The prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) has announced the 2016 medal winners, and while several Australian gins have followed up their success in San Francisco, disappointingly none were awarded Gold medals this year.
What is the IWSC
The International Wine & Spirit Competition was founded by wine chemist Anton Massel as ‘Club Oenologique’ in 1969. Massel wanted to create a wine and spirit competition which relied not just on the palates of judges, but also by putting the entries through chemical analysis. The name was changed to the ‘International Wine & Spirit Competition’ in 1978.
The original aim of the Competition was to award excellence to wines and spirits worldwide and this aim remains the same today, with entries received from almost 90 countries.
The Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions and has a dedicated tasting premises and over 400 global experts judging products for 7 months of the year.
Australian gin distillers have been busy creating delicious spirits for some time now and the results of last week’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition highlight the recognition they are getting on the global stage. Here’s some more information on the awards and the medal winners.
What is the San Francisco World Spirits Competition?
Launched in 2000, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) is considered the most respected and influential spirits competition in the world, with a rigorous judging process involving highly-controlled blind-tastings with an expert panel who only receive information on spirit type, ABV and age (where applicable) to remove bias.
The 2016 panel was made up of 39 industry experts including David Wondrich, Julie Reiner, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Dale DeGroff and Charlotte Voisey.
The number of gins entered into the competition increased from 136 entries in 2015 to 197 in 2016.
Double Gold: Outstanding; earning top marks from all judges.
Gold: An excellent product, meeting very high standards.
Silver: A finely crafted spirit, well above average.
Bronze: A well-crafted spirit that deserves recognition.
When I heard about the Gin 1495 project last year I was intrigued. Juniper has been used in medicine and drinks since the 13th century, but no recipes had been recorded. The discovery of a recipe from 1495 was extremely exciting, but there was talk of limited bottles and only a few people in the world being offered a taste. I crossed my fingers and hoped that a bottle would wing its way to Australia and that I might have an opportunity to taste a little history. Thanks to my friends at G’Vine gin an invitation found its way to me.
The Gin 1495 tasting event was held at Juniper Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Sydney and home to a former English distiller, Robert Cooper, who had been transported to Australia as a convict!
Only 40 guests were invited along to hear Philip Duffy, drinks historian and gin expert, talk us through this extraordinary venture.
Phil first came across the reference to a gin recipe in an out of print book on Jenever. His interest piqued, he began investigating its origin and discovered that the text came from a 1495 cookbook from a merchant’s house in East Netherlands and was part of a collection of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) and that the collection was housed in the British Library.
What do you do when you discover an ancient recipe? Well, in Philip’s case you gather some of the foremost drinks historians: David Wondrich, Gaz Regan and Dave Broom together with Jean-Sébastien Robicquet (owner and founder of Eurowinegate and G’vine gin creator) and recreate it.
The botanicals listed in the recipe were nutmeg (at that time was worth more than its weight in gold), ginger, galangal (similar to ginger), grains of paradise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, sage, and juniper. The recipe states to use one part botanicals to nine parts wine distillate.
Wine was used as the base as opposed to grain spirit because it was easier to come by. It’s worth remembering that this predates the East India Company being founded, so these spices would have been brought across the silk route, probably by a lone merchant.
Two versions of gin were created from the recipe Verbatim is the exact recipe, while Interpretatio is the same recipe but with the inclusion of some of the more familiar gin botanicals used today that were unavailable then.
Verbatim (42% ABV)
On tasting this screamed “NUTMEG”. It was bold and herbaceous and very spicy. I felt warmed to my toes. One can only imagine the response when the merchant brought this out for his dinner guests. It would have tasted like nothing they had ever tasted before!
Interpretatio (45% ABV)
This version was made with more juniper, citrus and some angelica root. The resulting liquid is very different to Verbatim and more familiar as a gin, with the juniper more noticeable. It’s fresher, but still with herb and spice notes evident.
Only 100 sets of the gins have been produced. They will not be on general sale, but instead have been donated to various museums, spirits collections, archives, and gin institutions around the world. Some of them will also be auctioned off for charity.
It was an experience of a lifetime to taste something so unique and I love that this passion project is such an altruistic one.
In Australia the auction will be raising funds for Wine to Water a A movement dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to people in need around the world.
If you would like to make a bid to become one of the owners for these rare gins, you can do so here (auction closes on Friday Jul 31st, 7:30pm AEST)