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Whiskey Judging


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Whiskey Judging

The American Distilling Institute will judge American Craft Whiskies, Monday May 3rd at the annual conference outside Louisville, Kentucky. Select judges will perform a blind tasting of whiskies submitted by ADI. 

Gold, silver an bronze medals will be awarded with certificates and bottle-stickers for each of the spirit categories. All entrants will receive tasting notes with comments from the spirits judges. Medals will be awarded Tuesday May 4th.

The purpose of this competition is to give participants valuable third-party feedback on the quality of their products that may help improve processes and to help promote the American craft distillers that are producing the finest quality spirits. 

Below are the guidelines for submission.


American Single Malt --  a malt whiskey produced in one distillery, distilled in batches and aged in wood barrels. 


Bourbon -- As defined by TTB

Wheat Whiskey -- As defined by TTB

Corn Whiskey -- As defined by TTB

Rye Whiskey -- As defined by TTB 

Non-aged Whiskey -- Spirits distilled from a fermented mash of grain at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally associated with whiskey and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) and not subject to any manor of treatment with charred wood. 

Blended Whiskey --  

Flavored Whiskies and Whiskey-Based Liqueurs -- Flavored whiskey products with the predominant characteristic flavor of whiskey made with not less than 51% whiskey by mixing or redistilling any type of whiskey with or over fruits, flowers, plants or pure juices therefrom or other natural flavoring materials or with extracts derived from infusions percolation or maceration of such materials.

Moonshine -- any distilled spirit marketed as a moonshine-style product. 

Whiskey Idiosyncratic -- Any whiskey that does not fit into the above categories.

Best of Show -- judges choice for the best craft Whiskey in America

In the Making --  For the first time, ADI will judge sample of products that are not ready for release.  No medals will be awarded in this category but complete tasting notes will be provided to the distilleries for use in product development. All bottles must be marked with the name and address of the distillery and the style of the product.


Packaging Award -- ADI will for the first time this year make awards for innovative packaging. Bottles will be judges on overall originality, innovation, creativity, graphic design, integration of bottle design to label style, and aesthetic appeal. Awards will be given for both bottle and gift box design. Please send one of each intended for entry. 


Send two 750 ml. bottles of each product for judging

Samples must arrive at Huber Starlight Distillery no later than April 18 to be considered. 

All samples submitted for judging will be considered property of ADI.

Any product without COLA labels will be entered into the “In the Making” category and will receive only tasting notes for product development and POS materials. No medals will be awarded in this category.

The entrance fee is $100 per product.

ADI Reserves the right to photograph and publish photographs of all entries. 

The Judging Director reserves the right to categorize the entries as the judges see fit. Judges reserve the right to not award medals when in their opinion no spirits in a category merit an award. 


Please send all packages to: 

Ted Huber

Huber Starlight Distillery

19815 Huber Road

Borden, IN 47106

We recommend Fed Ex or UPS for shipping spirits. Please do not send by US Postal Service.  


Please send entrance fee with a copy of this form to:

American Distilling Institute

PO Box 577

Hayward, CA 94541


Entered by:

Name and Title_____________________________________________

Distillery __________________________________________________

Address __________________________________________________

City, State, Zip _____________________________________________

Telephone ________________________________________________

E-mail ___________________________________________________

Tasting notes will be sent to the person whose name is entered above


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I am amused.... B)

What does the $100 entry fee get the entrant, and exactly where/who does the $100 go to pay?

Will it have a direct impact on lobbying at the State and Federal level for regulation changes, or maybe forming a coop so small distillers can purchase bottles/label/etc. at a reduced rate and in less than pallet quantities?

No this isn't a flippant or idle question. I'm serious about ADI forming a coop for getting supplies and equipment.

But it's always nice to know where the money goes.

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Dear Porter,

I'm not sure if the flippancy of your post merits a straight response, but since you've asked:

The $100 goes to offset the costs of judging, which include travel expenses and lodging for some of the judges, medals for the winners, bottle stickers, glassware, printing, publicity, lunch for the volunteers who make it happen, compiling and mailing the tasting notes, and many more things.

The $100 entry fee is a bargain compared to the SF World Spirits Competition -- $400, Beverage Tasting Institute, $200, or the World Spirits Awards -- 800 Euro.

Spirits professionals understand the key roll that spirits competitions can play in marketing their products. A gold medal opens doors to store managers and bar tenders for products they have never heard of before. Experienced distillers know that objective tasting notes from neutral third parties can point out flaws in various stages of production that can be fixed to make a better product. Successful distilleries have learned that the positive descriptive terms in these tasting notes can be an essential part of creating shelf-talkers and other POS materials.

I am sure that, by the time Heritage Distillers has a product to bring to market, you will appreciate the value of spirits judgings, and I look forward to seeing your brandy and rum in upcoming years.



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  • 1 month later...

Why has there been no answer to Bryan's question, since mid-February?

I know that at least one member of the judging panel is already confirmed.

Are the judges supposed to remain anonymous for some reason?

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Why has there been no answer to Bryan's question, since mid-February?

I know that at least one member of the judging panel is already confirmed.

Are the judges supposed to remain anonymous for some reason?

Most likely because whoever can answer it- (Drew?) hasn't seen this thread since then. If you use the forums PM system you could send him a note asking the question directly or pointing out that the question has been posted here and remains unanswered.

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Hi Everyone,

Thanks Guy, you had it exactly right. I had not seen the request for the judges list.

This is the roster of Judges as it stands right now:

Lincoln Henderson • Bourbon Hall of Fame, Brown Foreman, Suntory

Michael Veach • Filson Historical Society, Bourbon Hall of Fame

Charles Cowdery • Author, Journalist, Blogger, Bourbon Hall of Fame

Alan Dikty • Allied Beverage Tanks, Beverage Testing Institute

Brett Pontoni • Binny's Beverage Depot

Mark Gruber • Southern Wine and Spirits

Jay Erisman • The Party Source

Steve Wright • Spiritech Solutions

Bernhard Schaefer • Spirit Consulting (Germany)

Flavien Desoblin • The Brandy Library

Mardee Regan • Ardent Spirits

We are a month out, so a name or two may change before the judging.

This will be the first time ever that American Craft Whiskies will be judged against each other without products from the big distilleries. So if you haven't sent your bottles in yet, please do. Deadline April 18!



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Thanks, Drew.

I hope I didn't sound (read?) belligerent; I only meant that I, too was curious, but wondered if early identification of the judges might have been withheld to avoid unwanted pressure on them.

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