10 December 2015 08:41

Distell Crowned World's Best Distiller

And Watts, Master Distiller And Watts, Master Distiller

Distell has been judged the International Wine & Spirit Competition's (IWSC) Distiller of the Year for 2015. The prestigious industry title for top quality was announced to an international audience of some of the world's foremost spirits producers and spirits specialists at a gala dinner in London recently.

This is the second time the Stellenbosch-based Distell has triumphed against famous-name whisk(e)y and cognac producers across Europe, North America and Asia. The previous time was in 2007.

Johan Venter, production director

What clinched it this year were two category trophies, five gold outstanding and 11 gold medals. The company took the Best Worldwide Brandy trophy for the Van Ryn's 12 Year Old potstill, made using the traditional technique of Cognac, while the Best Worldwide Whisky trophy was awarded to the Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old.

The coup comes hot on the heels of three significant wins at the New York International Spirits Competition, where the company's Van Ryn's Distillery was crowned Brandy Producer of the Year, and the James Sedgwick Distillery the Best International Whisky Distillery of the Year. Distell also won the title of South African Distiller of the Year and bagged five gold medals. The New York International Spirits Competition, part of the International Beverage Competitions Group, drew entries from 35 countries.

Brink Liebenberg,
head of production for Distell

Commenting on the wins, Distell's primary production director Johan Venter said: "We are enormously proud of these achievements and the confidence they convey in the intrinsic quality of our products. It's a great mark of affirmation to attain the IWSC distinction in what is essentially a peer-reviewed competition and it speaks to the extensive expertise and teamwork behind our brands. Similarly, in New York, the panel is drawn from top industry, hospitality and retail expertise. However, we see these as more than gains for Distell. They represent gains for the entire South African spirits industry."

Van Ryn's is South Africa's most decorated name in specialty brandy. This is the sixth time the luxury distillery has won the IWSC Worldwide Best Brandy trophy, and the second time it has taken the Brandy Producer of the Year award in New York. The IWSC trophy was accepted on behalf of the company by Brink Liebenberg, head of the company's South African spirits production and himself a master distiller.

Last year's IWSC Distiller of the Year title went to the Sazerac Company of Louisiana in the US and in 2013, to William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd of Scotland.


Distell's 2015 Gold Outstanding medals were awarded to:


  • South Africa
    Van Ryn's 12 Year Old pot-still brandy (trophy winner)
    - Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt whisky (trophy winner)
    - Oude Meester Souverein 18 Year Old pot-still brandy
    - Richelieu 10 Year Old Vintage brandy
  • Scotland
    - Scottish Leader 12 Year Old blended whisky

Gold medals went to:

  • South Africa
    Richelieu brandy
    - Klipdrift Gold pot-still brandy
    - Oude Meester Reserve 12 Year Old pot-still brandy
    - Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old blended whisky
    - Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky
    - Amarula Cream liqueur
    - Amarula Gold spirit aperitif
    - Mainstay Island Fusion (hazelnut flavour) flavoured vodka
  • Scotland
    Ledaig Single Malt 42 Year Old
    - Deanston Single Malt 12 Year Old
  • France
    Bisquit XO Cognac


Distell's Gold medals were awarded to:

  • Van Ryn's 12 Year Old potstill brandy
  • Van Ryn's 20 Year Old potstill brandy
  • Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky
  • Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish
  • Amarula Cream

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