Close Menu

DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting 2023 results

As spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, we put a selection of spirits on the market to the test. These are the top-quality products that passed the rigorous taste test.

The DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting looks to reward the best spirits and mixers this season

In the UK, the clocks have jumped forward and it is officially British Summer Time. Thankfully, the weather also seems to have received the memo, and the final cold spell of winter feels well and truly behind us – spring has officially sprung.

At this time of year, The Global Spirits Masters Competitions (The GSMC) pauses to take a closer look at the spirits on the market as the seasons change. The GSMC handles the spirits portion of The DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting, while The Global Wine Masters assesses all things wine, beer and cider.

The tasting took place at the Novotel Hotel in London Bridge. Two panels of judges put spirits categories through their paces. Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, led the first panel, which comprised Derek Millar, retired whisky sales advisor, and Marta Tirele, bartender at London’s Lost & Found.

The second group included Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at London’s Sexy Fish, who chaired the team. He was accompanied by Claire Filer, of Ginesthesia, and Alan Uresti, head of mixology at London’s Annabel’s.

Strong results

The opening round of Vodka delivered a strong set of medal results: five Golds and two Silvers. Gold winners included Black Cow and English Strawberries Vodka, which impressed the judges with its “strawberry jam” aroma and “mellow palate, with plenty of vodka character still apparent”.

Gold-winning Abstrakt – Original from BrewDog Distilling Co also won Gold for its “creamy body with slight peppery notes”, while Gold medallist Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 was praised for its “light body with citrus notes”.

Russian Bear collected Gold for its “waxy and crisp finish”, and Absolut Mandrin was found to be deserving of a Gold medal for its “full-on mandarin peel flavour”.

Filer said: “These were classy and well-made products with good flavour notes.”

North Uist Distillery delighted the judges with a double dose of Master medals in the following Gin flight. Downpour Coast & Croft Gin secured the top accolade for its “fresh, vibrant nose with lots of citrus and juniper”. “This would make a great G&T,” noted Kiely.

Downpour Scottish Dry Gin also gained a Master medal after the judges liked its “complex citrus bouquet” on the nose and “complex, citrus-forward and juniper-forward” palate. The Gin heat also produced five Gold medals and one Silver. Among the Gold winners was LoneWolf Cactus and Lime, which had “good body and depth – a lovely, citrusy gin”.

“These were very different gins,” noted Millar. “Some showed how they were drifting away from your standard gin to give something a bit more complex, and at times with a little less juniper. The ones that did well made sure they still had that distinct juniper note and were well put together.”

Santo Gusano collected a Gold medal in the following Mezcal flight. Prousaefs described the mezcal as “pungent on the nose with complex agave and smoke notes”. The palate was described as being “dry, smoky, and sweet – but not overly smoky”.

In the Tequila – Blanco heat, a Gold medal was given to Cenote Tequila Blanco. Filer enjoyed the Tequila’s “light, grassy nose” leading to “pepper, agave and savoury spice” on the palate.

The brand’s medal haul continued into the Tequila – Reposado round, where Cenote Tequila Ahumado and Cenote Tequila Reposado both received Gold medals. Cenote Tequila Ahumado had “lots of floral notes on the nose” and was “very smooth and easy to sip”.

Cenote Tequila Reposado delivered “buttery oak, agave and green pepper” on the nose, and a finish full of “baking spices, pepper and caramelised orange peel”.

Spring has sprung: a diverse selection of spirits were assessed during the blind tasting

Lingering sweet orange

Cenote Tequila Añejo offered aromas of “soft oak and caramel”, leading to a “viscous, oily mouthfeel with buttery caramel oak notes”, and secured a Gold medal as a result in the Tequila – Añejo flight. The brand’s final medal came during the Tequila – Flavoured flight, where Cenote Green Orange Tequila won a Silver medal partly due to its “lingering sweet orange” on the finish.

The competition also assessed a flight of agave-based spirits hailing from outside of Mexico. Inspired Hospitality won a trio of medals in this flight, a Master, a Gold and a Silver. The Master medal was awarded to Maya Pistola Agave Pure Añejo.

The palate was found to have a “nice texture with prominent oak influence”, enhanced by “building spice”. Millar was impressed by the overall standard of the round: “The quality was very good, and it was interesting to see how those outside of Mexico are interpreting agave spirits.”

Third Eye Distillery won a Gold medal in the Rum – White flight, enjoyed for notes of “overripe banana, dusty cacao and mid-palate heat”. The Rum – Dark round produced a Silver medal in the form of “sweet and citrusy” 327 Rum XO.

