Every year since 2000, a panel of renowned beverage professionals have met on the West Coast to judge nominations for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and a prize in this competition has become a real business card for the distilleries. This year, the competition received over 3,500 entries – a record number of spirits for intrepid judges to sample.
All initial judging is done through blind tastings, with judges knowing only the general category of spirit, such as “cask aged gin” or “single barrel bourbon, 11 years or older”. Scores are calculated and bronze, silver and gold medals are awarded. If a product receives enough points to qualify for a gold medal on each judge’s ballot, that spirit receives double gold and is considered one of the best products in the world in its class. These Double Golds can also go ahead to compete for the best of class and the best of the show – much like an English Setter making his way through race competition, Sporting Group and Best. in Show in Westminster.
Well we’ve had some really good dogs here in Nashville this year – several Middle Tennessee distilleries received great recognition in the competition. Perhaps the highest laurel went to the category that interests you the least as a Columbia based. Stillhouse took home the best-in-class award in “Corn Whiskey,” perhaps not the most popular retail category, but certainly one of the most historic. They also won awards for their vodka and two flavored whiskeys.
A little closer to home, Pennington Distilling Co. continued their award streak with two Double Golds for different expressions of their single barrel bourbons. Jeff Pennington told me that he and Master Distiller Carter Collins couldn’t agree on which specific barrels of Wheat Whiskey to go in, so they sent them both. Good call! PDC has also won gold medals for its rye whiskey and its small batch of bourbon.
Another local Double Gold winner was Nashville Barrel Co. for their excellent selection of pure rye whiskey in single casks. Their little rye blend also won a gold medal in San Francisco. Speaking of rye, OH Ingram won a Double Gold for its innovative rye whiskey, aged on a barge moored on the Mississippi River in Ballard County, Ky.
Although their production facility is still under construction, Uncle Nearest has won a prestigious Best in Class for Tennessee Whiskey for the 1820 Premium Single Barrel Whiskey, as well as awards for three other expressions of their whiskey. Nelson’s Green Brier also competed in the Tennessee Whiskey category, winning a silver medal for their new flagship brand.
Corsair Distillery had a good week in San Francisco, winning a gold medal for their longtime favorite Triple Smoke in the highly competitive “Other Single Malt Whiskey” category and a Double Gold for their Dark Rye special. Prove that the French do not have the market cornered by absinthe, a local micro-distillery Third stage absinthe probably surprised the trades of the industry to have won a gold for their product which they produce in collaboration with Nashville Craft Distilling.
Although Carey Bringle did not participate in the SF Spirits competition this year, he did submit his Pork leg Straight Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey and Pitmaster Reserve 15 years in another prestigious competition, the SIP price. Also blind-judged by a jury of spirits professionals, the SIP Awards deemed the white label Peg Leg worthy of a bronze medal and awarded the old 15-year-old version a gold medal. SIP also gives out marketing and packaging awards, and Bringle’s creative presentation of his $ 400 bottle and box received a Double Gold and an Innovation Award for packaging, which is pretty impressive for a little girl. independent brand that faces the marketing budgets of multinational spirits. companies.
Based on these results, I would say Kentucky distillers need to start looking over their shoulders because there is some real talent emerging from Nashville.