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Award contests and spirit shows

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I am trying to figure out if it is worth the time, money and man hours to go to these spirit shows and contests. I am guessing that most of the people that go to these shows are industry people and not the average customer. I have asked friends if they would buy a product because they have won an award and most don't even care. I am wondering if money is better spend on advertising vs going to these contests and spirit events. There are only so many hours in the day....... Thoughts?

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Often times you don't actually go to the contests, just send the fee and the product.

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My personal feeling is, Spirits, Wine and Beer contests are money making events, (for the promoter). It's often like a Beauty Pageant for 5 year olds, everybody wins. I may be wrong, but for me to spend $495 to enter a spirit, I better win something. On the other hand, we do enter contests that cater to craft distilling as I want to be judged by my peers. Maybe someday we will do the "International New York San Fransisco Texas Whiskey Fest", but for now I really can't afford it.

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I think it all depends on your individual marketing approach.

Personally, I'd rather concentrate on something which makes the customer's experience better (either in product, or tours) rather than spend money just to "win" an award given out by some (likely) unknown competition where even the worst entry still gets a gold medal.

But, some marketing is more about building up a story and hype than anything else. If that's your goal I'd say you probably should enter in a contest. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. We are all in the industry for our own individual reasons.)

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I did MicroLiquor and was pleased with the outcome. Tastings were blind, and they sent me the tasting notes from the judges. I appreciated that. It is always good to get a blind view of your product from people completely disconnected from you. We got a Gold medal and the reason for not getting the triple gold was not all judges agreed that we were gold material. I liked the feedback best from the judge who gave us silver. I actually agreed with their assessment and have worked hard to make my rum a little bigger in mouth feel by slightly altering my cuts. Was worth the $500 just for the feedback.

If you just want a gold medal for marketing, there are lots of options, I am told. But, it is getting harder and harder to win the blind tastings with so much more competition out there. A Gold medal from 2008-2012 was a lot easier to come by when you were only up against a small handful of guys. Now, there could be 100 or more in your category.

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It's money far better spent on sending bottles of select spirit to people who you know are influencial in the longrun. Nobody cares about awards. Their impact on demand lasts about as long as the local newspaper of the distillery hometown writes about it.

However, several exhausted people I know in retail have told me about how much demand is suddenly coming in for Jim Murray's recommended Whisky of the year.

Basically there is a network of journalists (like Murray and many more), bloggers, forum posters, whisky clubs, bar owners etc that are all in the know, they influence what retailers carry and eventually what the general public with a passing interest in Whisky will glob onto. It's ridiculous how small the Whisky world is considering how large the market is. Not that it's a bad thing of course, you can become a star overnight. Look at Sullivan's Cove.

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