Spirits buyers will have their own criteria and determining factors that will decide which spirits brands end up on their drinks lists and pride of place on their back bar. But it can’t help to benchmark whatever vodkas, whiskies or gins they have chosen with the best of the best in the recent London Spirits Competition. Here we profile the overall winners in the separate vodka, gin and whisky categories and why they stood out to a judging panel made up of some of the UK’s leading bartenders and spirits buyers.
The London Spirits Competition is different in that it judges brands based on their quality, what they taste like, their value for money and what they look like. Click here to see the winners in this year’s competition.
The judging criteria for the London Spirits Competition has been devised in close consultation with its judges. All of whom have direct buying responsibility in their day-to-day roles. It’s why it goes beyond just tasting every product blind and basing its medal winners and quality. And that’s it.
The London Spirits Competition wants to reward those brands that have the best commercial opportunity to make it big in the top bars of the UK and around the world. That’s why the judging panels will also assess each brand for what it tastes like, and how does its mouth feel and performance match its quality and how versatile will be it for busy bartenders to use in their bars.
The top Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are also only awarded to those products that offer good value for money at their price point and have an attractive, eye catching and relevant packaging and design for the brand. They also have to be tactile and practical to use in a busy bar.
It’s why the following brands, in particular, deserve all the praise and accolades they get for standing out in arguably three of the most competitive categories there are in spirits: gin; vodka; and whisky.
Vodka Of The Year and Overall Brand of the Year
Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka by Ramsbury Brewing & Distilling Co. Ltd
700ml. 43% abv.
“Malty and rich on the nose, golden sultanas, raisins and sweet vanilla on the palate. Creamy texture with bags of flavour, sweet vanilla and Pedro Ximinez on the finish. This is a sublime product.” That’s the praise that Kieran Grieves, head of drinks development at the Cairn Hotel Group shone on Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka, not only voted the best vodka in the competition with 96 points, but the best spirit brand overall.
It was the brand that all the judges wanted to take another sip of. Ludovica Fedi, head bartender at The Gleneagles Hotel, for example, described the vodka as “sweet aroma with marshmallow notes, creamy body with interesting milk chocolate notes”.
Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka is made by the Ramsbury Brewing and Distilling Company that is part of the 19,000 acres of Ramsbury Estates that covers North East Wiltshire, West Berkshire and North Hampshire. This is an area famous for its rolling solid chalk hills with a fantastic variety of flora and fauna.
But it is the Horatio wheat grown in the estate, and in the fields adjacent to Ramsbury distillery that is key to producing this world leading vodka. The wheat combined with the distillery’s own chalk filtered water, which when distilled is responsible for making what the distillery claims is “one of the smoothest and most elegant of single estate spirits”.
The Ramsbury team look to make what they describe as “a smooth and rich vodka, crafted from the finest Horatio wheat grown on the estate”. It adds: “Each and every bottle can be traced back to the very field from which the wheat originated.”
It is the Horatio wheat that is responsible for the vodka’s distinctive vanilla tones, which opens up into what Ramsbury describes as “an elegant, medium-bodied vodka with a creamy texture”. This is a vodka with a palate of “dried fruits, cocoa, layers of caramel, finished by a dark chocolate richness”.
Mt. Uncle Distillery’s Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin. 94 Points
The global explosion in gin production received official approval at the 2021 London Spirits Competition with an Australian distillery, Mt Uncle Distillery, being awarded the best gin in the world for its Mt. Uncle Distillery’s Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin. What’s more it had to beat off competition from 470 other gins from around the world that also entered the awards.
The Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin is a dry-style gin based on an original London dry gin recipe but with the first ingredients substituted with Australian native botanicals. The judges were struck by how much its herbaceous, floral taste just made it stand out in repeated taste tests. Native botanical levels are used to combat the high ABV.
Mt. Uncle Distillery started out in 2001 as the first craft distiller in North Queensland and is all the work of head distiller and director Mark Watkins. Initially the distillery became known for the multitude of liqueurs it was producing, with the ingredients all sourced from fruits on the Mt Uncle farm, as well as other local farm lands in the Atherton Tablelands. If you have not been to North Queensland before well think Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs with plants, ferns, trees, and flora that date back millions of years.
Using these locally sourced ingredients from North Queensland has become the distillery’s trademark The distillery is situated at the foothill of Mount Uncle and set in beautiful landscaped gardens within a banana plantation.
“We’ve spent years caring for the land where we source some of our ingredients and generations refining our recipes and distilling processes so you can taste nature’s finest in every drop,” says Watkins.
Whisky Of The Year
Dingle Distillery Fourth Single Pot Still Release by The Dingle Distillery
“Small. Artisan. Independent. Proud.” Those are the first four words you read on the Dingle Distillery website. Making it quite clear from the off what it is about.
Here’s how it continues: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. Distilleries are not created equal, nor is the whiskey that flows from them.”
This is a craft distillery that is rightly mighty proud of what it does and the quality spirits it produces. It was founded by Oliver Hughes, Liam LaHart and Peter Mosley who are also behind the Porterhouse Brewing Company, one of Ireland’s pioneers in craft beer, that was launched in 1996. The Dingle Distillery is their craft whiskey version of craft beer which first came into life in 2012.
This is how they describe its launch. “We appear to be at the forefront of a minor revolution in that the Dingle Whiskey Distillery is the first of what appears to be – and we certainly hope will be – artisan distilleries throughout the island of Ireland. The future of the Irish Whiskey industry looks bright and we are proud to have been the first to break the mould. Long may it continue.”
That artisan and pioneering spirit is all encapsulated in its Fourth Single Pot Still Release that beat off 131 other whiskies from around the world to win the best overall whisky in the 2021 London Spirits Competition.
It is the quality of the local well water that is key to Dingle Whiskey’s unique style. As well as what it calls its “immensely manual mashing” that combine with the “wooden fermentation vessels that feed into the three bespoke copper pot stills” it uses to distill its whisky. “The production is purely Dingle,” it says. “The micro climate then creates a maturation like no other. We do not manipulate the course of our whiskey, only nature can do that.”
The winning whisky is one of five Single Pot whiskies that Dingle produces alongside its range of Batch whiskies.
When it comes to describing what the Dingle Distillery does best, it’s best to leave it to them to use their own words: “Dingle. Hand-made character. Unique Whiskey. From the edge. Sláinte!”
- To find out all the winners in the 2021 London Spirits Competition click here.