The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) announced the winners of its Fourth Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, who were honored during the Awards Dinner as part of the ACSA Craft Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn. This year’s show was attended by close to 1,000 spirits producers and suppliers.
Record Number of Entries
Winners were hand-selected among a record-breaking pool of more than 550 entrants – up more than 20 percent over last year. This year, entries were submitted from 39 states across the country in six main categories including,
- Vodka & Grain Spirits
- Specialty Spirits
Scoring and Medal Criteria
The spirits were judged January 17 and 18 at Starlight Distillery in Borden, Indiana by a panel of 31 judges. The judges represented a diverse range of spirits experts within the industry, including retailers, bar industry leaders, wholesalers, educators, and journalists. ACSA takes great pride in conducting a rigorously professional judging program in accordance with a series of detailed protocols.
The 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 at Moonshine University 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.
The scoring of spirits 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). 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.
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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 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 of Class.
2017 American Craft Spirits Association Best of Class Winners Are…
Republic National Distributing Company’s Sly Cosmopoulous revealed the six 2017 Best in Class winners. This year’s winners included a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers.
Best in Show Award
The “Best in Show” award, the association’s ultimate award, went to craft spirits maker Long Road Distillers for their Long Road Aquavit.
Best in Class Whiskey
Sonoma County Distilling Company, Sonoma Straight Rye Whiskey Cask Strength, California
Best in Class Gin
Tattersall Distilling, Tattersall Barreled Gin, Minnesota
Best in Class Rum
Artisan Grain Distillery, Gold Rum, Iowa
Best in Class Vodka & Grain Spirits
Du Nord Craft Spirits, Letoile Du Nord, Minnesota
Best in Class Brandy
Huber’s Starlight Distillery, Apple Brandy, Indiana
Best in Class Specialty Spirits
Long Road Distillers, Long Road Aquavit, Michigan
New Award – Achievement Award
Paul Hletko, current President of ACSA and founder of Few Spirits Distillery also introduced a new award distinction: the ACSA Achievement Award, which honored Harry Kohlmann, Ph.D., of Park Street Imports in Miami, FL. Voted on by the Board of Directors, Kohlmann was chosen for displaying an untiring effort and unwavering dedication to helping promote the craft spirits industry through research, analysis, and creation of the Craft Spirits Data Project. Together with ACSA and the IWSR, he worked tirelessly to develop and launch this inaugural release of economic data for the craft spirits industry.
In addition to the Best of Class Distinctions, the judging panel awarded 20 Gold, 66 Silver, and 222 Bronze medals.
Congratulations to all the 2017 award winners!
It was also announced that the 2018 American Craft Spirits Association Craft Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show will be held March 4-6 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.