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…
2019 Best in Class Winner in Each Category is…
Best in Class Brandy
Best in Class Distilled Specialty Spirits
Best in Class Gin
Best in Class Rum
Best in Class Vodka & Grain Spirits
Best in Class Whiskey
2019 Innovation Award Winner in Each Category is…
Innovation Award for Brandy
Innovation Award for Distilled Spirits Specialty
Innovation Award for Gin
Innovation Award for Vodka
Distillery Partners of Plover, Wisconsin, Northern Oasis Spirits Lakeview Vodka
Innovation Award for 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.