From rum, the judges progressed to whisky, starting with a flight of Scotch Whisky – Blended. The Sassenach secured a Silver medal for its “good balance” and “well-handled higher ABV”.

In the Irish Whiskey – Blended contingent, two Gold medals were awarded to Belfast Distillery Company. The producer won a Gold award for its McConnell’s Irish Whisky 5 Years Old, enjoyed for its notes of “peach, poached pears” on the nose, leading to “a warming palate with lightly toasted oak, nutty wood spice and caramel-cooked apples”.

The producer was also awarded Gold for its McConnell’s Irish Whisky Sherry Cask Finish. The whiskey was praised for flavours of “toasted oak, loads of white pepper, sweet baking spices, and caramel and spice finish”.

Prousaefs noted: “This was a great example of the great overall standard of the category. These high standards ensure trust in the category from a customer’s perspective without the need for brand knowledge.”

Kinsale Spirits took home a Gold medal for Great Earl Irish Whiskey in the Irish Whiskey – Single Grain flight. The whiskey was “subtle yet complex” on the palate with “heather honey and vanilla notes”, the judges noted.

In the American Whiskey – Bourbon round, a Master medal was awarded to Never Say Die Barrel Strength Bourbon. The judges celebrated the “warmth and power on the nose”, and noted the Bourbon’s “brilliant integration considering the higher ABV”.

Keepr’s Smoked Honey Infused Bourbon took home a Silver award.

Excellent balance

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey collected two Masters in the American Whiskey – Tennessee flight. Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey was hailed for being “complex and sweet” on the nose, with “excellent balance overall”.

Stablemate Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey won a Master medal for being “balanced”, with “caramelised banana, dark chocolate and peppery spices” on the palate.

“Great expressions from the producers, with outstanding balance between oak and grain,” noted Uresti.

Filer was equally impressed by the flight. She added: “Stunning, delicious and complex examples of this category, with lingering and developing finishes.”

The World Whisky flight presented another Master expression: St Kilian – Peated – Rich & Smoky. Tasting notes included “some nuttiness and smoke” on the nose, with “green citrus, zesty character” on the palate.

In the Liqueurs round, Creamy Creation (B2B) collected a trio of awards – including a Master medal of its Cream Liqueur Coconut with Baijiu Concept. The business-to-business manufacturer secured the top award for its aroma, which delivered “coconut cream in abundance – smells delicious”. The palate continued to offer “creamy coconut and the distinct flavour of baijiu – the flavours work very well together and it does exactly what it says it will”, noted Kiely.

Spring tasting
From gins and vodkas to Irish whiskeys, award-winners were celebrated by expert judges

Creamy Creation also received two Silver awards for its “indulgent, balanced” Cream Liqueur Chocolate with Baijiu Concept, and its “sweet and creamy” Cream Liqueur with Baijiu Concept.

The Speciality Spirits heat of the blind-tasting competition presented four alcoholic whipped creams, co-founded by rapper Cardi B: Whipshots. The vodka-infused brand won two Gold medals and two Silvers for its various flavours.

The Gold awards were given to Whipshots Mocha and Whipshots Peppermint. Whipshots Mocha was deemed to be Gold-worthy due to balancing classic whipped cream flavour and texture with mocha, and “vodka coming at the end”.

Whipshots Peppermint offered “authentic” peppermint flavour “and some chocolate”, with “pronounced vodka”. A Silver medal went to Portafortuna XO.

“Really fascinating developments in this category and some clever products launched,” noted Filer.

The following flight was a selection of low-and-no entries, which saw Everleaf Forest go straight to the top with a Master medal. The entry presented “lovely complexity on the nose with saffron, vanilla and orange blossom”. “Aromatic and the flavours are very complementary of one another,” noted Kiely. “The palate is equally delicious – very sophisticated.”

Five Gold medals and five Silver medals were also awarded in this heat, including three Golds to Intune Drinks. Among the producer’s Gold-winning products was Intune Grapefruit & Mint CBD Drink, which was liked for its “refreshing” flavour profile.

And closing the competition was a round of tonic waters and mixers, which saw Wildleaf Drinks win three medals – two Golds and one Silver. Wildleaf Lumière – Juniper Tonic won a Gold medal for “slight floral and bright juniper notes”. Gold-winning Wildleaf Atlas – North African Tonic delivered “good carbonation and nicely balanced” profile.

