American Craft Spirits Association 2016 Award Winners

The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) third annual distiller’s convention and vendor trade show took place in chilly and occasionally snowy Chicago this week. The event was two jam packed days (four days with all the pre-show activities) of listening, learning, and  comradery among craft spirits distillers. One of the most anticipated events at the show is the annual awards banquet where distillers submit their spirits in advance of the show into a variety of categories hoping to take home the gold.

Judging for the 3rd annual ACSA competition took place on Jan. 19 and 20, 2016 at Starlight Distillery in Borden, IN. by a panel of 17 judges (all the judges are listed below.) The winners were selected among a record-breaking pool of nearly 450 entrants – up more than 30 percent over last year.

Entries were submitted from 39 states in these main categories.

  • Whiskey
  • Brandy
  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Liqueurs
  • Distilled Spirits Specialty (DSS)
  • Vodka and Grain Spirits

Winners were announced at the awards banquet on the evening of March 2, 2016. Master of ceremonies Brian Christensen of Artisan Spirits Magazine along with  judging Co-Chairs Master Distiller and consultant Dave Pickerell and Master Distiller Ted Huber of Huber’s Starlight Distillery and the ACSA Board of Directors awarded six Best in Class distinctions, the highest honor in each of the six judging categories, to a mix of both established distilleries and younger startups.

Jamie Karubas, of O-I Glass, proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best in Show Award, to Allegheny Distilling for its Maggie’s Farm Single Barrel Rum, marking the second straight year the distillery has taken home a top prize, after earning a Best in Class distinction for its Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Double Barrel Rum in 2015.

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2016 American Craft Spirits Association Best in Class Winners

Best of Show

Allengheny Distilling: Maggie’s Farm Single Barrel​

Best of Class Whiskey

StilL 630: Double Barrel RallyPoint

Best of Class Gin

New Holland Artisan Spirits: Barrel Aged Knickerbocker Gin

Best of Class Rum

Allegheny Distilling: Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Single Barrel

Best of Class Liqueurs and Distilled Spirits Specialty

Huber’s Starlight Distillery: Starlight Distillery Blueberry Liqueur

Best of Class Vodka

Ballast Point Spirits: Fugu Vodka

In addition to the Best in Class Distinctions, the judging panel awarded 34 Gold, 173 Silver and 132 Bronze medals. The complete list of ACSA 2016 Award Winners is available here.

The Judging
The 3rd Annual American Craft Spirits Competition was judged on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, 2016 at Starlight Distillery in Borden, IN. by a panel of 17 judges, including Marianne Barnes, Martin Cate, Paul Criscuolo, Wayne Curtis, Martin Duffy, Tom Fischer, Pat Heist, Logan Hunter, Tom Jensen, Bernie Lubbers, Mike Miller, Juan Alfredo Pacas, Emily Pennington, Noah Rothbaum, Dave Scheurich, Gary Spedding, and Richard Wolf.  ACSA takes great pride in conducting a rigorously professional judging program in accordance with a series of detailed protocols.

All spirit entry categories and sub-categories were defined by the TTB in Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Spirit entry categories consisted of two make-categories: Made from Scratch and Third Party Distilled.

Judging Structure
ACSA’s Judging Panels consisted of an Anchor Judge plus a minimum of three and a maximum of five bench judges.  The judges represented a diverse range of spirits experts within the industry, including retailers, bar industry leaders, wholesalers, educators and journalists.

Scoring and Medal Criteria
The scoring of spirits was based on a 100-point system with five main categories of consideration: Nose (20 points), Palate (20 points), Balance (20 points), Finish (20 points) and Appearance (20).  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 in Show
The top awarded spirits were then judged a final time in consideration of a Best in Class / Best in Show distinction.  The Anchor Judge 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 of Class.

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