Recipients Selected from a Pool of Nearly 500 Entrants Across 38 States
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (February 12, 2019) – Last night, the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), the nation’s only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry, announced the winners of its Sixth Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, who were honored during the Awards Dinner as part of the Sixth Annual ACSA Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, Minn. Medalists were hand-selected among a pool of nearly 500 entrants.
During the event, which was sponsored by Total Wine & More, ACSA proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best of Show Award, to Gulch Distillers of Helena, MT, for their Burrone Fernet. Eli Aguilera, Total Wine’s Senior Vice-President of Merchandising, provided remarks to the crowd to kick-off the dinner, and Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum (MA) emceed the event, having served as the Judging Chair.
The annual Awards marked the official opening day of the 2019 ACSA Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show, which attracted nearly 1,000 producers and suppliers from across the U.S. for two full days of immersive educational seminars and networking events.
This year, entries were submitted from 38 states and the District of Columbia across the country in six main categories: Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Vodka & Grain Spirits, Brandy, and Specialty Spirits. In addition to a Best of Show and the Best of Class Distinctions, the judging panel awarded 8 Gold, 68 Silver, and 171 Bronze medals.
The 2019 Best in Class distinctions, the highest honor in each of the six judging categories, were awarded to a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers. These winning distilleries were each presented with hand-carved barrelheads courtesy of Thousand Oaks Barrel Co, and all medal recipients received custom medals generously provided by Apholos. The Best of Show recipient, Gulch Distillers, was also awarded with a custom snowboard from Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., whose Founder and CEO Nick Gilson served as the convention’s keynote speaker earlier in the day.
This year, ACSA also introduced a new award category: the Innovation Award. The new “Innovation” category aims to recognize remarkable spirits whose flavor profiles may stray from their category’s signature notes.
Best In Class Winners in each category included:
Whiskey: Sugarlands Distilling Co., Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey (Gatlinburg, TN)
Gin: FEW Spirits, Coffee Flavored Gin (Evanston, IL)
Rum: Tattersall Distilling, Barreled Rum (Minneapolis, MN)
Vodka & Grain Spirits: Charleston Distilling Co., King Charles Vodka (Charleston, SC)
Brandy: J. Carver Distillery, J. Carver Apple Brandy (Waconia, MN)
Distilled Specialty Spirits: Gulch Distillers, Burrone Fernet (Helena, MT)
Innovation Awards included:
Whiskey: Middle West Spirits, Sherry-Finished Bourbon Whiskey (Columbus, OH)
Gin: MISCellaneous Distillery, Gregarious Gin (Mount Airy, MD)
Vodka: Schierl Bros. Northern Oasis Spirits, Lakeview Vodka (Plover, WI)
Brandy: Bluebird Distilling, Blueberry Brandy – Maple Cask Finished (Phoenixville, PA)
Distilled Spirits Specialty: Pittsburgh Distilling Company, Wigle Eau De Pickle (Pittsburgh, PA)
The complete list of winners is available on the ACSA website here.
About the Judging
The 6th Annual American Craft Spirits Competition, held in affiliation with Artisan Spirit Magazine, was judged on October 22-24, 2018, at Greenbar Distilling in Los Angeles. Maggie Campbell, Privateer Rum (MA), served as Spirits Judging Chair. Spirits were judged by a panel of 30 judges, including Amy Zavatto, Andrea Clodfelter, Audrey Reid, Caley Shoemaker, Dan Farber, Dara Stern, Duane Sylvestre, Dwayne Bershaw, Gary Spedding, George Catallo, Jackie Summers, Jason Zeno, Johnny Caldwell, Kendra Scott, Lauren Friel, Lisa Wicker, Martin Cate, Matthew Rowley, Michael Vachon, Misha Kwasniewski, Molly Troupe, Paul Clarke, Paul Elliott, Rachel Herman-Gross, Reid Mitenbuler, Ryan Lotz, Steve Bashore, Steve Beal, Taneka Reaves, and Wayne Curtis. The judges represented a diverse range of spirits experts within the industry, including retailers, bar industry leaders, educators, and journalists. ACSA takes great pride in conducting its professional judging program in accordance with a series of detailed protocols.
ACSA works rigorously to develop and fine-tune its methodology in order to ensure it continues to be one of the most valuable judging competitions in the industry. ACSA works to create a scoring card that generates meaningful, detailed feedback for entrants. Spirits were scored on appearance, aroma intensity, aroma complexity, palate concentration, palate complexity, body, character and nature of alcohol, texture, and finish. Finally, each judge was asked if they would pour the spirit for a peer. Prior to the tasting panels, judges participated in a palate calibration seminar led by Campbell, to bring a more narrowed focus to the tasting approach. This calibration seminar helped to ensure that scores across all judges and panels fell close to one another.
Scoring and Medal Criteria
The scoring of spirits was based on a 100-point system, with spirits judged on the overall, cohesive impression of the spirit. Spirits were then assigned a medal based on the average score determined by the following benchmarks: 70-79 = Bronze; 80-89 = Silver; 90-100 = Gold.
Best in Class / Best of Show
The top awarded spirits were then judged a final time in consideration of a Best in Class / Best in Show distinction. The judging chairs collected votes from each panel member for their favorite spirits. If the results were conclusive on the first vote, the results were then recorded. If the results were inconclusive, the judges used a ranked scoring, allowing three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. The spirit that received the highest score in each category was then named Best in Class.
The American Craft Spirits Association is the only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. Its mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, and membership in ACSA is open to anyone.
ACSA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the eligible voting members of the Association. Voting members must be independent, licensed distillers (DSPs) annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons from bond (the amount on which a Federal Excise Tax is paid.) For information about ACSA, call 202-669-3661.
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