In a milestone for the local industry, Victoria’s Four Pillars Gin has been named International Gin Producer of the Year at the 50th annual International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) held in London this morning (Australia time).
Four Pillars head distiller Cameron Mackenzie was in London to receive the award, while his co-founder Stuart Gregor and staff at the distillery watched via live feed on Facebook.
“There were probably 30 or 40 of our staff who got up bright and early [to watch],” Gregor tells Broadsheet. “We had a pretty big celebration at 9am and it was still going when I left [at 11.30am]. I could hear them playing We Are the Champions as I drove off – it was incredible.”
More than 400 judges from over 30 countries participate in blind tastings over seven months to determine the best wine and spirits, and entries come in from all over the world. Four Pillars is the first Australian distillery to win the International Gin Producer award, which takes entries from everywhere but the UK (that's judged in a separate category).
Announced three weeks ago, the shortlist included fellow Australian distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits, based in SA; Bimmerle KG from Germany; and last year’s winner KK Number One Drinks from Japan.
“We were thrilled to be on the shortlist, so to win is just beyond our wildest dreams,” Gregor says. “The [previous] two to win were Hernö in Sweden and the Kyoto Distillery, and we could not have picked better company.”
Mackenzie, Gregor and Matt Jones founded Four Pillars, which is based in the Yarra Valley town of Healesville, in 2013.
“We had a pretty strong idea in our heads, and there was no reason why in the Yarra Valley – such a beautiful place for making incredible drinks – we couldn’t also make one of the world’s greatest gins. And it turns out maybe we have,” Gregor says.
Four Pillars is behind some of the year’s most exciting drops. Every year it releases a limited-edition Christmas gin and a popular Bloody Shiraz number. And a few weeks ago it produced a spirit dedicated to iconic Melbourne pub The Espy.
“[This award] is testament to all the people we’ve got working for us – they’re unreal,” Gregor says. “You win these things because you build great teams of people who just love their jobs and are passionate about making great gins.”