Australian spirits are continuing to show their quality on the global stage with Young Henry’s Gin and Tonic RTD taking home the award for best spirit by quality at the London Spirits Competition.

The London Spirits Competition, run by Beverage Trade Network, is judged on quality, value and packaging. Winners must excel in all aspects, although quality is of the utmost importance.

Young Henry’s Gin and Tonic scored an impressive 97 points, winning Best RTD, Best Spirit by Quality, and Best in Show for Australia. The gin is distilled in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, infused with hops, juniper, pepperberries, and lemon myrtle. It is then paired with tonic water, with hints of pink grapefruit and thyme.

Queensland’s Tamborine Mountain Distillery was also awarded Best Brandy for its Apricot Brandy.

This year saw a record number of entries to the awards, with 2000 spirits brands entering from more than 80 countries. Australia submitted the most entries, with 367 entries across the categories.

“The London Spirits Competition is becoming more widely known in the trade with each passing year, and as a result we are receiving an increased number of entries,” commented Sid Patel, CEO of Beverage Trade Network. “I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at the increased number of entries this year as the pandemic resulted in many drinks companies putting their NPD on hold and focusing on their core operations instead. This is just testament to the increasingly good reputation of the competition as word spreads in the industry that we offer something a bit different from other events.”

The judges spoke highly of the quality of spirits, which judge and Duke’s Hotel head bartender Enrico Chiappini said was “high compared to last year.”

The competition is a great opportunity for distillers, according to Rui Tavares. Tavares has been a judge at the London Spirits Competition for the past five years, and is the manager at the London Marriott Hotel County Hall.

“I’ve run a gin bar for over five years and there are a few brands that I’ve never seen before,” he said. “I’ve discovered an amazing Swedish gin brand I’d like to include on my list, so the competition is a great way to increase awareness in the trade of great new products. And of course, winning an award gives consumers, particularly those who are not very knowledgeable about spirits, more confidence in the brand.”

Tavares also commented on the importance of packaging and design for distillers.

“It’s pretty key as people eat and buy with their eyes, and the more appealing the packaging, the more likely they are to invest in it,” Tavares emphasised. “I’d say that the majority of our customers know next to nothing about gin, so they are reliant on either our recommendations or how the product looks on the shelf, so from the on-trade point of view, the visual aspect is crucial.”

Tyriq Pitts, bartender at the Coral Bar at the Bloomsbury Hotel, felt similarly.

“These factors are really important,” said Pitts. “It’s easy to just focus on the taste and flavour, but at the end of the day if it doesn’t appeal to consumers and doesn’t sell, it’s pointless.”

Gin was the largest category in the competition, with 695 entries. Rum saw a strong increase in entries, suggesting that the category is becoming more popular. No and low alcohol drinks were another promising section, with many new entrants to the category. Giusy Castaldo, bartender at Mayfair-based Kwant bar, has noticed an increased interest among her customers.

“Customers are increasingly asking for non-alcoholic drinks, but the biggest increase has been in lower alcohol – people still want to drink, but don’t necessarily want to get drunk, so low ABV drinks tick all the boxes,” Castaldo confirmed.

Mezcal is another category on the rise.

“I feel like it’s really starting to pick up,” Pitts commented. “We offer a good selection of Mezcals and I think that there used to be a bit of a stigma around it as people said it was too smoky. But we make a Margarita with Mezcal rather than tequila which is really popular and visitors are specifically asking for it.”

As the bar manager at One Hundred Shoreditch, Mihal Fink has noticed the same thing.

“I’d say that both tequila and Mezcal are growing for us, but Mezcal is taking over because of the shortage of agave,” Fink agreed.

Australian spirits received a total of 23 gold medals in the competition.

Alongside Young Henry’s the gold medalist gins were:

  • Ester Spirits Dry Gin
  • Mt. Uncle FNQ Rum Co. Platinum
  • Big River Distilling Mandarin Gin
  • The Farmers’ Wife Distillery Autumn Dry Gin
  • Fourth Wave Wine Tread Softly Dry Gin
  • Cape Grim 666 Original Vodka
  • Eventide Hills Distillery Gin
  • Limoncello Australia Watermelon Mint Gin
  • Seabourne Distillery Coastal Dry Gin
  • Black Rabbit Distillery Signature Gin
  • Kangaroo Island Distillery Wild Gin
  • Australian Distilling Co Bondi Gin
  • Vok 23rd Street Distillery Mulberry Gin
  • Kilderkin Distillery Larrikin Gin Sunburnt Country
  • Kilderkin Distillery Larrakin Gin Lola
  • Fourth Wave Wine Tread Softly Pink Gin

The Australian whiskies that received a gold medal were:

  • Copper and Grain Distilling Co. Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky Signature
  • Headland Distilling Company Muscat Cask Whisky
  • Callington Mill Distillery Fusion Single Malt Whisky
  • Lawrenny Estate Distillery Lawrenny Cellar Collection Port Cask Single Malt Whisky
  • Headlands Distilling Company Apera Cask Whisky

Archie Rose Distillery’s White Cane Spirit also received a gold medal in the rum category.

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