2023 Spirits Awards - deliberations from our judges #4

Spirit news

Thu 16 Mar 2023

Another of our biggest categories is Gin. Following three days of judging we hear from Olivier Ward about what he and members of the judging panels thought of this year’s entrants.


“So, a lot of variety and versatility this year. It’s been fantastic to see so many Asian entries this year, mainly because it's a broad region, of course, but also there's a lot of different philosophies of what gin could be coming from this part of the world. The gins are obviously very different depending on whether they’re made for the domestic market or for export markets, whether they're looking at creating a product that may suits how we drink gin in Europe, like the gin and tonic, or maybe how they drink it in different places around the world, say with soda water - so there's been a lot to analyse.

“This year we’ve had a lot of interest and conversations around the spirits bases, so that's been fantastic to see. And again, a lot of the little sub-genres like grape-infused gin, cask aged, old Tom, flavoured, all of that kind of stuff, all showing the width around the overall amounts of creativity on display.

“Let’s take grape infused gins, that used to just be shiraz, now you're really getting Pinot, you're getting shiraz, you're getting all of these different grape varietals and it's not just “oh, that's a great”, it’s absolutely become clear which grape variety you are tasting. This style has become clearer and clearer as producers have got better understanding, hey, how do I integrate gin with my infusion? And then what am I trying to say above and beyond that? So that's that was a real highlight, I think in terms of seeing evolution within a sub style.

“Another positive from this year, a lot of really well made London Dry Gins. For better or for worse they can sometimes be a bit boring because they're all trying to get to this sort of sense of classicism. This year we have seen a lot of well made, well-articulated London, dry gins that bring a sense of personality into it as well without moving away from classicism.

“What has not been great to see this year is a return of a lot of sweetness and extra sugar in the flavour category. That’s not been that easy to deal with. A lot of a lot of the flavour gins would have fared better had they just left the sugar alone. The good flavours, strong well-integrated gin to flavour, gin to fruit, has been a bit ruined by having a layer of cloying, enveloping sugariness. It also goes against a trend of the past four or five years.

“Finally, I think the critical feedback we are now sharing with entrants is good, not just from what we can provide to a producer, but it’s also great as it forces the judges to be much more objective in how they're evaluating. Take their own subjectivity out of it.”


The IWSC’s 2023 Spirits Results will be available from 27 March 2023.