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Icons of Whisky America 2017

As whisky evolves, so too do our awards. With the emergence of stunning whiskies from less well-known whisky producing nations, we are expanding our Icons of Whisky awards by adding new regional heats. This year saw the addition of India as a fourth region, and we are excited to announce the inclusion of Australia and Ireland for 2018.

With the India, Rest of World and Scotland results now announced, we conclude this year’s regional heats with the winners of the America stage of the awards. As always, it is then down to our editorial panel to review the shortlist of regional winners and decide on which company or individual will take the overall Global title in each of the Icons categories; this is no easy task given the wealth of talent on the world whisky stage. Keep an eye out for the results which will be announced on Thursday 30 March 2017.

The Icons of Whisky awards are a celebration of the years of hard work that go into every bottle. From the distillers themselves, still makers and coopers, to warehouse staff and visitor centre managers – a great deal of craftsmanship, skill and knowledge are imparted at each stage of the process. This is our chance to thank the individuals and producers for their dedication to each innovative release, unique visitor experience or expert retail service that they work tirelessly to deliver.

We are delighted to present to you the finest companies and people in the American whiskey industry as we proudly present the 2017 winners.

American Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year

Adam Harris - Beam Suntory

Adam Harris took his first job with Beam Suntory in 2006 and since then he's been sharing stories and promoting Beam Suntory's American whiskey portfolio in the US as well as around the globe. In 2010, he was named a Kentucky Colonel by the governor of the commonwealth in recognition of his contributions. Known for his enthusiasm and approachable style, Adam spends time throughout the year working with the master distillers and teams at both Jim Beam and Maker's Mark to learn all aspects of the Bourbon craft as well as tasting and helping select new products. He enjoys talking about those special experiences with old and new friends alike.

Highly Commended
Bernie Lubbers - Heaven Hill Brands

Shortlist
Adam Harris - Beam Suntory
Bernie Lubbers - Heaven Hill Brands
Jackie Zykan - Brown-Forman
Scott Harris - Catoctin Creek Distilling Company
Winston Edwards - Balcones Distilling

Brand Innovator of the year

Maker's Mark Distillery

There is a fast growing trend of customisation happening right now in the whisky industry as retailers and enthusiasts seek expressions that they can claim as uniquely theirs. Maker's Mark is taking this to a new level, far beyond the usual offerings of choosing liquid from pre-selected barrels at a distillery. Maker's Mark innovates to excite and exceed demands by allowing enthusiasts to not only select their Bourbon, but to have a hand in ‘making their own Maker's'. Inspired by the process for Maker's 46, participants finish fully-matured Maker's Mark for an additional nine weeks in a single barrel that includes their own custom selection of oak staves. The pilot season of Private Select saw tremendous success with several retailers selling out of their own Maker's in minutes.

Highly Commended
Westland Distillery

Shortlist
Beam Suntory
Corsair Artisan Distillery
FEW Spirits
Maker's Mark Distillery
Westland Distillery

Craft Producer of the year

Sons of Liberty Spirits Company

Not everyone dreams of starting an uprising, but that's exactly what founder and owner of Sons of Liberty Spirits Company, Michael Reppucci, decided to do when he began his American whiskey revolution in 2011. While studying in the UK, Michael asked himself why America couldn't have a really good single malt whisky, and why no one turns their favourite beer into whisky. So, on returning to his native Rhode Island, Michael enlisted the help of former Maker's Mark master distiller David Pickerall and set up the first craft whiskey distillery in the state since Prohibition. The company's flagship brand, Uprising, is made from a blend of malted barley imported from the UK. It is essentially made from an unhopped stout beer delivering its unique flavour profile of coffee and dark chocolate, and transferred to lightly toasted oak barrels to impart vanilla and mocha notes.

Highly Commended
Coppersea Distilling

Shortlist
Coppersea Distilling
Dry Fly Distillery
MB Roland Distillery
Sons of Liberty Spirits Company
St George Spirits

Distiller of the year

Beam Suntory

Beam Suntory crafts some of the world's best-loved and most iconic brands thanks to centuries of product development, innovation and experience in building globally recognised whiskies and spirits. Arguably the most famous of all is the company's flagship brand, Jim Beam, now overseen by seventh generation Beam master distiller Fred Noe. Last year saw the release of Jim Beam Double Oak and a global packaging redesign for the entire portfolio. Beam Suntory's list of brands extends to the distinctive Maker's Mark, handcrafted Knob Creek and Basil Hayden's Bourbon, to name a few.

