And the Winner is… American Craft Spirits Association Announces 2019 ‘Best in Class’ & ‘Best of Show’ Award Winners

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The American Craft Spirits Association, 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. Awards were handed out at the Sixth Annual American Craft Spirits Association Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Entries for the competition 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 Association proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best of Show Award, to Gulch Distillers of Helena, Montana, for their Burrone Fernet. In addition to his custom engraved barreled head 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.

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. This year, American Craft Spirits Association 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.

You can view the entire list of 2019 ACSA award winners here.

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And the 2019 American Craft Spirits Association Best in Show is…


Gulch Distillers of Helena, Montana for their Burrone Fernet
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Gulch Distillers, Burrone Fernet


2019 Best in Class Winner in Each Category is…


Best in Class Brandy

J. Carver Distillery of Waconia, Minnesota, J. Carver Apple Brandy
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Brandy, J. Carver Apple Brandy

Best in Class Distilled Specialty Spirits

Gulch Distillers of Helena, Montana for their Burrone Fernet
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Gulch Distillers, Burrone Fernet

Best in Class Gin

FEW Spirits of Evanston, Illinois, Coffee Flavored Gin
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Gin, FEW Spirits, Dark Matter Gin

Best in Class Rum

Tattersall Distilling of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Barreled Rum
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Rum, Tattersall Rum Gold

Best in Class Vodka & Grain Spirits

Charleston Distilling Co. of Charleston, South Carolina, King Charles Vodka
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Vodka, Charleston Distilling, King Charles Vodka

Best in Class Whiskey

Sugarlands Distilling Co. of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey
American Craft Spirits Association - Best in Class, Whiskey, Sugarlands Distilling, Roaming Man Straight Rye


2019 Innovation Award Winner in Each Category is…


Innovation Award for Brandy

Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Blueberry Brandy – Maple Cask Finished
American Craft Spirits Association - Innovation Awards, Bluebird Distilling, Blueberry Brandy – Maple Cask Finished

Innovation Award for Distilled Spirits Specialty

Pittsburgh Distilling Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wigle Eau De Pickle
American Craft Spirits Association - Innovation Awards, Pittsburgh Distilling, Eau De Pickle

Innovation Award for Gin

MISCellaneous Distillery of Mount Airy, Maryland, Gregarious Gin
American Craft Spirits Association - Innovation Awards, MISCellaneous Distillery, Gregarious Gin

Innovation Award for Vodka

Distillery Partners of Plover, Wisconsin, Northern Oasis Spirits Lakeview Vodka
American Craft Spirits Association - Innovation Awards, Distillery Partners, Northern Oasis Spirits Lakeview Vodka

Innovation Award for Whiskey

Middle West Spirits of Columbus, Ohio, Sherry-Finished Bourbon Whiskey
American Craft Spirits Association - Innovation Awards, Middle West Spirits, Sherry-Finished Bourbon Whiskey

How Were the Winners Selected?

The 6th Annual American Craft Spirits Competition was judged on October 22-24, 2018, at Greenbar Distilling in Los Angeles. Maggie Campbell, Privateer Rum, 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.

The 2020 American Craft Spirits Association Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show will take place March 29-31 in Portland, Oregon.

Related Stories
The Complete List: American Craft Spirits Association 2019 Award Winners

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