Celebrating whiskey excellence
The Icons of Whisky awards are intent on finding the very best people, products and places within the world of whisk(e)y. They celebrate the hard work and ingenuity that goes into every bottle, the stories behind each brand, retailers who open the world up to consumers, and the bars that provide wonderful settings for whisk(e)y lovers to discover new favourites.
Since their inception, these awards have highlighted the heart-warming camaraderie between whisk(e)y professionals – one of the many aspects that makes it such a wonderful industry to work within.
Distiller of the Year
Beam Suntory crafts some of the world’s best-loved and most iconic brands thanks to centuries of product development, innovation and experience in building globally recognised whiskies and spirits. Arguably the most famous of all is the company’s flagship brand, Jim Beam, now overseen by seventh generation Beam master distiller Fred Noe. Last year saw the release of Jim Beam Double Oak and a global packaging redesign for the entire portfolio. Beam Suntory’s list of brands extends to the distinctive Maker’s Mark, handcrafted Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, to name a few.
Heaven Hill Brands
Brand Innovator of the Year
Maker’s Mark Distillery
There is a fast growing trend of customisation happening right now, as enthusiasts seek expressions to claim as uniquely theirs. Maker’s Mark is taking this to a new level, far beyond the usual offerings of choosing liquid from pre-selected barrels. Maker’s Mark innovates to excite and exceed demands by allowing enthusiasts to have a hand in ‘making their own Maker’s’. Inspired by the process for Maker’s 46, participants finish fully-matured Maker’s Mark for an additional nine weeks in a single barrel that includes their own custom selection of oak staves.
Visitor Attraction of the Year
Buffalo Trace Distillery
No trip to Kentucky would be complete without a visit to this National Historic Landmark, which last year welcomed its millionth visitor. Buffalo Trace’s visitor centre entertained a record number of visitors in 2016 with over 170,000 people coming through the doors, an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year. Buffalo Trace is planning for additional developments including more complimentary tours and tastings. Add that to the recent discovery of ‘Bourbon Pompeii’, the early foundation and fermenting vats dating back to 1873, now being preserved for visitors to see.
Four Roses Distillery
Craft Producer of the Year
Sons of Liberty Spirits Company
Michael Reppucci, founder and owner of Sons of Liberty Spirits Company, dreamed of starting an uprising, and that’s exactly what he did when he began his American whiskey revolution in 2011. While studying in the UK, Michael asked himself why no one turns their favourite beer into whisky. So, on returning to his native Rhode Island, he enlisted the help of former Maker’s Mark master distiller David Pickerall and set up the first craft whiskey distillery in the state since Prohibition. The company’s flagship brand, Uprising, is made from a blend of malted barley imported from the UK.
Master Distiller / Master Blender of the Year
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
In 2001, Jeff took his first job at the Jack Daniel Distillery in quality control and overseeing Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. Since then, his work in warehousing, maturation, distillation, charcoal mellowing, barrel quality and bottling, has primed him to spearhead the entire operation. In 2008 Jeff was named the seventh master distiller in the distillery’s 150-year history. Jeff’s role is to ensure this iconic whiskey is both in constant supply and true to Jack’s guiding belief that, ‘Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.’
Denny Potter – Heaven Hill Distillery
Distillery Manager of the Year
Maker’s Mark Distillery
With more than 25 years of experience in the spirits industry, Victoria MacRae-Samuels holds the unique distinction of being the first woman to be named vice president of operations at a Bourbon distillery. Responsible for overseeing every aspect of the Maker’s Mark Distillery, her expertise and her 90 staff keep things running smoothly. Victoria is responsible for the production of Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46, from the selection of the grains, fermentation and distillation to barrel warehousing, bottling and shipping, quality control and taste testing.
Ryan Ashley – Four Roses Distillery
American Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the Year
Adam took his first job with Beam Suntory in 2006 and since then he’s been sharing stories and promoting Beam Suntory’s American whiskey portfolio in the US and around the globe. In 2010, he was named a Kentucky Colonel by the governor of the commonwealth in recognition of his contributions. Known for his enthusiasm and approachable style, Adam spends time throughout the year working with the master distillers and teams at both Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark to learn all aspects of the Bourbon craft as well as tasting and helping select new products.