Highly Commended
Heaven Hill Brands

Shortlist
Beam Suntory
Brown-Forman
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Campari America
Four Roses Distillery
Heaven Hill Brands

Distillery Manager of the year

Victoria MacRae-Samuels - Maker's Mark Distillery

With more than 25 years of experience in the spirits industry, Victoria MacRae-Samuels holds the unique distinction of being the first woman to be named vice president of operations at a Bourbon distillery.

Responsible for overseeing every aspect of the Maker's Mark Distillery, her expertise and her 90 staff keep things running smoothly. Victoria was introduced to the world of Bourbon in 1989 when by chance she met legendary Bourbon distiller Booker Noe, and he offered her a position as a research and development chemist with Jim Beam. She eagerly accepted and learned the science of making Bourbon, preparing her for the role she would assume at Maker's Mark some 20 years later. Appointed vice president of operations in 2010, she is responsible for the production of Maker's Mark and Maker's 46, from the selection of the grains, fermentation and distillation to barrel warehousing, bottling and shipping, quality control and taste testing.

Highly Commended
Ryan Ashley - Four Roses Bourbon

Shortlist
David Perkins - Park City Distillery
Hannah Blymier - Catoctin Creek Distilling Company
Ryan Ashley - Four Roses Distillery
Scott Sell - Westland Distillery
Victoria MacRae-Samuels - Maker's Mark Distillery

Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year

Tim Herlihy - Tullamore DEW

Last year, Tim Herlihy embarked on an epic pub crawl as he challenged himself to visit Irish pubs in all 50 US states in the 30 days leading up to St Patrick's Day. It is no surprise, therefore, that Tim has taken the crown in this category for the second year running. As far as whiskey experts go, they don't come more ‘Irish True' than Tim. He began his whiskey career with the Cooley Distillery before taking up his role with William Grant & Sons as Tullamore DEW's US ambassador. A natural raconteur and never at a loss for a toast, Tim travels the US educating, entertaining and sharing his passion for this award-winning Irish whiskey.

Highly Commended
Michael Egan - Beam Suntory

Shortlist
Michael Egan - Beam Suntory
Tim Herlihy - Tullamore DEW

Master Distiller / Master Blender of the year

Jeff Arnett - Jack Daniel's

In 2001, Jeff took his first job at the Jack Daniel Distillery in quality control and overseeing Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. Since then, his work in a variety of capacities throughout the distillery, including warehousing, maturation, distillation, charcoal mellowing, barrel quality and bottling, have primed him to spearhead the entire operation. In 2008 Jeff was named the seventh master distiller in the distillery's 150-year history, which began production in 1866 with its founder, Jasper Newton 'Jack' Daniel, serving as its first. Jeff's role is to ensure this iconic whiskey is both in constant supply and true to Jack's guiding belief that, ‘Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can.' Jeff is proud to accept the enormous responsibility that comes with having one of the most envied jobs in the world.

Highly Commended
Denny Potter - Heaven Hill Distillery

Shortlist
Denny Potter - Heaven Hill Distillery
Greg Davis - Maker's Mark Distillery
Harlen Wheatley - Buffalo Trace Distillery
Jeff Arnett - Jack Daniel's Distillery
John Little - Smooth Ambler Spirits

Multiple Outlets Retailer of the year

Binny's Beverage Depot

Success again for Binny's Beverage Depot. Wine and spirits retailer Binny's is located in the Midwest with over six decades of history in the Chicago area. The chain's 35 Illinois locations boast nearly 5,000 different spirits, including an impressive collection handpicked by the industry-leading Whiskey Hotline. The hotline offers news, tips and reviews so you can be sure to get your hands on exciting new releases, rare bottlings and exclusive Binny's casks. If you can't find it at a Binny's, it's probably not worth drinking!

Highly Commended
Spec's Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods

Shortlist
Big Red Liquors
Binny's Beverage Depot
Liquor Barn
Party Mart
Party Source
Spec's Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods

Online Retailer of the year

Ace Spirits - www.acespirits.com

Ace Spirits started out with a store in Hopkins, Minnesota, which opened its doors in March 2014. For owner Louis Dachis, the goal at Ace Spirits is to sell every whiskey available in the state, and if it can't be picked up in store, you will find it on the retailer's stylish website. Navigate your way around the whiskies of the world with Ace's neatly organised online store offering everything from Pappy Van Winkle to an impressive selection of White Dog. Learn all about your favourite distilleries and discover new products in ‘Brand Profiles', or explore the vast range of accessories and gift ideas for that special occasion.

