The American Craft Spirits Association was founded by craft spirits makers in 2013 as a non-profit association by craft spirits makers for craft spirits makers. 2020 marks the 7th year of the Association hosting the annual spirits awards. This year’s event nicknamed Craftlandia was scheduled to happen at the end of March in Portland, Oregon. As the world has unfortunately been locked down from the Coronavirus the Association’s leadership asked the members how they should share the results and the answer was a virtual award show via an online webinar. That webinar was just held and the winners were announced.
Before we dive into the winners let’s talk about the nitty-gritty of how the spirits were judged and the winners were selected.
500 Craft Spirits Entrants from 42 States in 7 Categories
The 2020 American Craft Spirits Association’s awards contest saw more than 500 entrants from 42 states. The contest included seven main categories: Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Vodka & Grain Spirits, Brandy, Specialty Spirits, and the new Ready to Drink (RTD) category. Back again for a second year, the Association also awarded a series of Innovation Awards, which aim to recognize remarkable spirits whose flavor profiles may stray from their category’s signature notes. This category is one of the things that makes craft interesting where they can stray from the norm. Something that the big distilleries rarely dare to attempt.
The actually judging took place long before are world was turned upside down at Cardinal Spirits distillery in Bloomington, Indiana in October of last year. The judges represented a diverse range of spirits experts within the industry, including retailers, bar industry leaders, educators, and journalists. American Craft Spirits Association takes great pride in conducting its professional judging program in accordance with a series of detailed protocols.
Spirits were judged by a panel of 35 judges, including Amy Zavatto, Andie Ferman, Ashley Barnes, Ben Samuelson, Brett Pontoni, Caley Shoemaker, Clyde Davis Jr., Duane Sylvestre, Gary Spedding, Jackie Summers, Jason Zeno, John Jeffery, Johnny Caldwell, Juan D. Calderon, Kara Newman, Lauren Friel, Lisa Wicker, Liza Weisstuch, Martin Cate, Matthew Rowley, Michael Gray, Monica Wolf, Nicole Austin, Paul Clarke, Paul Hughes, Peter Newsom, Rachel Terrazas, Rebecca Cate, Reid Mitenbuler, Richard Wolf, Rob McCaughey, Ryan Lotz, Steve Beal, Taneka Reaves, and Wayne Curtis.
American Craft Spirits Association 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. The Association 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 Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum 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.
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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 of Show, Best in Class & Innovation Awards
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.
And now, without further ado, let’s reveal the 2020 American Craft Spirits Association ‘Best in Class’ and ‘Innovation’ craft spirits awards winners.
Best of Show
Best in Class Winners by Category
Best in Class Whiskey (This is by far the most competitive category)
Best in Class Gin
Best in Class Rum
Best in Class Vodka or Grain Spirits
Best in Class Brandy
Best in Class Distilled Specialty Spirits
Ready to Drink – RTD (A new category for 2020)
Innovation Award for Whiskey
Innovation Award for Gin
Innovation Award for Vodka
Innovation Award for Distilled Spirits Specialty
Innovation Awards for Ready-to-Drink – RTD
And with that, this year’s first ever virtual event wrapped up. We’ll also post the full list of 2020 award winners shortly.
Congratulations to all the 2020 American Craft Spirits Association’s winners.