Bernie Lubbers – Heaven Hill Brands
Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the Year
Last year, Tim Herlihy embarked on an epic pub crawl as he challenged himself to visit Irish pubs in all 50 US states in the 30 days leading up to St Patrick’s Day. It is no surprise, therefore, that Tim has taken the crown in this category for the second year running. As far as whiskey experts go, they don’t come more ‘Irish True’ than Tim. He began his whiskey career with the Cooley Distillery before taking up this role with William Grant & Sons. A natural raconteur, Tim travels the US educating, entertaining and sharing his passion for this award-winning Irish whiskey.
Michael Egan – Beam Suntory
Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year
The Edrington Group
Martin Daraz was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, before moving to the US in 2004. He began his career in the whisky industry in 2006 when he was appointed as The Edrington Group’s US brand ambassador while based in New York. Martin relocated to Los Angeles in 2009, before taking up his current role with expanded responsibility for the Asia Pacific region in 2012. His key responsibilities include conducting industry training and spreading the word about Highland Park and other Edrington brands.
David Laird – William Grant & Sons
World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year
Allison Patel is the founder and owner of Brenne Whisky, an award-winning single malt made entirely in the Cognac region of France. She resides in New York City where she has stayed since her days of performing as a professional ballerina. However, Allison can often be found at your local watering hole sharing her joys and passion about world whiskies. She is very proud of the success of Brenne whisky and intrigued by the infinite possibilities she sees for the future of international single malts.
Raj Sabharwal – Purple Valley Imports
Visitor Attraction Manager of the Year
Kimberley took over the reins of Jim Beam Bourbon’s tourism experience in 2012. When she helped design the attraction at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, she drew on her years of event management knowledge. Under her guidance, visits to the American Stillhouse, and the Urban Stillhouse in Louisville grew nearly 100 percent. Last year, more than 200,000 people visited the two sites, a number that is expected to grow. Kimberley develops and leads all these attractions and is the driving force for future customer experiences.
Matt Higgins – Buffalo Trace Distillery
Multiple Outlets Retailer of the Year
Binny’s Beverage Depot
Success again for Binny’s Beverage Depot. Wine and spirits retailer Binny’s is located in the Midwest with over six decades of history in the Chicago area. The chain’s 35 Illinois locations boast nearly 5,000 different spirits, including an impressive collection handpicked by the industry-leading Whiskey Hotline. The hotline offers news, tips and reviews so you can be sure to get your hands on exciting new releases, rare bottlings and exclusive Binny’s casks. Prepare your list in advance with a browse online at the superb range. If you can’t find it at a Binny’s, it’s probably not worth drinking!
Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods
Single Outlet Retailer of the Year
Astor Wines & Spirits
A regular in our retailer categories, Astor Wines & Spirits has been operating in New York City since 1946. Located in the historic DeVinne Press Building on Lafayette Street, it provides a unique experience for customers with a selection of nearly 5,000 wines and spirits, and knowledgeable and helpful staff. Astor Wines & Spirits has a dedicated ‘Cool Room’ to ensure products are stored in optimum conditions as well as a tastings timetable where customers can sample a dram for free. Tried something you like? The store will knock 15 per cent off the price when purchased following a tasting.
Online Retailer of the Year
Ace Spirits started out with a store in Hopkins, Minnesota, which opened its doors in March 2014. For owner Louis Dachis, the goal is to sell every whiskey available in the state, and if it can’t be picked up in store, you will find it on the retailer’s stylish website. Navigate your way around the whiskies of the world with everything from Pappy Van Winkle to an impressive selection of White Dog. Learn all about your favourite distilleries and discover new products in ‘Brand Profiles’, or explore the vast range of accessories and gift ideas for that special occasion.
Binny’s Beverage Depot
Travel Retailer of the Year
Duty Free Americas
An operator of duty-free shops in the western hemisphere, Duty Free Americas is proving itself as the company to beat having topped this Icons category for the second year running. Offering a vast range of products from the finest brand names, including some of the most exclusive whisky releases, this Travel Retail provider offers a high quality shopping experience for business and holiday travellers alike. The company was purchased by brothers Simon, Jerome and Leon Falic on 11 October 2001. Duty Free Americas has its headquarters in Hollywood, Florida, with numerous operating divisions.
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