Japanese distiller Suntory has fought off competition from some of the biggest and most traditional names in the whisky industry to win the coveted International Spirits Challenge 2010.

Held in London on Monday, the Suntory Single Malt Whisky Yamazaki 1984 first won the top prize in the category specifically for whisky, where it had been up against 300 entrants from around the world, the tipple then went on to win the Supreme Champion Spirit award, selected from all the entrants in the various categories.

This is the first time a Japanese product has been awarded the ultimate honour, the company said, in the 15th year of the event.

Suntory also became the first Japanese company to be recognised with the Distiller of the Year award, presented to the spirits company that has made the greatest contribution to the industry around the world in the previous year.

Announcing the winner, the judges said "Yamazaki 1984 has a depth of flavour and maturation, together with a remarkable syrupiness to its texture. "It is absolutely outstanding in every respect."

The Suntory drink had been up against some of the best known spirits in the world, including Whyte & Mackay, which had its 30-year-old whisky in the running, and a Glenfiddich that had been aged for 40 years. Japan's Asahi Breweries had also entered one of its drinks, the Yoichi 15-year-old, alongside such names as Bushmills, Jameson, Ballentine's and Johnnie Walker.

And the recognition that Suntory received comes on the heels of the company winning the Whisky Distiller of the Year award at the Icons of Whisky 2010 event in February, another first for the Japanese spirits industry.   
Yamazaki 1984 was made from only unblended malt whisky that was distilled and barreled in 1984 in Japanese oak casks - an important element in ensuring the character that is essential to expressing the uniqueness of the drink, the company said.

All that effort to produce the whisky does not come cheap, however, with a 700 millilitre bottle retailing for Y100,000 (€887.82) in Japan.