Desmond Payne receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Beefeater’s Desmond Payne received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 21st annual International Spirits Challenge last night. 

Payne, who celebrates 50 years in distilling next year, picked up the award at the Honourable Artillery Company in London. 

Drinks International editor Christian Davis said of Payne: “Desmond can best be described as the most elegant gatekeeper of the gin category. I first met him down in Plymouth when he was running that still. He is a consummate professional and one of life’s true gentlemen.

“Always kind and discreet, he nevertheless has a wicked sense of humour and the ability to convey something, usually naughty or mischievous, without uttering a single word. A gift. I suspect “Mum’s the word” is his byword and modus operandi. A worthy recipient.”

For the full results click here. The highlights are below:

Master Blender/Distiller of the Year: Sandy Hyslop (Chivas Brothers)

This award recognises the craftsmanship, skill and talent of a master blender or distiller’s work from the past 12 months. Sandy Hyslop has been involved in Scotch whisky making for 33 years and counting. He is only the fifth master blender in Ballantine’s 180-year history and reckons to nose about 250 samples a day and taste about five a week.

On the art of blending, Hyslop told DI: “It is about 75% ability and 25% passion and dedication. I’m not just saying that – you have to focus on getting it right. A lot of people have a great sense of smell but the name of the game is being able to describe it.”

Rising Star of the Year: Helen Chesshire (Brighton Gin)

In the words of DI editor Christian Davis: “Helen is a very well known figure in UK wine circles. Always dressed flamboyantly as if she’s about to go to a 1950s-themed boogie party, she cuts a distinctive figure at many a tasting.

“Ebullient about everything she does, the Chesshire cat turned her hand to gin-making down in glitzy Brighton. And – surprise, surprise – not only have they made a success of it, but everyone knows about it.

“Helen and the rest of the Brighton Gin team – Kathy Caton, Ian Barry, Jonathan Ray and Nigel Lambe – have moved to larger premises and in doing so will treble production to around 250,000 bottles a year. They have started to export, using the strategy of Brightons Abroad – Apparently there is a Brighton in Melbourne, one in Sydney and 19 in the US. Chesshire knows.”