Comment - IWSC Heralds Busy Year for William Grant & Sons
The IWSC was held last night
You just know the International Wine & Spirit Competition is one of the most prestigious events in the drinks annual calender, not because it is held in the medieval Guildhall, one of London's most striking venues. Nor because it attracts the top names in the industry. But, because it has real live buglers.
It takes first-time guests such as myself a few moments to realise what's making the noise, but there they were, two heralds down the the side of the great hall, tootling calls in the space between the calling of the award nominees and the winners.
The buglers were busy last night. One thing the IWSC doesn't lack, along with fine wine and food courses, is award categories. Everything from Canadian wine producer of the year to the trophy for shochu - picked up by two men from Japan's Hombo Shuzo Co resplendent in kimonos - were represented and it seemed there was hardly pause to pick up the cutlery for all the clapping taking place.
But the event, in essence, really boils down to just two awards, presented at the evening's conclusion: winemaker of the year and distiller of the year. Wolf Blass's chief winemaker Chris Hatcher bounded up on stage to receive the first on behalf of his team, surely also a fillip for troubled brand owner Treasury Wine Estates, which is facing lawsuits after a controversial stock write-down in the US.
And William Grant & Sons master distiller Brian Kinsman was the proud recipient of the second award, recognition of the Scotch producer's hard graft this year, highlighted by the fact not all the William Grant team could make it to the ceremony because some were in another part of London at the launch of Glenfiddich expression Spirit of a Nation.
It has been a busy 2013 for William Grant. I was there both in London and in Cannes earlier this year when the distiller showcased its Travel Retail-exclusive Glenfiddich Cask Collection, its major focus for the sector over the next few years. On both occasions Kinsman and the William Grant management team talked extensively on the heritage of Glenfiddich and their focus on the future.
Today, reflecting in his win, Kinsman told me it was a “phenomenal” night for the company. “The amount of effort by everyone has been amazing and it's great to be recognised by the industry like this,” he said.
What particularly pleases the master distiller was that alongside a raft of gold medals for William Grant whiskies, three of its brands - The Balvenie and Glenfiddich 40-year-olds and Grant's 18-year-old - walked off with trophies, the competition’s highest accolade.
“Those whiskies are our core brands,” Kinsman said. “It shows that although we are working on extensions, the core part of our business has not been forgotten.”
Looking to the future, it seems that William Grant can expect to hear a few more bugle calls yet.
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