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Spirits Competitions and their Value


Westford Hill

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I'd be interested in hearing feedback from artisan distillers about the value of competitions. Which ones are the most respected, do consumers/retailers/restaurateurs value the results?

As an industry, should we be concerned about the judges and their understanding about how to evaluate spirits properly?

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I'd be interested in hearing feedback from artisan distillers about the value of competitions. Which ones are the most respected, do consumers/retailers/restaurateurs value the results?

As an industry, should we be concerned about the judges and their understanding about how to evaluate spirits properly?

Entering competitions says something about the maker's confidence in his own product. I have found it more useful to receive a high score in a trade journal than to win a gold medal at a regional competition. Retailers and restaurateurs value respectable scores because they motivate consumers to seek out new products that garner them.

I have always enjoyed F. Paul Pacult's spirits judging (be sure to read his Spirit Journal) found in every issue of Wine Enthusiast, but it is the most unlikely magazine where one would look first for such ratings. To their discredit in the minds of some, they once awarded "Distiller of the Year" to Johnnie Walker, a brand of blended Scotch whisky put together from the product of numerous distillers, calling into question whether there truly is a firewall between editorial and advertising.

A great read is always Wine & Spirits, and their ratings are widely respected. For whiskies, one really must submit their samples to Malt Advocate and Whisky magazine, as they both give great attention to all superb bottlings regardless of production scale. I have not as yet found a consumer's periodical devoted to artisan-distilled spirits of all kinds, but perhaps there is room for such a magazine.

To raise the bar to the highest standard of spirits journalism (Spirit Journal holds that title currently), I invite anyone that might be interested to assist me in starting a guide that I will call The Artisan Spirits Quarterly. We will recuse ourselves from rating any of our own spirits, of course!

All the very best,

Rusty

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As an industry, should we be concerned about the judges and their understanding about how to evaluate spirits properly?

Absolutely.

As an absinthe distiller, I cringe when I see the results of some of the competitions. Very few people outside the small community of absinthe aficionados have the experience and understanding to evaluate an absinthe properly. I've seen very high awards go to products that are the absinthe equivalent of bum wine, apparently because the judges haven't the foggiest idea of what constitutes an exemplary absinthe.

I'm confident that with a panel of experienced absinthe drinkers, my absinthe could go toe-to-toe with the best on the market, but for an inexperienced panel the flavor may be more challenging. Like giving an Islay to a bourbon drinker.

Absinthe may be a unique example, but I know I wouldn't presume to evaluate a tequila if my opinion was going to impact the producer's sales.

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To me, the answer is in this thread. As I wrote there, the most common marketing mistake is to start with tactics. Entering competitions is a tactic. Whether or not it's a good thing to do depends on your marketing objective and your marketing strategy. If you're not working from a strategy, everything you do is a waste.

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To raise the bar to the highest standard of spirits journalism (Spirit Journal holds that title currently), I invite anyone that might be interested to assisted me in starting a guide that I will call The Artisan Spirits Quarterly. We will recuse ourselves from rating any of our own spirits, of course!

All the very best,

Rusty

Rusty,

I just happen to be a publisher that is in the (long) process of licensing a distilling business.

I could devote some time to putting together a magazine for the Artisan Spirits industry. Let me know guys if there is any interest.

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As a writer who specializes in artisanal spirits and fine cocktails, I'd like to write articles for a magazine dedicated to these topics.

Entering competitions says something about the maker's confidence in his own product. I have found it more useful to receive a high score in a trade journal than to win a gold medal at a regional competition. Retailers and restaurateurs value respectable scores because they motivate consumers to seek out new products that garner them.

I have always enjoyed F. Paul Pacult's spirits judging (be sure to read his Spirit Journal) found in every issue of Wine Enthusiast, but it is the most unlikely magazine where one would look first for such ratings. To their discredit in the minds of some, they once awarded "Distiller of the Year" to Johnnie Walker, a brand of blended Scotch whisky put together from the product of numerous distillers, calling into question whether there truly is a firewall between editorial and advertising.

A great read is always Wine & Spirits, and their ratings are widely respected. For whiskies, one really must submit their samples to Malt Advocate and Whisky magazine, as they both give great attention to all superb bottlings regardless of production scale. I have not as yet found a consumer's periodical devoted to artisan-distilled spirits of all kinds, but perhaps there is room for such a magazine.

To raise the bar to the highest standard of spirits journalism (Spirit Journal holds that title currently), I invite anyone that might be interested to assisted me in starting a guide that I will call The Artisan Spirits Quarterly. We will recuse ourselves from rating any of our own spirits, of course!

All the very best,

Rusty

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