The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) recently announced the winners of the 2019 Heartland Whiskey Competition, which was open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states that incorporate corn in their mash bill (the mix of grains used to make whiskey). In this second, biannual blind judging event, whiskeys from 13 “Heartland” states also competed for Best of Show and Best of State, and all entries competed in their select whiskey sub-categories.
The competition, which was generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, took place June 4 at CH Distillery in Chicago, Illinois. ACSA facilitated the judging process with Board of Directors President Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Craft Spirits, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who served as the Judging Director. Judges were selected by ACSA for their knowledge and experience specific to craft spirits.
Middle West Spirits from Columbus, Ohio captured Best of Show for its OYO Sherry-Finished Bourbon, which also earned the top score in the Bourbon category. The Ohio Corn Marketing Program will present Middle West Spirits with its award later this month.
“We are deeply appreciative of the state corn marketing associations for their investment and continued commitment to help craft spirits producers promote and grow their products,” stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, CEO of ACSA.
2019 Heartland Whiskey Competition Category Winners
Blended: Crooked Furrow Harvest Blend, Proof Artisan Distillers
Bottled in Bond: A.D Law’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon , Law’s Whisky House
Bourbon (Tie): OYO Sherry-Finished Bourbon, Middle West Spirits; and Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, Huber’s Starlight Distillery
Corn Whiskey: Boot Hill Distillery Moonshine, Boot Hill Distillery
Four Grain: Middle West Spirits Straight Wheated Bourbon, Middle West Spirits
Rye: Driftless Glen 51 Rye, Driftless Glen Distillery
Straight: 100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Grand Traverse Distillery
(Note: For purposes of this competition, all whiskey sub-categories required entries to include some amount of corn as an ingredient.)
The 2019 competition saw significant growth in the number of participating states and entries with tougher competition for medals. Only five whiskeys were awarded a gold medal, while 40 received silver, and 22 bronze. “Several of the craft distilleries are also working farms that use the grain they grow to make their spirits so they are deeply committed to their product,” stated Don Duvall, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “On behalf of all the participating corn associations I want to express our great respect and admiration as well as our continued support. While this is a challenging year for farming, we are pleased to see an important customer group grow and prosper.”
The Best of State trophies were awarded to those whiskeys with the highest score in its respective state from all categories. Best of State awards were limited to 13 Heartland states, including: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas.
2019 Heartland Whiskey Competition Best of State
Colorado: A.D Law’s Four Grain Straight Bourbon , Law’s Whiskey House
Illinois: Whiskey Acres Straight Rye, Whiskey Acres Distilling
Indiana: Starlight Distillery Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, Huber’s Starlight Distillery
Iowa: Steeple Ridge Bourbon, Lonely Oak Distillery
Kansas: Boot Hill Distillery Moonshine, Boot Hill Distillery
Kentucky: Linkumpinch Bourbon, Dueling Grounds Distillery
Michigan: 100% Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Grand Traverse Distillery
Minnesota: Bødalen Bourbon, Far North Spirits
Missouri: Bourbon Rubenesque, Wood Hat Spirits
North Dakota: Crooked Furrow, Proof Artisan Distillers
Ohio: OYO Sherry-finished Bourbon, Middle West Spirits
Texas: True Blue 100 Proof, Balcones Distilling
Wisconsin: Driftless Glen 51 Rye, Driftless Glen Distillery
Click here to see a full list of winners.
Scoring and Medal Criteria
The scoring of whiskeys, with judges hand-selected from the Chicago spirits community, was based on a 100-point system with 10 main categories of consideration: Appearance (10 points), Aroma Intensity (10 points), Aroma Complexity (10 points), Palate Concentration (10 points), Palate Complexity (10 points), Body (10 points), Alcohol (10 points), Texture (10 points), Finish (10 points), and Pour for a Peer (10 points). Whiskeys 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 of State was awarded to the whiskey with the top score among all judged whiskeys from that state. The top scoring whiskeys were judged a final time in consideration of Best in Show distinction.