[ISC2023] International Spirits Challenge 2023 Award Winners Announced


Many Japanese whiskies won awards! Excerpts from the results of the International Spirits Challenge 2023.

The results of the “International Spirits Challenge (ISC)”, organized by “Drinks International”, a British publisher specializing in alcoholic beverages, have been announced.


1. What is the International Spirits Challenge (ISC)?

The International Spirits Challenge (ISC) is an international spirits competition held in London for the 28th time this year.
It is classified into three categories: the “Tasting Award” for flavor, the “Design & Packaging Award” for design, and the “Spirits Tourism Award” for the attractiveness of distilleries.
The Tasting Awards include the Whisky, Brandy, Rum, White Spirits, Liqueur, and Shochu categories, with over 2,200 spirits entered from approximately 70 countries around the world.
The spirits are judged in blind tastings by world-renowned spirits industry experts, and in order of excellence, the Double Gold, Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards are given.

Past Awards for Japanese Whisky

The highest award is the “Trophy” selected from the Double Gold, and in the whisky category, “Hibiki 30 Years old” from Suntory Whisky of Japan has won the award four times in the past, in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
In the 13th edition held in October 2009, Nikka Whisky’s “Taketsuru 21 Years old Pure Malt” won the trophy for the first time.
Since then, Nikka Whisky’s Taketsuru series has continued to win gold medals for more than 10 years.
In addition, the title of “Supreme Champion Spirit” is awarded to the best distilled spirit from among all the “Trophies” in each category.
In the past, the “Supreme Champion Spirit” was awarded to Suntory’s “Hibiki 21 Years old” in 2017.

Other international awards for whisky include the World Whisky Awards (WWA), which is held by the publisher of the same British “whisky magazine”, Whisky Magazine.
Incidentally, all brands entered in the competition are eligible to receive some kind of award, at least a bronze.
Now, I would like to introduce the Double Gold and Gold award-winning whiskies in the whisky category.

2. Double gold award winners

1-1.Suntory HIBIKI 21 Years Old

[Review] Hibiki 21 Years
Japanese Whisky Hibiki21.The world's highest peak blended whisky symphony symphony sound 21 years. It is now very difficult to obtain. Rich with profound sis el...


1-2. Suntory HIBIKI 30 Years Old

This is a precious and rare limited-quantity product, of which only a few thousand bottles are made per year.
I have never had it.
The malt sake is carefully selected from Suntory’s treasured casks that have been aged for a very long time and are at least 30 years old.
This is then carefully blended with matured grain base sake that is at least 30 years old.
The sake is delivered in a 30-sided cut crystal bottle as a luxurious jewel.

1-3. Suntory Yamazaki 25 Years Old

I have never had this one either.
It has a noble woody aroma, complex sweetness, and a long, deep finish.
Very rare malt liquors aged more than 25 years are carefully selected and carefully blended, which are matured in Mizunara, Spanish and American oak barrels. The annual production is limited to a few thousand bottles.

1-4. Nikka Whisky Yoichi Woody & Vanilla

 【Review】 Single Malt Yoichi W...
Single Malt Yoichi Woody & Vanilla is a series that accentuates the character of the official Yoichi bottles by the barrels and malt strains used, such as &...


2. Gold award winners

2-1. Ichiro’s Malt DOUBLE DISTILLERY

[Review] Ichirose Malt Double Di...
We battered malt raw sake from Hanyu Distillery and Chichibu Distillery, and Hanyu Distillery's malt raw sake uses "sherry barrels" mainly from punche...


2-2.Masahiro Pure Malt Whisky 12 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Cask

Image source: SINGROUP

This whisky is made by Masahiro Shuzo, a famous brewery that makes Awamori and is also known for its Masahiro OKINAWA GIN.
It is said to be 12 years old, but it is unknown if it was distilled 12 years ago, and there is no mention of the award on the official website, despite the fact that it has won an award.

2-3.Yamazakura Blended Malt Japanese Whisky Asaka Sherrywood Reserve

[Review] Yamazakura Blended Malt...
This is a carefully selected blend of domestic unblended sake that we have been storing and aging for some time and unblended sake from Asaka Distillery. A blen...

2-4. Daimyo no Shinobu Blended Whisky

Image source: SINGROUND

A bottle of what is considered by many to be a mystery whisky.

2-5. Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Blended Japanese Whisky 2023

[Review] Ichiro’s Malt & Grain B...
A well-balanced blend of unbalanced sake from Chichibu Distillery, Hanyu Distillery, and Kawasaki Distillery. It is a gem that you can enjoy the complex taste a...

The above linked article is a bottle of 2022.

2-6. Kirin Single Blended Japanese Whisky Fuji

[Review] Single Blended Japanese...
Everything from preparation to aging is done at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and it is a rare product in the world that blends a variety of malts and grains unique to Fuji Gotemba Distillery.


2-7. Kyoto Whisky (Nishijin-ori) KURO-OBI

Whisky made by Kyoto Miyako Distillery.
There is a lot of information on whether it is a haori or a black belt in karate, but the color of the label is, and there are also red and purple belts.

2-8. Matsui Blended Whisky The Sanin

Blended Japanese Whisky「San-in」

Image source: Matsui Shuzo

This blended whisky is even available from Matsui Shuzo.
It is inexpensive and easy to find.


[Review] Hibiki Blender’s Choice
It was released in September 2018 as a successor to Hibiki 17 years. It is said that the average aged 15 years and 1 part of the untied unoridated sake are used...


2-10. Suntory HIBIKI JAPANESE HARMONY Master’s Select

Master’s Select is a blend of regular JAPANESE HARMONY and Yamazaki sherry cask sake.
The overseas market is large, and it is not something that can be ignored, but it is available on the Internet at a pre-purchase price.


