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Local distillers honoured with accolades at the Icons of Whisky awards

Iain Stirling, left, with his co-owner brothers John and David from Arbikie Distillery.
Iain Stirling, left, with his co-owner brothers John and David from Arbikie Distillery.

The prestigious awards gave recognition to many local distilleries, including Angus-based Arbikie and The Glenturret Distillery in Crieff.

Several whisky distillers, blenders, ambassadors and communicators from across Scotland discovered they had won top prizes at the Icons of Whisky Scotland awards.

The ceremony took place online on Friday February 5 when they were presented by the Christopher Coates, editor of awards organiser Whisky magazine.

Many of Scotland’s top industry producers were among those who won awards, including Lunan Bay’s Arbikie Distillery, who walked away with the Craft Producer of the Year award, after rebranding their 1794 Highland Rye whisky last month.

Iain Stirling with a bottle of the Arbikie Highland Rye.

Co-owner Iain Stirling said his team are delighted to be recognised for all of their hard work after they set out wanting to be one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries.

He said: “It is fantastic to be recognised by the whisky industry for what we are trying to achieve with our whiskies at the Arbikie Distillery. It’s an honour to be awarded Craft Producer of the Year by the prestigious Whisky Magazine and as owners, my brothers and I are absolutely delighted to see our team recognised for all their hard work on the farm, at the distillery and in whisky markets across the world.

“We had no idea we had been nominated. The Icons Awards are nominated by and voted for by the drinks trade before the results are ratified by the Whisky Magazine Judging Panel.

“We found out live and so it was a mix of surprise and delight for all our team. We were competing with so many other excellent distilleries, so winning is always very special, especially coming so soon after winning the ‘Excellence in Sustainability’ at the Scottish Whisky Awards. We have an amazing world-class whisky industry in Scotland, so it is fantastic to be included on such a prestigious list of amazing distillers and distilleries when still such as a young whisky business.

“We set out with a clear vision when we started Arbikie in that we wanted to be one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries and to distil one of the world’s best whiskies, and have worked and continue to work very hard to achieve these goals.”

Another winner was Tomatin Distillery in Inverness, whose Global Brand Ambassador Scott Adamson was awarded with the Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador prize on the day.

Unaware he had even been nominated for the accolade, Scott said it was “a real surprise” to be recognised.

Scott Adamson.

“It’s an incredible honour and I think, to the best of my knowledge, this is the one competition that really looks at the people in the whisky industry as much as the product. There are already a lot of competitions out there for products but something like this is about the people,” he said.

“It’s a lovely piece of recognition for a year of work. We don’t always get a chance to look back at what we’ve done as we’re always looking to the next activity, so to be recognised for what we did last year is really incredible.

“I didn’t have a clue that I was even nominated. I knew that our virtual lockdown whisky festival had been nominated for an award so I happened to have the awards on in the background but I was actually on a call with a friend. It was just by chance I glanced at the screen and saw my photo. That’s when I found out not only that I’d won but that I’d even been nominated in the first place. So it was a real surprise.

“I’m always reminding myself that it’s the greatest job in the world – we get paid to talk about and drink the best whiskies in the world, so the role in and of itself is enough of a reward. But to have this recognition from peers is a really, really lovely thing.”

The winners from across Courier region:

The full list of winners from across Scotland can be seen here.

Craft Producer of the Year

Winner – Arbikie Distillery (Lunan Bay)

Distillery Manager

Highly Commended – Ian Renwick, The Glenturret Distillery (Crieff)

Master Distiller / Master Blender

Winner – Bob Dalgarno, The Glenturret Distillery (Crieff)

Online Retailer

Highly Commended – Abbey Whisky (Dunfermline)

Whisky Buyer

Highly Commended – Mike Sharples, Abbey Whisky (Dunfermline)

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