Gulch Distillers win Best in Show at 2019 ACSA Craft Spirits Awards

During the Awards Dinner of the 6th Annual American Craft Spirits Association Convention and Vendor Trade Show at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, MN, ACSA proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best of Show Award, to Gulch Distillers of Helena, MT, for their Burrone Fernet.

This year, entries to the 2019 ACSA Craft Spirits Awards were submitted by micro-distilleries from 38 states in six main categories: Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Vodka, Brandy, and Specialty Spirits. In addition to Best of Show and Best of Class distinctions, the judging panel also awarded 8 Gold, 68 Silver, and 171 Bronze medals. 

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 as well as those new to the craft distilling space. Each winning distillery was presented with a hand-carved barrelhead courtesy of Thousand Oaks Barrel Co, and all medal recipients received custom medals commemorating their accomplishment.

The Best of Show recipient, Gulch Distillers, also went away with a custom snowboard from Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., whose Founder and CEO Nick Gilson provide the convention’s keynote speech earlier that day.'

Best In Class Winners in each category included:

Whiskey:  Sugarlands Distilling Co., Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey (Gatlinburg, TN)

Gin: FEW Spirits, Coffee Flavored Gin (Evanston, IL)

Rum:  Tattersall Distilling, Barreled Rum (Minneapolis, MN)

Vodka & Grain Spirits: Charleston Distilling Co., King Charles Vodka (Charleston, SC)

Brandy: J. Carver Distillery, J. Carver Apple Brandy (Waconia, MN)

Distilled Specialty Spirits: Gulch Distillers, Burrone Fernet (Helena, MT)

This year, ACSA 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. 

Innovation Awards included:

Whiskey: Middle West Spirits, Sherry-Finished Bourbon Whiskey (Columbus, OH)

Gin: MISCellaneous Distillery, Gregarious Gin (Mount Airy, MD)

Vodka: Distillery Partners, Northern Oasis Spirits Lakeview Vodka (Plover, WI)

Brandy: Bluebird Distilling, Blueberry Brandy - Maple Cask Finished (Phoenixville, PA)

Distilled Spirits Specialty: Pittsburgh Distilling Company, Wigle Eau De Pickle (Pittsburgh, PA)

The complete list of winners is available on the ACSA website here

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 of 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.