The tasting showed the breadth of flavour and innovation coming from the spirits world, and the low-and-no and mixer categories. The judges concluded there was much to explore on the market this spring, and beyond.

This week, the results of The Tonic & Mixer Masters 2023 were revealed.


Company Product Medal
Pure Milk Vodka Black Cow & English Strawberries Vodka Gold
Brewdog Distilling Co Abstrakt – Original Gold
Royal Mash Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 Gold
Edward Snell & Co Russian Bear Gold
The Absolut Company (Pernod Ricard) Absolut Mandrin Gold
Pure Milk Vodka Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka Silver
Union Distillers Two Birds Cherry and Almond Vodka Silver


Company Product Medal
North Uist Distillery Downpour Scottish Dry Gin Master
Steffen & Pfaff Step Gin Gold
Highclere Castle Spirits Highclere Castle Gin Gold
BrewDog Distilling Co LoneWolf Cactus and Lime Gold
Edward Snell & Co Stretton’s Gold
Tiger Gin Tiger Gin Gold
Strange Nature Distilling Strange Nature Gin Silver

Mezcal – Joven

Company Product Medal
Santo Gusano Santo Gusano Gold

Tequila – Blanco

Company Product Medal
Stoli Group Cenote Tequila Blanco Gold

Tequila – Reposado

Company Product Medal
Stoli Group Cenote Tequila Ahumado Gold
Stoli Group Cenote Tequila Reposado Gold

Tequila – Añejo

Company Product Medal
Stoli Group Cenote Tequila Añejo Gold

Tequila – Flavoured

Company Product Medal
Stoli Group Cenote Green Orange Tequila Silver

Agave Spirits – Other

Company Product Medal
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Añejo Master
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Reposado Gold
Inspired Hospitality Maya Pistola Agavepura Joven Silver

Rum – White

Company Product Medal
Third Eye Distillery Short Story Gold

Rum – Dark

Company Product Medal
327 Spirits 327 Rum XO Silver

Scotch Whisky – Blended

Company Product Medal
Sassenach Spirits The Sassenach Silver

Irish Whiskey – Blended

Company Product Medal
Belfast Distillery Company McConnell’s Irish Whisky 5 Year Old Gold
Belfast Distillery Company McConnell’s Irish Whisky Sherry Cask Finish Gold

Irish Whiskey – Single Grain

Company Product Medal
Kinsale Spirits Great Earl Irish Whiskey Gold

American Whiskey – Bourbon

Company Product Medal
Never Say Die Never Say Die Barrel Strength Bourbon Master
Union Distillers Keepr’s Smoked Honey Infused Bourbon Silver

American Whiskey – Tennessee

Company Product Medal
Uncle Nearest Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey Master
Uncle Nearest Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey Master

World Whisky

Company Product Medal
St Kilian Distillers St Kilian – Peated – Rich & Smoky Master
St Kilian Distillers St Kilian – Classic – Mild & Fruity Gold
Caskshare Collective Series 4033 – Chestnut cask Silver


Company Product Medal
Creamy Creation (B2B) Cream Liqueur Coconut with Baijiu Concept Master
Creamy Creation (B2B) Cream Liqueur Chocolate with Baijiu Concept Silver
Creamy Creation (B2B) Cream Liqueur with Baijiu Concept Silver

Speciality Spirits

Company Product Medal
Starco Brands Whipshots Mocha Gold
Starco Brands Whipshots Peppermint Gold
Starco Brands Whipshots Vanilla Silver
Starco Brands Whipshots Caramel Silver
Portafortuna UK Portafortuna XO Silver

Low & No

Company Product Medal
Intune Drinks Intune Grapefruit & Mint CBD Drink Gold
Intune Drinks Intune Elderflower & Hops CBD Drink Gold
Intune Drinks Intune Ginger & Lime + CBD Drink Gold
Järn Järn HVIT Gold
Everleaf Drinks Everleaf Marine Gold
Vlcie Nochino Ruby Non Alcoholic Aperitif Silver
Intune Drinks Intune Pomegranate & Ginger CBD Drink Silver
Everleaf Drinks Everleaf Mountain Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Pink London Spirit Silver
Lyre’s Lyre’s Agave Blanco Spirit Silver

Tonics & Mixers

Company Product Medal
Wildleaf Drinks Wildleaf Lumière – Juniper Tonic Gold
Wildleaf Drinks Wildleaf Atlas – North African Tonic Gold
Wildleaf Drinks Wildleaf Ginger Tail Silver

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No