2018’s Drinks Business Awards: profiling the recipients

Retail Buyer of the Year

Spirits buyer of the year

Guy Hodcroft

A rising star of the world of spirits, Guy Hodcroft joined Master of Malt as spirits buyer in November 2016, having previously worked with Dawn Davies MW at Selfridges. Under his watch, sales at the retailer have grown by 30%, growth he attributes to his philosophy of getting shoppers to actually taste the spirits that he so carefully selects: simple but effective. It’s this approach that has fuelled the growth of the retailer’s subscription service Dram Club, offering shoppers 6,000+ 30ml spirit samples to drive experimentation.

Most recently, Hodcroft’s mission to get more spirits into the glasses of his customers was supported by the retailer’s #whiskysanta campaign, which saw it hand out £150,000-worth of gifts via Twitter in the run up to Christmas. Judges were also impressed by Hodcroft’s approach to value and experience, recognising the importance of not only offering consumers a proposition at all price points, but the story behind a drink to make a purchase that much more appealing.

Wine buyer of the year

Xenia Irwin MW

Considered by our judges as an unsung hero of the UK wine trade, Xenia joined Waitrose as its wine buyer in 2013. Becoming a master of wine in 2003, Irwin has 24 years experience in the wine trade, having previously worked as an independent wine consultant, as well as a buyer for a large regional brewery, retailer and wine importer for the likes of Spar, Awin Barratt Siegel and St Austell Brewery.

However it was her work developing Waitrose’ “On the QT” (On the Quiet) range that stood out in the minds of our judges, working with winemakers to identify special limited edition own label wines or experimental barrels, often left lurking at the back of their cellar, and bringing them to a wider audience. Current treasures include an orange Gruner Veltliner from Austria’s Malat wine estate, and a Robert Oatley Fiano, made by winemaker Larry Cherubino.

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