To close the banquet, ACSA honored Mark Shilling, founder of Revolution Spirits and partner at Big Thirst—as well as a past president of ACSA and current chair of the association’s government affairs committee—with the inaugural Gable Erenzo Spirit of Community Award, which recognizes the generosity of spirit, resilience, and resourcefulness to advance the interests of our small business entrepreneurs. It is given for an extraordinary commitment of time, working selflessly through weekdays, nights, and weekends. And, it is given to someone who puts the needs of the association and our business community before any personal aims.
This new award was named for someone who embodied all of those attributes, whom the craft spirits community lost far too soon. Gable Erenzo was the co-founder (along with his father Ralph, and Brian Lee) of Tuthilltown Spirits and he later founded Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in Gardiner, N.Y. Gable passed away suddenly in April. He was known throughout the industry as someone who wouldn’t hesitate to help his craft spirits peers.
Gable’s close friend, Nicole Austin, general manager/distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. and former ACSA board member, offered a heartfelt tribute to Gable during the ceremony.
“[Gable] had this ability to make anybody feel like his best friend,” Austin said. “I’m 100% convinced that I was one of his closest friends—I think there were thousands of us out there.… It was really not that long ago that I felt like a total outsider and was not at all sure that I belonged here, I was not at all sure that I could do this. And the first time that I walked into one of these conferences, Gable just immediately made me feel welcome.”
Ralph Erenzo honored his late son’s legacy by presenting Shilling with the award. Ralph and Shilling were both key players in the long government affairs effort that ultimately led to passage of permanent federal excise tax (FET) relief late last year. Shilling’s commitment was especially critical after the initial, temporary FET reduction that passed in late 2017 and was set to expire on December 31, 2019, and then during the one-year extension period, with temporary relief set to expire on December 31, 2020. “Because of this two-year sunset, [Shilling] was pressed to exert an enormous effort, which he did on his personal time,” Erenzo said. “And three days before the original approval was to expire and you would go back to your original FET tax level, it was passed into permanency.”
Shilling offered his own tribute to Gable Erenzo upon receiving the award.
“Gable Erenzo was larger than life and had an amazing impact on everyone he met, and inspired us all to be better in all that we do,” Shilling said. “Receiving this award is not just an honor but an inspiration to continue his legacy. To receive it from Ralph, my friend and mentor for many years, makes it that much more humbling and special.”