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Hibiki 21 Year Old is the ISC’s Supreme Champion Spirit for 2017
Published:  13 July, 2017

The International Spirits Challenge’s Supreme Champion Spirit for 2017 is Suntory’s Hibiki 21 Year Old.

The prestigious trophy was awarded at the ISC awards dinner last night (July 12) at Gibson Hall in the City of London.

All of the 27 trophy-winning spirits were re-tasted blind by our category chairmen, who voted Hibiki the overall champion. The much-awarded Japanese whisky came top of the 1,480 spirits entered into the awards this year. Hibiki is not only Japan’s most highly awarded blended whisky, but among the most prestigious whiskies in the world.

Established in 1899, Suntory is one of the oldest companies in brewing, distilling and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Japan. With its 2014 acquisition of Beam, Suntory became international and is now one of the largest distillers in the world.

Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo is picutred with Sho Semba, president of Suntory Spirits, accpeting the trophy from DI publisher Justin Smith (left) and WSET cheif executive Ian Harris (right).

Drinks International publisher and ISC events director Justin Smith said: “The ISC sets the international standard for quality and excellence. Its impressive legacy is founded through the constant development of the competition, the breadth of its ever evolving categories, the scrupulous blind assessment and the skill set of our expert judges.

“The challenge is committed to ensuring fair and accurate assessments in the judging process. Medals are only awarded when the panel agree they are rightfully deserved. Each spirit has to pass the meticulous blind tasting by some of the world’s leading industry professionals.

“To be awarded a trophy in the Challenge is an exceptional achievement and emphasises the quality - and innovation shown by global drinks producers.

This ISC has judges from many countries, including France, Russia, United States, Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, South Africa and Japan as well as the UK,” said Smith.

WSET chief executive Ian Harris, who was master of ceremonies, said: “Every year the drinks industry gets more and more exciting. The incredible innovation, quality and craftsmanship shown by global spirits producers is simply wonderful.

The Awards


There were twelve trophies, five for world whiskies, four for blended scotch, two for single malt and one for single grain.

World Whiskies

The judges awarded a total of 36 gold, 126 silver and 13 bronze medals.

The trophy for bourbon went to Colonel E H Taylor Junior. Single Barrel - Straight Kentucky Bourbon.

World Whiskies Blended category

For the fifth year running, Suntory’s Hibiki 21 Year Old took the trophy

World Whiskies Single Malt

Triple Eight Distillery’s The Notch Nantucket Island 12 Year Old, Single Malt Whisky

World Whiskies Aged Single Malt

The winner for the second year running was Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength, Single Malt Whisky

World Whiskies Grain

Winner Nikka Coffey Malt

Scotch whisky

The judges awarded 68 gold, 273 silver and 13 bronze medals.

Scotch Grain

An outright winner was Invergordon 43 Year Old – Batch 11

Blended Scotch No Age

The trophy goes to Chivas Ultis

Blended Scotch up to 20 years old

The winner is Dewar’s 18 Year Old

Blended Scotch 21 years old and over

Winner: Master of Malt 40 Year Old

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

The 2017 winner is Johnnie Walker Green Label

Single Malt up to 20 Years/Single Malt 21 years

There were two trophies:

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old


The Balvenie Thirty

ISC Supreme Champion Spirit 2017

The International Spirits Challenge’s Supreme Champion Spirit for 2017 is Suntory’s Hibiki 21 Year Old.


Arcus aquavits received an incredible four trophies, for:

Aalborg Dild Akvavit

Aalborg Jule Akvavit

Lysholm Linie Double Cask Madeira

Lysholm Linie Double Cask Port


Justin Smith said: “What an incredible year for the Gin category. Our judges were really put to the test, tasting their way through 188 products, a huge increase of 26% and a record-breaking year. There are two trophies:

Elephant Gin, London Dry Gin


Gibson's Exception, By La Martiniquaise


Two trophies went to:

Pravda Rye vodka


Stalinskaya Blue wheat vodka


There was one trophy: Tequila Corazon Expresiones Van Winkle Añejo


There were three trophies:

Foursquare Triptych

Bundaberg Rum: Master Distillers’ Collection – Blenders’ Edition.

Foursquare 2004


There were two trophies: Distell’s Oude Meester Souverein


De Luze XO Fine Champagne


The Liqueurs trophy was won by: Supercassis - Crème De Cassis by Vedrenne

Design & Packaging Awards

The ISC Design and Packaging awards look to recognise the very best designs within the spirits sector. Judges were asked to assess entries based on their pure creativity, initial impact, and relevance to the channel and its customers.

Ian Harris said: “The panel were impressed with the number of original designs emerging from the craft movement in the industry. The judges debated, discussed and reviewed before awarding the following Trophies.

The Best Design of a New Individual product

The Trophy went to: Bareksten Botanical Gin

The Best Design of a New Product Range

The Trophy: The McQueen Gin Range

The Design for a Specialist Retail Channel

The winner was Hennessy XO Extra Old Cognac Limited Edition

Design and Packaging Supreme Champion

The McQueen Gin Range

Producer of the Year Awards

Drinks International editor Christian Davis presided over the Producer of the Year and Special Recognition awards

The results are determined by a weighted points system, which scores the performance of all brands entered into a single spirits category. The company with the highest score in each category won the accolade of Producer of the Year.

The Liqueur Producer of the Year

Choya Umeshu

The Gin Producer of the Year


Vodka Producer of the Year

Belvedere LVMH

Tequila Producer of the Year

Casa San Matias

Rum Producer of the Year

R L Seale & Company

Brandy Producer of the Year


World Whiskies Producer of the Year

 Suntory Spirits

Scotch Whisky Producer of the Year

William Grant & Sons (for the third year running)

“This Scotch whisky category is fiercely competitive and the number of entries by producers increases every year. Our winner has had an astonishing performance. Out of 49 entries into the scotch category, they have received a 100% medal success rate in the blind tasting, picking up 11 gold, 37 silver and one bronze medal.  Furthermore they have been awarded two Trophies here this evening,’ remarked Davis.

Supermarket Own Branded Spirits Range

Ian Harris said: “This supermarket producer had great success in this year’s challenge, achieving gold, silver and bronze medals across categories such as American Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Brandy, Cognac, Gin, Rum, Liqueurs, Vodka and White spirits.”

The award goes to Aldi

The ISC Distiller of the Year

This award recognises not only the trophies but also the highest performance of gold, silver and bronze medals, across all spirits categories within the entire Challenge.

Davis said: “This year, it was very close indeed, with just a few points between each distiller to take home this most prestigious award.

The winner is: William Grant & Sons

Glencairn sponsors the ISC by providing the amazing trophies. Glencairn director Raymond Davidson presented the award to William Grant director and family member, Kirsten Grant Miekle.

Special Recognition Awards

These celebrate the work of individuals in the drinks industry who have made a significant contribution to the sector we all work within.

The awards were determined by a panel of independent judges who consisted of independent experts, journalists, specialist spirits writers and consultants.

Master Blender/Distiller of the Year

The award went to William Grant’s master blender and Glenfiddich’s malt master, Brian Kinsman

Rising Star of the Year award

This honours an individual who has demonstrated exceptional talent. Aimee Gibson, who is a member of the Johnnie Walker blending team working alongside, master blender Jim Beveridge, was identified as a rising star for the future.

Lifetime Achievement Award

This celebrates the work and commitment of an individual who has made a significant impact on the drinks industry during their career.

This year ‘s award is posthumous award to Dr Jim Swan, who died earlier this year. The award was collected by his two daughters Caroline Lennon and Victoria Swan.