Highly Commended
Binny's Beverage Depot - www.binnys.com

Shortlist
Ace Spirits
Binny's Beverage Depot
ForWhiskeyLovers
Maison Corbeaux
The Party Source
The Whisky Shop

Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year

Martin Daraz - The Edrington Group

Martin Daraz was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, where he worked as an independent filmmaker and theatre director in the UK before moving to the US in 2004. Martin began his career in the whisky industry in 2006 when he was appointed as The Edrington Group's US brand ambassador while based in New York. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2009 before taking up his current role with expanded responsibility for the Asia Pacific region in 2012. He regularly presents to audiences across America that include everyone from CEOs to bartenders and is well known for his combination of knowledge, humour and audience participation. Martin's key responsibilities include visiting key markets, conducting industry training and spreading the word about Highland Park and other Edrington brands.

Highly Commended
David Laird - William Grant & Sons

Shortlist
David Blackmore - Ardbeg
David Laird - William Grant & Sons
Ewan Morgan - Diageo
Gregor Cattanach - Diageo
Martin Daraz - The Edrington Group
Rick Edwards - Pernod Ricard USA
Simon Brooking - Beam Suntory

Single Outlet Retailer of the year

Astor Wines & Spirits

A regular in our retailer categories, Astor Wines & Spirits has been operating in New York City since 1946. Located in the historic DeVinne Press Building on Lafayette Street, it provides a unique experience for customers visiting the large store. With a selection of nearly 5,000 wines and spirits on offer, and knowledgeable and helpful staff, you are sure to find what you are after. Astor Wines & Spirits has a dedicated ‘Cool Room' to ensure products are stored in optimum conditions as well as a tastings timetable where customers can sample a dram for free. Tried something you like? The store will knock 15 per cent off the price when purchased following a tasting.

Highly Commended
Julio's Liquors

Shortlist
Astor Wines & Spirits
Bayway World of Liquor
Julio's Liquors
Maison Corbeaux
The Party Source
Westport Whiskey & Wine

Travel Retailer of the year

Duty Free Americas

An operator of duty-free shops in the western hemisphere, Duty Free Americas is proving itself as the company to beat having topped this Icons category for the second year running. Offering a vast range of products from the finest brand names, including some of the most exclusive whisky releases, this Travel Retail provider offers a high quality shopping experience for business and holiday travellers alike. The company was purchased by brothers Simon, Jerome and Leon Falic on 11 October 2001. Duty Free Americas has its headquarters in Hollywood, Florida, with numerous operating divisions.

Highly Commended
DFS Group

Shortlist
DFS Group
Dufry
Duty Free Americas
International Shoppes
Starboard Cruise Services

Visitor Attraction Manager of the year

Kimberley Bennett - Beam Suntory

Kimberley Bennett took over the reins of Jim Beam Bourbon's tourism experience in 2012 and quickly realised that Jim Beam needed to stand out as a world-class visitor experience to reflect this world-renowned brand. When Kimberley helped design the attraction at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, she drew on her years of event management experience. Under her guidance, visits to the American Stillhouse, and the Urban Stillhouse in Louisville grew nearly 100 percent. Last year more than 200,000 people visited the two sites, a number that is expected to grow. What's more, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse has become one of the most visited distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Kimberley strategically develops and leads all these attractions and is the driving force for future customer experiences.

Highly Commended
Matt Higgins - Buffalo Trace Distillery

Shortlist
Dee Ford - Angel's Envy
Jeff Crowe - Heaven Hill Distillery
Kimberley Bennett - Beam Suntory
Matt Higgins - Buffalo Trace Distillery
Sydina Bradshaw - Maker's Mark

Visitor Attraction of the year

Buffalo Trace Distillery

No trip to Kentucky would be complete without a visit to this National Historic Landmark which last year welcomed its millionth visitor. Buffalo Trace's visitor centre entertained a record number of visitors in 2016 with over 170,000 people coming through the doors, an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year. After expanding the attraction last year, Buffalo Trace is already planning for additional developments including even more complimentary tours and tastings. Add that to the recent discovery of Buffalo Trace's ‘Bourbon Pompeii', the early foundation and fermenting vats dating back to 1873, which are being preserved for visitors to see.

Highly Commended
Four Roses Bourbon

Shortlist
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience
Four Roses Distillery
Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Tuthilltown Spirits

World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year

Allison Patel - Brenne Whisky

Allison Patel is the founder and owner of Brenne, an award-winning single malt made entirely in the Cognac region of France. She resides in New York City where she has stayed since her days of performing as a professional ballerina. However, Allison can often be found at your local watering hole sharing her joys and passion about world whiskies, Brenne, and the infinite possibilities she sees for the future of international single malts.

Highly Commended
Raj Sabharwal - Purple Valley Imports

Shortlist
Ajay Bhoja - Paul John Distilleries
Allison Patel - Brenne Whisky
Gardner Dunn - Beam Suntory
Gregory Fitch - Anchor Distilling Company
Johnnie Mundell - Beam Suntory
Raj Sabharwal - Purple Valley Imports