominence of Australian whisky, they could do much worse than look at how the producers and industry support one another and celebrate each success as if it was its own.
Despite its infancy in our awards, it wasn’t an easy decision to pick a winner in any category, as the quality of nominees richly justified the reputation and esteem in which Australian whisky, and those individuals who work tirelessly to deliver it, are held.
As always, the Icons of Whisky awards remains committed to recognising the work that goes into perfecting the end product we all enjoy so much. ‘Whisky’ has become so much more than just a drink, with visitor attractions, product innovations and retail experiences all adding to the overall journey. We thank those who make this happen, and are delighted to bring you the results of the Australian stage of the 2018 awards.
Distiller of the year New World Whisky Distillery
New World Distillery could easily have ended up as New World Brewery, were it not for owner David Vitale having a chance meeting at a micro-brewery in 2004. Thankfully, he returned to Melbourne with a change of heart, plans for a new distillery and some committed local investors. Built around a simple vision of creating exceptional, modern whisky, it asks itself the question: What can whisky be? Almost exclusively ageing its whisky in Apera barrels, it would seem that its whisky can be something quite special – its Starward Wine Cask Edition was voted Best Australian single malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2016.
HC Great Southern Distilling Company
Brand Innovator of the year The McLaren Vale Distillery
With a name like McLaren Vale, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was based in Scotland. Opening the distillery in early 2016, John Rochfort, chose the location due to its proximity to great local wineries and the opportunity to use their barrels. Holding its spirit in barrels that have held world-class wines, the McLaren Vale is still busy building up its site and distillery, although the first spirit from its traditional still is rapidly coming of age. Its ambitious barrel program is truly something to behold and promises to yield exciting results in the very near future. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled.
HC New World Whisky Distillery
Visitor Attraction of the year Hellyers Road Distillery
A trip to the Hellyers Road experience is more that just a visit to a distillery. A visit allows you to explore the inner workings of the distillery, engage with the ingredients and latest batch and get to know the brand inside and out – including Henry Hellyer. Each visit concludes with the opportunity to pour and wax seal a personal bottle of Hellyers Road. Tastings are offered, alongside limited edition releases from the cellar door and a distillery café. The visitor centre was established 11 years ago and now welcomes over 40,000 people through its doors each year.
HC Belgrove Distillery
Craft Producer of the year Sullivans Cove Distillery
Sullivans Cove was established in 1994 in the heart of its namesake cove on the River Derwent, following the overturning of prohibition in the early 1990s. The distillery uses a 2,500 litre still, with limited production, however following a move to larger premises in 2014, it now distils seven days a week. It’s a small team led by Patrick Maguire, but the produce has seen it widely celebrated, including the title of World’s Best Single Malt in 2014, for its French Oak cask HH525, at the World Whiskies Awards. Demand has thus remained extremely high since, exceeding stocks, with an extensive and eager waiting list.
HC Whipper Snapper Distillery
Master Distiller / Master Blender of the year Ben Kagi – Great Southern Distilling Company
A native of Albany, where Great Southern Distilling Company is based, Ben Kagi joined the business in 2005. With a pedigree and nose for spirits trained as a judge at various shows. Working closely on the Limeburners Single Malt and the company’s whisky liqueur, Ben now sets the production standards in his role as the main distiller. His first role in the business was to ensure quality control, so with this in mind, his palate is well adapted (and practiced) for his current position at Great Southern Distilling Company.
HC Sam Slaney – New World Whisky Distillery
Distillery Manager of the year Cameron Syme – Great Southern Distilling Company
Cameron Syme established Great Southern Distilling Company in 2004, blending his business acumen and love of whisky. His history covers careers in law and accountancy in the UK and Australia, although a Scottish heritage and a family past in distilling left him well-suited for a life in whisky. Setting up Great Southern Distilling Company in Albany was a result of discovering the ideal conditions for distilling spirits in the area, and he has held positions such as deputy chairman of the Australian Distiller’s Association.
HC Patrick Maguire
Visitor Attraction Manager of the year Sharon Deane – Hellyers Road Distillery
Sharon Deane has managed the visitor centre at Hellyers Road Distillery for over a decade, establishing its reputation as one of the best whisky attractions in the world. Today Sharon welcomes over 40,000 visitors through the distillery doors every year. Inspiring each of those whisky enthusiasts and also her team at the visitor centre, Sharon takes a hands on approach, understanding each element of production and distillation at the distillery, so that she can better offer visitors an unrivalled whisky experience that they will never forget.
