Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Judging Artisan Spirits, 2012

I'm off to Kentucky next week for the annual judging of American craft spirits. I'll be joined in Louisville by some cocktail types, including San Francisco barman H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir, Audrey Saunders of  Pegu Club fame, and Flavien Desoblin of New York's Brandy Library. There will be distillers on board as well, rum specialists, and booze hounds (and I mean that in the most respectful manner) aplenty. Thirteen judges in all.

Under the imprimatur of the American Distilling Institute, three panels of judges will evaluate 244 spirits from nearly 100 distilleries over the course of two days. That breaks out as:
  • 45 rums
  • 60 brandies
  • 139 whiskeys
Gins, absinthes, and other spirits rotate through during other years (I'll do my best to advocate for a bitter/amari category now that so many American examples are coming onto the market). I won't know until I arrive, but I suspect I'll be on the whiskey panel which will tackle not just craft bourbons, but malt, wheat, rye, corn, and clear whiskeys as well as a catch-all "other" category. The rum judges will nose, swirl, and spit in six categories while the brandies are broken into five groups; grappa, brandy from grapes, non-grape aged brandies, non-grape unaged brandies, and fruit infusions.

No, no, no. It will be nothing like this.

Even if I am with the whiskey group, I'll be getting into the brandies as, ahem, "research" for my upcoming Tales of the Cocktail session on American non-grape brandies with Paul Clark and Bobby Heugel.

Results of the ADI judging will be announced at the annual ADI conference this coming April 1-4 in Louisville. 

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