Results are out for the biggest spirits judging in IWSC history

Spirit news

Wed 30 Jun 2021

By Pip Mortimer

IWSC 2021 highlights

  • 80 experts judged over 4,000 samples at the biggest spirits judging in IWSC history.
  • Worldwide whiskey was the category that achieved the highest scores, with 70 entries receiving 95 points or more.
  • Six entries were awarded 99 points, earning gold outstanding medals.
  • Contemporary gin saw the largest growth in medal winners.
  • A bumper year for Ready-To-Drink (RTD) products, with hard seltzers entered for the first time at the IWSC.
  • Rums from Barbados received the most gold medals than any other country.
  • 15% of Baijiu entries were awarded gold medals.
  • David T Smith, Ian Burrell, Marie Cheong-Thong, Joel Harrison and Colin Hampden-White made up the IWSC 2021 spirits judging committee.
  • Spirits entered from 86 countries

The IWSC’s biggest spirits judging in history took place over eight days in the heart of Soho. Over 80 experts were tasked with tasting over 4,000 spirits. Our panels of experts included the likes of Master Distiller of Beefeater, Desmond Payne OBE; Head of Buying for Master of Malt, Guy Hodcroft; Head of New Product Development for Atom Brands, Rosie Milson, as well as vodka expert, Veronika Karlova; and the founder of the Gin Foundry, Olivier Ward.

The judges were expertly guided by our Spirits Judging Committee, who oversaw the panels each day, stepping in with thoughts, guidance, advice, and confirmation when requested by the judges. David T Smith oversaw vodka, gin, and ready-to-drink cocktails; Ian Burrell led the rum panels; Marie Cheong-Thong guided Asian spirits, whilst Joel Harrison and Colin Hampden-White supervised brandies, fruit spirits and worldwide whiskey.

The biggest category this year was gin, with over 1,000 entries tasted by our judges, there was also a staggering number of rum entries, more than 300 liqueurs evaluated, as well as brandies, whiskies, Baijiu and Shōchū, and many other categories represented.

Each year the IWSC results reveal trends that go on to be seen within the industry, this year is no different. Contemporary gins saw the largest growth in medal winners. Spirits Judging Committee member, David T Smith described this year as “a bumper one for ready-to-drink (RTD) products, which is reflective of their growing popularity in the wider market”, hard seltzers made their debut at the spirits judging with seven medals awarded. There was a wide variety of rums entered this year, representing many countries, but it was rums from Barbados that received the most gold medals. Baijiu dominated the Asian spirits this year, Sauce Aroma was the most popular category with 15% of entries receiving gold medals. Worldwide whiskey was the category that achieved the highest scores, with 70 entries receiving 95 points or more.


Around 60% of entries received a medal, from bronze to the highest accolade of gold outstanding. There were 74 gold outstanding medals awarded this year and 250 gold medals. Six amazing spirits scored a massive 99 points each, the highest score given this year.

In total, spirits entered came from 86 countries, including some unexpected delights such as whiskey from Israel, Shōchū from England, gin from Brazil and vodka from Kyrgyzstan.

We’d like to congratulate all our worthy medal winners; our rigorous judging process means receiving accolades at the IWSC, the world's largest and most influential international spirit award, is no mean feat.

See the full list of the 2021 IWSC results.

The Spirits Judging Committee will now be re-tasting each gold-winning spirit to select the best bottles across a range of categories. The trophy-winners will be revealed on 5 July 2021.

Six bottles that scored 99 points