HC John Rochfort The McLaren Vale Distillery
American Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year Grant Shearon, Brown-Forman
Grant Shearon has worked on brands from the Brown-Forman portfolio, especially Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve, for a number of years, touring masterclasses and whisky festivals. His enthusiasm, and thriving presence on social media, has helped Grant raise the profile of Brown-Forman brands and establish its products in the ever-competitive and growing Bourbon and American whiskey market in Australia. With the brand’s history and Grant’s delivering the story, Jack Daniel’s is in good hands in Australia.
HC Michael Thomas, The Exchange / CCA
Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year Kate Moran – Jameson / Pernod-Ricard
Kate Moran is a graduate of the Jameson Program, who studied a business degree in France. After finding whisky as an ideal balance of chemistry and history, Kate’s interest was piqued and it has allowed her to travel the globe, before arriving in Australia. Rising to the challenge of talking about whiskies older than she is, Kate has become well-established as a brand ambassador. Her first week was in at the deep-end with Whisky Live in Paris, but today in Australia she is working closely with bartenders to encourage Irish whiskey as a cocktail-base and finding that consumers are getting younger and more inquisitive.
HC Vincent Magrath – Glendalough/Rogue Wines
Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year Daniel Hutchins-Read, Glenrothes / Berry Bros
With over four years in his current role as brand development officer, Daniel Hutchins-Read quickly established his reputation and is now synonymous with The Glenrothes and Berry Bros & Rudd brands in Australia and New Zealand. Over those four years he has delivered 30 per cent growth year on year across the Berry Bros & Rudd portfolio, through his astute developing of the brands locally, engaging activations and use of social media.
HC Dan Woolley, The Exchange / CCA
World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year Joey Tai, Baranows Emporium
The location of Joey TAi’s base at Hawthorn’s The Kilburn requires an extensive knowledge of spirits and flavours for a demanding clientele. With real pedigree in cocktail making and producing innovative, Joey uses such a platform to engage consumers and hopefully convert them into whisky drinkers. Her enthusiasm for the craftsmanship and time that is required to create and perfect a spirit has introduced numerous consumers to whiskies that may have otherwise been left undiscovered.
HC Paul Slater, New World Whisky Distillery
Multiple Outlets Retailer of the year Hurley Cellars
HC Black Sheep Stores
Single Outlet Retailer of the year Casa de Vinos
Operating out of its retail store in Port Melbourne, independent liquor store Casa de Vinos imports and distributes boutique and craft spirits across Australia. A family owned business with a strong reputation for passionate customer service, consumers don’t leave Casa de Vinos with just a bottle, but expanded knowledge of understanding of the product too. Its activation doesn’t stop there. Casa de Vinos has its own whisky club, providing four different samples each month, including exclusive products from producers such as Chichibu and The Whisky Agency.
HC The Oak Barrel
Online Retailer of the year Nicks Wine Merchants, nicks.com.au
Nicks Wine Merchants will celebrate 23 years of online retailing in 2017, and the secret to its longevity can be traced to competitive pricing and its comprehensive and transparent rating system. Everything is tasted so that the consumer can make an informed buying decision. A family owned business with a store in Melbourne, itself packed full of rare treats from the world of whisky, its online offering is even more comprehensive and odds are that if you’ve ever searched for that special bottle, you’ll have visited www.nicks.com.au and even more likely is that it’ll have what you’re looking for.
HC Casa de Vinos
Travel Retailer of the year Lagardere Travel Retail, Aelia Duty Free, Adelaide
Lagardere Travel Retail Group operates in more than 4,100 stores across the world, with a presence in over 150 airports. The Aelia brand is owned by Lagardere and operates in the Asia Pacific region. It opened its doors at Adelaide airport in 2013 and presents its whisky category through innovative promotional activities, key brand signage, duty free exclusives and in-store tastings. In 2017, the brand launched its World Whisky Tour, encouraging consumers to explore whiskies from around the globe. It’s prominent positioning of locally produced spirits has proven a great assistance in the global rise in interest for Australian whiskies.
HC Heinemann (Sydney)
Supermarket of the year Dan Murphy’s
With a name associated to liquor retailing in Victoria since 1878, it was in 1952 that Daniel Murphy started his eponymous retailer, when working in his father’s liquor store. He challenged himself to create something better, only a few hundred metres away, and immediately started doing things differently; sourcing from overseas and penning stories and reviews about his products. The success of the company centers on a simple but effective premise – offer the most extensive range, the lowest possible prices and passionate enthusiasm. A visit to Dan Murphy’s rewards consumers with the largest range in Australia and it even offers Australia’s ‘lowest price guarantee’.
HC Vintage Cellars