Rice whisky made by Awamori brewer Kumesen Shuzo.

2-12. Kirin Single Grain Whisky Fuji

[Review] Single Grain Whisky Fuj...
Only the grain whiskey raw liquor from the Fuji Gotemba Distillery, which is highly acclaimed worldwide, is used, and three types of grain raw liquor with diffe...


2-13. Nikka The Grain Whisky

[Review] Nikka The Grain
"Nikka The Grain" will be released as the third product in the "NIKKA DISCOVERY Series" starting in 2021. This whisky was developed with a f...



In 2020, it was named “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” by the World Whisky Awards (WWA) and was called “the world’s best single malt whisky”. I feel like it should be in the Hall of Fame by now….
It is a whisky that I would like to try at least once in my life.


Hakushu Peated 18 years, which even makes you wonder if it really exists, won the award.


It is a double award with peated.

[Review] Single Malt Hakushu 18y...
The deep taste and aroma that only long-term malt aging can provide. The complex richness, sweetness, and rich barrel aroma are in perfect harmony. It also has ...




Released in 2017, the “Yamazaki 18 Years Old Mizunara 2017 EDITION” was limited to a very small number of 1,500 bottles for the domestic market and 3,500 bottles for the international market.
The gold award was given from one of the phantom bottles.


[Review] Single Malt Yamazaki 12...
This single malt whisky, one of Japan's representative single malt whiskies, was introduced in 1984, the 60th year since the Yamazaki distillery, the birthplace...



The aroma of sweet dried fruits and savory chocolate derived from aging in sherry casks is impressive. The taste has a sense of maturity and depth, which is als...


2-20. Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whisky Fuji

[Review] Single Malt Japanese Wh...
Light and floral malt base alcohol traditionally produced as a "clean and esteemed" style, which has been our commitment since the founding of the com...



2-21. Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whisky Fuji 50th Anniversary Edition

This bottle was released in a limited edition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fuji Gotemba Distillery.
It is characterized by the use of selected original sake from 1970, 80, 90, 00, and 10 years of age.

2-22. Miyagikyo Single Malt Aromatic Yeast

[Review] Single Malt Miyagikyo A...
Elegant and gorgeous, which is characteristic of Miyagikyo. The ripe apricot-like aroma, rich fruit sweetness, malt richness, and oak aroma continue pleasantly.


2-23. Miyagikyo Single Malt Fruity & Rich

This is a & series of 500ML bottles that can only be purchased at the distillery.
The reason for the existence of the various series is due to Nikka’s unique use of yeast in the fermentation process.

2-24. Single Malt KANOSUKE

[Review] Single Malt Kanosuke
Non-peat malt is used, with multiple barrels of vatting, with the key ingredient being the original wine aged in American white oak litchi casks.


2-25. Single Malt Komagatake 2022 Edition

[Review] Single Malt Komagatake ...
Japanese Whisky, Komagadake 2022 Edition. This single malt whisky is made primarily from bourbon barrel-aged whisky, accented with sherry cask-aged whisky and p...


2-26. Single Malt Whisky Eigashima SEXTET

It means sextet and uses six barrels.

2-27. Akkeshi Single Malt Japanese Whisky Seimei

[Review] Akkeshi Single Malt Jap...
The key malt is all Hokkaido Mizunara. After a good richness and bitter sweetness, a tidal peat taste comes up softly. This is the taste of Akkeshi.



Awarded from Non-Age.

[Review] Single Malt Yamazaki NV...
Single malt Yamazaki is a whisky with a sweet, soft, fruity aroma and a smooth mouthfeel with complex flavors derived from several types of casks. We recommend ...



This is a limited edition of 1,000 bottles, using luxurious Mizunara oak barrels.

2-30. Yoichi Single Malt

This is also an award-winning non-ageing single malt.

[Review] Single Malt Yoichi
Released on September 1, 2015. 2017 ISC Gold Award. The weight and aroma unique to straight head pot still and coal open flame distillation. The heavy peat-type...


2-31. Yoichi Single Malt Grande

For duty free stores overseas.

For Duty Free Shops at Airports ...
A bottle that further enhances the brand characteristics of Yoichi and MiyagiKyo. In Yoichi, it is "Pete" , and in MiyagiKyo, it is an "elegant&q...

2-32. Yoichi Single Malt Peaty & Salty

[Review] Single Malt Yoichi Peat...
Single malt whisky limited to Yoichi Distillery.

2-33. Saburomaru II The high priestess Cask strength

[Review] Single Malt Saburomaru ...
Japanese Whisky, Single Malt Saburomaru 2. The first single malt distilled by ZEMON. This single malt is a refined, young, heavily peated, yet graceful single m...


2-34. Yoichi Single Malt 10 Years Old

This is the first aged Yoichi in about 7 years.
They seem to ship 9,000 bottles a year, so you may be able to find it at a liquor store someday.

3. Conclusion

How was it?
We introduced a total of 38 bottles of Gold and Double Gold.
Most of Suntory, Nikka, and Kirin’s products were awarded.
I think it is great that all the entries received some kind of award, but I am concerned that it could be misleading.
A faux-Japanese product will win an award and be lumped in with the legitimate distilleries, which will further lead to misunderstandings around the world.
Some of the award-winning products were sold as Japanese whisky by a company headquartered in Hong Kong with no Japanese employees and no idea where the whisky was made.
If the judges of the competitions held around the world were aware of the “definition of Japanese whisky“, perhaps they would be able to prevent the participation of such products.
We hope that the excellence of Japanese whisky will be properly spread throughout the world.

Misato Ushiwata

Born in Fukushima Prefecture.
She attended a university in Tokyo, where she studied brewing and other sciences while translating articles for the "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".

Misato Ushiwataをフォローする
Japanese Whisky Dictionary