PITTSBURGH, PA (March 6, 2018) – The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) today announced the winners of its Fifth Annual Judging of Craft Spirits, who were honored during the Awards Dinner as part of the Fifth Annual ACSA Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown in Pittsburgh, Penn. Winners were hand-selected among a pool of more than 500 entrants.

During the event, which was generously sponsored by Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), the nation’s second-largest wholesale wine & spirits distributor, RNDC’s Sly Cosmopoulous and ACSA proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best in Show Award, to Elgin Distillery (AZ) for their Regalo de Vida.  Maggie Campbell of Privateer Rum (MA) emceed the event, having served as the Judging Chair. The 2018 Best in Class distinctions, the highest honor in each of the six judging categories, were awarded by ACSA Board of Directors to a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers. These winning distilleries were each presented with hand-carved barrelheads courtesy of Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

The annual Awards marked the official close of the 2018 ACSA Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show, which attracted over 1,000 producers and suppliers from across the U.S. for two full days of immersive educational seminars and networking events.

This year, entries 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 the Best of Class Distinctions, the judging panel awarded 16 Gold, 84 Silver, and 209 Bronze medals.


Best In Class Winners in each category included:

Whiskey:  5 Year Rallypoint Straight Rye Whiskey, Still 630 (MO)

Gin: Wigle Organic Ginever, Pittsburgh Distilling Company, LLC (PA)

Rum:  Regalo de Vida, Elgin Distillery (AZ)

Vodka & Grain Spirits: Tiny Cat Vodka, Fainting Goat Spirits (NC)

Brandy: Starlight Distillery Reserve Brandy, Huber’s Starlight Distillery (IN)

Distilled Specialty Spirits: Tattersall Bitter Orange Liqueur, Tattersall Distilling (MN)

The complete list of winners will be available on the ACSA website, www.americancraftspirits.org.


About the Judging

The 5th Annual American Craft Spirits Competition, held in affiliation with Artisan Spirit Magazine, was judged on November 7 and 8, 2017, at District Distilling in Washington, DC.  Maggie Campbell, Privateer Rum (MA), served as Spirits Judging Chair. Spirits were judged by a panel of 41 judges, including Amy Zavatto, Anna Archibald, Antony Moss, Caley Shoemaker, Cappie Peete, Catherine Rabb, Chris Chamberlain, Christian Butzke, Christopher Carlsson, Clay Risen , Clyde Davis Jr., Dan Farber, Dave Scheurich, Duane Sylvestre, Dwayne Bershaw, Gary Spedding, Heather Greene, J.P. Fetherston, Jackie Summers, Jake Emen, Johnny Caldwell, Kendra Scott, Lauren Friel, Lew Bryson, Lisa Wicker, Luc Theirs, Martin Cate, Matt Pietrek, Matt Strickland, Misha Kwasniewski, Nicholas King, Paul Clarke, Paul Hughes, Reid Mitenbuler, Riannon Walsh, Richard Wolf, 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, wholesalers, 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.


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 in Class.


About ACSA

The American Craft Spirits Association is the only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. Its mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, and membership in ACSA is open to anyone.


ACSA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the eligible voting members of the Association. Voting members must be independent, licensed distillers (DSPs) annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons from bond (the amount on which a Federal Excise Tax is paid.) For information about ACSA, call 202-669-3661.

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